Review of Reviews,  7 (1893), 257–69.

Character Sketch: March. Mr. Frederick Courteney Selous



Regular Feature, Biography

Relevant illustrations:

eng. [7]


Exploration, Imperialism, Natural Imperialism, Heroism, Naturalists, Natural History, Zoology, Collecting, Medical Treatment, Pharmaceuticals, Extinction, Spiritualism, Materialism

    Observes that in 'Central Africa the human being is rather the parasite of the over-lord than the over-lord himself. The real masters of the interior are the animals, not the men. Hence in these regions the hunter is still the hero [....] the pioneer of civilization' (257). Although Frederick C Selous 'can better drive a bullet from a rifle into the brain of a charging lion than he can impel his ideas into the mind of the British public', he 'would probably wish to be remembered more as a naturalist than as anything else. Though not a trained scientist he has made the scientific world his debtor by the care with which he makes his observations [...] and the intense interest which he displays in all forms of animated nature' (257–58). Indeed, the 'best specimens of wild animals that are to be found in the collection at South Kensington were shot by Mr. Selous in the wilds, and their skins sent home to become a permanent addition to the attractions of the capital', and he is 'just as eager in the pursuit of a moth as he is in the shooting of an elephant or the hunting of a lion'. By 'combining in his own person the prowess of the earliest hunters with the reflection, habits, and observation of the scientific naturalist', Selous is a 'typical man of his time' (258). Also notes that Selous is one of those 'natural miracles that occasionally occur, as if to prove the falsity of all the rules and regulations of the physicians' (259), exposing himself 'recklessly under African suns' without taking 'opium or alcohol, or any prophylactic except quinine and Warburg's fever mixture' (260). Expresses concern for the uncertain future of the few 'straggling specimens' of the African elephant which remain after the 'massacre of such numbers' of the species (263). Relates how during a visit to friends in the Transvaal who 'were deeply interested in the subject of spiritualism', Selous received a warning in a 'message by automatic writing' not to remain in that country (266). Concludes that although as both a 'Darwinian and a Cromwellian' Selous 'emerged from his South African wanderings a materialist in philosophy', there must come a 'doubt born of many strange phenomena' such as the automatic writing, and speculates that we may be 'on the eve of the Fourth Dimension' (269).

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