James Augustus St. John and Abyssinian Boobies

Oh, lord, Abyssinia.

I haven't done much work on imperialism and military efforts, so correct me if I get anything wrong. However, I think it's pretty clear that when the British Empire was conquering Africa, racing around with France and Germany and Belgium . . . no one wanted Abyssinia. It was a difficult country to reach, learn about and withstand. Apart from the fact that the women were reputedly very, very beautiful, people had a hard time coming up with why anyone would visit that equatorial hell of a litter box.

In case you don't know where Abyssinia is, it's modern day equivalent is roughly Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti and parts of the Sudan. Aaaaall the places on the top of your "Must See Before I Die" list, I'm sure. Basically, no one went there except for diplomats, merchants, and a few explorers.

One of the few people who did traveled to Abyssinia for his own personal pleasure was the Welsh travel writer James Augustus St. John. It's clear from his writing that he wasn't interested at all in the landscape, politics or culture. I know I'm getting the below quotation from a Flashman book (Flashman on the March, page 78) but the author is actually quite accurate:

"you should read the recollections of J.A. St John, Esq., who travelled in Abyssinia in the 1840s and appears to have spent most of his time goggling at boobies, on which he was obviously an authority. He has drooling descriptions of slave-girls, and a most scholarly passage in which he compares Ethiopian juggs to Egyptian ones, and finds the former "more finely shaped and better placed" . . . I admire the female form myself, but J.A. St John needed a course of cold baths if you ask me."

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