"My heart is heavy over my work" Read the full letter
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Letter ReferencePatrick Duncan BC 294/D1.33.2
ArchiveUniversity of Cape Town, Manuscripts & Archives, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date27 June 1912
Address FromDe Aar, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToPatrick Duncan
Other Versions
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
The Project is grateful to Manuscripts and Archives, University of Cape Town, for kindly allowing us to transcribe this Olive Schreiner letter, which is part of its Manuscripts and Archives Collections. Schreiner has emphasised, with two lines in the margin, the paragraph beginning ‘Moral: don't...’.
1 This is Private
3 De Aar
4 June 27th 1912
6 Dear Mr Duncan
8 I have just got your letter. I’m sorry you couldn’t break your
9journey. I suppose you are to-day in Jo’burg.
11 I have been carefully studying the defence act you kindly sent me with
12the armys regulations. A more painful study I never entered on in my
15 As a speaker in Johannesburg, said, if people generally understood
16what it all meant the act would never have passed. As if the
17convention was hurried through, all difficulties being quite shelved,
18& never faced & fought out; so, by a kind of unspoken mutual consent
19between public men & news papers this much more important & serious
20act has been allowed to pass un-dis-cussed & unfought out.
22 When I was living in England I once gave a little nephew of mine a
23large four bladed clasp knife. When I next went down to Eastbourne I
24found he in terrible disgrace. He had cut the benches in the hot-house,
25 & chipped the window set of his bedroom, & actually cut his name in
26some furniture. When I began to sermonize him, her drew himself up in
27a very aggrieved way, & said, "Well but, Auntie, you gave it me!"
29 Moral: don’t give sharp knives to little boys who can have nothing
30but evil to do with them!
32 That the Dutch in South Africa should have let it pass silently I
33perfectly understand. That the English should have let it pass without
34fighting it desperately inch by inch is one of the most blindingly
35astonishing fails I have ever come across in the course of my life.
36It’s the pigs presenting the butcher with the knife. You may say,
37"Well, & if the butcher has promised to kill a black dog with it
38unreadable ^first^ & let the pig eat it?" Well! Well" - & then?
40 For me, I am sick with the shedding of blood in South Africa. ^I seem
41to have lived in a bath of human blood ever since I can remember!^
43 The only thing we need such a defence force for is to kill other South
44Africans. Our position, the nature of our country, the distance from
45it's ^real^ base of supplies of any attacking country – even Germany
46– makes us perfectly safe if we are united.
48 Yours sincerely
49 Olive Schreiner
51 ^I’ll always be very glad to see you if you can come to de Aar^