Sue Young Histories

The Oliphant Family and Homeopathy

September 14, 2008

Laurence Oliphant was treated with homeopathy, and he was interested in Swedenborgianism (based on the works of Emanuel Swedenborg), and he knew James John Garth Wilkinson, Anthony Trollope, Thomas Carlyle and many influential people of his day.

Laurence was secretary to Lord Elgin, who was a patient of Samuel Hahnemann.

Margaret Oliphant was Laurence’s cousin. She wrote for _Blackwood’s Magazine _and knew George Eliot and many other influential writers of her day. She was the favourite authoress of Queen Victoria.

Laurence Oliphant 1829 - 1888 was a British author, international traveller, diplomatist and mystic.

Oliphant was involved in the ‘occult’ ‘imprisonment’ ‘inflicted upon Madame Blavatski in 1851 in India, preventing her from entering Tibet at this time. ‘… On the American brotherhood alone rests the responsibility for what has since happened. The late Mr. Oliphant, I believe, knew more about the affair than any Englishman…’ (C. G. Harrison, The Transcendental Universe: Six Lectures on Occult Science, Theosophy, and the Catholic Faith : Delivered Before the Berean Society, (1894, reprinted by Steiner Books, 1993). Page 89).

From Best known for his 1870 satirical novel Piccadilly, he spent a decade in later life under the influence of the spiritualist prophet Thomas Lake Harris.

Laurence Oliphant was the son of Anthony Oliphant 1793-1859, At the time of his son’s birth, he was attorney general in Cape Colony, but was soon transferred as chief justice to Ceylon.

Laurence Oliphant… and his parents went on a tour of Europe. In 1851 he accompanied Jung Bahadur from Colombo to Nepal. He passed an agreeable time there, and saw enough that was new to enable him to write his first book, A Journey to Katmandu (1852).

… Lawrence Oliphant’s involvement with the Sultanate of the Ottoman empire clearly extended beyond 1888…

From Nepal he returned to Ceylon and thence to England, dallied a little with the English bar, so far at least as to eat dinners at Lincoln’s Inn, and then with the Scottish bar, so far at least as to pass an examination in Roman law. He was more happily inspired when he threw over his legal studies and went to travel in Russia. The outcome of that tour was his book on The Russian Shores of the Black Sea (1853).

Between 1853 and 1861 he was successively secretary to Lord Elgin (who was a patient of Samuel Hahnemann) during the negotiation of the Canada Reciprocity treaty at Washington, and the companion of Henry Pelham Pelham Clinton 5th Duke of Newcastle under Lyme on a visit to the Circassian coast during the Crimean War.

Oliphant was Lord Elgin’s private secretary on his expedition to China and Japan. In 1861 he was appointed first secretary of the British legation in Japan under Consul General Rutherford Alcock, and might have made a successful diplomatic career if it had not been interrupted, almost at the outset, by a night attack on the legation, in which he nearly lost his life. It seems probable that he never properly recovered from this affair.

He arrived at Edo at the end of June 1861. On the evening of 5 July a night attack was made on the legation by xenophobic ronin. Oliphant rushed out with a hunting whip, and was attacked by a Japanese with a heavy two handed sword. A beam, invisible in the darkness, interfered with the blows, but Oliphant was severely wounded, and sent on board ship to recover. He had to return to England after a visit to Korea, where he discovered a Russian force occupying a secluded bay, and obtained their withdrawal.

See Lawrence Oliphant’s Narrative of the Earl of Elgin’s mission to China and Japan.

He returned to England and resigned the service, and was elected to parliament in 1865 for the Stirling Burghs.

Oliphant did not show any conspicuous parliamentary ability, but made a great success by his vivacious and witty novel, Piccadilly (1870).

He fell, however, under the influence of the spiritualist prophet Thomas Lake Harris, who about 1861 had organized a small community, the Brotherhood of the New Life, which at this time was settled at Brocton on Lake Erie and subsequently moved to Santa Rosa, California. Thomas Lake Harris obtained so strange an ascendancy over Oliphant that the latter left parliament in 1868, followed him to Brocton, and lived there the life of a farm labourer, in obedience to the imperious will of his spiritual guide.

It was part of the Brocton regime that members of the community should be allowed to return into the world from time to time, to make money for its advantage. After three years this was permitted to Oliphant, who, when once more in Europe, acted as correspondent of The Times during the Franco German War, and spent afterwards several years at Paris in the service of that journal. There he met Miss Alice le Strange, whom he married.

In 1873 he went back to Brocton, taking with him his wife and mother. During the years which followed he continued to be employed in the service of the community and its head, but on work very different from that with which he had been occupied on his first sojourn. His new work was chiefly financial, and took him much to New York and a good deal to England. As late as December 1878 he continued to believe that Thomas Lake Harris was an incarnation of the Deity.

By that time, however, his mind was occupied with a large project of colonization in Palestine, and he made in 1879 an extensive journey in that country, going also to Constantinople, in the vain hope of obtaining a lease of the northern half of the Holy Land with a view to settling large numbers of Jews there (this was before the first wave of Jewish settlement of the Zionists in 1882). This he conceived would be an easy task from a financial point of view, as there were so many persons in England and America anxious to fulfill the prophecies, and bring about the end of the world. In 1882, he took Naftali Herz Imber (later known as the author of the Hatikvah lyrics) as his secretary.

He landed once more in England without having accomplished anything definite; but his wife, who had been banished from him for years and had been living in California, was allowed to rejoin him, and they went to Egypt together. In 1881 he crossed again to America. It was on this visit that he became utterly disgusted with Thomas Lake Harris, and finally split from him.

He was at first a little afraid that his wife would not follow him in his renunciation of the prophet, but this was not the case, and they settled themselves very agreeably, with one house in the midst of the Templers’ German Colony in Haifa, and another about twelve miles off at Dalieh on Mount Carmel.

It was at Haifa in 1884 that they wrote together the strange book called Sympneumata: Evolutionary Forces now active in Man, and in the next year Oliphant produced there his novel Masollam, which may be taken to contain its author’s latest views with regard to the personage whom he long considered as a new Avatar. One of his cleverest works, Altiora Peto had been published in 1883.

In 1886 an attack of fever, caught on the shores of the Lake of Tiberias, resulted in the death of his wife, whose constitution had been undermined by the hardships of her American life. He was persuaded that after death he was in much closer relation with her than when she was still alive, and conceived that it was under her influence that he wrote the book to which he gave the name of Scientific Religion.

In November 1887 he went to England to publish that book. By the Whitsuntide of 1888 he had completed it and started for America. There he determined to marry again, his second wife being a granddaughter of Robert Owen the Socialist. They were married at Malvern, and meant to have gone to Haifa, but Oliphant was taken very ill at Twickenham, and died on 23 December 1888.

Margaret Oliphant Oliphant (nee Margaret Oliphant Wilson) 1828 - 1897 Scottish novelist and historical writer, daughter of Francis Wilson, was born at Wallyford, near Musselburgh, East Lothian.

Her childhood was spent at Lasswade (near Dalkeith), Glasgow and Liverpool.

As a girl she constantly occupied herself with literary experiments, and in 1849 published her first novel Passages in the Life of Mrs Margaret Maitland. It dealt with the Scottish Free Church movement, with which Mr and Mrs Wilson both sympathized, and had some success.

This she followed up in 1851 with Caleb Field, and in the same year met  William Blackwood in Edinburgh, and was invited by him to contribute to the famous Blackwood’s Magazine. The connection thus early commenced lasted during her whole lifetime, and she contributed considerably more than 100 articles to its pages, such as a critique of the character of Arthur Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter.

In May 1852 she married her cousin, Frank Wilson Oliphant, at Birkenhead, and settled at Harrington Square, in London. Her husband was an artist, principally in stained glass. He had very delicate health, and two of their children died in infancy, while the father himself developed alarming symptoms of consumption.

For the sake of his health they moved in January 1859 to Florence, and thence to Rome, where Frank Oliphant died. His wife, left almost entirely without resources, returned to England and took up the burden of supporting her three children by her own literary activity.

She had now become a popular writer, and worked with amazing industry to sustain her position. Unfortunately, her home life was full of sorrow and disappointment. In January 1864 her only daughter died in Rome, and was buried in her father’s grave. Her brother, who had emigrated to Canada, was shortly afterwards involved in financial ruin, and Mrs Oliphant offered a home to him and his children, and added their support to her already heavy responsibilities.

In 1866 she settled at Windsor to be near her sons who were being educated at Eton. This was her home for the rest of her life, and for more than thirty years she pursued a varied literary career with courage scarcely broken by a series of the gravest troubles.

The ambitions she cherished for her sons were unfulfilled. Cyril Francis, the elder, died in 1890, leaving a Life of_ Alfred de Musset_, incorporated in his mother’s Foreign Classics for English Readers. The younger son, Frank, collaborated with her in the Victorian Age of English Literature and won a position at the British Museum, but was rejected by the doctors. He died in 1894. With the last of her children lost to her, she had but little further interest in life.

Her health steadily declined, and she died at Wimbledon, London, on 25 June 1897.

In the 1880s she was the literary mentor of the Irish novelist Emily Lawless. In the course of her long struggle with circumstances, Mrs Oliphant produced more than 120 separate works, including novels, books of travel and description, histories and volumes of literary criticism.


Any views or advice in this site should not be taken as a substitute for medical advice or treatment, especially if you know you have a specific health complaint