THE LAST EXPEDITION by Daniel Liebowitz

THE LAST EXPEDITION

Stanley’s Mad Journey Through the Congo

KIRKUS REVIEW

A swift but complex account of Henry Morton Stanley’s pyrrhic “rescue” of Emin Pasha, in what Stanley later called “darkest Africa.”

Drawing mostly from the publications of the principals involved, Liebowitz (The Physician and the Slave Trade, 1998) and co-author Pearson convey a comprehensive understanding of the historical, political and geographical components of this complicated story. Emin Pasha, aka Dr. Mehemet Emin, was actually Eduard Schnitzer, a German polymath and polyglot who was appointed governor of “Equatoria,” an Egyptian province in what is now southern Sudan. When rebel uprisings threatened Emin, the English established the Emin Pasha Relief Committee and hired renowned explorer Stanley to mount an expedition to find him and either provide military assistance or extract him. Stanley and the committee raised the necessary funds in only a month, and by January 1887 he was on his way. The mission was a disaster from the outset, and the authors exhaust a thesaurus in their descriptions of the travails the travelers endured. They encountered disease, betrayal, unforgiving terrain and climate, nettlesome vermin, starvation, dehydration and hostile native people, some of them cannibals (one local recipe involved roasting a carcass stuffed with bananas). Liebowitz and Pearson have little good to say about Stanley, whom they characterize as arrogant, cruel, vain and mendacious. By the time the expedition found the Pasha, there was little doubt that it was Stanley who needed rescuing. Hundreds eventually died during the ordeal. But late in 1889 he returned to Bagamoyo with Emin, who fell from a second story window at a banquet and nearly died. While Stanley wrote the best-selling, self-serving In Darkest Africa and subsequently gave many lucrative lectures, Emin changed his name back to Schnitzer and slipped back into Africa, where he was later murdered and decapitated.

A grand tale of Victorian hubris weakened by the odd absence of endnotes. (8 pp. illustrations, 2 maps, not seen)

Pub Date: July 25th, 2005
ISBN: 0-393-05903-0
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2005