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The Literary Legacy of Frederick Courteney Selous

  • E. Mandiringana and T.J. Stapleton
Extract

In the works of many generations of white writers on Africa, the “Great White Hunter” has remained one of the most powerful and enduring images. A model of Caucasian masculinity, he quickly masters a hostile and wild environment in ways which amaze the aboriginal population, who are usually portrayed as savage and incompetent. Perhaps the best known real-life example of this classic image was Frederick Courteney Selous, a product of the English public school system, who hunted elephants in southern and central Africa during the 1870s and 1880s. Never having made much money from the ivory trade because of the dwindling number of elephants, Selous became an employee of Cecil Rhodes' British South Africa Company (BSAC) in the 1890s and worked towards the colonization of Southern Rhodesia. After fighting against the Ndebele in 1893 and 1896, Selous eventually based himself in England and became a recognized environmental expert, safari guide, and collector/seller of zoological specimens.

Through writing six books and numerous articles from 1881 to the 1910s, Selous successfully created and popularized an image of himself as a skilled, yet sporting, hunter, a painfully honest gentleman of the bush, and a friend, as well as leader, of Africans. He was an adventurer with a dramatic habit of narrowly escaping danger and these episodes were often illustrated through drawings in his books. Discussing one such incident, a writer of hunting stories once remarked that “throughout Lobengula's country the story went that Selous was the man even the elephants could not kill. It helped to build the ‘Selous Legend’ among the Rhodesian tribes.”

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References
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1 Cattrick, A., Spoor of Blood (Cape Town, 1959), 131.

2 MacKenzie, J.M., Empire of Nature: Hunting, Conservation and British Imperialism (Manchester, 1988), 43. Rowland Ward was a London taxidermist and publisher who produced books on hunting, including Selous' works, and records of game trophies such as lengths and widths of horns.

3 Millais, J.G., Life of Frederick Courtenay Selous, DSO: Captain 25th Fusiliers (London, 1918).

4 Taylor, S., The Mighty Nimrod: a Life of Frederick Courteney Selous, African Hunter and Adventurer, 1851-1917 (London, 1990), xiii.

5 Ibid., xii.

6 Cousins, Tim, “A Tale of Two Mysteries: The Patterson Embassy to King Lobengula,” Brenthurst Archives, 2 (1995), 3342.

7 National Archives of Zimbabwe (hereafter NAZ) SE1/5/1; Illustrated Sport and Dramatic News (13 January 1917).

8 Tidrick, K., Empire and the English Character (London, 1990), 56.

9 Taylor, , Mighty Nimrod, 89.

10 Gray, S., Southern African Literature: An Introduction (Cape Town, 1979), 100.

11 Selous, , A Hunter's Wanderings in Africa (London, 1881), x.

12 Haggard, H. R., King Solomon's Mines (London, 1956[1885]), 8.

13 Selous, , Hunter's Wanderings, 33; Haggard, , King Solomon's Mines, 36.

14 Selous, , Hunter's Wanderings, 74; for the quotation see Haggard, , King Solomon's Mines, 36.

15 Noted by Gray, , Southern African Literature, 127.

16 Haggard, , King Solomon's Mines, 39; Selous, , Hunter's Wandering, 357.

17 Ibid., 65-67; Haggard, , King Solomon's Mines, 92.

18 McClintock, A., Imperial Leather (New York, 1996), 420.

19 (NAZ) SE 1/5/1, Town Topics (13 January 1917). This obituary of Selous noted that “I do not know that Rider Haggard has ever said who his model was, but I have always believed him to be John Dunn, who for many years was Cetewayo's white man. He was a quiet bronzed, little man with a clipped beard who was just as quiet and retiring as Selous and had done just as wonderful things as Selous had done.” The physical description of Dunn is similar to Haggard's vision of Quatermain.

20 Selous, , Hunter's Wanderings, 12; Haggard, , Allan Quatermain (London, 1956[1887]).

21 Selous, , Hunter's Wanderings, 73; Haggard, , Allan Quatermain, 23.

22 Selous, , Hunter's Wanderings, 286; Haggard, , Allan's Wife (London, 1959[1889]), 178.

23 Selous, , Hunter's Wandering, 296–97.

24 Haggard, , Mian's Wife, 180.

25 Selous, , Hunter's Wandering, 276.

26 Haggard, , Allan's Wife, 209.

27 Selous, , Hunter's Wandering, 275; Haggard, , Allan's Wife. 230.

28 Selous, , Hunter's Wanderings, 49; Haggard, , Allan's Wife, 169.

29 (NAZ) SE 1/1/1, Selous to mother, 7 March 1880.

30 Selous, F.C., Sunshine and Storm in Rhodesia (London, 1896), viii.

31 (NAZ) SE 1/5/1, Obituaries, Liverpool Courier (8 January 1917) and The Times (10 January 1917).

32 Haggard, , Child of Storm (London, 1952 [1913]), 18.

33 Ibid., 83.

34 Ibid., 111.

35 Haggard, , She and Allan (London, 1960[1921]), 8.

36 Selous, , Hunter's Wanderings, 293–94.

37 Haggard, , Child of Storm, 57.

38 Selous, , Hunter's Wanderings, 461.

39 Haggard, , She and Allan, 76.

40 Millais, , Life of Selous, 331.

41 Haggard, , She and Allan, 112.

42 Vambe, L., An Ill-fated People (London, 1972), 90; Taylor, , Mighty Nimrod, xiv.

43 Selous, , Hunter's Wanderings, 34.

44 Selous, , Travel and Adventure in South-East Africa (London, 1893), 59.

45 Ibid., 97.

46 Selous, F.C., “The History of the Matabele, and Cause and Effect of the Matabele War,” Proceedings of the Royal Colonial Institute, 25 (1894), 259.

47 Haggard, , She and Allan, 225.

48 Tidrick, , Empire, 57.

49 Ibid.

50 Selous, , Travel and Adventure, 135.

51 Haggard, , Allan Quatermain, 141.

52 Haggard, , King Solomon's Mines, 7475.

53 Selous, , Travel and Adventure, 206.

54 Haggard, , Allan Quatermain, 99100.

55 Selous, , Travel and Adventure, 235.

56 Haggard, , Allan Quatermain, 8889.

57 Selous, F.C., Africa Nature Notes (London, 1908), 260.

58 Haggard, , Allan Quatermain, 3; for Selous see Taylor, Mighty Nimrod.

59 Carruthers, Jane, “Frederick Courteney Selous: Letters to Henry Anderson Bryden, 1889-1914,” Brenthursl Archives, 2 (1995), 10.

60 Ranger, T.O., “The Re-Writing of African History During the Scramble: The Matabele Dominance in Mashonaland”, Seminar Paper, Rhodes-Livingstone Institute, Lusaka, 1963.

61 Blair, R., “Selous—A Reassessment”, Rhodesiana no. 17 (December 1967), 23.

62 Smith, , When the Lion Feeds (London, 1964).

63 Ibid., 227.

64 Selous, , Hunter's Wanderings, 411.

65 Smith, , When the Sparrow Falls (London, 1977), 759.

66 Smith, , Rage (London, 1988[1987]), 125.

67 Millais, , Life of Selous, 13. Smith might have also read Selous-Phillips, Bertha and Walsh, Elizabeth, “Selous and his Road—Rhodesia's Debt to a Great Pioneer,” Africa World Annual, 47 (1951), 46.

68 Smith, , Rage, 161.

69 Selous, , Hunter's Wanderings, 4647.

70 Smith, , Men of Men (London, 1981), 243.

71 For the scar see Selous, , Hunter's Wanderings, 116, and Pycraft, W.P., “A Great Hunter,” Journal of the African Society, 16 (1917), 203; for Mount Hampden see Selous, , Travel and Adventure, 293.

72 Smith, , Men of Men, 242.

73 For example, Selous, F.C., “Journeys in the Interior of South Central Africa,” Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society 3 (1881); idem., “Further Exploration in Mashunaland Country,” Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, 5 (1883); and idem., “Maps and Narratives,” Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, 5 (1995).

74 Smith, , Men of Men, 293.

75 Selous, , Hunter's Wanderings, 36.

76 (NAZ) SE 1/5/1, Obituaries, Western Morning Neivs (8 January 1917).

77 Smith, , Men of Men, 333.

78 Carruthers, , “Selous,” 29.

79 (NAZ) SE 1/1/4, Roosevelt, T.: Foreword.

80 Smith, , Men of Men, 334.

81 (NAZ) Ct 1/6/8, Mapondera/Temaringa Concession, 25 September 1889. Rotberg, Robert, The Founder (New York, 1989), 295.

82 Smith, , Men of Men, 338.

83 Ibid., 413.

84 Ibid., 413-14.

85 Ibid., 417.

86 (NAZ) CT 1/20/3, Selous to Dr. Harris, 5 July 1890; Selous, , Travel and Adventure, 375; Hoste, H.F., “Rhodesia in 1890,” Rhodesiana no. 12 (September 1965), 11.

87 Smith, , Angels Weep (London, 1992[1982]), 387.

88 Ibid., 413.

89 Ibid., 414.

90 Selous, , Sunshine and Storm, 90, 161.

91 Smith, , A Leopard Hunts in Darkness (London, 1984).

92 Woodcroft, Richard, Will the Real Rhodesia Please Stand Up? (Bulawayo, n.d.).

93 Godwin, P. and Hancock, I., “Rhodesians Never Die”: The Impact of War and Political Change on White Rhodesia, c.1970-1980 (London, 1993), 7.

94 Ibid., 9.

95 Lowry, D., “South Africa Without the Afrikaners: The Creation of a Settler Identity in Southern Rhodesia”, Seminar Paper, South African Historical Society Conference, July 1995, 18.

96 Ibid.

97 Mason, P., Birth of a Dilemma (London, 1958), 181.

98 Godwin, /Hancock, , Rhodesians Never Die, 20.

99 Swynerton, C.F.M., “The Late Captain Selous—His Work as Naturalist,” The Rhodesian Herald (4 May 1917).

100 (NAZ) A/3/28/70, Maurice Heany to Secretary of the Administration Salisbury, 28 September 1918.

101 Ibid, Heany to Campbell, 28 June 1918.

102 Ibid, F.J. Newton to Heany, 18 February 1918.

103 Jollie, E.T., The Real Rhodesia (London, 1924), dedication.

104 (NAZ) M3/10/257 and T8/5/1. Aker, M., Encyclopedia of Rhodesia (Salisbury, 1973), 324.

105 Stiff, P., Selous Scouts: Top Secret War (Johannesburg, 1982), 46.

106 Ellert, H., The Rhodesian Front War (Gweru, 1993), 124.

107 Taylor, , Mighty Nimrod, 296.

108 For examples see Selous, , Travel and Adventure, 109, 286.

109 For the murder of the envoys see Tidrick, , Empire, 7879; Selous, F.C., “The Shooting of the Envoys,” African Revieio, 3 (1894), 168.

110 Selous, , Sunshine and Storm, 64, 137, 192.

111 Kriger, Norma J., “The Politics of Creating National Heroes: The Search for Political Legitimacy and National Identity” in Bhebe, N. and Ranger, T., eds., Soldiers in Zimbabwe's Liberation War (Harare, 1995), 139–62.

112 Ibid., 141.

113 “Selous' Namesake,” Sawubona (September 1997).

114 Gray, , Southern African Literature, 125.

115 Patterson, J.H., The Man-Eaters of Tsavo and Other East African Adventures (London, 1907).

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History in Africa
  • ISSN: 0361-5413
  • EISSN: 1558-2744
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