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Frank Colenso

Francis Ernest (Frank) Colenso (1852 - 1910) was a Zulu rights campaigner, son of the famous Bishop John Colenso of Natal, and sister of Harriet Colenso. Frank Colenso was born in Natal but educated in Britain, including at Cambridge. He later returned to Natal where he practiced for a time as barrister in Pietermaritzburg and Natal, and he also attempted to act as a diplomatic agent to Cetshwayo, the Zulu king, in order to resolve the boundary dispute which eventuated in the Anglo-Zulu War in 1879. After his marriage to Sophie Frankland in 1880, Colenso returned to Britain where he worked as an actuary at various insurance companies. However, he still devoted energies to campaigning for Zulu rights and “channelled information from members of his family in Natal to radical and Liberal MPs and humanitarian organizations, wrote letters to the press, made representations to members of the government, and produced pamphlets and drew up petitions to publicize, and seek to remedy, the injustices suffered by the Zulu people” (Colenso 2006).

The recipient of Schreiner’s letter of 23 September 1908 is addressed as ‘My dear friend’ and it concerns the trial of Dinuzulu; it is archivally recorded as having been written to Frank Colenso. This is possible, although it seems rather more likely that the letter was in fact written to Harriet Colenso, who played a key role in supporting Dinuzulu, who was legally represented by Will Schreiner during his trial. In the letter Schreiner urged, “If ever you & my brother think I could be of any use by writing anything please let me know.”

For further information see
Gwilym Colenso (2006) ‘Colenso, Francis Ernest (1852-1910)’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Oxford University Press http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/95487
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collection icon Bodleian Libraries Special Collections: Schreiner’s few remaining letters to Frank (or Harriet) Colenso, to Alfred Milner and to Cecil Rhodes are part of the l... Show/Hide Collection Letters
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