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Stanley: The Impossible Life Of Africas Greatest Explorer Hardcover – Mar 27 2007

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; 1 edition (March 27 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571221025
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571221028
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 4.8 x 24.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 907 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #830,253 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"By uncovering the truth behind the myth, Jeal paints a sympathetic portrait of the ultimate self-made man."-Rebecca A. Clay, Wilson Quarterly -- Rebecca A. Clay "Wilson Quarterly" (11/01/2008)

About the Author

Tim Jeal is an acclaimed novelist and biographer, whose Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa's Greatest Explorer was published by Faber in 2007 and was a BBC Radio Four 'Book of the Week'. Stanley was named Sunday Times Biography of the Year, and, in the US, won the National Book Critics' Circle Award in Biography for 2007. Tim's memoir Swimming with my Father was published by Faber in 2004 and was also a BBC Radio Four 'Book of the Week' and was shortlisted for the PEN Ackerley Prize for autobiography. In September 2011 Faber will publish Explorers of the Nile: The Triumph and Tragedy of a Great Victorian Adventure, which, thanks to much original research, will shed fascinating new light on the 'Search for the Nile' and its colonial consequences. In 1973 Tim Jeal's Livingstone (1973) was selected as a 'Notable Book of the Year' by the New York Times Book Review and one of the 'Best and Brightest of the Year' by the Washington Post Book World. Livingstone formed the basis for a BBC TV documentary and a film for the Discovery Channel. It has never been out of print. Nor has Tim Jeal's Baden-Powell (1989), which was a 'Notable Book of the Year', and was chosen by Channel 4 for its 'Secret Lives' strand. In 1975 Tim was awarded the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize.

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Born John Rowlands, Henry Morton Stanley was his own worst enemy. He lied about his name, his Welsh origins, his age, his military career, and details of his explorations in Africa. He married the wrong woman. His greatest achievements were not believed. The King of the Belgians used him but he naively trusted his imperial betters. All to simply be accepted into a society he was far superior to.
Author Tim Jeal has done a great justice to Stanley, who make no mistake, loved Africa and Africans.
Everybody remembers Dr. Livingstone, lost in the heart of Africa, but found by Stanley, an ambitious journalist for the New York Herald. Livingstone, the great hero of east Africa, was an utter failure as an explorer, and a failure as a missionary. His discovery made headlines around the world. But Livingstone chose to not return to England, where the truth would have been learned and died thirteen months later, a saint to his family and his nation.
Stanley's two other expeditions are largely forgotten, but the Trans-Africa Journey and the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition were far greater achievements. What Stanley did was almost impossible to believe: he traveled, for the first time, from one side of Africa to the other. And then back. The continent was "opened up" by him and his African men. And Stanley, in order to boast in his dispatches of how important his Trans-Africa Expedition was, lied about the number of members. He actually had far less men, which makes his accomplishments even more astounding. The white English officers on the Emin Pasha Relief were for the most part wretched leaders who had no respect for their porters and bearers. After massive hardships, they made it back to "civilization", their health ruined, their crimes buried. Half the Africans died en route.
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By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on April 23 2013
Format: Paperback
Historian Jeal has done a very commendable job in setting the historical record right on who Henry Morton Stanley really is in history. By carefully piecing together the true story of this enigmatic man's life, Jeal comes to the conclusion that this explorer cum journalist cum adventurer cum rascal was actually more a hero than the villain Victorian society would like us to believe. Sure, Stanley (not his birth patronym) repeatedly lied about a lot of things to the point that many historians find it very hard to discern the true story amidst all the apocrypha. Jeal effectively side-steps that problem by establishing motives for why Stanley, a foundling of sorts, would fabricate stories about attachments to father figures in his early life. He was a young man in a desperate search of love, security, and respect and realized like Pip in "Great Expectations" that the only way to achieve it was by ingratiating himself in the eyes of his superiors. That would mean venturing out into the new world in search of fame and fortune, parlaying his limited skills to become a journalist, an explorer, and an influential social figure. The historic times were right for Stanley's type to make their fortune. It was the middle of the nineteenth century and much of the world was still unexplored and unsettled. In this context, a young, footloose Stanley headed to America and New Orleans for a new start. What ensued became the hallmark of Stanley's life that helps explain why he was to become a very controversial historical figure. As an opportunist in his early life, Stanley travelled extensively across the American, European and African landscapes, becoming known as someone who was fearless, resourceful and determined.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've tried for years to get my dad to read. This did the trick!

Of course, most of you cannot realize how high praise this is, but that's okay. Some of you will identify 😀
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa11886c0) out of 5 stars 52 reviews
80 of 80 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa11b3258) out of 5 stars The tragic-heroic story of a man worthy of admiration. Aug. 26 2007
By D. Huston - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This artfully written biography of Henry Morton Stanley, the brave and tireless African explorer best known for finding Livingstone, has important implications for today's pleasure-oriented society, though the reader may not realize it until he has completed the book and read the Afterword. Stanley cannot be understood or fully appreciated outside of the Victorian age in whch he lived, and Tim Jeal does a masterful job of placing him squarely into this context and then telling the adventure story of the century (think of Lewis and Clark multiplied by four). This book could not have been written until now due to the unavailability of many Stanley letters and archives, which were only recently made public and which, by their adsence, have distorted the perceptions of previous biographers. Having this material in hand, the author has now been able to present a more three-dimensional portrait of Stanley showing the depth of his humanity and his great love for Africa and its inhabitants. I became absorbed from the very beginning and found myself anguishing over and over as I read the tragic-heroic tale of Africa's greatest explorer. Thank you Tim Jeal for this excellent read!
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa11b32ac) out of 5 stars Reconsideration Jan. 8 2008
By Newton Munnow - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The most interesting biographies are those that break new ground, either through new access to information or with new opinion. Jeal's is a good combination of the two, providing a well argued case for why Stanley should be rescued from the same part of history that holds darker characters like Mosely and put on a new pedestal. Ok, so Stanley still won't win any awards for sainthood, but Jeal points out that not even Livingstone was a saint. Saints wouldn't have survived 19th century central Africa. Jeal does a tremendous job of putting his finger on the anxious search for approval that drove Stanley throughout his life and his refusal to ever acknowledge his birth as the bastard son of Wales, raised in a workhouse. Strangely, since Jeal seems so determined to polish Stanley's reputation, he takes poorly aimed shots at those who shared the stage in England. Burton is repeatedly and wrongly dismissed as a racist. Does Jeal stop to ask himself how many racists would have enough respect for other cultures to speak 28 languages or spend years incognito in foreign lands? Despite these unnecessary diversions, this book is well worth the read, as much a physcoanalysis as an adventure.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa11b36e4) out of 5 stars An epic and inspiring life Nov. 11 2007
By S. Green - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Stanley's life is epic in scale and Tim Jeal's moving, page-turning biography gives us the whole amazing story - his abandonment by his parents, his years in a Welsh workhouse, the decade in America that saved him, his journalism, his death-defying and terrifying African journeys, his romantic attachments and his troubled marriage. Stanley's deep personal wounds made him hide his true identity and claim to be American-born for most of his life. He wrote that his "real self" was "darkly encased", but thanks to scores of new documents, Jeal reveals behind the armour a generous-hearted, vulnerable man, who pretended to be the hard man of Africa, and yet solved more of the "Dark Continent's" secrets than any other explorer. An exciting, inspiring and at times agonizing story.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa11b3aa4) out of 5 stars A Great and Flawed Explorer Dec 4 2007
By Rob Hardy - Published on
Format: Hardcover
"Dr. Livingstone, I presume," was a catchphrase in its time, and it is this phrase that is remembered, if anyone remembers anything about Livingstone or Henry Morton Stanley who coined it. He coined it, but he did not utter it upon discovering David Livingstone in deepest Africa. In fact, Stanley lied about the phrase, and it cost him some of his reputation, and he was untruthful, too, about his bastard origins, which cost him more, and helped make him controversial in his own time. Tim Jeal thirty years ago wrote a revisionist biography of Livingstone which revealed the explorer and missionary to be decidedly unsaintly. Now he has written _Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa's Greatest Explorer_ (Yale University Press), which takes revisionism in the other direction. Stanley has been scapegoated as being partly responsible for the unscrupulous European conquest of Africa, especially King Leopold's horrors within the Belgian Congo. He has been depicted as a racist, and as a brute. Jeal convincingly shows such concepts to be wrong and unfair. Unlike any previous biographer, Jeal has had access to Stanley's private papers and does a superb job of detection to shed new light on an extraordinary man whose greatest flaws were his scars from rejection as a child and his resultant insecurity, flaws that lay a foundation for his lies and exaggerations which would come back to haunt his legacy.

Stanley was born John Rowlands in Wales in 1841, and was abandoned by his promiscuous teenaged mother; his father is not known. He had a workhouse upbringing, changing his name after shipping to New Orleans. He served in the Confederate and Union armies, and became a reporter, successfully selling an editor on his project of finding Livingston who had left to find the source of the Nile in 1868. He had a subsequent expedition across the continent and down the Congo River, and then one reversing this route. The obstacles of the journeys were appalling; Jeal's descriptions of dangerous animals, starvation, infections, and threats from natives make for riveting but uncomfortable reading. Stanley was glad to be on an expedition, but described himself as having "a careless indifference as to what Fate may have in store for me." Jeal writes, "This fatalism - and the sense that his deprived childhood had left him with precious little to lose - helped him endure misfortune, since it could never surprise him as it did more fortunate men." Stanley admired and respected the African natives, but especially on his final expedition, his officers could treat them with disdain or horrific abuse.

Such events blackened Stanley's reputation, although they were largely beyond his control and completely beyond his own moral uprightness. His reputation has suffered the most by his agreement to work in the Congo for the duplicitous King Leopold of Belgium. Leopold fooled Stanley and most European leaders into thinking that he was taking over parts of Africa merely to eliminate slavery and promote trade, but unleashed astonishingly atrocious horrors of occupation upon the area. Jeal shows that Stanley did not steal land from the chiefs in the Congo, as critics have accused him, and he would not press land deals on behalf of Leopold if they were unfair to the natives. Stanley believed in colonialism, but he had no interest in making his fortune in Africa; his personal fortune was, as he had always planned, from his post-expedition books, which were bestsellers. He was a shrewd judge of the characters of African natives, but he was a naïf in dealing with others; his romantic life consisted of an earnest searching for a partner, repeated jiltings, and finally a late marriage with a politically-striving woman who forced him to into Parliament (he hated it) and kept him from returning to Africa. His faults and misfortunes were many, but he had repeated success in overcoming them, only to fall into a postmortem reputation as a brute and a racist. Jeal's illuminating book is a corrective, and tells an engaging, exciting story of a key figure in the opening of Africa.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa11b3b88) out of 5 stars Abandoned Boy Becomes Africa's Greatest Discoverer March 26 2008
By DDSC - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the finest biography that I have read in some time. The writing is superb and it is based upon the most thorough research on its subject yet. The author is uniquely qualified to write this book as he has also written the definitive book on Stanley's counterpart, Dr. Livingstone. What makes this book so compelling is the subject himself. He was abandoned by his mother and never knew his father. The kind grandfather who took care of him died suddenly when Stanley was five years old and his mother's family had him placed in a workhouse. There he stayed for ten years when he left at age fifteen. His life became an odyssey which took him to America back to England and then to Africa where he achieved fame. Despite his accomplishments as discoverer and author, his personal life was full of disappointment. His attempt to hide his illegitimacy had led him to lie about his background. This coverup came close to unraveling on numerous occasions. Years after his career had ended he returned to New Orleans incognito where he walked the cemeteries looking for a "Stanley" tombstone that would give him a name to use in documenting his story. The irony was that one of the world's greatest discoverers could never find himself. An excellent book about a fascinating subject.