By Bernard Verdcourt
The oriental sounding name refers to one Eduard Carl Oscar Theodore Schnitzer, a methodical, precise German doctor who had travelled widely in the Middle East and had been in the Turkish Service. He is said to have become an admirer of the Moslem faith which he adopted and then changed his name to Emin ‘The Faithful One’. A more likely explanation for his adoption of the name is that he could not function properly as a doctor in Turkey whilst evidence of his Frankish origin was obvious to all. It would have been more satisfactory to adopt the customs of Islam. He wrote to his sister from Trebizond in 1871 ‘Don’t be afraid; I have only adopted the name, I have not become a Turk’. That he had not really given up the Christian faith seems clear frcan the encouragement he gave to the Church Missionary Society to establish mission stations in Equatoria, even offering to support a missionary party there at his own expense.
He was born at Oppeln on 28 March 1840 in the Prussian province of Silesia, the son of Ludwig Schnitzer, a merchant, and his wife Pauline, both Protestants (he was not a Jew as claimed by Stanley). In 1842 the family moved to Neisse where Eduard had his first schooling in the local gymnasium before going to Breslau University (now Wroclaw in Poland) to study medicine in 1858. His medical education was completed in Berlin during 1863–4. As was the case with Stuhlmann, Eduard had a love of natural history from boyhood and this, coupled with a strong desire to travel, led him to seek work in foreign lands. One of his major gifts was the ability to master languages and he eventually spoke German, French, English, Italian, Turkish, Arabic, Persian, demotic Greek, several Slavonic and doubtless several African languages.
He left Berlin at the end of 1864 and went to Turkey obtaining a post on the staff of the Vali Mushir Divitji Ismail Hakki Pasha who took him on extensive official journeys. In this way Eduard visited Armenia, Syria and Arabia, finally arriving in Constantinople (Istanbul, Stamboul, Byzantium) where Hakki Pasha died in 1873. Eduard returned to visit his family in Neisse in 1875, remaining there for a few months, but the urge to travel soon returned and he was off again, this time to Egypt where he entered government service and joined the Governor-General of the Sudan in Khartoum. From there he went as Chief Medical Officer to Equatoria where Gordon was Governor. Gordon soon recognised and valued Emin’s great gifts and, when Gordon was appointed Governor-General of the whole of the Sudan in March 1878, Emin became Governor of Equatoria at a salary of £50 a month. Emin soon made Equatoria pay its way by selling ivory, coffee and cotton; a deficit became an annual profit of £8,000. Obviously like Gordon (who had refused a salary of £10,000 and stated that £2,000 was enough) he was a very honest man. Previous to that the province had been in the control of two Americans whose health had failed. Apart from his administrative and medical work Emin sent thousands of good specimens of plants and animals to museums in Europe with precise notes. He also wrote extensively to correspondents about native customs, languages, geology, etc.
Several letters in the Archives of the Keeper of Zoology, British Museum (Natural History) throw light on the actual details of collecting. An extract from a letter (1.31.155a) dated Wadelai, 15 April 1877, mentions ‘another tin No. 4 contains butterflies and some Coleoptera from Wadelai, a very few shells from Albert Lake and two skulls of that big rodent I sent you in my first boxes’. Another (1.33.77, copy) dated Turguru Island (Lake Albert), 31st. Oct. 1887 is a request for collecting materials. ‘By Mohammed Biri who leaves tomorrow for Unyoro and Uganda I beg to forward to you …… bird skins are now powdered with red pepper instead of naphtaline (sic)…… Another lot of things are ready for you but I cannot send them for want of boxes. Be therefore pleased to send me some tin boxes and if the British Museum can afford it you should send me in the boxes some papers for butterflies cartoon (sic) boxes and pins for insects, little bottles and india rubber corks (stoppers) of different sizes and whatever other useful things you may think fit for me. I am in Central Africa and you in London, I need not tell you that every old paper or book should be most welcome. But more than all send me arseniate of soda (for bird skins). The day after tomorrow I start for the highlands of the western shore of this lake for a visit to my friends the chiefs of the A. Lindii (? sic) Country……’
Very interesting also is a letter in the Keeper of Zoology’s Archives from the firm Boustead Ridley & Co., Zanzibar dated 5th. October 1888 to Prof. W.H. Flower (1.34.26). One might well wonder how letters and parcels were carried enormous distances through what everybody makes out was wildest Africa; even the most delicate of specimens arrived back in Europe and it seems that not much was lost either. The letter reads ‘The two boxes of collecting materials for H.E. Emin Pasha were dispatched by us about a month ago in care of Mr. C. Stokes. We paid Mr. C. Stokes for carriage to Victoria Nyanza $40 per box. There would be a small further charge for carriage across the lake to Buguda but conveyance from Buguda to Wadelai would be within the control of Emin Pasha. We trust there will be no difficulty in sending these loads from Buguda to Wadelai as by the latest advices from Buguda dated 28 January the King Mwanga appeared friendly to the European missionaries while the Arabs who have caused most mischief were in disgrace’. I do not know where Buguda was – it is probably a copyist’s error for Buganda. This letter is at utter variance with Moorehead’s description of the period. The appalling barbarian Mwanga murdered many missionaries and particularly their converts of whom he burnt 30 young ones to death in 1886. All appears to have been chaos in 1888 yet doubtless Emin got his equipment.
It is clear from the obituary in ‘The Ibis’ that Emin’s main interest in natural history was birds. Hartlaub, the famous ornithologist of Bremen, speaks highly of Emin‘s work in this field. ‘The amount of work which Emin Pascha has performed in making zoological collections, observations and notes is astonishing in the highest degree’. This obituary includes a copy of a letter from Emin written from Wadelai, 13 April 1887 ‘in a very minute hand’ to the editor of ‘The Ibis’ (Dr. Philip Lutley Sclater – the bird man at the time and for long after) in the most excellent English despite the remark ‘I must, however, request your charity for my uncouth English; what I know of it I learned here’ *). Sclater echoes Hartlaub’s appreciation and described Emin as one of the most careful and observant naturalists who ever worked in Africa. There are two lots of bird skins from Emin in the British Museum collections all prepared to the highest standards, one lot of 342 from Wadelai (see Shelley in Proc. Zoo. Soc. 1888:17) and 28 from Mtoni about 5 miles inland from Bagamoyo on the R. Kyngani; also 145 mammals including the skeletons of two pygmies. Thirteen papers concerning his collections were published in various ornithological journals, etc.
Trouble soon started in the Sudan and Emin at first retreated up the Nile but managed to hold out in Equatoria until he decided to surrender in 1884 just before the fall of Khartoum to the Mahdi (Gordon was murdered on 26 January 1885). He changed his mind at the last moment and headed south to Wadelai with his garrison of 10,000 people where he later heard of Gordon’s death long after it had happened. This man holding out in a little outpost began to stir the interest of Europe. Salisbury, the British Prime Minister, said it was up to the Germans to rescue him but despite lack of government interest a public Emin Relief Committee was set up and £20,000 was collected. Stanley was given charge of the relief expedition which was to prove a nightmare.
Stanley’s expedition was more like an army setting out for military conquest than a rescue operation and, apart from finding Emin, he was under orders from King Leopold of the Belgians and also linked with many newspapers. The Relief Committee also saw trade possibilities in opening up the country from the coast to Uganda. Curiously enough Emin did not need rescuing but wanted to stay with his people and was only in need of military and political support, because his little settlement was never in the terrible position Gordon had been in. Stanley chose a ridiculous roundabout route by ship from Egypt to Zanzibar, then to West Africa and up the Congo River; one of the many reasons he gave was that the Zanzibar porters would not abscond, as they so often did, since they would be heading for home anyway! The expedition endured awful trials which have filled several large books, including the one Stanley was determined to write and had contemplated before the journey even started. In 1888 Emin went south to Lake Albert having heard that Stanley was coming and that a whole year had passed since the latter had left Zanzibar. He returned to Wadelai without news but actually had missed Stanley by only a few days. When the remnant of Stanley’s party, mostly walking skeletons, arrived at Lake Albert, no-one was there and Stanley did not know if Emin was alive or not until later when Chief Kavalli produced a letter carefully protected by oiled cloth which Emin had left. A message was quickly sent and just over a week later Emin’s steamer appeared on the horizon. Far from needing rescuing, Emin produced a three-year--old cigar which had been left behind by the German explorer Yuncker who had been the one to take news of Emin to Europe. Stanley was in stained, patched, shabby clothes and broken boots, whereas Emin was immaculate in perfectly-fitting white suiting and looked ten years younger than he actually was.
Emin and Stanley were even more different than Burton and Speke. Stanley had a contempt for scholars and scientific collecting; being Emin’s opposite in almost every respect it was obvious they would not get along together. Stuhlmann has some very acid comparisons to make – there hardly exist, indeed, two more basically different characters than the selfless, scientifically minded and humble Emin and the egotistical, arrogant and unscientific Stanley; he explains Emin’s character at length, not glossing over his faults, ending with ‘Er war em Mann, nehmt Alles nur in Allem’. When I first read about these two men I felt an instantaneous dislike for Stanley and a compassion for Emin. Emin rests in the knowledge that his scientific work will never be forgotten but Stanley’s fame is like that of some politician. But it must not be forgotten that Stanley had experienced a nightmare journey (partly due to his stupid route); his explorations resulted in great hardship or death for his porters. He gives a much better impression, also, in a long ll-page letter he wrote home to J.A. Grant on 8 September 1888 from the ’village of Batemdu, Ituri River, Central Africa‘. This contains a good deal about Emin but the only unpleasant references are to the ‘dishonest incompetence’ of Sir Samuel Baker when measuring the true extent of Lake Albert! (Sotheby, etc., 1979).
Emin wanted to stay in Wadelai as a sort of ruler and did not at all fancy a Stanley-type expedition to the coast with a 10,000-strong garrison, many of whom had settled. Stanley offered him two alternative posts which he presumably was authorised to do by the highest authorities; either Belgian Governor of an Equatoria attached to the Congo Free State or working for the British East Africa Company by the north eastern shores of Lake Victoria. The first was rejected as impracticable but he offered to consider the second. The Khedive of Egypt had given Stanley a letter to urge Emin to withdraw and pointing out that if he chose to stay in a sort of independence then he could expect no support from Egypt.
Meanwhile Stanley returned to the Congo River to gather together the remnants of his expedition. He was horrified to find that in all the months which had passed they had progressed a mere 90 miles and, moreover, his madeira had been sent downstream for safety! The column was in tatters, its commander assassinated, most others dead, sick or absconded, the stores spoiled or looted. Stanley was in no mood for any more vacillation from Emin when they met again. Emin’s followers, well aware of the awful things which had happened to Stanley’s party, were no more in a mood for rescue than Emin and whilst Stanley was away Emin’s Egyptian soldiers revolted and confined him. Arabs from the north demanded the surrender of the Egyptians and Emin was released and made his way again to Lake Albert. Half his garrison were loyal and half against him and all authority had disappeared. Emin’s hand was forced and he could no longer prevaricate with Stanley who insisted that they start for the coast at once.
This march is of course a story in itself with 600 of Emin’s people and 1,000 of Stanley’s porters carrying all the possessions of Emin’s garrison. Relations between Emin and Stanley became impossible – Emin existed all day on a small cup of coffee and pored over scientific specimens at halts but Stanley liked luxury. He speaks of Emin wasting his time with his ridiculous collections, now ironically of course, all we have left of any importance from this expedition. Eventually in December 1889 they rode into Bagamoyo (the port from which tens of thousands of slaves had been exported in the past, hence the name baga moyo ‘to leave the heart behind’) accompanied by a German expedition which had come to look for them near the coast. A party was thrown that evening for the two who were long thought to be dead and Stanley feasted himself on drink and delicacies. Emin, however, who was very short-sighted, fell from a balcony and cracked his skull. Stanley eventually returned to banquets, honorary degrees, public acclaim, entry to parliament and a knighthood. Emin recovered slowly and was honoured by universities and learned societies. He negotiated with both the British and German East Africa Companies and finally agreed to lead a German expedition into the interior. The British were bitter about this after having put up the money to rescue him but Stanley had cured him of Anglophilia. He even ignored an invitation from Queen Victoria. It is clear that his star waned in Britain, since the Ibis obituary contains the following statement: ‘He was, as has now been plainly shown by the latter part of his life, although possessed of many excellent qualities, no such great hero morally or perhaps even intellectually as was once supposed. But he was a first rate collector and naturalist, and must, as such attract our sympathies’. This is an extraordinary statement for an obituary in a scientific journal and must reflect the feeling against him at the time doubtless mainly stirred up by the wretched Stanley.
In April 1890 (as I have already related in my account of Stuhlmann) Emin was ready to leave with Stuhlmann and others under his command. The real object was to seize the sources of the Nile and Uganda before the British could get there, but it was too late – Uganda had already been allotted to the British sphere of influence and although a protectorate and never a colony it remained firmly British until independence in 1962. Nevertheless, Emin continued with his plans and finally reached Lake Albert where he met some of his old surviving soldiers; then pressed on into the Congo. Smallpox broke out in his camp and he ordered Stuhlmann back to the coast to save the healthy members of the expedition and also I suspect (although I have not found this suggested anywhere) to ensure that the very extensive scientific collections had the best chance of arriving in Europe. Emin went on and was murdered by a group of Arab slavers about 80 miles south of Stanley Falls, at Seyd Bin Abed’s station on a branch of the Congo River in Manyema country. Another account (Prestwich, 1963: 31) gives Kinena, 100 miles E. of the Stanley Falls as the place of his death. He was 52. Although totally unlike Burton psychologically he shared his intelligence and deep knowledge; both were deeply interested in the country and its peoples apart from just exploring. Emin was more of a natural historian (Burton collected very little) and particularly interested in botany and ornithology; it is clear that he did not know much about molluscan systematics. In his journal (see Felkin, 1888: 379) he mentions ‘Hundreds of black Clausilia-like univalve shells of two species were lying upon the moss which covered the rocks in Khor Asa; curiously enough, all of them had lost the point of the spiral and although I examined more than two hundred, I was unable to obtain a single perfect specimen’. It is clear that these were Cleopatra bulimoides and C. pirothi or allied; decollation is normal in some species of this genus.
Emin was apparently never formally married. The aged Hakki Pasha he at first worked for had a young and pretty wife who made a set at Emin after her husband died. Emin took her to visit his parents but she was too used to a grand retinue and Emin found all this too much and fled leaving her with his parents. This woman actually claimed Emin’s estate after his death but it went entirely to his half-caste daughter Ferida. When Stuhlmann parted from Emin the latter’s parting words were ‘Hopefully we’ll meet in one month! If I, detained by force, should not come, think of my child’. Knowing Stuhlmann’s character we can be sure he did something.
But the last word about this remarkable man has to be the story told by Alan Moorehead when he returned to Uganda and the Sudan to try to find the places connected with Emin’s history. It was near the site of Wadelai, Emin’s capital of Equatoria, and even in 1960 almost unfindable (although plainly marked on a Shell road map of 1965), that a native jumped up in front of his truck and cried ‘Emin Pasha!’ Despite the passage of almost three quarters of a century the name had remained in the memory of his family and the assumption that another white man could only be associated with him. I am sure this memory would have been more treasured by Emin than all the mass of literature surrounding his name.
List of molluscs described from material collected by Dr. Emin Pasha in Zaire, Uganda and Tanzania *
Material collected by Emin in the company of Stuhlmann has already been dealt with (see Conchologists’ Newsletter 109: 181 (1989)), namely Buliminus trichrous, Cyclostoma letourneuxi var. stuhlmanni, Helicarion stuhlmanni, Helix bellula Isidora strigosa, Lanistes ovum var. plicosus, Limicolaria nilotica var. emini, Mutela bourguignati var. smithi, Mutela nilotica var. emini, Opeas streptosteloides, Spatha divaricata, Spatha stuhlmanni, Spatha trapezia, Spatha trapezia var. senilis, Spatha wahlbergi var. dorsalis, Thapsia hanningtoni var. fasciata.
Unio emini von Mts., 1897. Tanzania, Lake Victoria, Speke Gulf, Simin R. near Massansa and Busisi (syntypes).
Caelatura hauttecouri emini (von Mts.).
Gabiella humerosa (von Mts.).
Pseudoglessula emini (E.A.Sm.).
Pseudoglessula kidetensis (E.A.Sm.).
Gulella aequidentata (E.A.Sm.).
Gulella consanguinea (E.A.Sm.).
Gulella conscoiata (E.A.Sm.).
Limicolaria turriformis von Mts.
Bellamya rubicunda (von Mts.)***
NOTE: This name is habitually used for a species restricted to Lake Albert and nearby parts of the R. Nile. Von Martens added this locality to the type locality in his Beschalte Weichethiere: 179, mentioning that it had been collected there by Emin and Stuhlmann on 26 and 27 Nov. 1891, also by Samual Baker and General Gordon.
Biomphalaria choanomphala (von Mts.).
Subulona usagarica (E.A.Sm.).
I am grateful to Mrs. Carol Gokce, Deputy Librarian, Dept. Zoology, British Museum (Nat. Hist.) for drawing my attention to several references which had escaped me and answering my request for information on any correspondence held in the BM archives, to John Thackray, Archivist, for allowing me to examine these archives and to Dr. W.T. Stearn for lending me A.J.A. Symons’s Essays; also to the library staff at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew for arranging to have some pages of Stuhlmann’s book translated.
Prof. R. Kilias kindly sent specimens on loan from the Zoological Museum in Berlin and Dr. Peter Mordan gave me access to Emin’s specimens in the type collections of the Molluscan section at the British Museum (Nat. Hist.).
References and Bibliography
A new edition of this was published by Weidenfeld and Nicholson in 1985 with a reprint in Penguin Books in 1991 so it is easily available. A new preface by R.D. Smith and an expanded bibliography add to its interest.
Since writing the above an article by Richard Dowden appeared in ‘The Independent’ Weekend for Saturday 29 December 1990 entitled ‘When Stanley presumed too much’. Despite Stanley being a newspaper correspondent himself Dowden decided that of the two men Emin had more to offer Africa. Also I have read the ‘Autobiography of Sir Henry Morton Stanley, G.C.B., etc.’, London: Sampson Low, Marston and Co. Ltd., undated. Stanley left his autobiography unfinished and it was edited and completed by his obviously devoted wife Dorothy. When one reads of his simply appalling life as a child in the workhouse after being abandoned by his mother, his dreadful treatment on board ship as a cabin-boy, the horrors of being caught up in the American Civil War and the unimaginable rigours of African Exploration one wonders how on earth he survived. From workhouse to G.C.B., D.C.L. (Oxford and Durham), LL.D. (Cambridge and Edinburgh) and a host of geographical honours is a great feat; he was a God-fearing man keen on doing his duty but he had no real love for Africa, it was something to fight against. His circumnavigation of Lake Tanganyika and Lake Albert and proving that the Lualaba ran into the Congo and not the Nile were major geographical events. His essential devotion to those who had been loyal to him is nowhere better shown than when, after the awful journey to the mouth of the Congo he personally returned with the surviving porters and other expedition members round the Cape to Zanzibar. During all his extensive travels I have never heard that he showed any interest in the flora and fauna from a scientific point of view although he did write in his notebooks ‘If he is a true lover of wild Nature, where can he view her under so many aspects as in the centre of Africa?’. He could even write after a few months back in the pressures of Europe ‘I had been too severe in my condemnation of the Forest. I began to regret its cool shade, its abundant streams, its solitude’.
Stanley offers an explanation for Emin’s murder. Some months after their return to the coast, Emin, who had gone off on his own, became embroiled with an Arab caravan and wanted to buy their goods. The four Arabs declined, whereupon Emin trumped up a charge of slavery against them, seized their goods and had them drowned in Lake Victoria. When news of this reached Berlin the Germans too tired of him and he was recalled but was already on his way into British Territory on his last expedition. The Arab who eventually ordered his murder, Said-bin-Abed was a relative of one of the drowned Arabs. Manning’s more likely account is that Emin rescued some slaves and handed over their Arab masters to the natives who executed them with great cruelty. That the Arabic-speaking supposedly Mohammedan Emin should have done this, ensured retribution when he was so close.