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Letter ReferenceSmuts A1/186/74
ArchiveNational Archives Repository, Pretoria
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date8 August 1896
Address FromThe Homestead, Kimberley, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToJan Smuts
Other VersionsRive 1987: 288
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
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. Schreiner was resident in Kimberley from early August 1894 to November 1898, with visits, sometimes extended, elsewhere over this period.
1 Aug 8 / 96
3 Dear Mr Smuts
5 I have been in bed almost the whole month or would long ago have
6written to thank you for your kind letter. I’m glad you liked my
7husbands speech I didn’t like your leader in the Telegraph at all as
8you will have expected: but I like an open enemy (politically) as you
9have always been, & it will give me great pleasure if ever I have the
10chance of meeting you. ^(We can have a political fight!)^ I will
12 I am just starting off for the sea air at the Kowie, which I hope will
13pull me together & fit me for work.
15 Yours very sincerely
16 Olive Schreiner
18 I thought it was perfectly right for you as my political opponent to
19turn my article about as you did; but not quite right ^generous^ of the
20Editor to give it you to write on after what had passed between us. I
21hope you didn’t mistake the distinction!
23 ^I still regard the Telegraph as the best paper in South Africa &
24should do anything I could to aid its circulation. I don’t think one
25should ever allow any personal pains to touch ones impersonal
The leaders in the South African Telegraph at this time are unsigned. However, the leader in its Thursday 2 July (p.4) issue is headed 'THE HALF-CASTE PROBLEM' and says about the third instalment of Schreiner's 'Stray Thoughts on South Arica' being reprinted from the Fortnightly Review in the same issue that '... her voice, if not the wisest that speaks to South Africa today, is certainly the most gifted. ...'. It goes on to comment on the newspaper's earlier reprint of a related instalment providing a 'remarkable delineation of Boer character'. While it disagrees with what she says about the Boers and some of her argument, it twists what she actually wrote in the essay by adding 'we yet endorse most fully and unreservedly her severe judgement on the half-caste, and look upon the intermixture of black and white in South Africa as in every way the darkest spot of our civilization...'. Schreiner's actual argument was the very different one that people of 'mixed race' were shunned by both whites and Africans and were consequently 'de-culturated', adding that this might change over time. As Schreiner elsewhere criticises Smuts for twisting her words, this is certainly the leader she is referring to.

The article being referred to is one of those originally published pseudonymously from 1891 on as by 'A Returned South African', intended for publication in book form as 'Stray Thoughts on South Africa'. However, although prepared for publication, a dispute with a US publisher and the events of the South African War (1899-1902) prevented this. They and some related essays were posthumously published as Thoughts on South Africa. Rive's (1987) version of this letter is in various respects incorrect.