C. Louis Leipoldt

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C. Louis Leipoldt (1880-1947) was a South African poet, playwright, paediatrician, botanist, journalist, novelist, cook and connoisseur of food and wine.

Also referred to as Louis Leipoldt or C.L. Leipoldt at times. The surname is often misspelled "Leipold".


Born Christian Frederik Louis Leipoldt in Worcester near Cape Town on 28 December 1880. His father was the parson in the Dutch Reformed Church in Clanwilliam and his grandfather was the preacher who founded the famous Rhenish missionary in Wupperthal [1]. His mother was also the daughter of a Rhenish missionary.

Growing up in Clanwilliam, one of four children, his early education was largely at home. He became a journalist for a short period during the Second Boer War (1899-1902), writing for local papers De Kolonist, Het Dagblad, and was for a time the assistant editor of De Volkstem. He wrote for a number of overseas publications about the war as well, before he went to university to study medicine at the University of Cape Town (1902 until 1907) and at Guy's Hospital in London, qualifying as a medical practitioner and later as a paediatrician. For about six months during 1908, he was the personal physician of the American newspaper magnate, Joseph Pulitzer, aboard Pulitzer's yacht [2].

For a while he worked as a school doctor in London then returned to South Africa and became the Medical Inspector of Schools in the Transvaal and afterwards in the Cape Province. During World War I he was appointed medical officer to General Louis Botha and accompanied him during the South West Africa campaign.

In 1925 he settled down in Cape Town where he worked as a paediatrician for the rest of his life. He also became the first editor of the South African Medical Journal.

All his life he travelled widely in Europe, America and the East Indies, and wrote prolifically in Dutch, Afrikaans and English. Apart from poetry, he wrote novels, plays, stories, children's books, cookbooks and a travel diary.

Primarily known as a poet, his published poems include the collections Oom Gert Vertel ("Uncle Gert Narrates" - 1911) and Geseënde Skaduwees ("Blessed Shadows" - 1949) and the epic English poem The Ballad of Dick King (1949).

His prose works include his famous cookbooks and three English novels (Gallows Gecko, Stormwrack and The Mask)- collectively known as The Valley - and his autobiography (Bushveld Doctor, published in 1935). Stormwrack was in fact rescued by Stephen Gray and published by David Philip in November, 1980.

Leipoldt never married and died in Cape Town on 12 April 1947.

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

Besides his poetry and prose, Leipoldt was one of the more serious and accomplished of the early playwrights in Afrikaans. He was awarded the Hertzog Prize for Afrikaans Drama in 1944.

His most important and influential play was Die Hamer van die Hekse ("The Hammer of the Witches"), a short play said to have been written in response to a performance of * The Rosary, by ***. A play about ***. Produced by Leonard Rayne at the Standard Theatre and the ** theatre in Cape Town??in 19**???. A THOUGHT*] ***. He later revised and published it as Die Heks ("The Witch"), and it was then taken up by Paul de Groot for his first/second??* professional production in 1925. With that Afrikaans theatre was seen as having come of age artistically and the play has been produced often since and was for very many years a standard prescribed work for schools. A new version of the play (Die Hamer van die Hekse), based on the original text, was done by André P. Brink in 198* and performed by PACT. Other plays include Die Vergissing ("The misinterpretation"), Die Swart Gevaar (The black danger"), Die Laaste Aand ("The last night"), Die Lang Nag???**. [TH]

Awards, etc

Awarded the 1944 Hertzog Prize for Afrikaans Drama for Die Heks and Die Laaste Aand.


J.C. Kannemeyer. 1999. Leipoldt. Cape Town Tafelberg.




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