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Copyright transcription: © Olive Schreiner Letters Project. This transcription can be freely used as long as copyright is acknowledged and it is referenced using the following citation: ‘Olive Schreiner to The Times, 12 January 1916, The Times, Olive Schreiner Letters Project transcription’. Please also supply letter line numbers for specific quotations.
This letter has been dated by reference to when it was published in The Times
1: SIR J. SIMON’S SUPPORTERS.
3: LETTER FROM 36 SYMPATHIZERS.
5: The following letter was handed to Sir John Simon last evening:-
7: We, the undersigned, desire to express our wholehearted appreciation
8: of your action in regard to Conscription, and to assure you of our
9: active and immediate support, whether as private individuals or in so
10: far as we represent organizations in any opposition to the Bill you
11: and your colleagues decide to organize.
13: We realize that our names are representative of only a limited section
14: of the public, but we have ventured to take the initiative through our
15: conviction that these views reflect a widespread opinion in the
18: Yours faithfully,
19: C. G. AMMON
20: W. A. APPLETON
21: J. H. BANKS
22: ELEANOR BARTON
23: MARGARET BONDFIELD
24: JOHN CLIFFORD
25: G. D. H. COLE
26: MARGARET LLEWELLYN DAVIES
27: G. LOWES DICKINSON
28: J. W. GRAHAM
29: F. W. HIRST
30: J. A. HOBSON
31: HENRY T. HODGKIN
32: GEORGE LANSBURY
33: F. W. PETHICK LAWRENCE
34: MARY MACARTHUR
35: SAM MARSH
36: CATHERINE MARSHALL
37: H. W. MASSINGHAM
38: FRANCIS MEYNELL
39: J. S. MIDDLETON
40: J. CAMPBELL MORGAN
41: GRACE NEAL
42: W. E. ORCHARD
43: SYLVIA PANKHURST
44: CLARISSA E. POTTER
45: ALFRED SALTER
46: OLIVE SCHREINER
47: MARY SHEEPSHANKS
48: ROBERT SMILLIE
49: F. R. SWAN
50: JOHN TURNER
51: J. E. WILLIAMS
52: ROBERT WILLIAMS
53: J. WINSTONE
Olive Schreiner and the other signatories, probably organised by Bertrand Russell, sent this letter of support for Sir John Simon to The Times
in response to Asquith's wartime Coalition Government having introduced a Military Service Bill for compulsory conscription on 1 January 1916. Simon, the Home Secretary, resigned and led the Liberal, Quaker and ILP MPs opposing the Bill. After this letter was published, John Clifford, a leading Nonconformist, collected the signatures of more prominent thinkers and activists for a petition in support of Simon. However, the Government negotiated Labour Party support for conscription, and the Bill was swiftly passed into law. See Richard A. Hempel (ed, 1988) Bertrand Russell: His Works vol. 13 ‘Prophecy and Dissent’ 1914-1916
MS 18, 198 South African News, 6.2.05-p3-col3
|Archive||Cory Library, Rhodes University, Grahamstown
|Letter Date||3 February 1905
|Address From||Hanover, Eastern Cape
|Who To||Social Democratic Federation Cape Town
The manuscript of this letter by Olive Schreiner belongs to the Archive referenced above; its ownership of the original should be acknowledged by referencing the letter as indicated: Copyright transcription: © Olive Schreiner Letters Project. This transcription can be freely used as long as copyright is acknowledged and it is referenced using the following citation: ‘Olive Schreiner to Social Democratic Federation Cape Town, 3 February 1905, Cory Library, Olive Schreiner Letters Project transcription’. Please also supply letter line numbers for specific quotations.
1: THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION
2: MASS MEETING IN CAPE TOWN
3: STIRRING SPEECHES
4: OLIVE SCHREINER’S VIEWS
6: OLIVE SCHREINER’S LETTER
7: Hanover, February 3, 1905.
9: Dear Sir, --- I deeply regret that I cannot be with you at the meeting
10: on Sunday afternoon to express my sympathy with the Russian strike
11: movement. Absent bodily, I shall yet be with you in thought; and yet
12: more with those who in far-off Russia are today carrying on that
13: age-long war of humanity towards a larger freedom and a higher justice,
14: a war which has been waged through the ages, now by this people, and
15: now by that; now a small nation against one that would subjugate it;
16: then by a class; then by a race; now, for religious freedom, then for
17: the right of free thought and free speech; but which, when looked at
18: from the highest standpoint, has always been essentially one battle,
19: fought with one end, now with success, and then with seeming failure,
20: but always bringing nearer by minute and imperceptible degrees that
21: time, in the future, when for a free and united humanity, a truly
22: human life shall be possible on earth. To-day the flag is passing into
23: the hands of the great Russian people. With how much of immediate
24: success, or failure, the battle will be fought, we cannot now say; but
25: that it will be with ultimate success, we know, and that it is a
26: battle not fought for themselves alone, but for all the world, that we
27: know also. I see it stated in this morning’s paper that Maxim Gorki
28: is to be hanged. A few years ago, I would have believed it impossible
29: that such a thing should happen at the beginning of the twentieth
30: century. I do not now. For the honour of human nature, we hope it may
31: not be so; but I hardly know that for him we need so very deeply
32: regret it. It is from the scaffold that the sons of humanity have
33: passed into immortality in the hearts of the race. One very beautiful
34: fact is brought home to us by this struggle of our fellows in Russia.
35: Divided and half-developed as our human race yet is, a certain dim
36: consciousness of human solidarity is beginning to dawn. From the
37: drought-smitten, barren plains of South Africa, from the hearts of the
38: great cities all over the world thoughts of sympathy and fellowship
39: are stretching themselves out to our brothers in Russia, so that
40: whether they are lying in Russian fortresses or perishing in the
41: streets of Poland, they are not really dying or suffering alone. We
42: are all with them. I regret especially that I cannot be at your
43: meeting, because I should meet many of our Russian Jews, members of
44: that great race which has given Europe its religion and to the world
45: some of its sons. As a South African, it is a matter of pride and joy
46: that we have been able to give refuge and to accept among our citizens
47: many whom oppression drove from their birthland. If the great struggle
48: of our fellows in Russia tends only to diminish their sufferings there,
49: it will now have been in vain. I believe that in this movement in
50: Russia we are witnessing the beginning of the greatest event that has
51: taken place in the history of humanity during the last centuries.
This open letter was written as an address to a meeting organised by the Cape Town branch of the Social Democratic Federation, held in the Good Hope Hall on Sunday 5 February 1905 in order 'to express sympathy with the struggle of the Russian people for complete representative institutions and full responsible government, and to open a fund for the relief of the sufferers'. An audience of around 2000 people was present. Schreiner's letter was read aloud and a speech made by the Rev Balmford, who also moved a resolution condemning the Russian government for its massacre of peaceful protestors on 22 January 1905. The letter was subsequently published in the South African News
on 6 February 1905 (p.3, col 3), from which this transcription has been derived.
Copyright transcription: © Olive Schreiner Letters Project. This transcription can be freely used as long as copyright is acknowledged and it is referenced using the following citation: ‘Olive Schreiner to South African News, 18 October 1909, , Olive Schreiner Letters Project transcription’. Please also supply letter line numbers for specific quotations.
1: One quality has always for me made J.H. Hofmeyr a great man. His
2: ability, his energy and his tact were enormous; but these qualities
3: alone could not, and did not, give him greatness. His greatness lay in
4: this, that he was a man who never put the tinsel and show of things
5: before the substance. With his vast ability and under the conditions
6: of South African life, he might have been a man of gigantic wealth;
7: there was no post or honour or decoration which he might not have
8: obtained; no external show of power which he might not have grasped.
9: Jan Hofmeyr walked quietly past all these things, and concentrated
10: himself upon his work. His work was Jan Hofmeyr!
12: Therefore, I think, whether they have agreed or not with his policy
13: and aims, there is no man or women who has studied his life, who was
14: not able to feel when the news of his death reached us yesterday, that
15: a great South African had gone to rest.
17: In a world where men and women are running restlessly hither and
18: thither after paper crowns and tinsel robes, so thin that the wind
19: blows holes through them, the element of true greatness in the life of
20: the man who is gone, is one we cannot afford to forget.
22: I am inclined to think that his loss at the present moment to both the
23: English and Dutch-speaking inhabitants of the Cape Colony is almost
This extract from a letter, which Olive Schreiner had either sent to the South African News
or which was solicited by its editor, was published with other statements from a range of people following the mid October 1909 death of 'Onze Jan' Hofmeyr.
Copyright transcription: © Olive Schreiner Letters Project. This transcription can be freely used as long as copyright is acknowledged and it is referenced using the following citation: ‘Olive Schreiner to The Editor, The Standard, 4 January 1887, , Olive Schreiner Letters Project transcription’. Please also supply letter line numbers for specific quotations.
1: THE POLICE AND THE PUBLIC
2: TO THE EDITOR OF THE STANDARD
4: Sir, -
6: A short time back the remark was made in my presence, that in London
7: no Englishwoman was safe from the hands of the Police. I regarded this
8: statement with the cool scorn with we are apt to regard remarks that
9: we consider uncritical. A few miserable and forlorn women, without
10: money or friends, might suffer; but the mass of Englishwomen armed
11: with friends and intellectual power, were safe from insult. There is a
12: delightful philosophic calm with which from one’s study fireside we
13: survey the wrongs of our fellows.
15: Before setting down the facts which I wish to make public it may be
16: necessary to state, to avoid misconception, that I am a writer, that I
17: have taken an interest in the raising of the protected age in girls,
18: and that my name will be found among the two hundred Englishwomen who
19: signed the recently published letter on that subject.
21: On a recent Sunday I spent the evening with a friend whose husband is
22: a well-known medical man at the West-end. On leaving, a friend, a
23: well-known physician, connected with one of our large hospitals
24: offered to accompany me home. The square in which I live is a large
25: and quiet one, well-lighted, and closed at one end by a convent. The
26: cabman drew up at the wrong door. Alighting, we walked slowly up and
27: down for a few moments, continuing the discussion we had begun. A
28: policedman passed us and said “Good evening,” in rather an insulting
29: manner. He then turned round shortly, and said, “What’s going on here,
30: what are you up to here; I won’t have this; what are you doing here?”
31: (I believe the words are quite accurate.) My friend said that the
32: house before which we stood was the one in which I lived. The
33: policeman said he did not believe it – “what was I doing out at that
34: time of night,” &c, and he threatened to ring the bell. We said that
35: he might do so, my friend remarking, with self-restrained politeness,
36: that he was astonished at an interference with persons who were in no
37: way breaking the public peace. The policeman continuing his insults,
38: my friend gave him his card. He then said, “I’ve nothing to do with
39: you, Sir; I don’t want to interfere with you; it’s her want.” After a
40: time he rang the bell very lightly. We moved on a few steps. He said
41: to me, “You’d better stand still, or I’ll walk you off to the station.
42: ” I then asked my friend for his pencil and a piece of paper that I
43: might take the man’s number. “Want my number, do you, I’ll take yer
44: off to the station,” he said, and added something about keeping his
45: eye on me. He then came down the steps, and said, in a skulking kind
46: of whisper, that if I would tell him my name he would go away. It was
47: evident that he wanted money. I told told him to ring the front door
48: bell again loudly, that it would be answered, and that he would learn
49: my name. He touched the knocker lightly, and someone who was expecting
50: me opened the door. We asked him if he were satisfied, and he slunk
51: down the steps with the look of unsatisfied greed.
53: That anyone thinks it a matter of importance that individuals well
54: able to defend themselves should be insulted would be an entire
55: mistake. But there are in London some hundred thousand women who are
56: unable to defend themselves against the hands of the police.
58: I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
60: January 4.
Schreiner wrote two drafts of this letter, for which see HRC/OliveSchreinerLetters/OS-DailyNews/1 and HRC/OliveSchreinerLetters/OS-DailyNews/2. A reply following publication of Schreiner’s letter appeared in the newspaper the following day, as follows:
THE POLICE AND THE PUBLIC
TO THE EDITOR OF THE STANDARD
Sir, - I venture to suggest with all courtesy, and with deep respect for the good work done by your Correspondent “O.S.” on behalf of women, that both she and her companion acted very unwisely on the Sunday evening to which her letter in The Standard
of to-day refers.
Her original opinion of the generally proper and courteous behaviour of the Metropolitan Police is better founded than her later impression. The folly or misconduct of an individual constable ought not to condemn the whole of our Police Force.
But, besides this, your Correspondent and her friend acted without good judgement. There should on their part have been no argument or wrangling with the foolish constable. They should have taken his number, and reported the circumstances the next day to the Superintendent, whose interest, indeed, in the quiet sensible and polite conduct of each of his men is of the utmost importance to him – his own character at Scotland-yard depends much on this.
I think that “O.S.,” and most especially the “well-known physician” who escorted her, have behaved unfairly to the Superintendent and the public, and, looking at all her story, I must confess that it impresses me with the belief that enthusiastic action and warm feelings about the defence of women have rather blinded your Correspondent to the fact that men also, especially in official positions, deserve consideration.
I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
Wednesday 6 January page 2, col 2)
This response from ‘B’ then produced a second public letter from Schreiner, for which see The Standard / Saturday 9 January 1887, page 5.
Copyright transcription: © Olive Schreiner Letters Project. This transcription can be freely used as long as copyright is acknowledged and it is referenced using the following citation: ‘Olive Schreiner to The Editor, The Standard, 6 January 1887, , Olive Schreiner Letters Project transcription’. Please also supply letter line numbers for specific quotations.
1: THE POLICE AND THE PUBLIC
2: TO THE EDITOR OF THE STANDARD
4: Sir, -
6: In reply to the courteous letter of your Correspondent “B.,” I would
7: note two points.
9: He inquires why, instead of making the matter public, the facts were
10: not privately reported to the Inspector. I would answer that it was my
11: desire to make the matter as little as possible a personal one. Had I
12: done as he suggests, the probability is that the man would have been
13: dismissed, and nothing further would have been heard on the matter by
14: the public. I should much regret that any individual should suffer for
15: an insult offered to myself; and if this case were an isolated one it
16: might most suitably be allowed to drop. But it appeared possible that
17: it was not so.
19: The important point in the case is this: Of two individuals alighting
20: from a cab and pursuing an exactly similar course of action, the older,
21: stronger, and apparently more responsible was treated with a
22: deference which might be well described as reverential; the smaller,
23: weaker, and apparently more helpless with a brutality which it would
24: not be very easy to transfer to paper. The suggestion then arises – in
25: those cases in which the stronger members of our community come into
26: relationship with the most helpless class, does something of the same
27: kind never occur? Is there no trembling in the cool, evenly-balanced
28: hand of the law? Is the woman never taken and the man left? This
29: appeared to me to be a question to be put to the general public, and
30: not to the Police Inspectors.
32: Your Correspondent suggests that “enthusiastic action and a warm
33: feeling about the defence of women” have blinded the writer of the
34: letter. What my personal views are appears of no importance. To woman
35: as woman I am indifferent. The line which divides humanity into two
36: parts is not the line of sex; but that which divides the strong from
37: the weak. In feeling and sympathy I am a man.
39: I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
40: Olive Schreiner
41: January 6.
This letter was the second of two Schreiner send to the Standard
. For the first letter and the reply to it by ‘B’, see The Standard / 5 January 1887, page 5, col 6.