Title page for ETD etd-05042012-131624

Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author Murray, Paul Leonard
URN etd-05042012-131624
Document Title C Louis Leipoldt’s The Valley— constructing an alternative past?
Degree DPhil
Department Historical and Heritage Studies
Advisor Name Title
Prof A Wessels Co-Supervisor
Prof L Kriel Supervisor
  • parallel processes
  • intellectual pluralism
  • historiographic metafiction
  • cultural pluralism
  • experientiality
  • Herbartian apperceptive masses
  • presence
  • political liberalism
  • White’s formalism
  • side-shadowing
  • representationalism
  • reception ethics
Date 2012-05-04
Availability unrestricted


Christian Frederik Louis Leipoldt was born in on 28 December 1880 in the Rhenish House in Worcester, Cape Province, the fourth child of the Reverend Christian Friedrich Leipoldt and Anna Meta Christina Leipoldt (born Esselen). His father left the mission field to take up the position of the dominee in the Dutch Reformed Church in Clanwilliam where the Leipoldt family went to live, from 1884. Leipoldt received his education from his father at home, on a broad range of subjects, including several languages and also in the natural sciences. He became interested in writing from a very young age and sent pieces of his writing for publication when still a boy. When he was fifteen he began sending dried plant specimens to Professor McOwan in Cape Town, from Clanwilliam. It was through his interest in botany that Leipoldt met Dr Harry Bolus, a life-long friend.

Leipoldt wrote the Civil Service examinations in 1897 after which he went to Cape Town to work as a journalist. Living in Cape Town he served on the staff of the pro-Boer newspaper, The South African News from 1898 until it was closed down by the British authorities in 1902, when he travelled to Britain to look for work as a journalist in London. Soon after arriving there he took up the offer from Bolus who would lend him money to study medicine at Guy’s Hospital. It was more or less at this time that some of his early literature on the South African War was written, for instance, his well-known poem, Oom Gert Vertel (published in 1911).

After successfully obtaining his MRCS medical qualification in 1907, winning gold medals for medicine and surgery in the process, he briefly served as Acting House Surgeon at Guy’s until 1908 when he travelled to Europe to work in a number of hospitals to receive further training. Later the same year he took up a post as medical adviser to J D Pulitzer, the American newspaper owner. Thereafter he worked as a doctor in London except for the time he proceeded on a four month visit to the East in 1912, the experience of which he penned in a manuscript entitled ‘Visit to the East Indies.’

In 1914 he returned to South Africa to take up a post as Medical Inspector of Schools with the Transvaal Education Department. During the First World War in South Africa, he was drafted into the army as the personal medical doctor to the Prime Minister at the time, Genl Louis Botha. He resigned from his post as Medical Inspector in 1923 to take up an offer from Dr F V Engelenburg to serve on the editorial staff of the pro-Smuts newspaper De Volkstem,. He worked there until 1925 when he and the newly appointed editor Gustav Preller did not see eye to eye and it was then that he decided to return to Cape Town.

His second Cape Town period (1925 – 1947) was characterized by the most prolific writing, during which he published a great many works across a broad range of topics. Furthermore, though he never married, he adopted Jeffrey Leipoldt, and took in a number of boys as boarders in his home ‘Arbury’ in Kenilworth, Cape Town. At the same time as he wrote most prolifically for a wide range of publications including many novels, he taught pediatrics at the University of Cape Town Medical School and practised as a pediatrician in the city.

C Louis Leipoldt was a versatile person who published across a wide range of fields, to include literature, medical studies, letters to friends and associates, the history of wine and cookery, and what few seem to be aware of, his three English historical novels that make up The Valley, written in English between 1928 and 1932. Whilst Leipoldt’s early work such as Oom Gert Vertel gave voice to the suffering of the Afrikaner people, in The Valley, his voice is one of protest against the isolationist policies of the National Party of the 1920s.

Whilst Leipoldt will be known for his work as the inaugural medical inspector of schools of the Transvaal Education Department, the inaugural lecturer in pediatrics at the University of Cape Town and Cape Town’s first practising pediatrician, he will also be known for his wide oeuvre as a writer. For example, he served as the Medical Association of South Africa’s first editor of its South African Medical Journal, a post he held for 18 years. Leipoldt never married and died on 13 April 1947 in Cape Town. His ashes were scattered in the Pakhuis Pass near Clanwilliam, where there is a memorial to his life.

© 2012, University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Murray, PL 2012, C Louis Leipoldt’s The Valley— constructing an alternative past?, DPhil thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-05042012-131624/ >


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