n English in Africa - The South African Letters of Thomas Pringle, Randolph Vigne (Ed.) : book review

Volume 40, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0376-8902



Randolph Vigne has assembled these 223 South African letters of Thomas Pringle from archives, libraries and private collections in South Africa, Great Britain and Canada. The first few letters were written from Edinburgh, where Pringle was preparing to leave for the Cape, the last few from London, where, after the passage of the Emancipation Act, Pringle was expecting to return to South Africa. The last letter is dated 17th November 1834. Pringle died on 5th December and the collection closes with his Last Will and Testament. The poet and abolitionist was an active correspondent: he writes from Deptford, Cape Town, Bavians River (Pringle's spelling, later Teviotdale), Graaff-Reinet, Grahamstown, Theopolis, Uitenhage and many other places visited in his criss-crossing of the Cape. The sequencing and division of the letters follow Pringle's career: from the settlement of his family on the frontier, through the success and disappointment of Cape Town and the clash with Somerset, to the turning-point, probably a meeting with Andries Stockenstrom and Dr. John Phillip, which led Pringle to the final calling with which he would leave the colony: "the general cause of liberty," and the last years of abolitionist activity in London. Randolph Vigne, who has done Pringle proud - the transcriptions, notes and introduction are excellent - is, I understand, working on a biography of Pringle, which we can now look forward to as a fitting culmination of the work begun by Patricia Morris's account of the life. In his work on these letters Randolph Vigne has already brought readers closer to the distinctive personality of Pringle and to the complex ways in which he was implicated in the history and politics of his time. Liberalism is a contested order in South Africa today but Pringle's struggle for press freedom has a continuing relevance.

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Article metrics loading...


This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error