C.J. Langenhoven

C.J. Langenhoven was a playwright, poet, journalist and politician. He was one of the most versatile authors in Afrikaans and is best remembered for his humorous and satirical works.

Cornelis Jacob Langenhoven was born on 13 August 1873 on the farm Hoeko near Ladismith in the then Cape Province. His mother died five days later and Cornelis was raised by his aunt and uncle. 

He received his first education from a Dutch teacher known as Meester Bloemkolk.

After having completed his schooling in Ladismith and Riversdale he studied at the Victoria College in Stellenbosch and was awarded a BA degree in 1895. At that time Stellenbosch did not have a law faculty.

Langenhoven became an apprentice solicitor in Ladismith and in 1896 obtained an LL.B. from the University of Good Hope in Cape Town. He then worked as an attorney in Cape Town and in Oudtshoorn.

In 1912 he became the editor of the Oudtshoorn newspaper Het Zuid-Westen.

Langenhoven worked hard for Afrikaans to be recognised as an official language and campaigned for it to become a language of instruction in schools, instead of Dutch. At the time some learned people looked down on Afrikaans and chose to see it as a lesser derivative of Dutch; Langenhoven disagreed.

In 1914 he became a member of Oudtshoorn’s Provincial Board of Directors and later a senator of the then Cape Province.

Langenhoven remained in close contact with his beloved Stellenbosch and alma mater and returned often to render one of his fiery speeches. The student shopping complex in Stellenbosch is still known as “Die Neelsie”, since Langenhoven’s nickname was Neelsie, from Cornelis.

He was affable and was often called “Sagmoedige Neelsie” (Gentle Neelsie), yet his official biographer, J.C. Kannemeyer, refers to his temper and a tendency to use swear words when provoked.

Langenhoven was married to Magdalena Maria (Vroutjie) Hugo and they had a daughter, Engela. He died on 15 July 1932 in Oudtshoorn.

His home Aarbeidsgenot was turned into a museum in 1955.

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