"Thrown away 10 years of my life to prevent inevitable" Read the full letter
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Letter ReferenceSmuts A1/186/86
ArchiveNational Archives Repository, Pretoria
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date18 August 1899
Address From2 Primrose Terrace, Berea, Johannesburg, Transvaal
Address To
Who ToIsie Smuts nee Krige
Other VersionsRive 1987: 373-4
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
Legend
The Project is grateful to the National Archives Repository, Pretoria, for kindly allowing us to transcribe this Olive Schreiner letter, which is part of its Special Collections. The date has been written on this letter in an unknown hand. Schreiner was resident in Johannesburg from December 1898 to late August 1899.
1 Dear Mrs Smuts
2
3 I was so sorry I couldn’t come to see you, as ^I wanted,^ but I was
4ill the day I was in Pretoria. I think I shall try going for a week to
5Bloemfontein next week, as ^the Doctor says I must go.^ I don’t think
6there can be war now; Chamberlain cannot be so absolutely mad. The
7mass of the English people are certainly strongly against it, but they
8don’t make themselves felt as they should. I have got scores of
9letters like the enclosed from every part of England & Ireland. But
10somehow I have a feeling that whether we fight or don’t things will
11come right: only we mustn’t give up too much: there are worse things
12than fighting even.
13
14 Much love to you.
15
16 Olive Schreiner
17
18 ^This is a letter from my dear friend Miss Greene who came over with me.
19 There are many English people who feel as strongly as she does, ^^but
20the scoundrels are in power! It is hard not to wish Chamberlain would die.^^
21She was so delighted with the portrait of old President Kruger & his wife.^
22
Notation
Schreiner was resident in Johannesburg from December 1898 to late August 1899. Schreiner’s final insertion is written on an enclosed letter dated 1 August 1899 from Alice Greene, who writes that:

'I am writing in pencil because I am sitting in the shade on the lawn. It is so fiercely hot that I could bear the house no longer. It is still hotter out here, but at any rate it is out, & therefore more endurable. Yesterday I received the beautiful photograph from you of the old President & his wife. I almost cried for joy – it seems to me so very beautiful. I like it better even than yours, because there there were the weak & evil faces cringing behind, & here there is nothing but a noble strength & calm. I do not know when I have been more touched & stirred than by those two old figures. It makes me cry now to think of them, & to think of all the wild beasts howling & slinking round them. I do not know how to thank you enough for the photograph. I ought to have written to you before this but public affairs seem to me so bad & sad that I am getting quite bad & sad too, & then it is not fair to write to you away in that wicked city. Chamberlain makes one feel perfectly murderous. I never knew an Englishman could be so contemptibly ungenerous & unfair. To turn upon the Transvaal now after all they have conceded seems so horribly mean that I wonder the whole world does not cry shame upon the English government. Instead of that the colonies offer to send help. I sometimes wonder if the world is mad or if I am mad. At any rate England does not seem the same England I used to know, & one’s whole being seems turned topsy turvy. I wish you could send a grain of comfort. But I know that is impossible now you live in Johannesburg…'.

Rive’s (1987) version omits part of this letter and is also in a number of respects incorrect.