Women On Adventure is a blog by K.L. Webber exploring our rich shared history of women's adventure writing. This curated collection of quotations showcases the opinions and experiences of influential female travellers in their own words.

"No one expects literature in a book of travel."

I MUST pause here to explain my reasons for giving extracts from my diary, being informed on excellent authority that publishing a diary is a form of literary crime. Such being the case I have to urge in extenuation of my committing it that—Firstly, I have not done it before, for so far I have given a sketchy résumé of many diaries kept by me while visiting the regions I have attempted to describe. Secondly, no one expects literature in a book of travel. Thirdly, there are things to be said in favour of the diary form, particularly when it is kept in a little known and wild region, for the reader gets therein notice of things that, although unimportant in themselves, yet go to make up the conditions of life under which men and things exist. The worst of it is these things are not often presented in their due and proper proportion in diaries. Many pages in my journals that I will spare you display this crime to perfection. For example: 

“Awful turn up with crocodile about ten—Paraffin good for over-oiled boots—Evil spirits crawl on ground, hence high lintel—Odeaka cheese is made thus:—” Then comes half a yard on Odeaka cheese making. When a person is out travelling, intent mainly on geography, it is necessary, if he publishes his journals, that he should publish them in sequence. But I am not a geographer. I have to learn the geography of a region I go into in great detail, so as to get about; but my means of learning it are not the scientific ones—Taking observations, Surveying, Fixing points, &c., &c. These things I know not how to do. I do not “take lunars”; and I always sympathise with a young friend of mine, who, on hearing that an official had got dreadfully ill from taking them, said, “What do those government men do it for? It kills them all off. I don’t hold with knocking yourself to pieces with a lot of doctor's stuff.” I certainly have a dim idea that lunars are not a sort of pill; but I quite agree that they were unwholesome things for a man to take in West Africa. This being my point of view regarding geography, I have relegated it to a separate chapter and have dealt similarly with trade and Fetish. 

I have omitted all my bush journal. It is a journal of researches in Fetish and of life in the forest and in native villages, and I think I have a better chance of making this information understood by collecting it together; for the African forest is not a place you can, within reasonable limits, give an idea of by chronicling your own experience in it day by day. As a psychological study the carefully kept journal of a white man, from the first day he went away from his fellow whites and lived in the Great Forest Belt of Africa, among natives, who had not been in touch with white culture, would be an exceedingly interesting thing, provided it covered a considerable space of time; but to the general reader it would be hopelessly wearisome, and as for myself, I am not bent on discoursing on my psychological state, but on the state of things in general in West Africa. 

 

Lagos, Nigeria, 1894

 

Source: Mary H. Kingsley, Travels in West Africa, London: MacMillan and Co., Ltd, 1897

Further links:

https://archive.org/details/travelsinwestaf04kirbgoog

http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Mary_Henrietta_Kingsley

http://www.victorianweb.org/history/explorers/1.html

https://archive.org/details/travels_westafrica_0910_librivox

 

“I suppose we may consider ourselves under arrest.”

"Historians, when in doubt, always accuse the Phœnicians."