"Standing by what you write" Read the full letter
Collection Summary | View All |  Arrange By:
< Prev |
Viewing Item
of 397 | Next >
Letter ReferenceJohn X. Merriman MSC 15/1897:57
ArchiveNational Library of South Africa, Special Collections, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date5 December 1897
Address FromThe Homestead, Kimberley, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToJohn X. Merriman
Other VersionsRive 1987: 319-21
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
Legend
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.
1 The Homestead
2 Kimberley
3 Dec 5 / 97
4
5 Dear Mr Merriman
6
7 Yes, we must lose the case & pay costs & damages. But does that or can
8that make any difference? If a man believes a thing that he has said
9to be true, is not the path before him simple & straight, to hold
10simply & & quietly by what he has said & let the law take its course?
11If he had to die for it would he yet have any alternative? I know in
12your heart that you know he has not; & that in your own case you would
13stand to the truth which you had once uttered. In our case it will not
14be a matter of death but only if they give the damages asked for, of
15taking pretty well everything we have in the world, but that makes no
16difference, we shall pay it & be happy. My bitter sorrow is that we
17may strengthen instead of weakening the all crushing hand of de Beers:
18that does pain me nothing else. If it were possible for my husband
19because of the prospect of material loss & suffering to withdraw one
20word which he believed to be true, I could not live with him: but it
21would be as absolutely impossible for him to do so as for any man I
22know.
23
24 It is such a merciful thing that however complex life may be in some
25ways, the right path for a man to follow at any given moment is always
26open right straight ahead of him, & that what its end may be in
27consequences to ourselves does not concern us.
28
29 It always seems to me curious that people think the answer to the
30question "What is truth?" so mysterious & difficult to get at To me it
31seems so simple. Truth for each man is that which intellectually he is
32compelled to believe, whether it deals with religion or science or the
33matters of every day life! And recantation is equally a unreadable
34denial of God, whether it concern a religious dogma or a part of daily
35life. I think one has always or often the right to remain silent, & to
36resent keenly the attempt of anyone who tries to compel you to speak
37when you don't wish to. But if one does speak, it must be the Truth. I
38always feels such sorrow that when Galileo stood before the
39inquisitors he didn't say simply, "The world turns." There is one star
40wanting in the firmament of human life for ever. But one shouldn't be
41too hard in judging another; it's a hard thing to leave the blessed
42light of the sun; & no man knows whether he could do it till he's
43tried.
44
45 I was surprised to find that my dear old brother did understand our
46stand point, though the lawyer in him might think it a bit Quixotic
47You see no law nor quids or quirks can change the simple fact that
48when a man thinks a thing - (It may have been very unwise of him to
49say it) - that when once he has said it, he can never say he doesn't
50believe it. There's no way out.
51
52 I was sorry to see dear old Innes looking so ill. He is having a hard
53fight, & many of the men he has to work with are as false as they can
54be. He is a white soul; though one can't see eye to eye with him.
55
56 De Beers influence has made Cornwall Mayor of Kimberley today.
57
58 Do you know what I always think of when I feel quite hopeless about
59South Africa & the justice of life? - Doornkop! & those simple farmers
60beating in open daylight the troops of Rothschild ^&^ Rhodes! The Lord
61yet reigneth, let the earth rejoice!
62
63 Our case comes on the day after tomorrow.
64
65 Yours sincerely
66 Olive Schreiner
67
68 I am re-reading Bancrofts History of the United States, which I read
69last when I was fourteen. How curiously like our old Boers the
70Virginians were, according to his des-cription of them Their ^great^
71rebellion of 1676 was reminds one curiously of the Trans-vaal war - &
72it was among these people that fifty years later George Washington was
73born!
74
Notation
The book referred to is: George Bancroft (1853) History of the United States From the Discovery of the American Continent London: George Routledge. Rive's (1987) version omits part of this letter and is also in a number of respects incorrect.