Entries by tag: mary kingsley

Mary Kingsley VS The Universe
Travels in West Africa is one of those books that I found in a charity shop as a teenager and read until it literally fell apart. A while ago, I decided to source a new copy and see if it was as much fun as I remembered. After several weeks, wherein Amazon sent me variously no books, or the wrong book, I finally got a copy.

So let's talk about Mary Kingsley: my favourite Victorian Lady Adventuress OF ALL TIME.

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Mary Kingsley did eventually lose to fever, aged thirty-seven. Kipling said of her: “Being human, she must have been afraid of something, but one never found out what it was.”

Of course, the book is problematic: being written by a Victorian explorer and anthropologist, its outlook is inherently racist. Part of the problem of getting a copy was that most of those available were abridged and, for reasons of nostalgia and completion, I wanted the one I'd originally read. And Mary Kingsley wasn't a feminist. She believed in traditional gender roles and stereotypes (although not to the extent of ever actually letting them get in her way). But she was an amazing and formidable lady, and Travels in West Africa is hilarious. (And in my opinion, much more fun than Isabella Bird's A Lady's Life In The Rocky Mountains, which Amazon sent me by mistake. Because hey, those Victorian lady adventurers: all the same, amirite?)

What do you think? Did you enjoy it? Who's your favourite Awesome Victorian Lady?


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