Stanley Meets Livingstone

The American journalist's harrowing 1871 quest to find England's most celebrated explorer is also a story of newfound fascination with Africa, the growing power of newspapers and the United States' emergence as a world power

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Stanley swore he uttered the words, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume,” but the page pertaining to that moment was torn out of his journal. It is possible that it went missing in an act of sabotage by a farsighted collector. But if Stanley didn’t make the statement and removed the page to cover his tracks, few who knew the Welshman turned American would have been surprised. He may well have fabricated the quote for his Herald stories (he mentions it in two dispatches; one published July 15, 1872, the other on August 10, 1872). In any case, the four words became the journey’s defining moment. By the time Stanley returned from Africa, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” was so well known that recanting would have caused considerable loss of face. To the day he died of complications of a stroke and pleurisy in London on May 10, 1904, Stanley maintained he had spoken the eloquent phrase.


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