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Letter ReferenceJohn X. Merriman MSC 15/71/4/1
ArchiveNational Library of South Africa, Special Collections, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date5 May 1896
Address FromThe Homestead, Kimberley, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToJohn X. Merriman
Other VersionsRive 1987: 274-5
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
The Project is grateful to the National Library of South Africa (NLSA), Cape Town, 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 May 5 / 96
3 Dear Mr Merriman
5 Thank you for your letter. I should like to answer at length your
6interesting criticisms, but must not to-day. I can only tell you how
7entirely my sympathies will be with you when you bring in your motion
8on the 12th. We who know how colossal is the evil which threatens
9South Africa to-day must stand shoulder to shoulder if we are to break
10its power. It must be a long pull, & a strong pull & a pull all
11together, if we are to succeed. I cannot believe that dear old Innes
12will be found in the other camp ultimately. Try & keep him. He has
13more respect for your judgment than for that of any man in South
14Africa; it will be very ill for the country if you two should be
15divided. I can do nothing in this country, but if I could do any thing
16by writing Home let me know.
18 Whatever comes or does not come I hope we shall see you installed as
19Minister of Public Works in any ministry that may be formed. As ^a^ I
20rule, I hold & have long held, that situated as this country is, the
21best & most advanced men should refuse to take office, & that they
22would serve the country best as a resolute & unpurchasable opposition
23- but circumstances are so exceptionalble now that I should almost say,
24 take the post of Minister of Works at all hazards. We absolutely must
25have a straight, strong man there: this country is rotten.
27 Yours sincerely
28 Olive Schreiner
30 You ask why the Boer is more hide bound than the Basques or Welsh? Do
31you not think that, the difference lies in this fact, that these
32peoples were little complete nations shut up & compressed, as it were,
33^but^ from the ?Baron & the King downwards all parts of the nation were
34there when they were forced back into their valleys & shut up among
35themselves! - the Boers were a section of a nations, not cut down
36vertically & having representatives among them of all classes; but cut
37out horizontally, & representing only the labouring & lower middle
38class! This I think accounts for most of their peculiarities.
39Something analogous gives its very peculiar tone to English Colonial
40life. Yo We are not a section of the English people "cut straight
41down" & transported to South Africa. The highest & the lowest, the
42aristocracy of intellect & culture, & the working-classes are not
43adequately represented here. The dissenting lower middle-class, with
44its peculiar virtues & vices predominates & gives to South African
45English life its very peculiar ^lower middle class tone!^
Rive's (1987) version omits part of this letter and is also in a number of respects incorrect.