Under current restrictions, our shops are closed to the public, but we are still processing online, telephone and email orders as normal.

GORDON, Charles George.

Remarkable lengthy autograph letter signed, with advice for Louis A. Lucas on the essential requirements for successful exploration in Africa.

Together with two other related letters.

Labore: 30 June 1876 Stock Code: 125725
Reserve Ask us a question

Gordon predicts that a would-be explorer will come to grief

An unusually long letter, in which Gordon goes into great detail about the difficulties of African exploration, revealing his exasperation at Lucas's behaviour, and his frustration at Lucas's unwillingness to heed the advice of someone far more experienced in African travel.

Louis Arthur Lucas (1851-1876) was the only surviving son of Philip Lucas, a prosperous Manchester merchant. Cushioned by his father's wealth, Lucas travelled in Switzerland and the United States, until a trip to Egypt in 1873 excited his interest in Africa. Despite contracting typhoid fever on that first trip, Lucas planned to explore the Congo Basin with Arthur Freeman, formerly a gardener at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew.

For this he would need the authorization of Colonel Gordon, governor-general of the province of Equatoria, in the south of Egyptian-occupied Sudan, since 1873. Lacking African experience, Lucas found it difficult to get a letter of introduction, but he went to Khartoum anyway, without informing Gordon of his intentions. He and Freeman arrived at Lado in 1876 having already spent most of their money and with no ideas of the difficulties awaiting them.

Despite the poor report he had already received of Lucas, Gordon was short of help from European visitors and was initially welcoming. He thought Lucas might be persuaded to serve at one of the local stations or to explore Lake Albert on his behalf. But Lucas proved to be - as Gordon characterizes him in the letter - "blindly obstinate and 'un vrai Anglais'".

In his long letter, Gordon sets out difficulties in African exploration of which Lucas seemed blithely unaware: the hostility of the natives; the untrustworthiness of Lucas's servants; the expense of travel; the shortage of food; Lucas's own susceptibility to disease. All these problems were familiar to the likes of Stanley, Livingstone, and Harry Johnston, but not to Lucas.

Another of Gordon's political imperatives was to suppress the flourishing Equatorian slave trade. One way of doing this was to induce the Arab former slavers of Zanzibar to supply porters for European explorers. (There was a good deal of moral ambiguity in the policy, as virtually all porters were slaves.) Gordon writes that he had advised Lucas to go to Rumanika, where he could find some Arab porters from Zanzibar. He later states that he had recommended Lucas to write home for 3,000 to be placed on account in Zanzibar in order to reorganise his expedition from there.

At the end of the letter Gordon draws a detailed map of the various stations between Victoria and Albert lakes, perhaps with the unspoken intention that Lucas's cousin would send someone out to fetch him home.

Together there are three letters: the earliest dated (24 June 1876) is from Lucas to Gordon. Gordon had objected that Lucas had abandoned two sick Egyptians accompanying him to Dufile. In his letter Lucas explains that "I thought my two servants had nearly recovered when I last saw them, and I said 'they would come on with the baggage' as they said they wished to dose themselves", and states that he simply cannot afford to repatriate them. He also asks Gordon for the loan of 350.

On 28 July 1876, Lucas himself writes to his "brother", announcing his safe arrival at Magungo. We identify "Alfred", the ultimate recipient of these letters, as Emil Alfred Jacob Behrens (1850-1931), only surviving son of Louis Behrens, a successful Manchester cotton trader. The Behrens family were connected to Lucas through the marriage of his aunt Anne to Louis's elder brother, Salomon Levy Behrens, one of the earliest and most successful Jewish immigrants in Manchester. Emil, familiarly known as Alfred, had two younger sisters, Helen (Nelly) and Edith. An only child, Lucas evidently treated Behrens and his sisters as his surrogate siblings, referring to his "sisters" awaiting a letter from him. "It is quite impossible to say when you will hear from me again", he tells Behrens, a prophetic sign-off.

Despite continuing to pester Gordon with demands, Lucas ignored his advice to go to Zanzibar. By the end of August he and Freeman were both sick and returned to Khartoum. Freeman set out for Cairo but died at Berber. Lucas became delirious, running around naked and shouting. He recovered in Khartoum and started back to England, but died en route. He was buried at Jeddah.

It is plausible to assume that Gordon did not send his own letter at the time of writing, only forwarding it, together with the two related letters, after Lucas's unfortunate death that year, as a retrospective justification of his conduct towards Lucas.

Confused? Read our glossary


Together 3 items: (1) autograph letter signed from Gordon to Alfred Behrens ("Dear Sir"), 5 large octavo bifolia of fine, pale blue laid paper, watermark "L-J D L & Co." [Laroche-Joubert, Dumergue, Lacroix et Compagnie, Angoumois], text to recto and verso of 4 sheets, giving 16 pages, postscript to the first panel recto of the final sheet with a full-page sketch map facing showing in detail the area in which the recipient will be travelling; (2) autograph letter signed from Lucas to Gordon, to which Gordon refers in his letter, 2 pages on single large octavo bifolium, with integral blank leaf, Duffli [Dufile, Uganda], 24 June 1876; and (3) autograph letter signed from Lucas to "Dear Alfred [Behrens]", his first cousin to whom Gordon sent his advice for Lucas, 1½ pages large octavo, Magungo, Albert Nyanza, 28 July 1876.


Lightly creased from old folds and handling but overall very good indeed.


With the exception of framed items*, Peter Harrington offers free delivery on all UK orders of rare books, maps and prints placed through this website. Delivery to USA and the rest of the world is similarly free for orders over £200.

View Full Delivery Details



Established in 1969, Peter Harrington is one of the leading rare book firms in the world. It is a proud member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association – along with ILAB, the PBFA and Lapada – and from shops in Mayfair and Chelsea, London, sells rare books, prints and ephemera to customers across the world.

Email: mail@peterharrington.co.uk

Tel: +44 (0)20 7591 0220

ABA Antiquarian Bookseller Association ILAB International League of Antiquarian Booksellers LAPADA The Association of Art and Anatique Dealers PBFA Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association

Our Guarantee Page

Ask us a question


Contact us with details of the book you are interested in or selling and we will contact you

Sell Old Books Help me find a book