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Henry Morton Stanley, so the tale goes, was a cruel imperialist – a bad man of Africa – who connived with King Leopold II of Belgium in horrific crimes against the people of the Congo. He also conducted the most legendary celebrity interview in history, remembered in the words 'Dr Livingstone, I presume?'.
Or so we think: but as Tim Jeal brilliantly shows, none of these perceptions is quite true. The reality of Stanley's life – even by the exceptional standards of the Victorian age – is yet more extraordinary. Rejected by both parents at birth and consigned to a Welsh workhouse, he emigrated to America, fought in the Civil War – on both sides – before becoming a journalist and then an explorer.
Tim Jeal is the author of the highly acclaimed biographies of Livingstone and Baden-Powell. His memoir, Swimming with My Father, was published by Faber in 2004 to rapturous critical acclaim. He is also a novelist and a former winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize.