Travel Chronicles of Mrs J. Theodore Bent, Volume II (Paperback)
“At last we reached a circular enclosure among the grass and scanty trees. We rushed in and it was like getting into a tropical greenhouse with the roof off. There were tall trees and long creepers making monkey ropes, large flowers hanging, great cactus trees, aloes and all sorts of beautiful things crowded together, so that one could hardly squeeze through. I should have liked to stop and stare at the vegetation but on we rushed, over walls and to the tower we had heard of, which is close to the outer wall. We did not stay even to walk round the tower but out we rushed again, like people who were taking a stolen look into an enchanted garden and were afraid of being bewitched if we remained… It was quite dark and we had to be guided by shouts to our camp and got home in a state of great wonder and delight and hope of profitable work and full assurance of the great antiquity of the ruins. Theodore was not very well and had to take quinine.” [M.V.A. Bent, 4 June 1891]
Thus a few lines from Mabel (Mrs J. Theodore) Bent’s 1891 African travel diary on her arrival at ‘Great Zimbabwe’ (in present-day Zimbabwe), written for her family, serve to evoke the romance and hardships of colonial exploration for a Victorian audience. Of particular importance are Mabel’s previously unpublished notebooks covering the couple’s arduous wagon trek to these famous ruins, in part sponsored by the ambitious Cecil Rhodes. Theodore Bent’s interpretations of these wonderful monuments sparked a controversy (one of several this maverick archaeologist was involved in over his short career) that still divides scholars today. Mabel Bent was probably the first woman to visit there and help document this major site. As tourists in Egypt and explorers in the Sudan, Ethiopia, and Southern Africa, anyone interested in 19th-century travel will want to follow the wagon tracks and horse trails of the Bents across hundreds of miles of untouched African landscape.
Contents: Personal diaries, travel accounts and letters relating to the Bents’ travels and explorations in: Egypt (1885); Zimbabwe (1891); Ethiopia (1893); Sudan (1896); Egypt (1898). Includes extended contributions on the archaeological background to ‘Great Zimbabwe’ by Innocent Pikirayi, and ‘The Stone Birds of Great Zimbabwe’ by William J. Dewey. Additional documents, maps, and Mabel Bent’s own photographs contribute to this important insight into the lives of two of the great British travellers of the nineteenth century.
The Travel Chronicles of Mrs J. Theodore Bent. Mabel Bent's diaries of 1883-1898, from the archive of the Joint Library of the Hellenic and Roman Societies, London. Published in three volumes: Volume I – Greece and the Levantine Littoral (2006); Volume II: The African Journeys (2012); Vol III – Southern Arabia and Persia (2010).