Julie Pridmore: The Writings of H.F. Fynn

After Julian Cobbing’s ‘alibi’ argument cast doubt on the validity of European ‘witness’ accounts as historical sources, a handful of scholars began to critically re-assess some of the most influential early nineteenth-century texts. Between the early and mid-1990s, Julie Pridmore conducted a critical analysis of Henry Francis Fynn’s Diary. In particular, she interrogated the ways in which the Diary had been interpreted within popular culture and by scholars. Pridmore observed that the Diary was shaped by its editors to resemble Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. In this respect, it had assumed the characteristics of an adventure book that sought to contrast European sophistication with African savagery while also exaggerating Fynn’s deeds. The narrative and the literary elements of the text, she added, had been manipulated to make it more accessible to readers.  Following Cobbing’s ‘alibi’ argument, Pridmore concluded that Fynn’s writings were neither history nor myth, but a mixture of the two.

Relevant Works

Fynn, Henry Francis. The Diary of Henry Francis Fynn: Compiled from Original Sources. Edited by Stuart, James and Daniel McK. Malcolm. Pietermaritzburg: Shuter & Shooter, 1950.

Pridmore, Julie. “Diaries and Despatches: The Life and Writing of Henry Francis Fynn (1803–61) and Henry Francis Fynn Junior (1846–1915)”. Kleio 36, no. 1 (2004), 126-147.

Pridmore, Julie. “Hunter, Trader and Explorer? The Unvarnished Reminiscences of H.F. Fynn”. Alternation 4, no. 2 (1997), 46-56.

Pridmore, Julie. “The writings of H.F. Fynn: History, Myth or Fiction?” Alternation 1, no. 1 (1994), 68-78.



Online from: 16 Jul 2021