Oliphant, Laurence, 1829-1888

Alternative names
Birth 1829-08-03
Death 1888-12-23

Biographical notes:

English author and mystic.

From the description of Autograph letters signed (6) : London, Edinburgh, etc., to various members of Harper and Brothers, 1880 Oct. 23-1886 Nov. 19. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270611570

English novelist and mystic.

From the description of Autograph letters signed (4) : London, to Madame Blaze de Bury, [n.d.]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270846176

Laurence Oliphant (1829-1888) was a British author, traveller, diplomat and mystic. He wrote his first book at age 25, and several more followed as outcomes of his extensive travels in India, Russia, China, and Japan. In 1866 both he and his mother fell under the influence of the spiritualist prophet Thomas Lake Harris.

Thomas Lake Harris (1823-1906) was born in England but came to New York with his parents at the age of five. While still a young man he became a Unitarian Universalist preacher and then a Swedenborgian. In the early 1860s he founded a Utopian community in Wassaic, New York, among whose members were twenty Japanese from Satsuma Province. When Laurence and his mother, Lady Oliphant, joined the commune they brought a much-needed infusion of cash which allowed the group to move to Brocton on the shores of Lake Erie. Back in England, the Ruxton family became sympathizers and financial supporters of Harris though they never lived in the commune itself.

In 1875 Harris began a gradual relocation of the community to California where he founded the Fountain Grove community. The Oliphants had a falling-out with Harris in about 1881 and through legal action regained some, but not all, of the money they had invested.

[Portions of this sketch adapted from the article "Oliphant, Laurence" in the Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Vol. 20, pp. 82-83; and from California's Utopian Communities by Robert V. Hine, p. 15]

From the guide to the Laurence Oliphant Letter, undated (between 1863-1867), (Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries)


Loading Relationships


Ark ID:


  • Utopian socialism--New York (State)
  • Authors, English--19th century
  • New York State
  • Religion and philosophy


not available for this record


not available for this record