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|Letter Reference||Olive Schreiner BC16/Box4/Fold4/1911/19
|Archive||University of Cape Town, Manuscripts & Archives, Cape Town
|Letter Date||2 May 1911
|Address From||De Aar, Northern Cape
|Who To||William Philip ('Will') Schreiner
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 William Philip ('Will') Schreiner, 2 May 1911, UCT Manuscripts & Archives, Olive Schreiner Letters Project transcription’. Please also supply letter line numbers for specific quotations.
The Project is grateful to Manuscripts and Archives, University of Cape Town, for kindly allowing us to transcribe this Olive Schreiner letter, which is part of its Manuscripts and Archives Collections.
May 2nd 1911
I certainly think it would be most unwise to start a branch of the A.P.
8: society here. Under that name it could but do harm. There is so much
9: in a name – a new society called, for instance, just simply "The
10: Peoples Defense League, or B better still the "Peoples League"
11: standing for a society in which the few people in South Africa who
12: take a liberal view of the native question might band themselves
13: together & so increase their strength, would be a good thing. I have
14: often in my mind worked out the details of such a little society. But
15: to connect it with Exeter Hall" or any organization would be fatal. I
16: should not be a propaganda society at all ^i.e. Its aim should not be
17: to increase its numbers^ The great endeavour should be to keep the
18: people out of it who were not entirely to be trusted, it should be of
19: the nature of a small select committee of the leading persons in South
20: Africa deeply interested in the development of the native races After
21: the society was once started ^new^ members should be balloted for; one,
22: or two or three black balls at most, to exclude. That is the kind of
23: society I should like to start for dealing with the woman’s
24: questions. A society which according to its carefully drawn up
25: principles, which each member would have to subscribe, would be in
26: favour of the doing away of ^with^ all the artificial restriction of sex,
27: & which would seek the good of all women quite irrespective of race
28: or creed. Its purpose would be to bring into touch with each other
29: those of us who are in sympathy for the strengthening ^of^ each other &
30: the making of plans of action.
I have great belief in the power of small, united intelligent bodies,
33: all the members entirely in sympathy with one another. I have not
34: heard of that niece of Sir Charles Dilks & her work till you mentioned
Strangely enough, I am one of the persons, perhaps the only person,
38: who would remove all that stain in its darker quantities which rests
39: on this ^his^ memory. I knew & was thrown much against my will much into
40: the society of that terrible woman Mrs Crawford ^at the time of his
41: trouble^. But the tragedy of life is, that continually where you could
42: set wrong & injustice right your hands are ^continually^ tied by that
43: deep spirited law from which one cannot escape, that what you have
44: learnt privately – though not in confidence – you cannot use
45: publicly; especially when it would crush an already out cast woman.
46: You may take it from me that Dilk was a deeply wronged & lied against
47: – that he was the victim of a plot. I do not say he was a pure or
48: ideal man in sexual matters – he was far from it – but, he was the
49: victim of a cold, blooded, & deliberate plot. I could tell you about
50: it if we were speaking but it would take too long to write.
No dear I can’t go to Europe. Sometimes when the horror comes over
53: me at the thought of the next summer that has to be lived through in
54: Africa, with the complete mental & physical prostration the heat
55: brings for me, I have a feeling I must leave next November to return
56: at the end of May & spend the winter in my old haunts in Italy & the
57: Riviera where I am always so well, writing ^& trying to get on with my book^.
58: But I know when the time comes I won’t leave Cron. No man can
59: understand the feeling a woman has to the man she marries. He is her
60: little child. She can’t leave him, unless he wishes it ^& its for his
61: own good!^ You may say ‘But you have to leave de Aar for three or
62: even four months every summer, why not for six & go to Europe. But I
63: can’t; he might be ill; he might get into trouble. I should feel
64: like a captain who forsook his ship. If I am here, if he needed me I
65: could come at any moment. There is also of course the question of the
66: heat in the tropics – but if it made an end of me I should not mind
67: at all – the problem of life would be over.
I long much to see Ursula & Oliver before they go, & for Dot whom
70: I’ve not seen for so long; & I may, just possibly, come down for a
71: few days ^early^ in June if I feel I’m not able to write. If I feel I
72: should be able to work I can’t waste a bit of the cold weather which
73: is all the life I have! I would like so to finish one of my novels
74: before I die; I know quite well I never shall, but I have to go on
75: after the hope, like the donkey after the bundle of carrots – though
76: he knows he’ll never reach it.
I hope you are going to Neuheim again.
Good bye, dear.