Africa in My Blood: An Autobiography in Letters: The Early Years

Africa in My Blood: An Autobiography in Letters: The Early Years


$14.82 $15.99 Save 7% Current price is $14.82, Original price is $15.99. You Save 7%.
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Wednesday, November 20


AFRICA IN MY BLOOD is an extraordinary self-portrait, in letters and commentary, of Jane Goodall's early years, from childhood to the landmark publication of IN THE SHADOW OF MAN. It reveals this remarkable woman more vividly and clearly than anything that has been published before, by her or about her. We see Goodall grow from a schoolgirl into the promising young candidate whom the legendary Louis Leakey sent to a wildlife preserve on the shores of Lake Tanganyika to undertake a revolutionary study of chimpanzees. At Gombe we see her immerse herself in the lives of wild animals as no one had done before. AFRICA IN MY BLOOD is a dramatic, moving, funny, and important book that tells the story of how an English girl who loved animals became one of the greatest scientists of the twentieth century.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780618127351
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 04/22/2001
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 750,227
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.08(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Dale Peterson is the coauthor with Jane Goodall of Visions of Caliban (a New York Times Notable Book and a Library Journal Best Book) and the editor of her two books of letters, Africa in My Blood and Beyond Innocence. His other books include The Deluge and the Ark, Chimpanzee Travels, Storyville USA, Eating Apes, and (with Richard Wrangham) Demonic Males. They have been distinguished as an Economist Best Book, a Discover Top Science Book, a Bloomsbury Review Editor's Favorite, a Village Voice Best Book, and a finalist for the PEN New England Award and the Sir Peter Kent Conservation Book Prize in England. He resides in Massachusetts.

JANE GOODALL continues to study and write about primate behavior. She founded the Gombe Stream Research Center in Gombe National Park, Tanzania, and the Jane Goodall Institute for Wild Life Research, Education, and Conservation to provide ongoing support for field research on wild chimpanzees. She is the author of many books, including two autobiographies in letters, Africa in My Blood and Beyond Innocence. Today Dr. Goodall spends much of her time lecturing, sharing her message of hope for the future, and encouraging young people to make a difference in their world.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


I had been fascinated by live animals from the time when I first learned to crawl.
- In the Shadow of Man

Jane Goodall's childhood letters take us from early 1942, when she was seven years old, to the end of her school years in the summer of 1952, when she was eighteen. Her family usually called her Valerie Jane during this time, while her friends often referred to her as "V.J." The stretch from 1942 to 1952 is long enough, and critical enough, that we can easily watch a transformation in writing style - including the development of that ironic, mock-literary voice first appearing in letters to her friend Sally in 1951. But in spite of the metamorphosis taking place during those years, as the writer moves from young child to young adult, it is striking how persistently her love of and fascination with animals remains a central theme - replaced to some degree only in the last two letters by the love of and fascination with a man, Trevor.

The earliest letter, written in a pencil-in-fist cursive to "Darling Mummy," addressed from "The Manor House" and dated February 16 with no year, was probably, but not certainly, done on February 16 of 1942. Valerie Jane did not start formal schooling until later in 1940, and it is likely she did not learn to write in cursive until 1941 or 1942. The location and some of the details of this letter might seem to suggest an earlier year. During the fall and winter of 1939-40, when Mortimer first enlisted in the army, Valerie Jane and her motherand sister were regularly staying with Mortimer's mother ("Danny Nutt") and stepfather, who lived at the Manor House, a grand sixteenth-century brick and stone edifice rising out of the shambles of the fourteenth-century Westenhanger Castle in Kent. Other regular visitors to the Manor House at that time included Mortimer's sister Joan and her fiancé, Michael Spens; but they would not have been "Mr and Misis Spens" until their marriage in 1941. Still, the mention of that "big dog called Jacky who is going to live here untill Uncle Micel come back" reminds us both of the young writer's eager excitement about the animals all around her as well as the background drama: the men were going to war.

Beyond the visible carnage of the war during those years (including the 1942 death of Mortimer's younger brother, Rex, in an RAF plane crash) lay the vast if invisible damage of broken lives and families. By the time Valerie Jane's father reentered civilian life, in 1951, the marriage was over. So "Daddy" was nearly always a remote presence, the source of occasional letters and long-distance phone calls and the rare visit on leave. The note in the middle of this chapter, written to "Mummy," possibly in late 1946, describes with only good cheer ("it was jolly good fun") the experience of "seeing Daddy off" on the Eastern Prince, bound apparently for Bombay. Mortimer was shipping out to his first posting in the Far East.

Valerie Jane entered the Uplands Girls School in 1945 and began her riding lessons around the same time. On Saturdays she would take a local bus out of Bournemouth to the small village of Longham, where Miss Selina Bush (often called "Bushel") lived in a rambling Queen Anne brick house with field and stables out back. Miss Bush's place was called Longham House, and her assistant, Sheila MacNaughton, was known as "Poosh." Some of the letters beginning with the one of September 1945 refer to the delightful Saturdays at Longham House with Bushel and Poosh.

The bulk of letters from Jane Goodall's childhood have been preserved by her friend Sally Cary Pugh, the daughter of the Honorable Byron and Daphne Cary, a couple who had long been good friends of the Morris-Goodalls. Mortimer had gone to school with Byron, and they had been roommates in a London boarding house when, in the early 1930s, Mortimer met Vanne. Sally was born a year after Valerie Jane; Sally's younger sister, Sue, was only two months older than V.J.'s sister, Judy. The girls made a natural foursome, in other words, particularly after the mid-1940s, when Sally and Sue regularly stayed at the Birches in Bournemouth during school holidays. Starting probably during their summer holidays of 1946, Valerie Jane invented for everyone's entertainment a nature club, the Alligator Society, which involved projects, games, rituals, and even - when the girls were apart during school sessions - nature quizzes by mail and an Alligator Society Magazine, to which everyone was expected to contribute articles. The girls had an Alligator Camp, in the garden. They walked into town in the Alligator style: single file with V.J. at the head and the other three girls bringing up the tail, strictly according to the order of their ages. They all took on Alligator code names: Valerie Jane, the oldest and therefore leader, was "Red Admiral," in reference to a dramatic-looking butterfly. Sally was "Puffin." Sue became "Ladybird." And Judy, the youngest, was "Trout." Unhappily, there seem to be no surviving copies of the Alligator Society Magazine, and we are left with only the few tantalizing references to it in some of these letters.

Holiday sessions of the Alligator Society were enlivened during the later 1940s and early 1950s by all-day visits from Rusty, the black spaniel cross owned by the managers of a hotel around the corner (first mentioned in the letter of March 7, 1951). Rusty was an unusually intelligent dog who found an unusually attentive human partner. He loved to do tricks, including the ordinary (shake hands, play dead, jump the hoop) and the less so (climb a tall stepladder, close the door). Unlike most dogs, Rusty adored being dressed up in clothes and so would sometimes find himself wearing pajamas and being pushed down the street in a pram. But as the girls learned, he had a real personality. If anyone laughed at him while he was dressed up, for example, Rusty "hated that and would walk off at once, trailing clothes behind him." He acted apologetic whenever he did something he had been taught was wrong, but he would sulk bitterly when unfairly accused. "Rusty was the only dog I have ever known who seemed to have a sense of justice," Jane was later to comment.

The family, deeply religious if cheerfully unorthodox, attended the First Congregational Church in Bournemouth, known, because of its location, as the Richmond Hill church. (Vanne's father, William Joseph, had been a Congregational minister, though never at Richmond Hill.) And Valerie Jane, a passionate and idealistic girl, was increasingly attracted to the grandeur of the church, its gargoyle-lined bell tower, the grand arched bank of stained glass windows, and (as we can gather from the letters of June and August 1952) the new minister, a charismatic Welshman named Trevor Davies. This was an utterly idealized and platonic infatuation of late adolescence. The Reverend Trevor Davies, B.A., M.A., Ph.D., cast his light on the Richmond Hill congregation between 1951 and 1971 and across the end of Valerie Jane's "childhood": the summer of 1952, when she finished school, passed her Higher Examinations, and prepared to enter the world of work and practicality.

* * * *

The Manor House
Westen hanger Hythe.
Feb 16 [probably 1942]

Darling Mummy

     the day befor yestoday Mr and Misis Spens broght a big dog called Jacky who is going to live here untill Uncle Micel come back. I dont know how to spell that word. Yestoday Danny Nutt gave me two china dogs and I call them Trouble and Terry. Jublee has got a new dress. I have got a birds nest and a catepiler in a box of calaig leaves. Now I will drow a pictuer of him.

     Today I found a ded rook he died of cold. I hop you can read this letter. I had a bold egg for my tea, new bread and real butter. When I went to tea Gremlin came with me and he stad all night till Gras came with the tea. Mouse sends you her love and a lik. Kincin is giving you his best bone. Jacky and Trouble send you a lik and the Hen's send you a cluck. Eevry body sends you there love. with lots and lots of love from

valerie jane

[Possibly November 1945]

Dear Sally

     I'm sorry I've not written before but what with school and things I've been rather busy. You must, must, must, must, must, must, must, must, must, must, MUST, come and stay with us this hols. My Ma has written to your Ma to ask if you can, so do write and tell me that you can. I have got quite a lot of caterpillars one is a Lime Hawk Moth looking like this, and if you come you will be able to see his skin. Another is a green looper (or stick catepillar) who feeds on mountain ash and he has made a cocoon, another is an ordinary cabbige white, who has made a cocoon, and another is a black hairy tortishell who feeds on nettle. If you come you will be able to see them all. Oh! I have another little yellowy, orang looper who feeds on lime, and a green caterpillar who feeds on cabbage, and has turned brown.

     Chase, my Blue Roan Spaniel is sweet. Also he is very mischives and bites anything that comes in his way. He comes when he is called and also I play a cirtain game with him. I run my fastest away from him and soon he gets tired and sits down. Then I lie down flat, and the minute he see's me lying down he runs straight for me at full speed, with which I hurridly rise to my feet, for if I did not, all the hair of my head would be stuffed down Chase's throaght. He is very greedy, and gobbles down his food at a great rate. I have learned quite a few good poems this term: The Spanish Armardar by Sir Walter Scott. How They brought the good news by Robert Browning. John Gilpin by William Cowper. The Leap of Roushan Beg by Longfellow. It would be nice if you could learn some of them and then we might be able to have a play with people reciting together.

I must end now!

Lots of Love from

Valerie Jane

not to be read aloud

P.S. In this one code sighns A5R S5E I5K O5V U5W

[Possibly spring 1946]

Dear Sally

     I am very sorry I have not written before but with this new school of mine I am kept rather busy. We have lovely gym there, bars, horses, ropes and every thing else. Some of the girls are quite nice, others very nice, and others simply stinking (excuse my word please). This week I was really top of my form, although, I REALLY think that - , well anyhow I was. Pauline was top of her form too. She is in one higher form than me. We are supposed to have a lot of games, but one day when it was too wet for games and we went for a walk, some of us were naughty, so for a punishment we have been going regualy for walks, instead of games. How are you getting on in your school? By the way, the Prefects and seniors of my school are jolly decent. What form are you in? The work in my form is soppy and so far I have only had three things under 8. 6 1/2. 7.

     7 1/2. Yesterday we had a horrible thing to do for english prep: - explain how to do up and adress a letter. What do you think of it. Last Saturday I had a great thrill, for when we went riding, we had our first jumping lesson. Not Judy and Liza, (Liza was in bed) but Pauline, Jill and me. As there is not a Guide company at this school I am becoming a Lone Guide. I don't really know how to explain that to you, but maybe you can find someone who can tell you what it means. Anyhow it means a lot of writting and filling up forms. Do you have a lot of prep. I have three preps a day except Wednesday, and on that day I have two. I expect you are getting bored with this lengthy letter, so now I will end.

Lot of love


P.S. I shall have to write again soon, as I have not told you HALF the things I have to say.

P.P.S. give my love to every one in the house.

P.P.P.S. Chase got ill but he is better now.

[Around July 28, 1946]

Dear Sally,

     I'm counting the days till you come. Don't forget to bring you bathing-dress with you. We are all very sad, because Chase has been killed. He was in the middle of the road, and a lorry was backing out of a gate (and so could not see him) and he was run over. A man saw him and took him to the vet, but he was dead. It's an awful shame, poor Chase. How have you done in your exams. Ours were terribly easy, but we wern't helped. Excuse writing, but I'm in rather a hurry. Another of my fishes: -

     He's got a nice little dinner. Ha! Ha! We break up this week, me on Monday, 29th and Judy on Wednesday, 31st. On Thursday we're going to the baths, Friday is a pony-club. Thursday you're coming. Friday another pony club. What full days. Don't forget to learn First Class, because you must all pass when you come to stay. If Susie is not sure of no. 2, I will tell here some things. You have to be able to recognize 10 birds, 10 dogs, 10 trees and 5 butterflys or moths: (10 birds) (1) robbin, (2) blackbird (3) thrush (4) blue tit (5) wren (6) house sparrow (7) gull (8) hawk (9) starling (10) wood- pigeon. (10 dogs) (1) cocker spaniel, (2) terrier (smooth and wire) (3) collie (4) alsation (5) bull-dog (6) bull-terrier, (7) pekenese (8) old english sheep-dog, (9) dalmatian, (10) airdale. (10 trees) (1) oak (2) birch (3) fir (4) pine (5) sycamore (6) mountain-ash (7) plain (8) lime (9) Ash, (10) Horse-chestnut. (5 butterflies or moths) (1) Red Admiral (2) Six Spot Burnet Moth (3) Purlple Emperor (4) Painted Lady (5) Privit Hawk Moth. These are only some of the many things. I did not bother to put in ten wild flowers, because here are such a lot that almost everybody knows 7 3 10. I can think of masses to tell you, it would take a book to write it down, and as its Mummy's writing paper, I can't afford to use much. Must stop now.

Lots of love from

V.J. V.J.M.G.

[Postmarked October 18, 1946]

Dear Sally,

     This is a very short messy pencil letter. I'm terribly sorry, but I shant have time to get the Aligator Society Magazine together. I come home at 6.0 and do prep till about 7, and on Saterday mornings I do prep and then ride, on Sunday I do prep on and off all day. You see I have 8 preps in the weekends, and about 6 of them are usualy writing ones. I usualy have three preps every night, and I do one of them at school, and bring the others home. So you see, I don't have much time. Don't lets talk about school any more. I've started making Christmas Cards, and I've drawn two. One is a perky horse, pulling an old fasioned handsome cab and a street lamp shining brightly. The other is a tiny picture of Joseph, Mary & Jesus (as a baby) in the middle, and two angels one on either side, kneeling praying. Peter has completly moulted, & is hopping around without a tail, looking very unhappy. I found a little mole out riding, and it bit me hard. Mummy found a hedgehog in the middle of the road.

[Possibly fall of 1946]

Dear Sally

     The new Aligator thing will arive soon. I was able to get it ready quickly because I was tossed and got a slight conncussien, so the beastly Doc made me take a short holiday in bed. However I'm getting up this afternoon, thank goodness for that. I am so glad you are going to learn riding. You will be able to ride here when you next come. I have said in A.S. (Aligator Society) that you need not make a badge but if you want to make one each ready for when you come to stay, you can. You must not wear them untill you have passed 1st class. To make them: find a fairly small aligator and trace it out and pin it onto some green material. Cut round the edge of the paper, so that you have a green cloth Aligator. Then get an oblong piece of card board about the size of the Aligator. Cover the cardboard with white cloth and stitch the aligator onto it. Put a safety pin in the back. As all the badges must be the same send me a tracing of the Aligator you use and also a piece of the paper the sieze of the card board. If you have not any green stuff get some green die. Try to use quite thick material. You must make Susie's for her. As I am the leader I will give my Aligator an eye and you must not.

Lots of love


[On outside of envelope:]

P.S. I meant to send this but [torn] wast of a stamp.

P.P.S. If you wread the inside of this letter you will see about the badge. The aligator of the cover we will use. Make the card-board just smaller than round the aligator.

[Possibly late 1946]

Dear Mummy,

     I do hope that you are having a lovely holiday, and wish I was with you. I have just come back from seeing "Hamlet" and it was simply georgeous. We went on the way back from seeing Daddy off. It was jolly good fun. We arrived at Southampton and went to the wrong docks, & met a policeman with dermithitis or some such disease on his face. We at last arrived on the quay side & there was the "Eastern Prince". Daddy was up on the 2nd deck looking very smart in his hat. He said he would come & see us but had to go to his cabin & we were too late. Olly marched up the gangplank with his parcels & was stopped by a member of the millitary police. Olly asked if the parcels could be given to Major Morris-Goodall, on which piece of information he looked uterly flabbergasted until that person, very vexed, & having lost his hat, appeared, leaping over his fellow soldiers, grabbing said parcels, and calling, "comming in 10 mins". He did not reappear until the band began to play and then Dad appeared on lower deck. The noise was deafening - from the men, and below Dad's rank & dignity so he disappeared, & reappeared on the Poop - or some such place. The noise was deafening as all the men cheered. Then the Millitary Police got ashore, and were promptly booed & booed by the men. Then the gangway was hauled up by the crane & the "Eastern Prince" slowly sailed out of port. Daddy waved until we could no longer see him & the band played.

The Birches,
10, Durley Chine Rd.

[February, probably 1947]

Dear Sally,

     I have written to you so much that there isn't really anything to tell you. I am doing a lot of things this year to do with nature - and it is jolly interesting. I have vowed to keep them up for the whole year, but I don't know if I shall. I will tell you what they are. If you are not interested, of course you need not read them, but the sad thing is, that at the moment, I can think of nothing else to say.

Well: -

     I am going to keep up my nature log book, in the front, interesting events, such as watching the nest of the Willow wren, and in the back are my nature walks. I have determined to go for one each month of the year. If it is an interesting month with nests, I might go for two.

I am going to keep buds of diferent trees in water, and draw them as they open.

     I am going to keep seeds and nuts and grow them behind blotting paper - you know, you line a jar with bloting paper (on the inside) then fill the hollow with earth, and press the seeds down between the bloting and the glass. You watch them grow, and draw them at various intervals. In March I am going to get some frog spawn, and if possible some toad spawn. The book says you can find it in the south. I think that is all.

     I went for a nature walk the other day, and I found some jolly good things. Almost everything that Enid Blyton had in the diary. I found a wren, blackbird, song thrush, mistle thrush, blue tit, coal tit, primrose, grounsel, a lovely red beetle, wood lice, a spider, a tiny flie & a funny little insect under an old log. The chestnut buds were geting sticky and the lime's red. I also found 5 Feb. things: - a crocus, a snowdrop & ivy berries. Now I must go and feed the guinea pigs, the time being 7.40 am.

     I will end now, and if I think of anything else to say, I will add it as a P.S. or P.P.S. or P.P.P.S etc. Buck up and send your drawing comps. With lots of love to, Daphne, Uncle Byron, Susie, Robert, Rooky, Mandy, Tammy and Tuppy (Oh! is Mandy getting fat yet) and to yourself


Red Admiral, Jane, Spindle or V.J.
(I refuse to put Valerie)

Tel. W'stbourn 63723

May 23rd or - 23.4.47

Dear Sally,

     Thanks very much for your letter. Sorry I haven't answered the one before, yet, but I've been busy. Please excuse writing because I've left my pen at school. What did you write to Francis Pitt about? I've now got - oh dear, I shall have to count them all, so hold on. - 67, if my arithmetics right. Oh! Sh! The Robin came right into my room just then, so I must dash down to get some bread in case he comes again. His babies are all over the garden, five of them. The thrush (mistle) has three which she proudly brings into the garden, and to day there were some hedge sparrow babbies. The chafinches have got a nest somewhere behind the hut, but we can't find it. The blackbird is still sitting on her new nest. Yesterday we saw a pair of BULL finches in the garden. I will collect dogs names, and I am going to do it like this: - KIND OF Dog. NAME. KIND OF OWNER. e.g) Scottie. Jock Nice lady. Rather fussy.

     Lets say we can't put down a dogs name if we haven't seen its owner, or the person thats with it, but we can count it if we hear it being called. I am at home to day as I have a cold, and I am practising drawing birds from real life. I am determined to get good at drawing them. Yesterday I drew a picture of a forest on fire, and all the creatures running away. It went wrong, but I'll show it you one day if you like. That bird we thought was a lady chaffinch, definatly is a lady chaffinch, as she is always with the male. By the way, the Francis Pitt's, seem to come every other Sunday, don't they. That means there's one this Sunday. I have been to the baths twice. I am glad your going to jump in. Hope Susies quite recovered by now. The baby birds in the garden make such a din you can hardly hear your self think. I am reading all the penguin books, with green covers, that is, all the murders. I must end. Now. Give my love to Daphne, Byron, Susie and your kitten when it comes. R.Ad.

(poor effort)

P.S. Do you like the envelope?

The Birches
10 Durley Chine Rd
Tel: Westbourne 63723.


Dear Sally

     Thank you very much for your letter. It was a jolly quick reply. I am very interested in your mice and you are jolly lucky to be able to keep them without losing them, especially as they do such adventurous things.

     About the Jumping Competition. We had a wizzard time. I showed Bonus, and we got a 4th, but it was feeble as there were only 6 people altogether. If somebody else had showed her she would have got first. (I was not jumping her). Miss Forestier Walker asked Sheila if I could ride Quince in the Inter Branch Jumping team, for the Portman pony club. She already had one team, but she thought that she would like another. There were only three teams, with four people in each, 2 from the Portman hunt, and 1 from some other Pony Club. We were 2nd. My prize was a nose bag (as it was for all others in the team). Jolly feeble! Then there was the branch team jumping. I was on Urchin, with Hopper on Wellington, Leza on Blitz, and Pauline (notice I put her last) on Daniel. We were not to bad, but you should have seen some of the teams. They were absolutly wizzard. Sheila's team was second, so that meant that Quince had to red rossets. Then came the open jumping, and Hop was in that on Wel, and good old Wel was actually second. Everyone was awfully surprised, as he had refused 3 times, and we were so sure that he had got nothing, that Hopper had actually taken off his saddle, and when they called her no. out, she had to go in bareback.

     Then came the bareback jumping in pairs. Me & Hop went in on Dan, and Wel. They were jolly good old men (together their ages add up to 48) and didn't make a single fault, but evidently they were judged entirely on pairs, for the pairs who were 3rd & 4th had rapped many jumps, while we had a clear round.

Then came me on Urch in the under 14.2.

     Have you ever had the feeling that on thinking something over, you think how silly you were, and you know that if you had another chance you would do it again. I expect you have! Well, that's how I feel.

     Me & Urch. got on fine, and then at the last jump Urch ran slightly crooked, and once you let Urch go crooked at a jump in the Show Ring, you've had it. He is unstopable. He ran right out into the collecting ring before I got him back. Anyhow we had a clear round beyond that, and if they had judged it in the ordinary way, we might have got something but they had 3 faults for a refusal & 1/2 for knoking of with some legs or other, but I've forgotten. Anyhow, I know I could do it right now.

The Birches,
10, Durley Chine Road,

7th March 1951

My dear little Puffin,

     I am quite positive that it is your turn to write to me, in fact I'm quite certain of the fact, but I will forgive you because I expect you are working for Mock (if you ever do work) or don't you have a Mock. We did, and it was far worse than School Cert, we all thought. I hear that you might do your Maths if you had 2 days instead of 2 hours (or was it 2 weeks, months, or even years). Well, cheer up, it was exactly the same with me.

     Life is very boring, and, as I tell everyone I meet, but for the thought of next hols, I would stick my head in a gas oven - except that that would be a crime & I might be hung. It would be odd to hang a dead body, wouldn't it. Especially mine! I don't know why it would be especially odd to hang my dead body, at least, odder than anyone elses, only my alive body, is odd, so my dead one would be even odder.

     (I hope you have skipped that last bit, only I got in one heck of a muddle. I nearly said H*LL etc)

     Well my dear, and how are you? Still the same old 'Lally I suppose! What do you think of these miserable curs who are trying to overule our "blesséd England". Are not they a scurvey crowd of ostentatious thugs? Also, what about "Brittania Rules the waves."?? I have decided to start a civil war, and I shall lead the poor misled, ill-treated, squashed, and long-suffering middle class to a triumphant victory over the pompous upper class (composed of glorified char-women and road-workers). I do hope you will join my noble army. Of course, it will be a well paid job, hours of work 10 am-3.30 pm, Wednesday afternoon off, and of course I shan't expect my army to work more than 4 days a week. Any little squabbles will go before a specially appointed Trade Union of the British Middle Class Defence League. (That by the way is my idea of a Socialistically run Civil War!) I hope you agree with me.

     By the way, to cease from penning such utter and complete drivel, do you ever listen to a program called "Any Questions" which is on Friday at 8.0-8.45 pm on the Light Program. If you have tell me and I will tell you my idea for an afternoon's fun next hols, when you (I hope) will be coming to pay this filthy town of mine a visite. If you havn't and you have any odd time over, I should, 'cos it's jolly good fun. It was a hoot last week!

     I am going to have a super time next hols (I hope) Hunter Trialing Quince. I say "I hope" because Poosh is quite sure I shall break my neck. Have you been riding since I last saw you, and if so, who did you ride?

     Jacob, the turtle in case you'd forgotten, has woken up from his hibernation, and I took walk in the garden on Sunday, as it was so warm and sunny (sorry for the change of ink). Mrs Churcher is moving out to the country in about a fortnight, so there will be no Buds to take for walks anymore, which will be rather sad. Rusty is still the same as ever, but I think his fighting is getting even worse than it has been before. Hamlette, that wicked little orange demon, has been awfully wicked. I can't remember if I told you this, but if I did, you must forgive me. Well, we left her in Our Room whilst we solomly masticated our supper, and, when we got back we found that the naughty little critter had gnawed clean through the Telephone wire as it went under the door. Was Ma in a bait!!!! It was when Danny was so ill, and we were expecting a call from Uncle Eric etc etc. At least half of the British population decided to give us a tinkle that night, and it was infuriating as we could hear it ringing almost incessantly and were unable to lift a fingur to stop it. As a matter of fact its a wonder the dear little animal didn't electrocute her stupid little yellow body.

     At the moment I am frightfully busy typing our form magazine for the second time. I have written hundreds more poems - about 6 to be precise, and one is about the Grand National and is miles long - 144 lines to be exact. That is going in the magazine so I hope everyone enjoys it.

     About a fortnight ago I went to a lecture with Audy at the Richmond Hill lecture hall. It was on Reptiles Ancient and Modern and it was absolutely wizzard. I did wish you could have been there, as there were live specimins afterwards. He had a gecko lizzard - the sort that run on the ceiling, an adder, 2 grass snakes, a python skull, and a pickled smooth snake. There was also a "healing serpent" at least so called in Greek Literature - ancient Greek I mean, - but I never caught its proper name. I had it, and a grass snake round my neck, and it was wizzard. Audy & I stayed right to the end talking to him - he was wizzard. I wonder if he has been to your school, as he said he goes to a lot of schools. His name is something like Leucher.

     Danny has now gone off to Whipps X for a kind of rest cure, and she is being spoilt most terribly. All the doctors and nurses pop in all day long and she is never alone for more than 10 minutes. She really is having a wizzard time, and she writes us billions of letters. She has been gone a week, and in that time the family has had two, Judy has had one, I have had one, and Audy has had two, & I think another family one came this morning. All her "boy-friends" as she calls them cluster round her, and would do anything for her, and she has found 2 or 3 which she thinks suitable for Olly. They bring her flowers, fruit, nuts, books and in fact, she has only to name an object & it will be brought her, even if it means scouring London at mid-night. Hey - ho!

     I think it's a swizz that we have to go to school on Easter Monday! Do you have to? I don't expect so. Last Saturday I had to go early to the stables as it was a) Hopper 21st Birthday and she had gone up to London, and - b) Poosh was at Brockenhurst at a dressage affair. The South Dorset Dressage Group were having a sort of schooling by the marvellouse man who teaches Mrs. Beckett, so naturally Poosh and Quince went. Apparently Quince was quite good, but went most terribly badly on the last day, which was rather disapointing.

     Anyhow, that left Bushel and I to cope with the school - 7 small, pretty hopeless childeren. Two of them nearly got run away with. My two (on the leading rein) both nearly fell off, one 'cos the saddle slipped round, & the other 'cos the leather came off. On top of that Sally kept trying to run away. There was masses of tack to do, & on top of everything (sorry, I've used that expression twice) Bushel's brother was coming for the night and had to be met by her in the car. On the whole, it was a busy day and I cleaned tack so hard in order that Bushel could finish early and "enjoy" her brother (if I may use such a word) that my arms still ache. Then, after all that, Ruin went and got collic so that Bushel was up half the night. Such is life, but I must not grumble.

     And now my dear (sorry to begin with "and") I really must end this nonsensical epistle, and cart my aching limbs up the stairs, unclothe them, and lay them, in all their beauty, between the white sheets. Of course, I hope to lay the rest of myself between the sheets as well, all but my head in fact. I must also submerge all but my brain case beneath the clear water (which will soon become delightfully cloudy owing to the formation of a scum, & will efectively conceal my maidenly figure).

Much love & hope to see you soon.

Give my love etc to all.

Jane (Red Admiral)

[Possibly summer of 1951]

Dear Sally,

     Thank you very much for your letter. I hardly dare write to you, and I hardly dare think or talk about you, without feeling the bitterest remorse, as I havent written to you for so long. I am truly most terribly sorry. My remorse is of the very greatest imaginable. Do not however think illy of your freind, for, as the sun sets and rises, and the moon travels around the world, I think of you greatly and truly. I was going to the hospital, to have a truly beloved piece of myself, cut out with a pair of cruel scissors, but I did not, I could have wept for gladness, as a mighty joy swept me from end to end. Please forgive my truly beloved pencil, as although I have a wondrous pen, I have no pure cool ink, with which to make my marks, which are christened writing.

     I'm sorry I wrote all that nonsense. Translation I'm honestly and truly terribly sorry I havent written befor, but I was going to have my tonsils out and I didn't because of infitile peralisis. Excuse pencil, but I don't know where the ink is as I am staying with Auntie Joan, by my self. I am longing to see you all again. How are you all. I got a 4th prize at a gymkana, in a fancy dress race, a little while ago. There are two dogs here, Juno, a black cocker, and Domino a golden dashound. There is also a cat, Smoke, and a shetland pony, Jimpy. There are as well, 6 ponies which Auntie Joan is exercising for a man. Please excuse writing, but it is horiball pencil. I came from London to here by myself. It is very hot here, out in the garden, as I am in the sun, and I am just going to go in, as I have sat here long enough, and Auntie Joan is calling me, so I will finish this lettre in bed tonight and post it tommorrow sometime. There wasn't time yesterday at bed time so I am writing in the morning this - oh! I've forgotten what I was going to say. Never mind. Last night some queer things went past my window last night. I went to look to see what they were, and I found they were one thing. It was very big, and I thought it might be a bat, but it made a whirring noise, and I thought it must be a moth. It came very near the window, but it flew so fast, and fluttered so, that I could not see its shape. I rode the little pony last night, and he bucked a lot, making Auntie Joan screech with laughter. David, her yongest son, is sprawled beside me on the bed, talking away, as he looks at a horse book of mine, and making me forget what I was going to say. I must end now, as this letter must be posted. I hope Daphne is better, Love to all including Rook.


The Birches,
10, Durley Chine Road,

[Around December 1951]

Dearest Sally,

     I am afraid that I have been rather a long time in replying to your last letter, and your reply will have to follow rather speedily if you don't want a nice cold swim. Or do you? I am sorry if I have underated your capacity for enjoying a cold bath. However, enough of this nonsensical monologue - or is it a dialogue? I don't know.

     I have just emerged triumphant from my first attempt at sonnet writing. By that I don't mean that I have writen a wonderful sonnet, I mearely mean to impart unto my dear friend - none other than thine own dear self (you see I have been reading a Jeffrey Farnol) - that I have actually written a sonnet (don't get alarmed, I am not going to send it for your perusal). We have been doing the sonnet in English, and the wretched woman made us write them for prep.

     It is a real hoot! Canford School for boys has asked us to a dance, and all the seniors and Pre's are going (I don't know if I told you that I was made a Pre?). Anyhow, I have got to spend the night at school. It really is going to be a hoot! Canford School is well renowned for having awful boys - George Elis comes from there, and if he is an example of a Canford boy, they must be pretty ghastly. I am dreading it, but I had to go (I hope I am not boring you).

     As I am writing this letter at school, I have not got your letter here, and so I cannot answer any questions you may have asked as I cannot remember them - I hope they were not vital. We are making wizard plans for next holidays, but I don't yet know whether they will work, or whether I am meant to tell you, so please do not get worked up, or dismal or anything which might be your reaction if it did work or really was happening. (I don't think that that makes sense, but you will have to try & see if it does). Well, Ma is endeavouring to take me to see Winter's Tale up in London next hols, as I am doing it for Higher, and she is trying to get them on the 7th, 8th or 9th of Jan, 1952 (not 1 or 3 but 2). We shall then stay the night (probably at Whipps X), and then our plan was for you to come up, and we could either go to the Museum again - as it is all open now I believe, or else we could spend hours wandering round the Zoo. I don't quite know what happens to Sue - she might go on the through train to Bournemouth if she was allowed to go by herself, or come with you, or something. It depends on everything - I don't know. Ma & I havn't even got as far as talking about that. The trouble is that it seems expensive for Jif & I to trail up to London - in fact I'm sure Judy won't be able too, and it seems unfair for her to be left out - I dunno. Anyhow, I don't even know yet just exactly if you can come - so don't imagine this is all arranged. It is NOT. Later I am now very unsure - in fact positively unsure of this arrangement, because we had seats for Sat (next Sat) which Ma was trying to change when I began this letter. Now we know they cannot be changed, so I don't know what will happen. So let me start a fresh subject.

     It is now Sunday evening, and I can tell you all about Saturday. Everything went off wizardly except that it was carried out in a howling gale. Oh bother! I have just read through this letter, and observed that you must be quite at sea as I have not mentioned what was happening on Saturday. I am so sorry. Well, I will now proceed to explain! On Sat, the School at Longham got up a Christmas Bazar, and they had a Father Christmas. They asked Bushel to lend Polly & the Wagon. Well, the Wagon was beautifully draped in green velvet curtains with a chair draped in the middle, and beautiful furs down the back and notices about the bazar down the side. Polly's mane & tail were bedecked with gay red and yellow ribbon. We had two choir boys behind the chair in red and black to blow bugles, and Poosh and I were out riders. Bushel was dressed up as a coachman, and you could honestly hardly recognize her - lots of people didn't. She had a top hat, side whiskers, & a big black coachman's coat. Father Christmas sat beside her, and sang occasionally. His hood came halfway down his face. Poosh rode side-saddle in a habit with an 18 inch waiste, and a top hat with a veil, and a frilly lace thing as a sort of crevat affair, on Quince. I rode Summer Time, and was her squire. I had Admiral Bush's tail coat, a blue spotted crevat, side whiskers - my own hair stuck down the side of my face - trousers stitched down the side to look like those riding trousers which the very posh show riders still wear, with my riding boots underneath, and I carried my hunting whip. We had great difficulty in a) getting Poosh into her 180 waiste, and b) getting my hair up under the top hat, so that it was presentable when I took it off to Father Christmas. Mrs McDonald - a person who lives at Longham House now - was jolly useful, and rushed madly around at the last minute. You can't image what a mad rush there was at the last min. There was such a gale that the notices began to blow off, so Mrs McDonald stitched them on, and we were late as we got back late from taking the school out. We had to trot all the time and Poosh got so sore. I was pretty sore as I had to sit all the time as otherwise I sat on my tails. It was super fun. I stayed that night with Poosh which was also jolly dee.

     I can't think specially of any more news - certainly not enough to fill another of these large sheets, & so I had better stop. I suppose I told you about the rats killing all the [guinea] pig babies - I can't remember. Don't forget to write me today or tomorrow at the latest - by today I mean Monday when I fondly hope you will get this letter. We have got an extra 6 days of hols because of the fuel shortage.

Tons of love

V.J. Jane: Red Admiral.

The Birches,
10, Durley Chine Rd,

[Around June 24, 1952]

Dear Sally,

     I am very offended with you. Do you realize that you have upset your old friend beyond words. I would have you know that the Rev. J. Trevor Davies is not yet 50. I would also have you know that Richmond Hill broadcast the other evening and everyone who heard it said it was the best service they'd heard for ages. I would also have you know that I do not ALLOW people to say nasty things about him. Now do you understand. I was going to write a very short note, saying that I should never see you again unless you applogized. Now I have finished Higher I am so happy that I feel forgiving, and also that it would be a waste of a stamp - BUT! Unless you write and tender your very sincere appologies for so hurting me, I shall not write to you again!!

     Now that I have got that off my chest, I will proceed to relate some news to you - not that there is any. My dear, I am being so teased that I don't know where to look for shame! On Saturday I went out to the stables and was not going to ride, and then Poosh said there was some one to ride with, and there wouldn't be next week, so would I rather then. I said yes if it was a nice person. You may guess who it was. Clive! come for a weekend from Aldershot (he is in the army now). Well of course, I'd absolutely had it then. I said I would go if Poosh sent me, so she sent me. As a matter of fact we had a jolly nice ride - I am absolutely sick of riding with either myself or a lot of stupid kids. We both got run away with all the time on Summer & Sol. The worste is yet to come! On Sunday I was peacefully shelling broad beans when Olly appeared to say I was wanted on the phone. You can guesse the next. This time I did not have you as an excuse and I had to go. We went to the Rufus Stone in the new forest, and had tea in a little place where the ponies came and put their heads in at the windows. It was a hoot!

     There is worse still! (and this is the most dreadful part of the whole story). Someone from school in my form - saw me!!!!! It really is terrible. She suddenly said before prayers when everyone was there, "Who was that young man you were out with on Sunday?" Of course I went puce, and everyone was in fits. Somehow or other she knew his name (she is going to tell me how soon) and now everyone calls me Clive. But worse was to come! Whilst I was still hiding my face, Wendy (a day girl I come to school with & who I had told about George) said "Is that the one I know about?" And like a fool I said no. My dear, you can just imagine what it was like, can't you.

     Oh, I am so happy. Higher is over. 3 weeks with no work, and then I've left - ! Oh! It's so super you can't imagine. I am looking foreward very much to the end of the term as I have arranged a midnight feast for all the Pre's and Senior's in our house. We are having it on the last but one night of term, and we are going down the fire escape and down to the bottom tennis court through the woods. There are about 12 of us and it should be smashing fun. The difficultest (sorry for the coined word) part is getting me smuggled in, but we have worked it out, and I am going into a little 2 room with 2 pre's in it, and no one ever seems to go in there. I shall either sleep on Liza B's bed, under it, or just on the floor. It really will be super, although we are sure to be caught.

     Our exams have been foul, I promis you. We had one English exam, "Passages for Comprehension and Interpretation" in which was a poem all about Public Lavatories (at least, very nearly, but there were a few other things in it as well.) I simply popped. I will show it to you when (or rather if) you come to stay. (You can't come unless you take back the words you wrote). That reminds me, there was a picture of him in the Echo the other day. Oh! I do love him. He knows me now, and next Sunday I'm going to see him, all by myself, to ask him if I can become a Member of Richmond Hill. You can't imagine how I'm longing for it.

     (but one night of term, and somehow I have got to be smuggled up to the bedroom. I am)

[N.B. I started the letter again after a pause & thought I had ended on page 3. Hence the false start.]

     Now I will begin again, although why I have started a new page I can't imagine as I have nothing to say. We (3 of us) finished Higher on Monday morning, and Pongo said we could go down to "Bournemouth" after much persuasion. We decided we wanted to go to Shell bay, and as Hillary had no bike she had to come to our house, & we bagged the 2 bikes (one is unsafe & we are not allowed to use it!) and met Jill and really had a smashing time. We got a picnic lunch from home & Jill had some oranges & apples, so we got on fine. Then Hilly and I nearly got lost coming home, which was also rather funny!

     My dear, you really should see poor Mrs Jimmy. She is so fat that I'm sure she'll burst if she gets any fatter, and she won't produce. Each morning I go down expecting to find at least 8 pigs instead of 2 - but no go. She can hardly get through the door as it is.

     Mummy is away at the moment, staying with Deb (I can't remember whether you knew or have met her, but anyhow, her daughter is Jo - you may have heard of her). Did you hear "Morris Mortimer Goodall" being shrieked over the wireless during Le Mans. It made me hoot with laughter. Apparently everyone in the motor racing world calls him Morris or something.

     I shall really have to buck up now, and fill the remainder of the page with rappid rubbish as it is nearly time to set off for school. It is wiz now as we have no work to do at all so I read all day. I have read my first two novels for about 3 months since higher ended - "The Talisman Ring" and "The Great Roxhythe" both by G. Heyer, and am in the middle of "Royal Escape" also by her. Have you read any of them.

     You must come and stay in the hols - sometime before August 18th as I am going to Germany then (I'm not looking foreward to it one bit I can assure you). You must forgive writing but the pen is a) full of sand, b) crossed, and c) running out (or not running as the case may be). Must stop, and will post this just as soon as I can find some stamps.

Much love


P.S. Mind you write & send your deepest appologies.

The Birches,
10, Durley Chine Road,

[Early August 1952]

Dear Sally,

     Thanks tons for your last epistle (or is it episel - still wrong but you knew what I mean) which I very nearly fell over backwards to receive. I certainly never expected one for weeks and weeks! I'm so glad you are having a nice time, but the G.G's sound quite balmy. Bad luck about your back and shirt - have you managed to mend your jhods yet?

     Now! About the great day! It was SMASHING!! Everything worked and went off wizardly! It was wonderful! Glorious! Splendid! Delightful.

     Michael didn't come in the end as he went to the Circus - they had the tickets muddled up - at least that was the excuse. Kitty (the little dog) came and she was sweet. Rusty sulked and lay down by the door all the time. Even during cake time at tea he never moved a muscle.

     I sat in a little arm chair beside HIM. Danny and Mrs. sat on the couch, and Ma sat behind the tea table on her little setee affair. I wore my white dress - AND he!! said how nice it looked - him not her! We talked about everything under the sun - and oh! he was so wizard. I put a feather and a piece of cotton for him to sit on - I still have them, also his cigarette but, his matchstick and his tea-leaves. I went to bed on the couch that night with his cushion for my pillow. When he first came my chair was quite far back, and while I was handing food round he got up and pulled it closer up!

     I have never seen such a lively little man. He couldn't keep still for a second, and he couldn't bear a conversation to be carried on without him. He hated his wife to tell a story, and always managed to get his word - or rather wordS in. He had a beautiful long nose and he adores dogs. Of course when they got out of the front door Kitty disappeared and do you know! if I hadn't noticed they would have gone off without her! They must have enjoyed themselves. They'd even started the car. Then Trevor & I looked for her, & Audy found her by the pigs. "Oh hurry Trevor" says Mrs. Davies & he came pounding after me doing exagerated running - you know - knees up & hands up & head back. It was a hoot. The naughty dog made a hole in the wire netting. We did nothing but laugh all afternoon, and do you know! They stayed from 3.45 till 6.30.

     Another wizard thing! They may be coming down to our beach hut and I am going with them to show them where it is. We have planned that I shall take the dingy and Trevor & I are going to drift out to sea - just us two. Won't it be smashing! Judy & Susie have sealed my future - & Michael's. They kept making me laugh in church by saying "There's your husband". Apparently he's going to do Journalism too.

     My dear. Something else! I've got Higher & although I only scraped through in Bilge I got 70% in English which is a distinction only they don't give them now. Unfortunately! Hilary failed hers - Bilge only so that was all she did. Poor thing!

     My dear. Do you remember Isabel Abbay? Well, she came here to go to Quo Vadis with me - I never rang her that time I promised, so when she rang again I had to do something. Well, she arrived & we had had trestles made for the ping pong table & were playing. The first back-putting-up thing she said was she wouldn't deign to play with us because we wern't good enough, then that the table wasn't proper, & then that Queen's College (where I hope to go for my Secretarial) was inferior to her place. Ma squashed her wizardly though, & made her go quite pink. My dear! Quo Vadis was simply wonderful - the best film I've seen for years. Trevor told us he'd seen it when he came so of course I HAD to go - though I was going anyhow. We all wept buckets and it was jolly well worth the 5/9 d. Trevor & Alice (his wife) said they have made it do for 2 films so the next one they want to see they won't be able to. Poor man!

     I did an awfully silly thing before he came - apart from polishing all the brass till it was so bright it hurt you to look at; polishing all the drawing room furniture; cleaning the drawing room window; scrubbing the entire conservatory floor & washing all the white woodwork, cleaning the window by the door; and repainting all the windows & doors that look into the yard - the one's that were peeling & had things scratched all over them!!! Now, where was I? Oh! yes. The other silly thing. I made a vow that if he didn't take sugar in his tea, I never would. I felt sure he would, & blow me, the man didn't. I have now given sugar up and I HATE it!!!!!!!!!!

     We all 3 went to the B'mouth Aquarist's Exhibition yesterday & spent all morning looking at fish. There were some jolly good ones, and some most beautiful aquariums. Also some iguanas and other water loving reptiles.

     Every evening now I go to the General Post Office, so everyone loves me because they have till 1/4-9 to write their letters instead of 8.0 which is our last post at Westhill P.O. Reason? Because my trip takes me past the Manse. It's wizard as there's usually a light, the only blow being I can't see in.

     I also gave Rusty a bath on Saturday and he still looks beautiful. I think Kitty must have given him fleas again though, after all my careful de-fleaing.

     Jill's Budgerygar (can't spell) is here for a time while they are in France & the poor thing is in awful condition - all its neck is raw & featherless before & its feathers are frayed & its always scratching. Poor Kim.

     Mr. Parry is coming tomorrow & so is Jo so we have to tidy up the house once again. It's shocking.

     You should see me my marrow [squash] now. It's simply gigantic! I've seldom seen such an enormous affair. We are going to eat it on Sunday & Mr. Parry will be able to have some.

Do write again soon & tell me some more about your place,

Tons of love,


Table of Contents

List of Correspondentsvi
1.Childhood, 1942-195210
2.Transitions, 1952-195738
3.Kenya Colony, 1957-195881
4.Waiting, 1959-1960142
5.First Discoveries, 1960-1961152
6.Photographing Gombe, 1961-1962190
7.Close Observations, 1963231
8.Marriage and Return, 1964270
9.Bananas and Babies, 1964281
10.Coming of Age, 1965-1966334
Illustration Credits372

What People are Saying About This

Stephen Jay Gould

Jane Goodall's work with chimpanzees represents one of the western world's great scientific achievements.

Stephen J. Gould

Jane Goodall's work with chimpanzees represents one of the Western world's great scientific achievements.



I really do simply adore Kenya. It is so wild, uncultivated, primitive, mad, exciting, unpredictable. It is also slightly degrading in its effect on some rather weak characters, but on the whole I am living in the Africa I have always longed for, always felt stirring in my blood. - Jane Goodall, first (extant) letter home, April 1957 A romantic and very young Englishwoman arrived in British colonial Africa in early April 1957 and soon, quite possibly in her first letter home, wrote the astonishingly dramatic, precocious, and prophetic words "I am living in the Africa I have always longed for, always felt stirring in my blood."

Prophetic because she was to spend most of the rest of her life in Africa and because in so many ways - as a citizen, journalist, scientist, activist, and environmentalist - she came to be associated with that continent. Her name was Jane Goodall.

Jane Goodall's fame was initiated by the machinery of the National Geographic Society, which from 1963 on produced a series of glossy articles and television documentaries on her chimpanzee research. That early fame has since been reinforced by her own writing for a popular audience, including award-winning children's books and the 1971 bestseller In the Shadow of Man, which has been translated into forty-seven languages and is still in print three decades after publication. With the possible exception of Marie Curie, Jane Goodall must be the most widely celebrated woman scientist of our century.

And yet the very gloss of that celebrity may, paradoxically, have dulled the luster of her actual accomplishment. Hundreds of articles, features, interviews, reviews, and books have told or touched on her life story; but they are limited in scope and too often verge on the sentimental or the iconic. She has been presented as the little girl who thought she could; the sweet Ophelia who dreamed of animals; the feisty feminist in a man's world; the ironic traditionalist in a woman's world; the inspired nurturer; Mother Teresa of the apes; Tarzan's better half; and so on. While each of these images may arise from an appropriate truth, altogether they contribute to a larger untruth, an inappropriate devaluation of what she has actually done.

Based on several criteria - the number of scholarly references in her field directly and indirectly attributable to her research, the number of former students and associates who have reached influential positions in the biological sciences, the volume of data amassed in her forty-year-long study - Jane Goodall ought to be considered a uniquely distinguished pioneer in the science of ethology and the world's preeminent field zoologist. Yet her achievement can be stated more simply and directly: she opened the door to our understanding of the social and emotional lives of chimpanzees.

Wild chimpanzees are dangerous, though before Goodall began her work the dangers were misunderstood and exaggerated. Prior to Goodall's early discoveries, no one knew that chimpanzees ate meat. We had no idea that they or, indeed, any large mammals other than ourselves fashioned and used tools. If we thought that these apes were closely linked to humans in evolutionary history, as Darwin speculated, we nevertheless had no sense how close that link was. More important, we did not recognize what that kinship might mean for our own self-understanding. We did not realize that chimpanzees share with humans a similar repertoire of emotions or that their social systems are startlingly similar to ours. We would not have believed that chimpanzee communities across Africa possess various distinctive cultural traditions. And we could not have imagined that Pan troglodytes holds in common with Homo sapiens a dark side that includes cannibalism, intercommunity raiding promoted by adolescent and adult male gangs, and persistent male battering of females.

Goodall's scholarly tome, The Chimpanzees of Gombe: Patterns of Behavior (1986), ranks as the single most authoritative work in primatology, the first encyclopedia for chimpanzee research. Her long-term and ongoing field study of wild apes along the shores of Lake Tanganyika has turned out to be, in the words of biologist Stephen Jay Gould, "one of the Western world's great scientific achievements." Jane Goodall helped create a revolution in the way we study animals, and because the animals she studied are humankind's closest relatives, she helped alter the way humans think about themselves.

Valerie Jane Morris-Goodall was born to Margaret Myfanwe ("Vanne") Joseph and Mortimer ("Mort") Herbert Morris-Goodall in London on April 3, 1934, between wars; and the great European wars marked her upbringing and character. Her father, who worked as a telephone cable testing engineer in London during the early 1930s, discovered a passion for fast, beautifully engineered sports cars. He became a race car driver, a well-liked and highly valued member of Britain's Aston Martin team, competing on the tracks and courses of Europe against various French, Italian, and German automotive teams for excitement and national glory. By the time he finished his racing career in the 1950s, Mort was the only British driver in history to have competed ten times in the grueling Le Mans race.

Her father's world of noise, speed, and centrifugal daring - the machine world - seems barely to have touched the young Valerie Jane. "He sometimes took me for a ride in the car, but I don't remember much about that." While her father skillfully and courageously drove in circles and made a name for himself in that glamorous milieu, the child was raised by her mother, Vanne, and a loving and steady nanny, Nancy Sowden, both of whom introduced her to a second possible world, that of gardens.

Gardens. Sunlight. Then flowers, birds. Then a pet tortoise and a dog, a dragonfly, earthworms, snails, a pony, a horse, chickens. Most children, possibly all, experience a special identification with small animals and tame nature, a gently atavistic fascination that they usually soon outgrow and forget, or dimly remember in the way one does a dream. But in this instance the public gardens of central London and, after the fall of 1936, a backyard garden in suburban Weybridge, and soon a series of small animals and pets, seem to have impinged fundamentally on the personality of this special child. Valerie Jane combined her father's constitution (focus of intent, surprising endurance, iron stomach, minimal appetite, excellent eyesight) with her mother's sensibility (sociability, effective habits of observation, and literary bent). But who could have imagined how successfully she would gather those gifts in pursuit of her life's goal?

There were a few early indicators of the person she would become. By far the clearest one from her early childhood occurred in the fall of 1939, when she was five years old. Germany had invaded Poland; England had declared war on Germany. The Morris-Goodalls (including now a younger child, Judy), having moved to France earlier in the year to be near the great European automotive racing courses, precipitously returned to England, living temporarily with Mortimer's family. One autumn day, a "golden afternoon" as her mother remembers it, Valerie Jane disappeared. The police were called and began the search. Neighbors and all available family members joined in. Soldiers billeted nearby volunteered to help. After an increasingly frantic search, as dusk moved to dark, the child suddenly reappeared, alone, with fragments of straw in her hair and clothes. "Wherever have you been?" her mother asked. Valerie Jane explained that she had wondered where a hen had an opening big enough for an egg to drop through. To find out, she crawled inside the henhouse, concealed herself in the straw, and lay perfectly still for five hours until the hen raised herself up, wiggled, and provided an answer.

Near the end of that year, Mortimer joined the Royal Engineers. He served his country in Europe and the Far East, and in the process, unhappily, disappeared from his daughter's life. The children's nanny, in ill health, left the family in the late spring of 1940 and eventually married. Vanne, Jane, and Judy then moved to Bournemouth, a seaside resort town in Dorset, where they settled into the brick Victorian house owned by Jane's maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Hornmby Legarde Joseph. The house was called the Birches, and from 1940 on, it was the Morris-Goodall family residence: an entirely female household consisting of Valerie Jane, Judy, their grandmother ("Danny"), mother ("Mum"), and two aunts (Olwen or "Olly" and Audrey or "Audey"). Uncle Eric ("Rix"), Jane's mother's brother, a consulting surgeon at a suburban Hampshire hospital, often visited.

That Jane Goodall was interested in animals from a very early age is well known and must be obvious. Less so is the fact that from childhood on she loved language, both the getting and the giving: reading and writing. Language use may be the single skill that most immediately distinguishes humans from chimpanzees, and it is at least mildly ironic that the one person who has spent her entire adult life understanding a group of often quiet and always wordless animals should be unusually attuned to the expressive possibilities of the human voice.

In any case, she read. She read many of the usual English childhood classics, but, perhaps starting with The Story of Dr. Dolittle, a Christmas gift in 1942, her imagination was profoundly engaged by nature and adventure novels - soon including all the Dr. Dolittle books and the Tarzan series. These books and others thoroughly expressed her own ecstatic feelings about the natural world and, over time, enabled her to develop and articulate "the dream": to study wild animals in Africa. How she might study these animals, how she might actually manage to insert herself into the African wilderness, remained among the vaguer aspects of that dream. She may have guessed that her writing would help. She wrote stories, poems, plays, journals, a nature newsletter to her friends - and letters.

Of course, letter writing today is a dead art. Easier to pick up the phone and visit by electromagnetically transmuted sound. Cheaper to log on and visit by electronically stimulated phosphorescence. Paper-based correspondence today sometimes seems an almost Victorian habit, bordered by lace and dust, and one can easily imagine that very soon we will see no more collections of consequential letters by famous people, since famous people no longer write consequential letters.

Still, letters have dimension and permanence. They have weight. You can hold them, feel them, save them. You can possess them. You can write them in meditative solitude rather than on noisy demand, and you can read them in the same circumstances. A good letter you can read more than once. A serious letter you will read again and again. A great letter you may save in a box or folder. A love letter you might even press up to your face and smell, hoping to pull away any molecules still lingering from the hands and body of your lover on the other side. And, fortunately for us, when Jane Goodall first went to Africa in 1957, there were no easy or cheap alternatives to written correspondence. Telegraph and telephone were more expensive and less reliable than they are now and, of course, nonexistent out in the forest. Writing letters was a sensible, a natural and normal, thing to do, and Jane Goodall wrote home regularly, every week at first. Many of her letters from Africa, especially the early ones, were very long and sometimes quite rambling. Particularly the letters home to her "Darling Family" - to Mum and Danny, Jif and Olly and Audrey, sometimes Uncle Eric - were frank and open, full of detail and feeling. They were communications from a quite young woman who was, if not homesick, at least strongly and wistfully attached to her family and home in England. Clearly, writing home was far more pleasure than chore. At the same time, Jane Goodall's early letters were and remain simply letters as opposed to self-conscious documents or crafted products. They are candid. The imagined audience is small, intimate, and eternally sympathetic.

When in 1957 the letters from Africa first began appearing at the front door of the Birches - crisp and efficient blue aerogrammes, thick and heavy yellow envelopes, or lighter white ones decorated with exotic stamps and crumpled after a lengthy journey - perhaps none of the family imagined that their Jane would be famous or that these messages would have historical value. It is easy to believe that the family developed a habit of saving Jane's letters from Africa simply because they were delightful, so full of guileless enthusiasm and compelling observation. It would have seemed a crime to discard them. At home they were read aloud again and again. The letters were, as mother, aunt, and grandmother variously declared in their own return correspondence, "devoured," "gobbled up," fallen upon by the family "like a pack of hungry wolves."

"Sometimes now I feel you are utterly lost," Vanne wrote to her daughter in the fall of 1957. "That great gorgeous primitive continent has swallowed you whole - you are engulfed in huge clouds of heat - stolen by a thousand alien voices - utterly remote from this tiny grey island where cold winds take the warmth from the sun." But when the postman drops that mail through the slot, she continued, "an electric thrill rushes round the house."

Jane's letters from Africa accumulated in the Goodall household in England for nearly four decades, preserved in drawers and folders and boxes. Then, one day in March of 1996, Vanne, with amazing trust and generosity, pressed the whole collection into my hands. Many other letters, including a long correspondence between Jane and her second husband, the Honorable Derek Bryceson, M.P., were stored at the home they shared in Dar es Salaam between their marriage in 1975 and his death in 1980. Those were also passed my way, as were additional collections from her voluminous business and research files, both in Africa and England. More turned up one day inside a tin trunk on the floor of a cabin in Gombe Stream National Park. Additionally, as I gradually discovered, further collections of Jane Goodall's correspondence have been preserved in institutional archives, including most obviously those of the National Geographic Society and the Jane Goodall Archives at the University of Minnesota, as well as the Green Library of Stanford University, the Houghton Library of Harvard University, the L. S. B. Leakey Foundation, and the National Museums of Kenya. From the vaults of those institutions some splendid treasures appeared. And even more have come from several of Jane's good and loyal friends: Neva Folk, Professor Robert Hinde, Paul Kase, Mary Lewis, Dr. Franklin Loew, Dilys MacKinnon, Dr. Desmond Morris, Jean Nitzsche, Sally Cary Pugh, Professor Anne Pusey, Emilie Riss, Joan Travis, and Vivian Wheeler.

All told, I was able to assemble more than 1,800 letters written by Jane Goodall, the bulk of them originals and often torn, fading, and fragile. Typically the letters home were undated, with envelopes and therefore postmarks missing. Postmarks that were available, on aerogrammes, for example, were often smeared and illegible or, sometimes, dated by day and month but not year. I had all the letters typed so that I could examine the contents carefully, frequently if necessary, without damaging the originals. Then, with the substantial help of an assistant, Dr. Valerie Rohy, I sorted them chronologically. Finally, from a total of roughly 1.2 to 1.6 million words I selected the most revealing and representative letters for publication.

An editor's first job is to be kind to the author by keeping out of the way. And with that principle in mind, I have reproduced the selected letters as accurately as possible, being careful to retain habitual spelling idiosyncrasies; useful, significant, or habitual punctuation and capitalization idiosyncrasies; and significant or referred-to typing errors. Since an editor's second job is to be kind to the reader, I have also added commentary at the beginning of each chapter and in occasional notes; regularized the format of the letters; and identified the dates or probable dates when the letters were written or posted. I have cut portions that seemed distracting because they were too long, too slow, or irrelevant. And I have eliminated those occasional passages that might offend someone or violate a living person's sense of privacy. Since Goodall virtually never uses standard ellipses spaced in the standard fashion ( . . . ) in her writing, I found it convenient to use them as my own indicator for editorial cuts.

Those are the details. The grand concept has always been to preserve the quality and feel of the letters while making them accessible and presenting them together in a way that will create a functional narrative, an epistolary autobiography. Both the personal and the professional correspondence, each in different ways, provide a level of detail, immediacy, and personal drama that all biographies and most autobiographies cannot possibly achieve. Biographies, even very sympathetic ones, are by definition written by people who must remain cool strangers to their subjects' deepest inner lives. And most autobiographies are written well after the facts narrated, with the author standing bravely in the present and squinting weakly into the past, or clawing desperately into the amnesiac maze. Everyone forgets. The best memory retains a shadow of what was. The tenor of the moment, the telling detail, the enveloping mood, feelings and conversations and events, all are always and inevitably fading. Letters therefore remain precious caches of utterance, the closest thing we have to perfect memory, and these particular letters collectively amount to Jane Goodall's only fully realized memoir. They are her autobiography in letters.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews