Illustrated Encyclopedia of Tartan

The Life and African Exploration of David Livingstone

David Livingstone,
page 2 of 13

Blantyre, where he settled and made a respectable business for himself. In that picturesque Clydeside village David was born on the 19th of March, 1813. He was from his earliest years a precocious child-fond of fresh air and sunshine, equally fond of adventure and discovery, and in touch with Nature at all points. Never, in this respect, was Wordsworth’s line—

“The child is father to the man,”

more fully exemplified than in this rugged, thoughtful Blantyre bairn. With the struggling family of which David was a young member it was then, in a serious sense, the day of small things, and he was sent to the factory, as a piecerboy, at the age of ten. Hard work, however, had no terror for him, and in after years he stated that one of the proudest moments of his life was when he laid his first earned half-crown in his mother’s lap. With part of next week’s wages he bought a copy of Ruddiman’s Latin Rudiments, and, pursuing the study of that language with increasing ardour, he had mastered many of the classic authors, including Virgil and Horace, before he was sixteen. An estimate of the great disadvantages under which he laboured while achieving all this may be gathered from the fact that his work in the factory began at 6 A.M. and was not over till 8 P.M. As soon as he had taken a hasty meal he went to the evening school till 10 o’clock, when he hurried home, and invariably sat till midnight, and very often to a later hour, till his mother put out the candle in protecting care for Davie’s health! It would be difficult to find a better illustration of pluck and perseverance in the pursuit of knowledge.
The many-sidedness of the boy‘s character showed itself strongly at an early period of his eventful life. Not satisfied with book-lore alone, he used to scour the country, accompanied by his brothers, in search of treasures in botany and other sciences. Ferns and wild flowers, old-world fossils and carboniferous shells, beetles and bats, were equally welcome to the budding scientist. Through grim necessity these excursions had to be taken, of course, on the Saturday half-holidays, and, on a rare occasion, when a flood on the Clyde stopped the mills — an occurrence which, in spite of his thrift, David could not help rejoicing in. In those delightful rambles he made valuable collections of the wild flowers and rare fauna of Lanarkshire, and the shells of its carboniferous limestone. On one of these exploring journeys he came to a limestone quarry. He relates this experience with great gusto, not unmingled with quiet humour, “It is impossible to describe the wonder with which I began to collect the shells in this carboniferous limestone. A quarryman watched me with the pitying eye with which the benevolent generally look upon the insane. ‘How, on earth,’ said I, ‘did those shells come into those rocks?’ ‘When God made the rocks He made the shells in them!’ was the damping reply.”

His method of study inside the factory showed the spirit which was in him. His words bear with them the courage of a true hero: “My reading was carried on by placing the book on a certain portion of the spinning-jenny, so that I could catch sentence after sentence as I passed at my work. I thus kept up a pretty constant study, undisturbed in any way by the roar of machinery. To this I owe the power of completely abstracting my mind, so as to read and write with perfect comfort amidst the play of children, or the dancing and song of savages.”

There is a kind of sustaining comfort for us, however pathetic the fact may be, that no character is without its weak side, and even David Livingstone had his human


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