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South Africa & Its ‘Moments’

The collection of letters on ‘South Africa and Its ‘Moments’’ includes Olive Schreiner experiencing some very powerful reactions to the grandeur and stark beauty of the South African landscape, including her joy regarding its sun, sea, sky and mountains. They also include momentous and epiphanous ‘moments’ marking her thinking and around which her understanding of South African society developed.

These letters include Schreiner’s encounter with an elderly prophetic African woman pronouncing on the oppressed condition of women, her involvement in delivering an outcast African woman’s baby, her visit to the farm of a young Boer man dying of heart disease, her remembrance of the death of her younger sister Ellie and powerful feelings about the meaning of Ellie’s life, Schreiner’s sorrowful anger that a ‘half daft’ man who lived in the rocks behind her house had been imprisoned while she was away and had died, her travels by ox-wagon, her descriptions of train journeys with food and pillows, her attachment to her kaross and calabash, her momentous reading of Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk, and more.

 

To: Edward Carpenter, 15 February 1890: Edward Carpenter 359/47
Sunday morning , Beautiful blue sky. Mountains twirling up into it. , Feb 15 / 90 , Dear Edward, I have just come back from t...
[The convict station, the beautiful blue sky]
To: Edward Carpenter, 19 April 1890: Edward Carpenter 359/49
Matjesfontein , A wild place in the Karroo , 200 miles from Cape Town. , Hour; 10 at night. , Sky; dark: mixed stars & da...
[Matjesfontein, wild place in Karoo, planned visit to interior]
To: Frances ('Fan') Schreiner nee Reitz, 3 June 1890: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box1/Fold1/1890/3
Matjesfontein, June 3 / 90, My dear Fan,, I have been sitting up all night with a man who is dying of consumption & that ...
[Man dying of consumption, the Gardens in Cape Town]
To: Edward Carpenter, 25 December 1892: Edward Carpenter 359/59
Xmas day, 1892, Dear Ed , I want to write to you this day. It’s so nice here. I’m staying at the old farm where I...
[Ganna Hoek, wild place, where I wrote SAF]
To: William Philip ('Will') Schreiner, 27 October 1893: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box1/Fold2/1893/5
Friday, Dear Laddie, I’m much better. It seems too good to be true that perhaps I shall see you here. If I could go on ...
[Krantz Plaats, Will Schreiner would be a fine Governor]
To: Rebecca Schreiner nee Lyndall, 27 February 1894: Schreiner-Hemming Family BC 1080 A1.7/28
Krantz Plaatz, Feb. 27. 1894, My own little Mother. I’ve not had time before to tell you about our quiet little wedding...
[The wedding, life on Krantz Plaats, counting goats, plucking ostriches]
To: Robert Franklin ('Bob') Muirhead, 28 March 1895: MacFarlane-Muirhead/10
The Homestead, March 28 / 95. , Kimberley, South Africa, Dear Bob,, I enclose a letter which I’ve just cut from a paper...
[For five years I was a governess, rough life]
To: William Philip ('Will') Schreiner, 20 April 1895: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box1/Fold2/1895/1
The Homestead , April 1920 / 95, Dear Laddie, I am specially anxious that a letter should reach Seymour Fort the day he arriv...
[Will Schreiner chief justice, Cronwright a ruler over his servants]
To: William Thomas Stead, January 1896: T120 (M722): W.T. Stead Papers/48- pages 190-191
Address Homestead, Kimberley, Dear Friend, Thankyou for your note. If you want to make up your mind with regard to Colonial a...
[Now is the time to act, here one has to speak Cape Dutch to understand things]
To: Sir George Grey, 4 February 1897: GL S10 (Olive Schreiner to Sir George Grey 4 Feb 1897)
New College Junior School,, Eastbourne., Feb 4 / 97, Dear Sir George Grey, Thank you much for the words of sympathy with my l...
[Held by Grey when a baby ]
To: Betty Molteno, 14 June 1897: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box1/Fold4/1897/13
Monday morning, Dear Friend, I enclose you that amusing letter from the clergyman. It’s was so good to see you. Cron &...
[Loneliness of South African life]
To: Henrietta (‘Ettie’) Schreiner m. Stakesby Lewis (1891), September 1897: Schreiner-Hemming Family BC 1080 A1.7/184
Do you remember that dear old fr half daft nigger who used to be here, Jolie? He was always so good & did little jobs for...
[Dear old half daft 'nigger' on rocks behind house]
To: Betty Molteno, 31 March 1898: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box1/Fold5/1898/6
Dear Friend, Your wire adds to my disappointment. I did, & do long so for the Kowie, & the big waves, & the sand....
[The Kowie, wants to see Amajuba & Doornkop]
To: William Philip ('Will') Schreiner, 22 June 1898: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box1/Fold5/1898/11
Monday morning , Dear Laddie, I expect when this reaches you we shall know the worst. The only thing that gives me a ray of h...
[Jameson Raid trial, Doornkop]
To: Betty Molteno, 3 April 1899: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box2/Fold1/Jan-June1899/12
We went to hear old Kruger in the square yesterday: we got good places, just in front of him. I wished so you & Miss Gree...
[Old Kruger]
To: William Philip ('Will') Schreiner, 2 June 1899: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box2/Fold1/Jan-June1899/27
2 Primrose Terrace, Berea Estate, Johannesburg, June 2nd 1899, Dear Laddie, Your wire was one of the most valued of the thing...
[Uitlanders, Doornkop monument, Slachters Nek]
To: William Philip ('Will') Schreiner, 11 June 1899: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box2/Fold1/Jan-June1899/32
Box 406, Johannesburg, June 11, Dear old Laddie, We went over to Pretoria on Saturday at Esselins invitation & spent Satu...
[Everyone thinks so slowly]
To: Betty Molteno and Alice Greene, 6 July 1899: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box2/Fold2/July-Dec1899/3
The City of Dreadful Night, Thursday morning, My dear Friends, I was so anxious all night about Miss Greene though I couldn’...
[City of dreadful night; cut throats, head attack on man comes to OS's back door]
To: Betty Molteno, 26 September 1900: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box2/Fold3/1900/51
Wednesday, Another lovely day has come to an end. Life is a delight in such a delightful climate as this, one feels as if one...
[Big sky, South Africans born to be free]
To: Anna Purcell nee Cambier Faure, 29 March 1902: Olive Schreiner: Anna Purcell MSC 26/2.9.1
[page/s missing], 2, in I find him pocking about the room with a candle; I asked him what he was looking for. He said he was ...
[Snake in the room, death of Rhodes, 'might have been']
To: Edward Carpenter, 5 January 1903: Edward Carpenter 359/86
Hanover, Jan 5 / 03 , Dear old Ed,, A good new year to you all, especially Mat & his wife. Cron is going down to Cape Tow...
[South Africa Party 'The Soul of a People']
To: Alice Greene, 31 March 1903: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box3/Fold2/1903/5
Hanover, March 31 / 03, Dear Friend, Thank you so much for your letter telling me of the dear little boy’s death. You k...
[Kaffir woman expounding on why God made woman]
To: Betty Molteno, 1904: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box11/Fold2/Undated/12
[page/s missing], 2, I don’t know if you would feel it as I do but I fear you will find the people here very depressing...
[Hanover, mentally small suffocating upcountry South African town, the social sky is small]
To: Frances ('Fan') Schreiner nee Reitz, 4 January 1904: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box3/Fold3/1904/1
Hanover, Jan 4 / 04, Dearest Fan, I am back again & Hanover & Cron left last night on his six weeks tour. I have no o...
['Songs of the Veld']
To: Frances ('Fan') Schreiner nee Reitz, 10 June 1904: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box3/Fold3/1904/14
Hanover, June 10 / 04, Dear Fan, I took your cloak down to the station to give to Ettie who said she would be there, & wo...
[The cold, the weather, escaping Hanover = heaven]
To: Edward Carpenter, 17 June 1904: Olive Schreiner: Edward Carpenter SMD 30/32/c
Hanover, June 17 / 04, Dear old Edward, Some friends have asked me to come to England & they say you wanted me to come to...
[Little quiet Boer woman on hearing 'peace' threw arms round me, moral disintegration]
To: Betty Molteno, 23 July 1904: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box3/Fold3/1904/29
Dear Friend,, I’m so glad it has been such a good time with your brother, & I’m so thankful you are keeping w...
[The sordid fight between parson & congregation; the terrible blow regarding Cronwright]
To: William Philip ('Will') Schreiner, 27 August 1904: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box3/Fold3/1904/41
Bedford , Saturday morning, Darling Will, We got here at dawn this morning. Ettie has been writing fully to you so I need not...
[Exhuming Gottlob Schreiner]
To: Alice Greene, 14 October 1904: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box3/Fold3/1904/50
Hanover, October 14th 1904, Dear Friend, You will have wondered that I did not write before but I have not been well. You are...
[Meerkat attack on predikant ]
To: Betty Molteno, 24 November 1904: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box3/Fold3/1904/54
Hanover, Nov 24 / 04, My darling Friend, You seem to be always with me sometimes almost present to me. I hope you are feeling...
[No one not born in South Africa, the climate affects us]
To: Betty Molteno, 7 December 1904: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box3/Fold3/1904/55
Hanover, Wednesday night, My dear Friend, My heart goes out with such a longing towards you tonight that though I’m ver...
[Kruger funeral, kaffir boy]
To: Alice Greene, 24 December 1904: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box3/Fold3/1904/57
Hanover, Xmas Eve, Dear Friend, I am sitting here in my little study again. The time at Pretoria was splendid. No accounts of...
[Kruger funeral, Malan & commandos]
To: Betty Molteno, 1 August 1905: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box3/Fold4/1905/28
Hanover, Aug 1st 1905, My darling Friend, It was a disappointment after your lovely time in Devonshire to hear you were ill a...
[SOS cuts herself off from South African life & the Afrikanders]
To: Isie Smuts nee Krige, 25 August 1905: Smuts A1/188/74
Hanover, C.C., Aug 25 / 05, Dear Isie, Thank you very much for your letter. I do hope the little daughters are quite better. ...
[Malan ttrek, the wild koppies, owls & hares, the dear old veld]
To: Robert Franklin ('Bob') Muirhead, 8 May 1906: MacFarlane-Muirhead/18
Cronwright-Schreiner & Meyer , Law and Estate Agents. , Auctioneers, &c, Hanover and De Aar , Cronwright-Schreiner, L...
[De Aar description, a strange life]
To: William Philip ('Will') Schreiner, 14 October 1906: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box3/Fold5/1906/24
Hotel Milner, Matjesfontein, Oct 14th 1906, Dear old Boy, I know you will be glad to hear I am getting on so finely here –...
[Little degrading upcountry place, but at least the train comes]
To: Caroline Murray nee Molteno, 30 October 1906: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box3/Fold5/1906/26
Hotel Milner, Matjesfontein, Oct 30th 1906, Dear Mrs Murray, I have been meaning to write to you ever since I came here, but ...
[Soouth Africa a fine great bare kitchen to work in]
To: Robert Franklin ('Bob') Muirhead, 22 January 1907: MacFarlane-Muirhead/19
Hanover , Jan 22nd 1907, Dear Bob, I’m often wishing I had news of you all. How goes the world with you & the wife ...
[Village pump for water in Hanover, the dinner]
To: Frances (‘Fan’) Schreiner nee Reitz, 14 October 1907: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box3/Fold6/1907/27
de Aar, Oct 14th 1907, My dear Fan, I think your birth day is on the 20th; I know its near & I wish my darling little sis...
[Loaded revolvers & a tragic place]
To: Edward Carpenter, 6 February 1908: Olive Schreiner: Edward Carpenter SMD 30/32/gii
De Aar, Feb 6th 1908, Dear Edward, Months ago I began the enclosed letter. I haven't written because I wanted to go on with i...
[De Aar, life in oppressive South African upcountry towns]
To: Mary Brown nee Solomon, 22 March 1908: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box4/Fold1/1908/14
Matjesfontein, March 22nd 1908, My dear brave, darling,, It has done my heart good to know you were were working on so in spi...
[Man dying of consumption in house behind hotel, mystery of life and death, nothing redeems tragedy of life but love]
To: Caroline Murray nee Molteno, 29 April 1908: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box4/Fold1/1908/23
April 29th 1908 , Dear Mrs Murray, I’ve never really thanked you for your goodness in wanting to have me. But I’m...
[Need healthy sanatoriums]
To: Caroline Murray nee Molteno, 3 October 1908: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box4/Fold1/1908/59
De Aar, Oct 3rd 1908, Dear Mrs Murray, I was so sorry I was able to see so little of you just before j I left. I do hope they...
[Need a wider outlook]
To: Lucy Molteno nee Mitchell, 23 August 1909: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box4/Fold2/1909/43
My dear Lucy Molteno, I have kept your letter for 5 days unanswered hoping against hope I should get better. I’m so unw...
[Sanitoriums]
To: Minnie or Mimmie Murray nee Parkes, 30 August 1909: Olive Schreiner: Mimmie Murray 2001.24/38
De Aar, Aug 30th 1909, My dear Mrs Murray, You will have wondered at my long silence after your kind letter asking me to come...
[Dream of life is large old fashioned tent wagon]
To: Caroline Murray nee Molteno, 1 July 1910: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box11/Fold2/Undated/16
De Aar, My dear Mrs Murray, I am writing to ask a very great favour of you. I would not do so even knowing how willing you al...
[Calabash & kaffir milk]
To: Frederick ('Fred') Pethick-Lawrence, 18 October 1910: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box8/Fold4/MMPr/AssortedCorres/FredPL/18
de Aar , October 18th, 1910, Thank you for your interesting letter. The passage in "Rebel Women" I think so fine is that of t...
[Passage in 'Rebel Women' so fine, like when Kaffir woman poured out anguish of being a woman]
To: Edward Carpenter, 31 January 1911: Edward Carpenter 359/95
Oudeberg, nr. Graaff Reinet , Jan 31st 1911 , Dear Ed , I was glad to get your letter. I don’t know why I’ve had ...
[Oudeberg, these wild solitudes]
To: Minnie or Mimmie Murray nee Parkes, 25 April 1912: Olive Schreiner: Mimmie Murray 2001.24/9
De Aar, April 25th 1912, Dear Friend, Thank you for your letter. You can't think how pretty the children beautiful karross lo...
[Beautiful karross]
To: Frances (‘Fan’) Schreiner nee Reitz, 16 June 1912: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box5/Fold1/1912/27
Sunday afternoon, Dear Fan, I got here about 11 this morning after a very comfortable journey with a carriage quite to myself...
[Tremendous hailstorm]
To: William Philip ('Will') Schreiner, 23 September 1912: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box5/Fold1/1912/45
De Aar, Monday evening, My own old Laddie, This letter will reach you just after you have parted with your boy, & a big b...
[What is wanting in many colonial young men]
To: Ellen Sauerlander, February 1913: Olive Schreiner: Miscellaneous: Ellen Sauerlander MSB 834/3.9.3
Dear Mrs Sauerlander , I shall not need the pudding, & fruit again – but I am going to make myself some sour milk, ...
[Instructions for making sour milk]
To: William Philip ('Will') Schreiner, 25 July 1913: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box5/Fold2/1913/29
Friday morning, Dear Will, Jim Sauer’s body went past this morning at a quarter past two. Oh Will, the tragedy of it th...
[Sauer dead, his body going past, native land bill]
To: William Philip ('Will') Schreiner, November 1913: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box5/Fold2/1913/47
Private, Dear Laddie, I am sorry about the hurried note I wrote you the other day, as it is quite unlikely you will meet Miss...
[Hobhouse's Vrouemonument speech]
To: William Philip ('Will') Schreiner, 12 October 1914: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box5/Fold3/1914/73
The Windsor, 61 & 62 Lancaster Gate, W, My darling Will, I have a strangely interesting letter from Cron which I will sho...
[Oliver one of men to save SA]
To: Betty Molteno, 23 December 1914: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box5/Fold3/1914/91
Address care Standard Bank, Kensington Palace Mansions,, De Vere Gardens, W, My dear dear Friend, How I long to see you., Its...
[Fourie & rebellion]
To: William Philip (Will') Schreiner, 1915: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box11/Fold2/Undated/53
[page/s missing], 2, Kensington Place Mansions & Hotel,, De Vere Gardens, W., Oh, however since that accursed peace of Ve...
[Africa I never knew I loved till now, the blood of its own children]
To: Frances (‘Fan’) Schreiner nee Reitz, February 1915: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box11/Fold3/ToBe/3
Dear Fan,, Again I’ve just missed you. I’ve heard such terrible news today, from three different people, they say...
[Rebellion aftermath]
To: William Philip ('Will') Schreiner, 4 April 1916: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box6/Fold2/1916/20
Alexi , The Park , Hampstead , Tuesday, Dear OM, I’m so glad you’re in the country. I knew you were very unfit, q...
[Dream of Smuts]
To: Betty Molteno, 30 June 1919: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box7/Fold1/Jan-July1919/24
Darling Betty,, We were going to have the funeral on Wednesday, but General Botha & General Smuts & Sir James Innes w...
[Will Schreiner's funeral, Smuts & Botha]
To: Betty Molteno, 10 November 1920: Olive Schreiner BC16/Box7/Fold4/Mar-Dec1920/35
Oak Hall, Tramway Terminus, Wynberg, Sunday, My darling Betty, I got two letters from you from the Standard Bank this week, t...
[The heat, the strike, intensely interesting to live in South Africa just now, will you be able to live in this country]