n English in Africa - Thomas Pringle: South African Pioneer, Poet & Abolitionist, Randolph Vigne : book review

Volume 40, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0376-8902



In Autumn 1830 Thomas Pringle returned to Scotland for the first time since sailing for South Africa in 1820. He travelled for the sake of his health and possibly on business for the Anti-Slavery Society, but the journey was also a pilgrimage of familial piety: he made contact with kinsmen and kinswomen, visited the scenes of his childhood and his great-grandfather's grave, for which he planned to erect a new stone inscribed with his own verses "as a memorial to our family." In February 1832 Pringle wrote to John, an otherwise unidentified correspondent, offering to write him a letter a week, giving John an account of his life, the series to constitute "a little sketch of my biography to prefix my 'Poetical Remains.'" (Characteristically Pringle tempered the potential of self-importance, ironically addressing himself by his Scots name as "Ah, Tamas! Tamas! - vanity and egotism.") The visit to Scotland and the planned serial biography came as the poet's humanitarian work was reaching its climax and, perhaps, with a growing sense of his own mortality. Yet as early as 1825 in South Africa, Pringle had hoped "to write something that may not dishonour Scotland." This allegiance to Scotland, in tandem with his devotion to South Africa, identifies Pringle as a Scot of the diaspora, and a Scot of the Union, although Randolph Vigne's fine biography is sub-titled: . Since Pringle's life ended in London, he died and was buried away from home.

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