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.
|Letter Reference||The Standard / 5 January 1887, page 5, col 6
|Letter Date||4 January 1887
|Who To||The Editor, The Standard
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.