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Laurence Oliphant

Oliphant, Laurence (ŏlˈĭfənt) [key], 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).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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