Thomas Pringle

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(January 5, 1789 – December 5, 1834) Scottish born writer, poet and abolitionist, known as the father of South African Poetry and the founder of South African journalism.


Studied at Edinburgh University, and then worked as a clerk and continued writing, soon succeeding to editorships of journals and newspapers, including Blackwoods Magazine in Edinburgh.

Career in South Africa

Emigrated, with his father and brothers, to South Africa in 1820. Here he where he worked in the newly created South African Public Library and pursued his writing career. To supplement his income he opened a school with fellow Scotsman John Fairbairn (whom he had persuaded to come to South Africa) , and together they founded a newspaper, the The South African Commercial Advertiser (7 January 1824)and a magazine, the South African Journal (5 March, 1824). Both publications were on occasion banned by Lord Charles Somerset for their free criticism of the Colonial Government. Pringle and Fairbairn's school was also closed, though Fairbairn continued to edit the The South African Commercial Advertiser.

Return to London

Without a livelihood, and with debts, he returned and settled in London where he became the Secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society in 1827 till his death in 1834 at the age of 45.

His writings

The first South African English poet of distinction, he wrote Emphemerides (1928) and African Sketches (1834). Other publications include Some Account of the Present State of the English Settlers in Albany, South Africa (1824) and his account of his time in South Africa (Narrative of A Residence in South Africa 2 vols., London: Edward Moxon, 1834 & Reprinted: Brentwood: Doppler Press, 1986) which has become a classic record of the colonial period.

His role in theatre

His records of the social and cultural life in the South African colony are invaluable material, while the magazine and the newspaper he and John Fairbairn had founded published regular theatre reviews and advertisements for theatre productions, invaluable sources for theatre historians.


Bosman, 1928: pp. 54, 354.

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