Oliphant, Laurence

Oliphant, Laurence

Oliphant, Laurence, 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).

Laurence Oliphant (1691-1767) was a Jacobite army officer who belonged to a branch settled at Findo Gask in Perthshire, Scotland. He took part in the rising of 1715, and both he and his son Laurence (d. 1792) were actively concerned in the rising of 1745, being present at the battles of Falkirk and Culloden. After the ruin of the Stuart cause the Oliphants escaped to France, but were afterwards allowed to return to Scotland. Oliphant's descendants include Carolina, Baroness Nairne and Laurence Oliphant.


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