By Bernard Verdcourt
Later Speke made the famous journey accompanied by Capt. J.A. Grant (1827-1892) during which the first collections of dried plants were brought back from the interior of East Africa and one of the sources of the Nile found; that perennial problem which had vexed men since antiquity (though I suspect some ancient Egyptians probably penetrated far south), was at least partially solved. Volumes have been written about Burton and Speke, two men so different in character that it is difficult to see how they could have tolerated each other for a moment. Burton was a romantic arabist who spoke some thirty languages, had translated the Arabian Nights and more recondite erotica, a strange mixture of fastidious scholar and debauched libertine, but one of the best informed and scholarly of Victorian explorers. Speke was a more conventional respectable young Victorian. About all they had in common was toughness and a remarkable facility for learning languages.
Those who wish to read more about this fascinating pair will find an excellent account in Alan Moorehead’s ‘The White Nile’. Some very revealing remarks made by Speke about Burton in some of his letters to others are mentioned in an auction catalogue for the sale of J.A. Grant’s papers which is well worth reading (see beneath). Speke and Burton were to have wordy battles later in England and even now no one is quite certain that Speke’s death was due to "accidental discharge of his own gun", the verdict returned by the coroner’s jury – the faint possibility that he committed suicide just before he had agreed to meet and argue with Burton on a public platform is perennially suggested and, if true, very sad because Speke was right and Burton wrong over the fact that Lake Victoria was a source of the Nile.
List of molluscs described from material collected by J. H. Speke
|Iridina (Pleiodon) spekii||Woodward, 1859.||Tanzania, Lake Tanganyika.||= Pleiodon (Cameronia) spekii (Woodward, 1859). Holotype in BM 18126.96.36.199|
|Lithoglyphus zonatus||Woodward, 1859.||Tanzania, Lake Tanganyika.||= Spekia zonata (Woodward, 1859). Syntypes in BM 18188.8.131.52 (two specimens, one marked with black dot by Connolly? selected as lectotype).|
|Melania (Melanella) nassa||Woodward, 1859.||Tanzania, Lake Tanganyika.||= Lavigeria nassa (Woodward, 1859). Syntypes in BM 18184.108.40.206 (two specimens, one not marked with black dot selected as lectotype).|
|Unio burtoni||Woodward, 1859.||Tanzania, Lake Tanganyika.||= Grandidieria burtoni (Woodward, 1859). Holotype in BM 18220.127.116.11 (also figured by Sowerby, 1866, Conch. Icon. 16 Unio species 251, pl. 47, fig 251).|