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Letter ReferenceJohn X. Merriman MSC 15/1906:12
ArchiveNational Library of South Africa, Special Collections, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date10 January 1906
Address FromHanover, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToJohn X. Merriman
Other Versions
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.
1 Hanover
2 Jan 10th 1906
4 Dear Mr Merriman
6 I had planned to spend the 2nd at Stellenbosch & some friends had
7promised to drive me out to Schoongezigt in the afternoon. But the
8damp weather prevented my coming, so that that pleasure was impossible.
10 Thinking you had not got hold of a copy of "The Souls of Black" folks"
11I told my sister when she had finished reading it to send it on to you.
12 In case she should have done so, would you please had hand it on to
13Mrs Sauer some time when you are visiting Uitkÿk.
15 I am just finishing one of the most lovely & delightful books I have
16read for a long time, "Kokoro" by Lefcadio Hearn Have you read it? If
17not I think you will enjoy it. Of course you know he was a European
18who married a Japanese woman & lived so long among the Japanese that
19he is able to give us a partial insight into their inner life which
20would be possible for no ^ordinary^ European It makes me more sure than
21ever that I myself am only a little Jap who got born by mistake into a
22Western body!
24 Yes, I have felt deeply concerned on the Chinese question. It has
25absorbed my thoughts more than any other matter but the condition of
26affairs in Russia for a long time But my chief concern is as to our
27national responsibility towards those forty or fifty thousand men. In
28how far have those men ever understood the conditions of life & labour
29they were to exist under here before they came? In how far is their
30treatment in South Africa consonant with that universal freedom &
31justice which should form the only matter for pride to an enlightened
32people at the beginning of the 20th century?
34 I take it as axiomatic, that, no free democratic people can introduce
35into is social organizes a vast body of humans deprived of freedom &
36the common rights accorded to other men without producing the most
37serious & ?de even deadly disease in that organization,
38dis-co-ordinating all its lines of growth. It seems to me almost
39impossible to over estimate the many ways in which the introduction of
40the Chinese under the existing conditions must injure our social &
41moral growth as a community, & this entirely without supposing them to
42be worse than other folk. I do not think the good missionaries we
43force into China at at all worse than the average Chinaman, but he is
44the source of no end injustice, wrong & social suffering which forced
45artificially into the midst of a social organization which has no
46place or need for him!
48 Yes I entirely agree with you that the more things in general are left
49to themselves just now ^in South Africa^ & the slower they move the
50healthier & sounder will be our growth as a nation. This is not a
51country which can be safely hurried. The Chinese is perhaps the only
52question calling for immediate action, though many others larger &
53even more vital call for deep persistent thought. Good friends from
54England understand South Africa so little they are always urging one
55one on to write & speak not understanding that this is our time for
56silence. When you have planted seed you can do nothing but harm by at
57once beginning to hoe & rake over it. You must give it time to lie
58still & germinate.
60 With fondest regards from us both
62 Yours very sincerely
63 Olive Schreiner
The books referred to are: W.E.B. Du Bois (1903) The Souls of Black Folks Chicago: A.C. McClurg; Lefcadio Hearn (1895) Kokoro: Hints and Echoes of Japanese Inner Life London: Gay & Bird.