Goy (Madame Mathilda Keck)

ALONE IN AFRICA (Seven years 'alone' with the Barotsi and a gift from King Khama. Of Anglo-Boer POW interest. Scarce!)

Or Seven Years on the Zambesi

Published: James Nisbet & Co., London, 1902

Edition: Not stated. Presumed first

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ix plus 78pp plus 6pp publisher ads. Limp leatherette covers with decorative silver title to front cover. 

Scuffing to cover extremities. Internally clean and securely bound. As such a very good copy indeed.

Found in amongst the pages of the book and included in this lot is a Sepia photograph of what is presumed to be Mathilda in the Swiss Alps, the rear of which bears the ink inscription "Summit of Mönk at Junefrau" (Mönch at Jungfrau). "I am wearing big dark glasses because of the glare of the snow. It was the day before I started the ascent of the Junefrau" (Jungfrau) "that this snap was taken. 7.9.20." Provenance is provided in the introduction of the book where Mrs Ferguson (Mathilde's school principal) mentions that Mathilda moved to Switzerland for the education of her two daughters, where at the request of her friends she was urged to write this little book, the profits of which would be used to help her in her childrens' education.

This then is the true and fascinating story of Mathilde Keck Goy, who attended school at the Huguenot Seminary in Wellington, Cape Colony. Under the mentorship of her principal (Mrs Ferguson who wrote the introduction to this book), her earliest ambition was to become a missionary and this was realised in 1889 when her husband to be (Auguste Goy (1863-1896), a missionary of the Société des missions évangéliques de Paris (Paris evangelical missionary society), who was sent to Barotseland as a missionary assistant from 1887 ( accompanying photo of Auguste is not included in this lot) proposed and asked her to join him on a missionary endeavour to the Zambesi. They embarked on a five and a half month journey by ox wagon that started in the Orange Free State, ultimately arriving at the Zambesi where they were curiously greeted by the Barotsi, with whom they were to spend several years henceforth. After Auguste Goy's untimely death in 1896, Mathilde was left entirely alone with the Barotsi, the only white woman in the region. The couple also lost their first daughter, something she does not go into too much detail about, the pain of recounting the tragic experience obviously too much to bear. She goes on to talk about other struggles of everyday life, fatal crocodile attacks, encounters with lion, the Rinderpest and various other misadventures, which ultimately made her decide to call it a day and head back for 'home'. This decision led to further challenges, namely the acquisition of oxen and a suitable wagon for the long and arduous trek back to the Orange Free State. This is where the kind-hearted and good King Khama stepped in to help. 

I personally was enthralled by the story, reading it from cover to cover in one sitting.

An interesting fact is that the equally scarce 1st Dutch edition 'Alleen in Afrika' of Zeven Jaren Aan De Zambezi' was translated by  Boer prisoners of war in St.Helena's 'Deadwoodkamp' in 1902 (provenance is provided in the forward of the Afrikaans edition  'Alleen in Afrika' that was published in 1942. See accompanying photo). In the introduction of the first Afrikaans edition 'Alleen in Afrika' it is mentioned that Mathilde was still alive and living in Swaziland at the time that the book was published in 1942, exactly 40 years after she wrote the first English edition.

Strangely there is no mention of Mathilde Keck Goy or her book in 'Mendelssohn's South African Bibliography' of 1910. Could such a significant little piece of Africana history have been so scarce way back then that even Sydney Mendelssohn couldn't get his hands on a copy, because surely he would have included the book in his bibliography if he had?

  • Binding Condition: Good
  • Overall Condition: Good
  • Size: 170 x 141 x 10mm
  • Sold By: Booktown Africana
  • Contact Person: Chris Shelton
  • Country: South Africa
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Telephone: 0685615292
  • Preferred Payment Methods: Internet banking transfer (EFT), PAYPAL. Regret no Credit Card facility.
  • Trade Associations: AA Approved


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