Published online by Cambridge University Press: 13 May 2014
In the works of many generations of white writers on Africa, the “Great White Hunter” has remained one of the most powerful and enduring images. A model of Caucasian masculinity, he quickly masters a hostile and wild environment in ways which amaze the aboriginal population, who are usually portrayed as savage and incompetent. Perhaps the best known real-life example of this classic image was Frederick Courteney Selous, a product of the English public school system, who hunted elephants in southern and central Africa during the 1870s and 1880s. Never having made much money from the ivory trade because of the dwindling number of elephants, Selous became an employee of Cecil Rhodes' British South Africa Company (BSAC) in the 1890s and worked towards the colonization of Southern Rhodesia. After fighting against the Ndebele in 1893 and 1896, Selous eventually based himself in England and became a recognized environmental expert, safari guide, and collector/seller of zoological specimens.
Through writing six books and numerous articles from 1881 to the 1910s, Selous successfully created and popularized an image of himself as a skilled, yet sporting, hunter, a painfully honest gentleman of the bush, and a friend, as well as leader, of Africans. He was an adventurer with a dramatic habit of narrowly escaping danger and these episodes were often illustrated through drawings in his books. Discussing one such incident, a writer of hunting stories once remarked that “throughout Lobengula's country the story went that Selous was the man even the elephants could not kill. It helped to build the ‘Selous Legend’ among the Rhodesian tribes.”
2 MacKenzie, J.M., Empire of Nature: Hunting, Conservation and British Imperialism (Manchester, 1988), 43.Google Scholar Rowland Ward was a London taxidermist and publisher who produced books on hunting, including Selous' works, and records of game trophies such as lengths and widths of horns.
3 Millais, J.G., Life of Frederick Courtenay Selous, DSO: Captain 25th Fusiliers (London, 1918).Google Scholar
4 Taylor, S., The Mighty Nimrod: a Life of Frederick Courteney Selous, African Hunter and Adventurer, 1851-1917 (London, 1990), xiii.Google Scholar
5 Ibid., xii.
6 Cousins, Tim, “A Tale of Two Mysteries: The Patterson Embassy to King Lobengula,” Brenthurst Archives, 2 (1995), 33–42.Google Scholar
7 National Archives of Zimbabwe (hereafter NAZ) SE1/5/1; Illustrated Sport and Dramatic News (13 January 1917).
19 (NAZ) SE 1/5/1, Town Topics (13 January 1917). This obituary of Selous noted that “I do not know that Rider Haggard has ever said who his model was, but I have always believed him to be John Dunn, who for many years was Cetewayo's white man. He was a quiet bronzed, little man with a clipped beard who was just as quiet and retiring as Selous and had done just as wonderful things as Selous had done.” The physical description of Dunn is similar to Haggard's vision of Quatermain.
29 (NAZ) SE 1/1/1, Selous to mother, 7 March 1880.
31 (NAZ) SE 1/5/1, Obituaries, Liverpool Courier (8 January 1917) and The Times (10 January 1917).
33 Ibid., 83.
34 Ibid., 111.
45 Ibid., 97.
46 Selous, F.C., “The History of the Matabele, and Cause and Effect of the Matabele War,” Proceedings of the Royal Colonial Institute, 25 (1894), 259.Google Scholar
59 Carruthers, Jane, “Frederick Courteney Selous: Letters to Henry Anderson Bryden, 1889-1914,” Brenthursl Archives, 2 (1995), 10.Google Scholar
60 Ranger, T.O., “The Re-Writing of African History During the Scramble: The Matabele Dominance in Mashonaland”, Seminar Paper, Rhodes-Livingstone Institute, Lusaka, 1963.Google Scholar
63 Ibid., 227.
73 For example, Selous, F.C., “Journeys in the Interior of South Central Africa,” Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society 3 (1881)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; idem., “Further Exploration in Mashunaland Country,” Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, 5 (1883); and idem., “Maps and Narratives,” Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, 5 (1995).
76 (NAZ) SE 1/5/1, Obituaries, Western Morning Neivs (8 January 1917).
79 (NAZ) SE 1/1/4, Roosevelt, T.: Foreword.
81 (NAZ) Ct 1/6/8, Mapondera/Temaringa Concession, 25 September 1889. Rotberg, Robert, The Founder (New York, 1989), 295.Google Scholar
83 Ibid., 413.
84 Ibid., 413-14.
85 Ibid., 417.
88 Ibid., 413.
89 Ibid., 414.
94 Ibid., 9.
95 Lowry, D., “South Africa Without the Afrikaners: The Creation of a Settler Identity in Southern Rhodesia”, Seminar Paper, South African Historical Society Conference, July 1995, 18.Google Scholar
99 Swynerton, C.F.M., “The Late Captain Selous—His Work as Naturalist,” The Rhodesian Herald (4 May 1917).Google Scholar
100 (NAZ) A/3/28/70, Maurice Heany to Secretary of the Administration Salisbury, 28 September 1918.
101 Ibid, Heany to Campbell, 28 June 1918.
102 Ibid, F.J. Newton to Heany, 18 February 1918.
104 (NAZ) M3/10/257 and T8/5/1. Aker, M., Encyclopedia of Rhodesia (Salisbury, 1973), 324.Google Scholar
111 Kriger, Norma J., “The Politics of Creating National Heroes: The Search for Political Legitimacy and National Identity” in Bhebe, N. and Ranger, T., eds., Soldiers in Zimbabwe's Liberation War (Harare, 1995), 139–62.Google Scholar
112 Ibid., 141.
113 “Selous' Namesake,” Sawubona (September 1997).