David Livingstone (1813-1873)
Livingstone's 'neglect' of his wife and children is often cited by the worldly as an example of his flawed character. But his 'neglect' was Biblically justified. His every waking moment was devoted to evangelizing Africa. In his own mind his greatest stain came in the summer of 1861. The Ajawas, slave-traders of the most violent kind, were marching captives through what is now Malawi as well as capturing indigenous Manganjas whom Livingstone was evangelizing. Livingstone had often displayed guns to intimidate unfriendly tribes but never actually aimed at individuals. This time he shot at the slave traders. Livingstone was a crack shot, always in top form for procuring game, so it seems likely some Ajawa fell under his bullets.
Yet Livingstone asserted 'the shepherd ought not to kill his own sheep'.
In the minds of those who accompanied Livingstone on his expeditions his greatest flaw was his 'compulsion'. Once he decided to do something, almost nothing short of death could stop him. In 1862 his most loyal companion, Dr. John Kirk, wrote in exasperation, "Dr. L. is a most unsafe leader. He never thinks of getting back. All he cares for is accomplishing his object at any risk whatever. It is useless making any remark to him…I can only say that his head is…what is termed 'cracked'." Kirk had endured many near-fatal jaunts with Livingstone, the most treacherous in 1860 when Livingstone took him by canoe down the deadly Kebrabasa Rapids on the Zambesi River. When the canoe capsized Kirk lost eight volumes of irreplaceable botanical notes, dozens of drawings, his rifle, his surgical case, revolver, bedding, clothes and scientific books - in short, everything but his life and the clothes on his back!
[source: David Livingstone: his life and his letters by George Seaver, 1957]
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Florence Nightingale (1820-1910)
Past her great nursing triumphs in the Crimean War and subsequent reforms in Britain, Florence began to fail in health. Still only in her forties she slipped unwillingly into semi-retirement at her South Park street residence. She became difficult in the extreme. Her dear cousin Hilary she now disdained because of her 'weakness'. She became estranged from her favorite aunt Mai. In the summer of 1865 when her great friend and inspiration 'Clarkey' came from a great distance and sat in her foyer Florence dismissed her with a note: '…it is quite, quite, quite impossible…' Earlier Florence had refused to see the Queen of Holland!
However Florence continued to work on reports and read medical journals. No one helped Florence more than her distinguished colleague Dr. Sutherland, who helped her voluntarily. But to Florence he was merely a 'go-for', and finally her 'pet aversion'. He was going deaf and his constant 'Pardon me, Miss Nightingale?' drove Florence into a rage. She no longer spoke to him. She scribbled exasperated notes like 'My dear soul! It's rather late for this.' and 'You said you were going to lay it before your Committee, you had much better lay it before me!' She railed about him to her family and friends. 'There are some people who always say the wrong thing,' she wrote of him to her mother. 'You know how queer he is,' she wrote a friend. 'I find it more and more difficult to rouse Dr. Sutherland to do the work we have to do,' she complained in another letter. She couldn't imagine why he took a house farther out of London. How would she be able to summon him on a moment's notice?
[sources: Florence Nightingale: Selected Letters edited by Martha Vicinus and Bea Nergaard, 1990, and Florence Nightingale by Cecil Woodham-Smith, 1951]
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Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984)
Francis Schaeffer's anecdote is available HERE.
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