Born Daniël François Malherbe in in Dal Josafat in the Cape Colony, the son of P.J. Malherbe, one of the founding members of the Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners. Having studied at the Victoria College in Stellenbosch he went on to do post graduate work at the universities of Halle and Freiburg in Germany, obtaining a doctorate with a thesis on Das Fremdword im Reformationszeitalter in 1905.
He returned to South Africa to become a lecturer at the Hugenote-Seminarie op Wellington, .
In 1907 he becomes a member of the Afrikaanse Taalvereniging in Kaapstad en helps with the expansion of the society in the Cape Colony.
Appointed as professor in modern languages at the Grey-Universiteitskollege (Grey University College) in Bloemfontein at the request of Gen. J.B.M. Hertzog on 7 February, 1910, he becomes the first professor in Afrikaans language and literature in South Africa in 1912. He later Malherbe served as Rector of the Grey-Universiteitskollege (1929 to 1934 and again in 1941).
He was a member of the Bloemfontein branch of the society Onze Taal from 1910 onwards and as an academic became very active as a leading champion for the Afrikaans language. Besides being one of the advisors to the translators of the Bible and the Dutch hymns, he collated numerous lists of Afrikaans words, proverbs, and similar material. He edited of the journal Tydskrif Vir Wetenskap en Kuns and was a co-author of the authoritative Afrikaanse Woordelys en Spelreëls ("Afrikaans word-list and spelling rules"), both published by the Suid Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns, of which he was a member.
As playwright, he wrote 19 plays between 1921 and 1959, some of them adaptations of his novels. He wrote many of the works for performance by the students of the GUK Dramatic Society, the dramatic society at the Grey-Universiteitskollege. Such works were often performed nationally, taken on tour to promote the Afrikaans language and culture. Malherbe took part in a number of these tours, even acting in some plays and/or directing them (e.g. the production of Meester in 1929, which he both acted in and directed).
Du Toit, 1988
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