"Downward movement of England, of South Africa, downtrodden millions" Read the full letter
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Letter ReferenceJohn X. Merriman MSC 15/1912:207
ArchiveNational Library of South Africa, Special Collections, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter DateSunday 1912
Address FromDe Aar, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToJohn X. Merriman
Other Versions
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. This letter has been dated by reference to its location in the archive sequence.
1 De Aar
2 Sunday night
3
4 Dear Mr Merriman
5
6 Thank you very much for your letter. The woman question, as you know,
7lies so near to my heart I can't dis-cuss it with any one.
8
9 But I am delighted you should have found matter for interest in my
10little book. What pains me is that in it I have only dealt with a
11small part of a great human question, which cannot be rightly grasped
12unless all its sides be seen.
13
14 I have just been reading the delightful autobiography of my dear old
15friend Sir William Butler. It never sinks to vulgar personal detail, &
16yet through it all beautiful, childlike, genius-ful spirit of the man
17speaks. I had a long letter from him written just three weeks before
18he died. I was going to answer it on the day when I heard of his death.
19 It was a comfort to me to realize that even had I answered it the day
20I got it ^it^ would not have reached him in time.
21
22 Have you read a novel called "The House of Mirth" by Edith Warton? It
23is a curiously interesting book, as being the life of a typical female
24"Parasite," written not with any sermonizing interest, but simply, &
25one might almost say ^unconsciously^ produced, as art. It is a type from
26which one shrinks so strongly, & yet for which one feels so much pity,
27as the out come of unhealthy social conditions.
28
29 I hope you are going to enjoy a long good rest after what seems to
30have been a very trying time of labour. You have done invaluable work
31this session. For me, I see a long 12 or 15 years of ^a^ down hill path
32for this country; when, having learnt some terrible lessons with
33regard to the treatment of our fellows brown or black - such as
34England had in her Boer war only on a much larger scale - the path
35will slowly begin to ascend. I do not see how studying the attitude of
36the majority of white men in this country the most terrible crimes &
37mistakes can be avoided - as you say, one fears to speak lest one
38bring things nearer. When I hear people talk of the absolute necessity
39of an exterminating war with the Basutos & dark races generally
40because they are so rapidly becoming socialized & skilled workmen, &
41if not crushed now will never be crushed; I am always reminded of a
42visit a friend of mine paid to Milner before the Boer war, when he
43stuck his hands on the arms of his chair, & said, "It is now or never!
44They will become too strong for us if we wait!" How often is man's
45"now", God's "never"!!! They talk so much of the far seeingness of
46business men, & "men of the world"; but it seems to me often they are
47the blindest things that walk the earth. Their gaze is fixed with such
48intensity on the bit of earth just under their feet, that they fail to
49see the yawning precipice towards which they are slowly & surely
50moving.
51
52 I hope your health keeps good; & that we have many long years of your
53work still before us.
54
55 Yours sincerely
56 Olive Schreiner
57
Notation
Schreiner?s 'little book' is Woman and Labour. The books referred to are: William Butler (1911) An Autobiography London: Constable; Edith Wharton (1905) The House of Mirth New York: C. Scribner?s Sons.