"Heart dying up last 5 or 6 years, 'Soul of a People' like rain falling on dry parched soil" Read the full letter
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Letter ReferenceJohn X. Merriman MSC 15/71/4/7
ArchiveNational Library of South Africa, Special Collections, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter DateSunday June 1896
Address FromThe Homestead, Kimberley, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToJohn X. Merriman
Other VersionsRive 1987: 283-4
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. This letter has been dated by reference to content. Schreiner was resident in Kimberley from early August 1894 to November 1898, with visits, sometimes lengthy, elsewhere over this period.
1 Sunday morning
3 Dear Mr Merriman
5 Thank you for your. There are a dozen things in it that I want to
6refer to. To-day I shall only answer it by sending you a bit of my
7next article, the one that I have just sent off to England & which is
8to appear in August in the Fortnightly. Please return it to me as its
9the only corrected copy I have & I have to copy it for the Diggers News
10& other news papers. It will show you what I feel for about our
13 What you say Mr Scott told you interests me more than you can perhaps
14understand as it bears on the theory of development of sex relations,
15which I have been working at for many years. N In such a state of
16absolutely primitive social organization as that of the Bushman there
17can of course be no slavery of the female or organized polygamy (which
18is much the same thing!) But, I was inclined to believe that that
19though woman's subjection was only accomplished when the next stage
20was entered on, & was largely connected, though not always, with the
21introduction of agricultural labour; that, ^in the primitive stage^
22though sex relations were equal & the ^woman^ free, they ought must be
23of a temporary nature! Would it be possible to get that Mr Scott to
24write what he knows, & to give his exact grounds for forming his
25opinion? It would be very valuable. There can be no real affection &
26organic mental union between the male & female except in a monogamic
27condition; &, unreadable where ^human^ females are free there never will
28be a pob polygamous condition; (though there may in very exceptional
29cases be polyandry): but I have been inclined inclined to think this
30was generally the line of human progress.
33Primitive state a loose monogamy, in which one female mated with one
34male, perhaps only for a short time.

38Savage State - From which modern societies are only beginning
40The boy is waiting to fetch for the letters. I will finish another day
41- but I am anxious you should see what I have said of the Bushman.
43 Yours faithfully
44 Olive Schreiner
46 ^Please do not show the MS I send to any one, & return it when done with.^
Schreiner's 'The problem of slavery' appeared in the Fortnightly Review in August 1896 as part of an extended publication on "The Boer". See: "Prefatory note: Stray Thoughts on South Africa" Fortnightly Review April 1896, vol 59, pp.510; "Stray Thoughts on South Africa: The Boer" Fortnightly Review April 1896, vol 59, pp.510-540; "Stray Thoughts on South Africa: The Boer (Continued from April Number.)" Fortnightly Review July 1896, vol 60, pp.1-35; and "Stray Thoughts on South Africa: The Boer (Continued from July Number.)" Fortnightly Review August 1896, vol 60, pp.225-256. Together with a number of essays originally published pseudonymously from 1891 on as by 'A Returned South African', it was intended for publication in book form as "Stray Thoughts on South Africa". However, although prepared for publication, a dispute with a US publisher and the events of the South African War (1899-1902) prevented this. They and some related essays were posthumously published as Thoughts on South Africa. This composite article on "The Boer", however, contains more than the present essay of that title in Thoughts on South Africa. Rive's (1987) version omits part of this letter and is also in a number of respects incorrect.