, 1829-88, British author, b. Capetown, South Africa. Although he wrote some valuable travel books, he is probably best remembered for his fascinating life. The son of a judge, he became a lawyer and later secretary to Lord Elgin
. He was a correspondent for the London Times
during the Crimean War, went with Elgin to China, was an associate of Garibaldi, and traveled all over the world. In 1867 he became a disciple of Thomas Lake Harris
in a religious community at Brocton, N.Y. His writings include several travel books, notably A Journey to Katmandu
(1852); two novels, Piccadilly
(1866) and Altiora Peto
(1883); an autobiography, Episodes in a Life of Adventure
(1887); and Scientific Religion
(1888). He and his first wife, Alice Le Strange, wrote a curious book, Sympneumata: Evolutionary Forces Now Active in Man
(1885), inspired by Harris and supposedly dictated by a spirit. After Alice's death Oliphant married (1888) Rosamond Dale Owen, granddaughter of Robert Owen. They established a colony of Jews in Palestine.
See her My Perilous Life in Palestine (1928); biography by his cousin, Margaret Oliphant (1891); study by V. and R. A. Colby (1966).
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