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His legal attainments must have been of the slightest description; and when we read that he had been engaged in twenty-three murder cases,' one wonders what proportion, if any, of them escaped the gallows. There can be little ⚫ doubt that Laurence Oliphant's own hand is recognizable in this selection of his career; for no youth of parts, and least of all the son of a Chief-Justice, would have seriously settled down to the prospect of practising in Colombo, with its petty business and small pecuniary temptations. But it was a pleasant life in passing. Colombo was not then the dull trading port that it has since become in its struggle against odds for a mercantile existence. The European community, if smaller, was less mixed, and could count as one family. The defunct Ceylon Rifles, with its convivial mess at Slave Island, was still a hospitable power in Laurence Oliphant's days. Adventurous spirits like himself were coming out to Colombo, attracted by the prospects of sport and coffee-planting which were then beginning to be talked of at home. Among these were the Bakers, Samuel and Valentine, who were frequently about Colombo in these years; and the small society was leavened by easy and unaffected gayety. "Lowry was everywhere, in the centre of everything, affectionately contemptuous of papa's powers of taking care of himself, and laying down the law, in delightful ease of love and unquestioned supremacy, to his mother." With our fuller knowledge of Laurence Oliphant, we know that Ceylon was too small an island to contain him; but as we look at the pleasant picture of his Eastern life as Mrs. Oliphant has sketched it, we feel thankful for his escape from this Armida's Garden. Could there ever have been a risk of Laurence Oliphant's going down to posterity as Queen's Advocate or Junior Puisne, or even as successor to the respected wig of Sir Anthony himself?
An escape, however, was soon provided. Jung Bahadur, after his notable visit to England, put in at Colombo on his way home, and interested, and was interested by, the young advocate. An invitation to accompany the Minister home to Nepaul was offered and eagerly accepted, although friends of the Oliphants shook their heads over an expedition which did not seem likely to promote Laurence's professional
prospects. But he went all the same, and shared the triumphal progress of Jung Bahadur through Bengal and Northern India back to Nepaul, taking part in an almost unexampled succession, for those days before the visits of British royalty, of elephant-drives and tiger-hunts. The result was, that he came back with the material and the ambition to write a book which was destined to launch him on a still wider world of adventures.
His book and his letters belonging to this period reveal Oliphant as a young man thoroughly enjoying himself amid the novelties and surprises of life, fond of hunting, flirting, and fun generally, but tempering his pleasure by a dash of goodhumored cynicism from which he did not exempt even himself. That he had a deeper nature, which was the dominating one, he scarcely as yet appears to be conscious. In a religiously constituted family like the Oliphants, exchange of spiritual confidence is the rule-a practice not always conducive to either edification or honesty; and Lady Oliphant very speedily took alarm if Laurence in his absence omitted for long to open his inner mind. to her. Lady Oliphant's queries, however, extract some illustrations of her son's more serious moments during their Indian tour.
"It is difficult," he says, "to practise habits of self-examination riding upon an elephant, with a companion who is always talking or singing within a few feet; but it is otherwise in a palkee, which is certainly a dull means of conveyance, but forces one into one's self more than anything."
In the cramped recesses of this vehicle he discerns his chief shortcomings to be 'flexibility of conscience, joined to the power of adapting myself to the society into which I may happen to be thrown ;' and as a result, the more I see of my own character, the more despicable it appears, a being so deeply hypocritical that I can hardly trust myself." But he winds up by the frank admission that this confession "is honest as far as I know, but I don't believe in it implicitly." Oliphant evidently had as little implicit belief in himself as he had in the world on this his earliest introduction to it, and he is moved by a sort of genial scorn for both. He is quite sure that the world is a humbug; he more than half doubts whether he is not one himself.
After such an experience, it was scarcely to be expected that Oliphant would have long settled down to his legal duties in Colombo. After the boundless elbowroom of the Indian empire, with its great cities, its Maharajahs and Sultans, and its barbaric pearl and gold, Ceylon is a very small microcosm indeed, and Oliphant and his mother were soon on the way to England. Here he brought out his book, settled himself down to a fashion of legal ́studies, now aiming at the Scots Bar, now at the English one-sometimes plunging into the pleasures of society, at others taking a turn at slumming," and reading John Foster the Baptist essayist, a writer much affected by the intellectually spiritual of the day. He got much enjoymenthe always contrived to get enjoyment wherever he was, and under whatever circumstances and may have done some good, but he was doing nothing to lay the foundations of a solid professional career. His book was a very clever one, and thought highly of by all Anglo-Indians, among whom it excited an interest in Laurence Oliphant which lasted throughout his whole career, and served to crystallize many recollections of the brilliant young man who had flitted across the orbit of Anglo-Indian society for a brief
Oliphant's next expedition was which, though commonplace enough in our days, deserved to be regarded as an adventurous undertaking in the 'Fifties. Accompanied by a friend-Mr. Oswald Smith-he set out for Russia, and after visiting the capital and the great fair at Nijni-Novgorod, formed the plan-wild enough it must have seemed to those to whom he communicated it—of making his way southward to the Crimea and the shores of the Black Sea. They travelled by water down the Volga and the Don, and after getting constantly grounded on pericartes or sand-banks, they reached Taganrog, having accomplished in five days and nights one of the most wild, uncouth, and unfrequented journeys that even Russia can boast of." They visited the Crimea and Sebastopol, the fortifications of which were even then attracting European attention, and thus became possessed of information which in a short time was destined to make Oliphant the confidential adviser of Ministers and commanders-in-chief, and to open up to him,
had he been so disposed, prospects of a high career in the service of the State. is "Journey to Khatmandhu' had made Oliphant's name familiar to publishers; and during his stay in Edinburgh for the purpose of studying Scots law, he had made the acquaintance of the editor of "Maga," Mr. John Blackwood, who promptly recognized the possibilities of a valuable contributor in the remarkable young man ; and a connection, valued by both sides, was then formed, which remained unbroken through the varying changes of Oliphant's future career. About a year after his return from Russia, he put into Mr. Blackwood's hands "The Russian Shores of the Black Sea," which, immediately meeting the desire that existed for information upon the Eastern question, quickly ran through a number of editions. Nor was it merely literary distinction that was brought by the journey and the book. Soon after a mounted orderly startled Half-Moon Street by riding up to the door of Oliphant's lodgings, and summoning him to an immediate interview with Lord Raglan.
where I found not Lord Raglan, but Lord de "I accordingly proceeded to the Ordnance, Ros, who questioned me minutely about Sebastopol. I gave him all the information I could, and sent him my sketches, extracts from my journal, and everything I could think useful. There were a couple of old Engineer Colonels (one of them afterward identified as Sir John Burgoyne), all three poring over a chart of the Crimea. They are evidently going to try and take Sebastopol, and I recommended their landing at Balaclava and marching across, which I think they will do. Lord de Ros was immensely civil. I think Lord Raglan ought in civility to make me his private secretary. It would be great fun. I met Lord talk with him. I did not mention my anxiety de Ros again this morning, and had a long to get out. It is very ticklish saying anything about one's self on such occasions, and I must just bide my time and qualify myself-be able to answer the lash, as you always say."
It is difficult to see how, in a military expedition, this ambition could have been gratified, and nothing came of these interviews with the army authorities, although Oliphant was able to turn his special information to good account in writing for the press. It was in a sphere very different from the Crimea that Oliphant first found official employment. Lord Elgin, with whose family Oliphant's had some friendship, invited Laurence to accompany him as secretary on his special mission to
Washington; and throwing over an offer of Mr. Delane to go to the seat of war as "Times" correspondent, and dismissing illusory promises of Lord Clarendon to do something for him in the East, he started on the first of many subsequent journeys to America. Lord Elgin's object was to make a commercial arrangement with the United States in the interests of Canada, of which he was then Governor-General; and a treaty was "floated through on champagne, as was not unjustly said at the time, which served in the future as the basis for a good deal of diplomatic difficulties. In the festivities of Washington Laurence Oliphant was in his element, making friends everywhere, and revelling in the racy society which gathered together in the Capitol in those days. The treaty effected, he accompanied his chief back to Canada. He was appointed Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs, "having as my subordinates two colonels, two captains (all of militia), and some English gentlemen who have been long in the service, and who must look rather suspiciously at the Oriental Traveller's interposition." It is not so long ago since he himself gave an account of his Western adventures while occupying this post in the Magazine, that we need dwell upon them here again; and indeed his real work seems to have lain in the immediate vicinity of the Governor-General. A picture of his life in his letters at this time is
however so lively, that we must give a brief quotation from it :
"My life is much like that of a Cabinet Minister or parliamentary swell, now that the House is sitting. I am there every night till the small hours, taking little relaxations in the shape of evening visits when a bore gets up. That keeps me in bed till late, so that breakfast and the drive in (from Spencer Wood), etc., detain me from the office till near one. Then I get through business for the next three hours-chiefly consisting of drafting letters, which in the end I ought to be a dab at. I also append my valuable signature to a great deal without knowing in the least why, and run out to the most notorious gossips to pick up the last bits of news, political or social, with which to regale his Excellency, who duly rings for me for that purpose when he has read his letters and had his interviews. Then he walks out with an A.D.C., and I go to the House. There I take up my seat on a chair exclusively my own next the Speaker, and members (I have made it my business to know them nearly all) come and tell me the news, and I am on chaffing terms with the Op. position, and on confidential terms with the
Ministerialists. If I see pretty girls in the galleries who are friends of mine (the galleries members and draw caricatures of them, which are always full), I go up there and criticise they throw down into members' laps neatly folded, who pass them to the original,—by which time I have regained my seat, and the demure secretary remains profoundly political and unsuspected. I find nothing so difficult as keeping up my dignity, and when a Bishop or a Cabinet Minister calls, I take their apologies for intruding as if I was doing them a favor. I am afraid of hazarding a joke unless I am quite sure it is a good one. I suppose the dignity of the office was so well sustained by Bruce, that they are scandalized by a larky young cove like me."
No one who has met the writer will
have any difficulty in appreciating the fidelity of this portrait which the young secretary has drawn of himself. It is Laurence Oliphant down to the heels. It was characteristic of the man that he took
in situations of life, which to most people would have presented grave and formal aspects, with a light-hearted volatility; while others, which to the majority of us would be fraught with supreme absurdity, were treated as of the utmost moment and seriousness. With all the nonchalance and frivolity with which he credits himself, Oliphant, however, must have done use
ful work to secure the continuance of Lord Elgin's favor in other scenes of statesmanship. It is not one of the least puzzling enigmas in this perplexing career how a chief of the "can't-you-let-italone" Melbourne school of statesmen, and an impulsive secretary who was always brimming over with energy, should have rowed so long and so well together.
The official career in Canada which lay open before him was not for Laurence Oliphant. He was offered to have his secretaryship continued by Sir Edmund Head, who was Lord Elgin's successor, and he still had his native superintendentship in his hands, but all these were thrown over, and he was back again in England in 1855. It was then he published "Minnesota and the Far West ;" and while he was bringing out the book, he was also doing his best to induce Lord Clarendon to send him as an envoy to Schamyl to concert a general rising of Circassia and the Caucasus against Russia. Lord Clarendon was unable to comply, or perhaps feared to commit himself to a spirit so forward and adventurous, but he referred him to Lord Stratford de Redcliffe; and Oliphant, with his father Sir
Anthony, who had now retired from the Colonial Bench, was soon on his way to the East. But the Great Elchi was not more amenable than the Foreign Office, and nothing came of Oliphant's recommendations. Oliphant. however, was allowed to accompany Mr. Alison of the Constantinople embassy on a mission to gather information along the Circassian coast, and he spent some time with Omar Pasha's force, and joined in the action on the Ingour, and some other engagements of the campaign. In the Magazine, Oliphant, after his return, gave a very graphic account of his Circassian travels; but from a letter which Mrs. Oliphant gives we may take the following characteristic anecdote :
"By the by, I never told you I had made a battery. Skender Pasha, the officer in command, thought I was an officer from my having a regimental Turkish fez cap on, and asked me if I knew where a battery was to be made about which he had orders. It so happened that I did, because I had been walking over the ground with Simmons [now General Sir Lintorn Simmons] in the morning; so Skender told off a working party of two hundred men, with two companies of infantry and two field-pieces, put them under my command, and sent me off to make the battery. It was about the middle of a pitch-dark night, slap under the Russian guns, about two hundred yards from them. Luckily they never found us out, we worked so quietly. I had to do everything,-line the wood with sharpshooters, put the field-pieces in position, and place the gabions. Everybody came to me for orders in the humblest way. In about three hours I had run up no end of a battery, without having a shot fired at me, while Simmons, who was throwing up a battery a few hundred yards lower down, had a man killed. Both these batteries did good service two days after. The difficulty was, none of the officers with me could speak anything but Turkish. Afterward Skender Pasha was speaking to Simmons about it, complaining of the want of interpreters, and instancing the English officer who made the battery not having an interpreter; so Simmons said, ' Ce n'est pas un
officier, ce n'est qu'un simple gentleman qui voyage,' which rather astonished old Skender. I think Simmons looks on the Times' correspondent with a more favorable eye since that experience."
In addition to his communications to the Times, and his contributions to "Blackwood," Oliphant described his Circassian experiences in the "Transcaucasian Campaign of the Turkish Army,' which was published soon after his return to England. The next adventure in which he signalized himself was a still more sinNEW SERIES.-VOL. LIV., No. 2.
gular one. He accompanied Mr. Delane of the "Times" to America upon some journalistic enterprise, the object of which can only be guessed. While in the Southern States, he chanced to hear of the expedition which Walker, "the filibuster," was fitting out for Nicaragua. The temptation was too strong for Oliphant, and he at once enrolled himself in the number of Walker's followers. We cannot suppose that he had any enthusiasm in the enterprise, or set any store by the prospects held out to the adventurers; but the expedition was risky, daring, and novel; it would supply an excellent subject to write about; and that was enough for Laurence Oliphant. The expedition was a failure so far as Laurence Oliphant was concerned, and it would have been well for his chief in the end had it proved equally abortive · for himself. A British squadron lay across the mouth of the San Juan river; and when the filibustering vessels were boarded in search of Englishmen, Oliphant was readily detected and carried on board the flagship, where he found a "Scotch cousin" in command of the squadron, who took good care that he should not be again allowed to associate himself with the Nicaraguan enterprise.
We next find Oliphant again occupying a position on Lord Elgin's staff, this time on the warlike mission to China, which was intended to bring the Celestials to their senses. As he himself not so long: ago has described to our readers his experiences on that expedition, as well as. the narrow escape which he had from assassination in Japan, we shall merely refer the reader to Mrs. Oliphant's volume for this period of his life, and to the numerous fresh letters by which she illustrates. it; for we must press on to more important phases of his career. We must give, however, the following story, on Mrs. Oliphant's authority, indicating as it does the mystic tendencies which were already beginning to manifest themselves in his
"Sir Anthony's death was entirely unexpected, and occurred, I believe, at a dinnerparty to which he had gone in his usual health. I have been told that, being at sea at the time, Laurence came on deck one morning and in
formed his comrades that he had seen his father in the night, and that he was deadthat they endeavored to laugh him out of the
impression, but in vain. The date was taken down, and on their arrival in England it was
found that Sir Anthony Oliphant had indeed died on that night-which," Mrs. Oliphant drily adds, " would be a remarkable addition, if sufficiently confirmed, to many stories of a similar kind which are well known."
Even so, but how rarely does the confirmation prove sufficient! In Oliphant's case, however, the story has its significance.
Then followed three years of restless activity, much literary work, and many of Wales as his passing through
Continental excursions. He made the ac
quaintance of the Prince Royal Highness was
Vienna on his tour to the East, and the
interest with which he then inspired his Royal Highness remained unimpaired until the end. Henceforth, from whatever scenes or from whatever quarter of the globe he had come to "look in" for a moment upon English society-perhaps to have a laugh over it-he received the
Prince's cominands to visit him and relate his adventures. One of his most remarkable expeditions during these years. was that made to the camp of the insurgent Poles, in which he ran no small risk of being shot had he fallen into the hands of the Cossacks, who were on all sides hemming in the patriots; but with Laurence Oliphant danger only lent a novel and additional zest to the adventure. His wanderings of these days were duly recorded in the pages of "Maga," with which his connection was becoming more close and frequent.
A seat in Parliament had naturally been one of the objects of Oliphant's ambition, and he had felt his way with several burghs in Scotland, keeping his eye, how ever, steadily upon the Stirling group, which his father during his lifetime had canvassed for him, and which accordingly returned him in 1865. But before we say anything about his parliamentary career, and about the position which he occupied in society at this time, we must go back for a moment to trace Oliphant's inner history. We have seen him during his earlier youth encouraged, even ordered, to lay open his soul to his mother; and whatever disadvantages may be inseparable from this system of confession, it necessarily enforced habits of introspection. His letters down to the time of his voyage to China suggest a mind accustomed to dwell much upon religion, without being to any notable degree penetrated by its influences. Having been brought up in none of the definite Christian creeds,
he disliked them all, followed a system of "free selection," and sought for views to supply the place of dogma. As is commonly the case with men who pursue this course of religious speculation, the notorious fact that the practice of Christianity never has squared, and never will square with its precepts in an imperfect world, mind, leading him ultimately first to seek made a great impression upon Oliphant's for, and then to construct, a system which might reconcile the two. But down to this time we find nothing in his letters that would not justify us in classing him as a broad, if erratic, Christian. But by the time he accompanied Lord Elgin to China a change was evidently working. He astonished his fellow-members of the
Embassy, when they first met him on board ship, by talking of "matters spiritual and mystical, singularly different from the themes that usually occupy such groups. There can be little doubt that Oliphant had been attracted during his stay in the States by the "spiritualist" movement; and though he does not appear to have had any sympathy with it in its better. known and more vulgar aspects, there can be little question that it gave his mind a propulsion in search of the mystic and supernatural. He was beginning to seek for a sign.
"I would willingly," he writes to his mother during the China period-" I would willingly go into a dungeon for the rest of my days if I was vouchsafed a supernatural revelation of a faith; but I should consider myself positively wicked if upon so momentous a subject I was content with any assumptions of my erring and imperfect fellow-creatures when against the light of my own conscience."
As yet all was mere inquiry, mere speculation, with little result upon conduct or action. Laurence Oliphant, outside himself, was the brilliant man of the world, amusing himself as much as he amused others, and none the less that he had a keen eye for the foibles, the shams, and the hollowness of the society amid which he moved. He was everywhere, saw everything and laughed, not ungenially, in his sleeve at most things. Yet those who knew him at his gayest, knew also that there was a serious side to his character. One night a little group of members were wrangling in the lobby of the Commons about a Scriptural quotation. "Here is Oliphant," said one, as Laurence came out " he always carries a New