The dialogue between the missionary and the rainmaker found in various forms in David Livingstone’s writings needs to be interpreted against the background of Livingstone’s relationship with the Bakwena during the late 1840s, a time of severe drought and one in which chief Sechele’s repudiation of his rainmaking functions after his baptism threatened the displeasure of the ancestors. Livingstone’s recording of the dialogue reveals his indebtedness to the moral philosophy of the Scottish thinker, Thomas Dick, but also suggests that Livingstone remained fascinated by the very African cosmology that his Christian faith and Scottish scientism led him to repudiate.
Ibid, pp. ix, xxii; G.W. Clendennen and I.C. Cunningham (comps.), David Livingstone. A Catalogue of Documents, Edinburgh: National Library of Scotland for the David Livingstone Documentation Project, 1979, p. 272.
Schapera (ed.), Livingstone’s Private Journals, p. 239; G.W. Clendennen and I.C. Cunningham (comps.), David Livingstone: A Catalogue of Documents, p. 278. There is a photocopy of the Blantyre notebook in NLS [National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh], MS 10711, fols. 85–88. In this source the dialogue is followed by an undated manuscript version of Livingstone’s oft-quoted sermon on ‘God had an only son and he was sent to earth as a missionary physician’. Livingstone used a similar phrase (about God’s only son) in a letter to his sister dated 5 February 1850, but the sermon may be somewhat later. Clendennen and Cunningham thus estimate the date of the record of the dialogue as 1852, perhaps following the editorial annotation at the opening of the notebook, which estimates the period of the notebook entries as 1850–1852.
Livingstone to Arthur Tidman, 1 November1848, in I. Schapera (ed.), Livingstone’s Missionary Correspondence, p. 121.
On Dick see Hector Macpherson, “Thomas Dick: ‘The Christian Philosopher’”, Records of the Scottish Church History SocietyVol. 11, 1955, pp. 41–62; William J. Astore, Observing God. Thomas Dick, Evangelicalism, and Popular Science in Victorian Britain and America, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001.