"Act now against Rhodes or life-long regret" Read the full letter
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Letter ReferenceJohn X. Merriman MSC 15/71/4/4
ArchiveNational Library of South Africa, Special Collections, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date21 November 1897
Address FromThe Homestead, Kimberley, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToJohn X. Merriman
Other VersionsRive 1987: 317-18
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. Schreiner was resident in Kimberley from early August 1894 to November 1898, with visits, sometimes extended, elsewhere over this period.
1 Nov 21st 1897
3 Dear Mr Merriman
5 If we could only get all the people to bear witness in court to what
6they know & tell us in private, the matter would be ended at once. Two
7or three are willing to, & if they stand by their word in court I
8think we must win.
10 It seems in 1881 or 1882 old Cornwall got a great wigging in the
11supreme court for influencing votes unduly in an electric light case;
12we are going to get the lawyers to look up the case. That ought to
13tell some what against him. But you who have never lived in Kimberley
14can have no idea what the terrorism of Rhodes & De Beers is here.
16 People close all the doors & examine the country round carefully
17before they sit down to talk to you. It is worse than Russia. If it
18were only possible for one of the Barkly West cases to be taken up at
19the same time it would tell heavily against Rhodes & De Beers!
21 Brown, Rhode's agent from Kenilworth, who has been out to water
22auriferously the electoral field of Barkly West, previous to Mr Rhodes
23arrival, lost, out of his cart as he was returning to Kimberley, a bag
24containing £400 in gold. What must that bag have contained when he set
25out?? What is the law with regard to political bribery in this
26country? Is there any one Blue Book or Act ^&c^ I could get which would
27give it one exactly? I what my husband to write a pamphlet on it like
28our "Political Situation" of three years ago? If you know please tell
29me, & where to send for them.
31 There must either be something hopelessly wrong with our law here; or
32with its administration that such absolutely bare faced corruption can
33go on, uncommented on. I have seen a great deal of practical election
34work in England during the 10 years I lived there. There is a great
35deal too much giving to tea-parties to working men (but the working
36men see through it!) & there is a disgrace-ful amount of giving
37subscriptions to public works, churches & gardens &c in a members
38division (which ought to be made illegal) but anything like the calm,
39cynical, open purchase which goes on in this country would be
40absolutely impossible there. Why is this?
42 I am sending you a copy of the Progressive Review with an article on
43"payment of constituents" which is profoundly true I think. There is
44rather an interesting article on Nature & Realism in Art, by one of my
45dearest friends, & a not profound but true article on the South
46African Committee's report. Don't return it. It's much the best review
47now existing in England but as far as I know no one takes it in this
50 Yours faithfully
51 Olive Schreiner
53 I don't agree with you that the farmer & owner of land hold of
54necessity any higher view of social duty than the man who sells
55dry-goods. It is the fixing of his heart in the material things of
56life which destroys high social feeling in farmer who makes bad brandy
57as well as the merchant who sells bad shoes. "Children how hardly
58shall they that have riches (or thirst after them!) enter the Kingdom
59of God." The pure speculation, of course, is a ^more social disease, a
60spiritual smallpox.^
62 ^PS. I am leaving by tonight's mail train for Cape Town. To see about
63this business I shall probably be there one day but may have to stay
The Progressive Review article on the payment of constituents has not been traced.The article on nature and realism in art was by Schreiner's friend Edward Carpenter. See: Edward Carpenter "Wagner, Millet and Whitman: In Relation to Art and Democracy" Progressive Review vol 1, no 1, October 1896 pp.63-74. Rive's (1987) version omits part of this letter and is also in a number of respects incorrect.