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diversity of additions to the envi- enough supposition; but no one roning world of fiction, its most could come into intimate contact living and life-like inhabitants, with him without being aware that which out of these resources have there was a deep earnestness of been fashioned by her genius, are purpose underlying his life which sufficient attestation. She had also directly negatived such an idea. the advantages of personal ac- Nothing is more apparent in the quaintance; of a sympathy which Memoirs here set before us than could readily appreciate Oliphant's that Laurence Oliphant was a man remarkable powers, and accompany by whom the opinion of the world him a certain length in his aspira- was rated at its least possible value, tions; and of confidential inter- and that he wholly disliked and course which brought Oliphant's distrusted the spirit which quickmind under the analysis of a shrewd ened its judgments. And his whole and friendly investigator. And bearing and demeanour, when he yet when she has done her best again appeared in his old world, when she has probed Oliphant's quite forbade the idea that he had nature as deep as human penetra- any self-consciousness of having tion can go, when she has examined done anything to be talked about. all the circumstances and influences And with all its idealism, Lauamid which his life was spent-his rence Oliphant's was a very pracbiographer will not scruple to admit tical mind. He had made very that there are occult impulses in heavy material sacrifices, which his conduct which baffle explana- could result in no possible material tion, and latent forces in his person- compensations; we may be sure, ality indescribable by her, as they therefore, that he thought he saw are incomprehensible to us. his way very clearly to an adequate
When Laurence Oliphant's sin- spiritual equivalent. gular career was under discussion, Another theory has been more there were always two explanations frequently put in the form of a of his conduct ready enough to hand, question than directly hazardedbut neither of these could for one Was there a twist in Oliphant's moment be entertained by any one mental organisation, a disordered who had come within the circle of intuition which drove him to views his acquaintance. One theory was and courses ridiculed by the aggrethat Oliphant's desire for notoriety gate common sense of his fellows ? was so strong as to lead him to -in short, had he what his own make the most costly sacrifices countrymen call a bee in his for its gratification; that he was bonnet”? The doubt is more posing before the public when he easily raised than answered, for took the decisive step which its solution would open up dischanged the whole tenor of his life; tinctions that must reduce the and that in his retirement at Broc- number of sane men among us ton he was simply preparing himself to an illustrious minimum. The for the lionising which would await soundness of Laurence Oliphant's him on his re-entry into society. judgment was proved by the reTo those who knew only the outer liance which many eminent men Laurence Oliphant-brilliant, un- placed upon it in very difficult settled, eccentric, and not without conjunctures of affairs, by the aca dash of frivolity, such as he ap- curacy and ability of his views on peared to be during his parlia- public questions, and by the judi
centary life-this was a plausible cious advice which he always had
at the service of those friends that ideal. His education, or rather required it.
And even in the case want of education, together with of those intellectual convictions of his experiences while his mind his which strike us most strangely, was still in a plastic state, sugand in connection with which any gests, however, more than it exmental weakness must have as plains, the peculiar workings of suredly asserted itself, he was Laurence Oliphant's mind. wont to discuss his views with We have said enough at presscientific calmness and in the ent to indicate the special promost dispassionate fashion, and blem which Laurence Oliphant's almost without any recognition life offers to students of mind, but that there was aught in them it is far from being the only calculated to startle an ordinary interest yielded by this Memoir. mind.
In fact, it would be hard to name From Laurence Oliphant's life, any special interest that does not more than from his works, we may find something to whet its appetite gather some hints that, for want in a career that includes within it of better lights, may afford more the rôles of traveller, barrister, or less satisfactory explanations hunter, philanthropist, diplomatist, of his remarkable mental develop- warrior, filibuster, conspirator, ment. Almost from the very be- legislator, author, ploughman and ginning the conditions of his train- teamster, war correspondent, man ing were singular; his education about town, mystic, and heresi. was as wide as it was vague,"one arch—a many-sided life truly; of the pupils of the school of Life," and the most curious thing about as Mrs Oliphant says, “educated it is, that each side as it comes mainly by what his keen eyes saw uppermost seems to fit him to and his quick ears heard, and his the skin—a wonderful man and a clear understanding and lively wit wonderful life, an impossible conpicked up, amid human intercourse ception in fiction, and difficult of of all kinds ;” his experiences were realisation in the still stranger from the first of an adventurous truth. and unusual description, though And yet all this romance starts coming to him in a natural enough with a very sober foundation. fashion. He was shunted at the The father, Sir Anthony Oliphant, outset off the beaten track of life; a man of sound, homely, prosaic he never had to tug at the virtues, cast in an austere Scotch collar of conventionality; and mould; the mother a more imagincircumstances seemed continually ative character, but chastened with conspiring to draft him off pietism, and with a propensity for into some strange and unusual running riot in religious speculafield of action. Yet this educa- tion. The mother exercises a tional scope was not without its marked influence throughout Laudrawbacks. Oliphant was never rence Oliphant's career, and she made to realise the conditions must have been a woman of singuthat properly limit our judgments. lar influence to have carried with His imagination, keen and bril- her the sober sense of her husband liant, outpaced his reason, and and the genius of her gifted son. eventually dragged the latter cap- If we could completely recover tive at its heels, until he became her, we might find the ultimate incapable of realising the bound- explanation of Laurence's mental aries between the real and the idiosyncrasies; but, unfortunately,
most of her letters that have been perhaps safest in this, as in so many
So it would have been in the case Born at Cape Town, where his of Laurence Oliphant, for his irfather was a judge, in 1829, Lau- regular training and youthful wanrence Oliphant was sent to England derings must have been answerable as a child, and in due course went to no small extent for the errant to school at Durnford Manor, near habits of mind and body that charSalisbury, and afterwards at Pres- acterised his after-life. He had ton, where he remained until he again a short period of study at was twelve or thirteen years old. home under a private tutor; but Then at an age when most boys Sir Anthony's arrival in England are beginning to settle down to
on a two years' furlough put an their books, he entered upon his end to his education, as well as pilgrimage. His devoted parents to his prospects of a university sent for him to Ceylon, where Sir training. The Oliphants were Anthony was now Chief-Justice; going to travel on the Continent, and accompanied by a tutor, he and “I represented,” says Lauset out upon the then formidable rence, “so strongly the superior journey in the winter of 1841, advantages, from an educational travelling through France to Mar- point of view, of European travel seilles, where they embarked. over ordinary scholastic training, Egypt had to be traversed, and and my arguments were so urgently accident opened up to him a visit backed by my mother, that I found to Mocha, a pleasure which, even myself, to my great delight, transto this day, is rarely available ferred from the quiet of a Warfor the overland traveller; and wickshire vicarage to the Champs in three months' time Laurence Elysées in Paris.” Germany, Italy, reached Ceylon, not then, as now, and Switzerland were visited by an Anglicised colony, but still an the party. Among the superior integral part of the old East, with advantages of this educational the religion and manners of the course appears to have been an Singhalese still flourishing in all opportunity of participating in a their pristine purity. In Colom- political émeute in the Piazza del bo, and at Sir Anthony's farm on Popolo, under the auspices of a the Kandyan hills, Laurence Oli- demagogic wood merchant, which phant's education was carried on ended in burning the Austrian by his tutor, under his parents' arms, and compelling the Princess supervision; but it must have Pamphili Doria to set fire to the lacked the method, the restraint, pile, —" in all of which I took an and, above all, the discipline of a active part, feeling that somehow scholastic training.
or other I had deserved well of my “He was in no way the creation of country.” This was in 1847, the school or college. When, as happens beginning of the era of revolunow and then, an education so desul- tions, and scenes of political extory, so little consecutive or steady as citement were rife. Young Oli. his, produces a brilliant man or woman, phant dashed into the midst of we are apt to think that the acciden
them with boyish delight, rather tal system must be on the whole the best, and education a delusion, like
than with definite enthusiasm, when so many other cherished things; but he could get the chance.
He jointhe conclusion is a rash one, and it is ed a mob that broke into the Pro
paganda, and was present on the by easy and unaffected gaiety. steps of St Peter's when Pio Nono Lowry was everywhere, in the blessed the volunteers departing to centre of everything, affectionately encounter the Austrians. These contemptuous of papa's powers of stirring experiences must have been taking care of himself, and laying more to the relish of Laurence than down the law, in delightful ease of of his anxious parents. As for the love and unquestioned supremacy, staid and sober Sir Anthony, his to his mother.” With our fuller situation must have resembled that knowledge of Lawrence Oliphant, of the proverbial hen who sees the we know that Ceylon was too small duckling she has unconsciously an island to contain him; but as we hatched take to water.
look at the pleasant picture of his Next year they were all back in Eastern life as Mrs Oliphant has Ceylon ; Laurence was admitted to sketched it, we feel thankful for the local Bar, and became his his escape from this Armida's Garfather's private secretary.
His den. Could there ever have been a legal attainments must have been risk of Laurence Oliphant's going of the slightest description; and down to posterity as Queen's Adwhen we read that he had been vocate or Junior Puisne, or even engaged in “twenty-three murder as successor to the respected wig cases," one wonders what propor- of Sir Anthony himself ? tion, if any, of them escaped the An escape, however, was soon gallows. There can be little doubt provided. Jung Bahadur, after his that Laurence Oliphant's own hand notable visit to England, put in at is recognisable in this selection of Colombo on his way home, and his career; for no youth of parts, interested, and was interested by, and least of all the son of a Chief- the young advocate. An invitaJustice, would have seriously settled tion to accompany the Minister down to the prospect of practising home to Nepaul was offered and in Colombo, with its petty busi- eagerly accepted, although friends ness and small pecuniary tempta- of the Oliphants shook their heads tions. But it was a pleasant life over an expedition which did not in passing. Colombo was not then seem likely to promote Laurence's the dull trading port that it has professional prospects. But he since become in its struggle against went all the same, and shared the odds for a mercantile existence. triumphal progress of Jung BahaThe
European community, if dur through Bengal and Northern smaller, was less mixed, and could India back to Nepaul, taking part count as one family. The defunct in an almost unexampled succesCeylon Rifles, with its convivial sion, for those days before the mess at Slave Island, was still a visits of British royalty, of elehospitable power in Laurence Oli- phant-drives and tiger-hunts. The phant's days. Adventurous spirits result was, that he came back with like himself were coming out to the material and the ambition to Colombo, attracted by the pros- write a book which was destined pects of sport and coffee-planting to launch him on a still wider which were then beginning to be world of adventures. talked of at home. Among these His book and his letters belongwere the Bakers, Samuel and ing to this period reveal Oliphant as Valentine, who were frequently a young man thoroughly enjoying about Colombo in these years; and himself amid the novelties and surthe small society was leavened prises of life, fond of hunting, flirting, and fun generally, but temper- to his legal duties in Colombo. ing his pleasure by a dash of good- After the boundless elbow-room of humoured cynicism from which he the Indian empire, with its great did not exempt even himself. That cities, its Maharajahs and Sultans, he had a deeper nature, which was and its barbaric pearl and gold, the dominating one, he scarcely as Ceylon is a very small microcosm yet appears to be conscious. In a indeed, and Oliphant and his mother religiously constituted family like were soon on the way to England. the Oliphants, exchange of spiritual Here he brought out his book, setconfidence is the rule—a practice tled himself down to a fashion of not always conducive to either legal studies, now aiming at the edification or honesty; and Lady Scots Bar, now at the English one Oliphant very speedily took alarm -sometimes plunging into the pleaif Laurence in his absence omitted sures of society, at others taking a for long to open his inner mind to turn at "slumming," and reading her. Lady Oliphant's queries, how- John Foster the Baptist essayist, ever, extract some illustrations of a writer much affected by the inher son's more serious moments tellectually spiritual of the day. during their Indian tour.
He got much enjoyment-he al“It is difficult,” he says, “ to practise ways contrived to get enjoyment habits of self-examination riding upon
wherever he was, and under whatan elephant, with a companion who ever circumstances—and may have is always talking or singing within done some good, but he was doing a few feet; but it is otherwise in nothing to lay the foundations of a a palkee, which is certainly a dull solid professional career. His book means of conveyance, but forces one into one's self more than anything."
was a very clever one, and thought
highly of by all Anglo-Indians, In the cramped recesses of this among whom it excited an interest vehicle he discerns his chief short- in Laurence Oliphant which lasted comings to be "flexibility of con- throughout his whole career, and science, joined to the power of served to crystallise many recoladapting myself to the society into lections of the brilliant young man which I may happen to be thrown;" who had flitted across the orbit of and as a result, “the more I see of Anglo-Indian society for a brief my own character, the more despi- season. cable it appears, a being so deeply Oliphant's next expedition was hypocritical that I can hardly trust one which, though commonplace myself.” But he winds up by the enough in our days, deserved to be frank admission that this confession regarded as an adventurous under“is honest as far as I know, but I taking in the Fifties.
Accomdon't believe in it implicitly.” Oli- panied by a friend-Mr Oswald phant evidently had as little impli- Smith-he set out for Russia, and cit belief in himself as he had in after visiting the capital and the the world on this his earliest intro- great fair at Nijni-Novgorod, formduction to it, and he is moved by a ed the plan-wild enough it must sort of genial scorn for both. He have seemed to those to whom he is quite sure that the world is a communicated it-of making his humbug; he more than half doubts way southward to the Crimea and whether he is not one himself. the shores of the Black Sea. They
After such an experience, it was travelled by water down the Volga scarcely to be expected that Oli- and the Don, and after getting phant would have long settled down constantly grounded on pericartes