Doctor Livingstone, I presume

victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Mon May 2 21:27:40 UTC 2011

What is the current status of the phrase? I have no quotation current
dictionaries on hand, so I am not sure how this has been treated recently.

I just received a used copy of Partidge 8th ed. (1984) and, by chance opened
it on the page with the quote. This is not the latest edition (Beale's
latest edition is from 2002, AFAIK), so I don't know what Beale has done
with it since then. But even the 2002 edition would be behind the times.

But here's the full entry:

This c.p. adopted form H. M. Stanley's greeting, 1871, in the African
> jungle, was orig. (ca. 1900) a skit on Englishmen's proverbial
> punctiliousness, no matter what the circumstances; but, by ca. 1920, it was
> extended to almost any chance, or unexpected, meeting, whether between
> strangers or even between friends. See /DCpp/.

In fact, this is badly wrong on dates. There is no doubt of Stanley's
meeting Livingstone in the fall of 1871, but the phrase was put into
circulation almost immediately. The phrase already shows up in Evert
Duyckinck's Portrait Gallery in 1873 (two copies in GB--look for Vol. 2, p.
614). Wiki dates it even closer, to the original account, with the
publication of excerpts of Stanley's letters in NYT July 2, 1872 (complete
with full citation) and to the Herald on the same date (without actual
citation). Whether the phrase really was uttered or not, it was certainly
uttered by Stanley (or written by him). That came from a 2000-7 research
that Barry Popik mentioned on this list in 2006 (The Smithsonian Magazine
article from 2003, still on line--see pp. 8-9 here ) and
Tim Jeals published on in 2007 (see Wiki on Stanley). Still, even the
supposed reconstruction in the Smithsonian account takes some creative
license with Stanley's journals. I could not identify who (by name) put the
material into Wiki, but I am assuming at least a part of it was Barry
Popik's (he mentioned both the NYT and the Herald in his May 31, 2006, post
here). But no one has actually pointed to the specific Herald citation.

Still, it was worth looking it all up--for me, at least. Barry's quote from
the Smithsonian article (27 Oct 2006) does not make it completely clear
where the line comes from in that text (from the author, not from any
excerpt of Stanley's writing), although he (Barry) wrote earlier (in May)
that the quote was in the diaries (I believe, he was wrong on that account,
as the newspaper clipping he cited was silent on this).

Tim Jeals was not the only one to have doubted Stanley's version of events.
In 1906, George Presbury Rowell (founder of Printers' Ink, which often comes
up in such searches) wrote
Forty years an advertising agent, 1865-1905. By George Presbury Rowell. New
York: 1906
Forty-Eighth Paper. p. 425

> In the same connection stands a memory of Henry M. Stanley, young,
> black-haired--with not a gray one in his head--standing strong, vigorous,
> confident, at a reception given him at the Lotos Club, relating the story of
> his discovery and meeting with Dr. Livingstone in Central Africa, when he
> advanced, took the old gentleman by the hand, and said--as though meeting
> him in a drawing room--"Dr. Livingstone, I presume." I admired the man's
> nerve, but did not believe a word he said. He was, I thought, just a
> /Herald/ reporter, bluffing through the biggest hoax of the time. Truth is
> stranger than fiction, and we think better now of both Du Chaillu and
> Stanley; but neither are on earth to read my apology--and neither probably
> was ever aware that I existed.

Has July 1872 NY Herald been scanned anywhere so that at least that part of
the mystery can be solved?

I also tried to search for early uses of the catch phrase outside of the
narrow historical context. I found one.
The Outlook. Vol. 86:11. 13 July 1907
The City Editor. By Sylvester Baxter. p. 558/1-2

> "That's the old Hoodoo box." said Hooker. "You and I have good cause to
> remember that number, haven't we, Ned?" he continued, turning to Deering.
> "Eighty-seven million dollars went up in smoke that Saturday night and the
> next day."
> 'I got my till of fires that time," said Deering. "I never wanted to see
> another one. 'Conflagrations' and 'Holocausts' were words that lost their
> connections for me after that. By the way, I ran across Charlie Setchell out
> in 'Frisco. He is leader-writer for the Scrutinizer, and gets big pay. In my
> oldest scrapbook I still have Setchel's sketch of 'The Burnt District by
> Moonlight.' I came across it lately. Really, it was a little masterpiece.
> That picture of the drunken man who got astray there seemed as funny as
> ever; how the man fancied himself Stanley at Ujiji and said, '
> Dr. Livingstone, I presume!' to a brick chimney. Only think of it, at that
> time Stanley was only just back from his wonderful explorations in
> mid-Africa. And a few months ago I went to the great Victoria Falls by
> rail."

But this is still /not/ the figurative meaning that Partridge/Beale mention
of "ca. 1920".

But, it seems, the expression had already been transformed at the turn of
the century.
Tom Beauling. By Gouverneur Morris. New York: 1901
p. 119

> The pearls are on view at a banker's in Colombo, and I have had an offer
> for them--a good one, that I am going to accept--and whom do you think it is
> from? Well, it 's from a man who represents a celebrated house that stands
> on Union Square, Noo York. And what do you think of that! Sure, Phylis, this
> orb is but pinched and small. To think of doing business with Union Square
> in the heart of a jungle! "Dr. Livingstone, I presume.''

Not convinced? Here's another:
The Badminton magazine of sports and pastimes, Volume 15:88. November 1902
A Himalayan Tour. By J. Nield Cook. p. 485

> When I came out of my tent I saw another being pitched twenty paces below,
> and a white man superintending the operation. I felt like Robinson Crusoe
> when he discovered the footprint in the sand. However, as Stanley has set us
> an example of etiquette in the wilds with his 'Dr.Livingstone, I presume?' I
> determined not to be found wanting in this respect, so took a visiting-card
> and paid a formal call.

And here's the clincher:
Father Stafford: a lover's fate and friend's counsel. By Anthony Hope. New
York: 1901
p. 54-5

> As they went in, they met Eugene, hands in pockets and pipe in mouth,
> looking immensely bored."Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" said he. "Excuse the
> mode of address, but I've not seen a soul all the morning, and thought I
> must have dropped down somewhere in Africa. It's monstrous! I ask about ten
> people to my house, and I never have a soul to speak to!"

This one is certainly correct--but not the date! The copyright is 1895!

So here you have it--Partridge got the date right, but on the wrong usage!


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