A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature/Oliphant, Laurence

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Oliphant, Laurence (1829-1888). -- Novelist and miscellaneous writer, s. of Sir Anthony O., Chief Justice of Ceylon. The first 38 years of his life were spent in desultory study, travel, and adventure, varied by occasional diplomatic employment. His travels included, besides Continental countries, the shores of the Black Sea, Circassia, where he was Times correspondent, America, China, and Japan. He was in the Crimean War, Indian Mutiny, Chinese War, the military operations of Garibaldi, and the Polish insurrection, and served as private sec. to Lord Elgin in Washington, Canada, and China, and as Sec. of Legation in Japan. In 1865 he entered Parliament, and gave promise of political eminence, when in 1867 he came under the influence of Thomas L. Harris, an American mystic of questionable character, went with him to America, and joined the Brotherhood of the New Life. In 1870-71 he was correspondent for the Times in the Franco-German War. Ultimately he broke away from the influence of Harris and went to Palestine, where he founded a community of Jewish immigrants at Haifa. After revisiting America he returned to England, but immediately fell ill and d. at Twickenham. O. was a voluminous and page 290versatile author, publishing books of travel, novels, and works on mysticism. The most important are as follows: The Russian Shores of the Black Sea (1853), Minnesota and the Far West (1855), The Transcaucasian Campaign (1856), Patriots and Fillibusters (adventures in Southern States) (1860), Narrative of a Mission to China and Japan (1857-59), The Land of Gilead (1880), Piccadilly (1870), and Altiora Peto (1883) (novels), and Scientific Religion.