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Letter ReferenceJohn X. Merriman MSC 15/1906:99
ArchiveNational Library of South Africa, Special Collections, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date13 September 1906
Address FromThe Hotel De Aar, De Aar, 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 The Hotel
2 de Aar
3 Sep 13th 1906.
5 Dear Mr Merriman
7 I have not at present got Bos^well's^ life of Johnson. I had it of
8course but it vanished with most of the rest of my library in
9Johannesburg. We recovered a few books which friends there chanced
10upon some with the name of British officers written over mine, but my
11standard library of the books one always wants by one I am only slowly
12forming again. I have got a beautiful edition of Montaign lately, but
13it never seems to me quite the same thing as my old copy that I had
14read & loved from my girlhood. The American cuttings you sent my
15husband also got: certainly in this country nothing in that line is
16likely to be undertaken at present.
18 Yes, this sitting of Parliament seemed very disheartening; but I never
19felt quite sure in how far it was because I was so ill for the last
20two months that everything seemed to me so dead.
22 I am now staying with my husband at De Aar now, as he has sold the
23Hanover branch of his business & is attending to his branch here. It
24reminds me much of "Poker Flat;" (of course you've read the out-casts
25of Poker Flat?). It makes one cry out in despair amid the sand & dirt
26& tin shanties & rag-houses, & broken degraded humanity "Is there a
27God?" And yet no doubt the old beautiful humanity with its striving
28after the great & beautiful is to be found buried away here too.
30 I am so glad to hear Mrs Merriman is quite fit again. My husband says
31^sends^ greetings. He says I must tell you (this in answer to your ?jest
32 message to him!) that he hopes & believes you will grow more
33socialist ^as^ you grow older!! As for me I am an an individualist
34socialist. I back much that is called socialism because it alone gives
35the individual a chance of developing freely on individualist lines.
37 I am now reading for the fourth or fifth time "Amiel's Journal" the
38only thing I could find in this dusty sad little Railway Institute
39which takes the place of a library here. Writing I'm doing nothing at.
40I mended a bit at Matjesfontein, but the the heat & height are too
41great up here to allow of ones lying down at night, & the perpetual
42perpendicular does not comport with working ones brain much. Perhaps
43it will rain here & then all things will mend.
45 Yours very sincerely
46 Olive Schreiner
48 Have you got a vote in the election of members in the governing body
49of the Cape University, (I don't know what its called) but my friend
50Mrs Brown writes me there is a vacancy, & my dear old friend Dr Brown
51would like to get it. He's a splendid old fellow with no end of
52degrees & a member of the Cape University. He has to settle down
53quietly at Rondebosch instead of travelling about the world because
54his wifes ill health makes it necessary; & with his splendid health &
55vigour, he finds I fancy time rather heavy on his hands & would like
56more outlets in the direction of public work. If you think he would be
57as good as another man I would be so glad if you
59^could back him. He is a splendid old fellow. One has to know him as I
60have done ever since I was a girl of 16 to know how good & noble he is.^
The books referred to are: James Boswell (1901) The Life of Samuel Johnson London: J.M. Dent; Bret Harte (1899) 'The Outcasts of Poker Flat' in Bret Harte’s Gold Rush (1996) New York: Heyday Books; Michel de Montaigne (1866) Essays London: Sampson Low; Henri Frederic Amiel (1889) Amiel’s Journal: The Journal in Time of Henri-Frederic Amiel London: Macmillan.