Oliphant, Laurence (b. 1829, Cape Town [now in South Africa]--d. Dec. 23, 1888, Twickenham, Middlesex, Eng.)
British author, traveler, and mystic.
Before the age of 24 Oliphant's travels had provided material for two books, a Journey to Khatmandu (1852) and The Russian Shores of the Black Sea in the Autumn of 1852, with a Voyage Down the Volga, and a Tour Through the Country of the Don Cossacks (1853). Later experiences in various parts of the world, as a diplomat and as war correspondent for The Times, are recorded with verve in Episodes in a Life of Adventure (1887) and other books. The Narrative of the Earl of Elgin's Mission to China and Japan (1859) gives a fascinating account of 19th-century gunboat diplomacy. Oliphant's satirical novel of London society, Piccadilly: A Fragment of Contemporary Biography, appeared in 1865, and in the same year he became a Conservative member of Parliament.
In 1878 he proposed a plan for the Jewish colonization of Palestine (although he was not Jewish himself). The plan was well received by eastern European Jews but was refused by the Ottoman sultan, ruler of Palestine. In 1882 Oliphant and his wife settled in Haifa, where they formed a small community and together wrote the esoteric Sympneumata; or, Evolutionary Forces Now Active in Man (1885)--apparently a plea for a purified sex life.