Sir Samuel Baker

Sam Baker is an absolute paragon of manhood, and a larger-than-life Victorian hero

He is my favorite non-fiction author

Samuel White Baker was born on June 8, 1821 in London, the offspring of a wealthy commercial family.  

In 1843, he married his first wife, Henrietta Ann Bidgood Martin, who eventually bore him 7 children.  Baker's brother, John Garland Baker, married Henrietta's sister, Eliza Heberden Martin, and after a double wedding, the four moved to Mauritius to oversee the family's plantation.  After two years they moved to Ceylon (modern day Sri Lanka).  After twelve years of marriage, his wife, Henrietta, died of typhoid fever in 1855, leaving Samuel a widower at the age of thirty-four.  His two sons and one daughter died young.  Baker left left Ceylon and returned to England, leaving his four surviving daughters in the care of his unmarried sister Mary.

During Baker's residence in Ceylon he wrote and published his first work titled The Rifle and the Hound in Ceylon (1854)

During Baker's residence in Ceylon he wrote and published a second work  Eight Years' Wanderings in Ceylon (1855).

While Baker was visiting the Duke of Atholl on his shooting estate in Scotland, he befriended Maharaja Duleep Singh and in 1858–1859, the two partnered an extensive hunting trip in central Europe and the Balkans.  The two continued into Vidin where, to amuse the Maharajah, Baker went to the Vidin slave market.  There, Baker fell in love with a white slave girl, destined for the Ottoman Pasha of Vidin.  He was outbid by the Pasha but bribed the girl's attendants and they ran away in a carriage together and eventually Florence became his lover and wife and accompanied him everywhere he journeyed thereafter.  

Their first journey together was to Africa to search for the Source of the Nile River.   In order to have the best chance for success, Baker felt that he needed to learn Arabic, so Baker and his wife spent a year exploring The Nile Tributaries of Abyssinia, and hunting with the Sword Hunters of the Hamram Arabs. 

Baker now fluent in Arabic, he and his wife set out to discover the source of the Nile. They eventually met up with Speke and Grant, who were on their way home to England after discovering the source of the Nile, which they named Lake Victoria.  Speke and Grant told Baker about another lake they had heard about from native Africans, and provided Baker with all of the information they possessed concerning the rumored lake.  Baker and his wife eventually found this lake, and named it The Albert N'Yanza  (Albert Lake). 

Upon returning to England, Baker wrote The Albert N'Yanza, published in 1866, while, although the events therein occurred earlier, The Nile Tributaries of Abyssinia  was published a year later in 1867.

In 1869, at the request of the khedive Ismail, Baker led a military expedition to the equatorial regions of the Nile, with the object of suppressing the slave-trade there and opening the way to commerce and civilization.  Before starting from Cairo with a force of 1700 Egyptian troops – many of them discharged convicts – he was given the rank of Pasha and Major-General in the Ottoman army.  The khedive appointed him Governor-General of the new territory of Equatoria for four years at a salary of £10,000 a year; and it was not until the expiration of that time that Baker returned to Cairo, and then England. 

Baker wrote an account of his time as Pasha in Ismailia (1874).

Knighted by Queen Victoria, Sir Samuel Baker and his wife, Lady Baker, settled in England, and both died there, Baker in 1893, and Lady Baker in 1916.

In 1869 Baker also wrote a novel for boys: Cast Up By the Sea

In 1879 he wrote Cyprus As I Saw It.

In 1883 Baker created a collection of stories, True Tales For My Grandsons.

The last book Baker wrote is titled Wild Beasts and Their Ways (1890).

Lady Baker wrote a diary of the time spent attempting to put down the slave-trade in Equatoria. Her account was published as Morning Star (1972).

Below, most of my Samuel Baker books