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Letter ReferenceOlive Schreiner BC16/Box2/Fold1/Jan-June1899/38
ArchiveUniversity of Cape Town, Manuscripts & Archives, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter DateWednesday 28 June 1899
Address FromJohannesburg, Transvaal
Address To
Who ToWilliam Philip ('Will') Schreiner
Other VersionsRive 1987: 365-6
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
Legend
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. The date has been written on this letter in an unknown hand. Schreiner was resident in Berea, Johannesburg, from December 1898 until late August 1899.
1 Wednesday
2
3 Dear Laddie
4
5 Miss Molteno & Miss Greene are here & I am going over with them to
6Pretoria on Friday, & shall be glad to have some news direct. We shall
7stay at Smuts’s. Smuts’s wife is a splendid little woman. I shall
8see Esselin too. Will tell you what the exact state of feeling is, but
9expect you know much more than I do. It is only when one sees & knows
10& lives among this Johannesburg rabble that one can fully realize how
11grotes-que, wickedly grotesque all this affair is.
12
13 I took Miss M & G down to Commissioner St yesterday past the exchange
14where all the business men were standing about with that cut throat
15look they always have. I had been telling them about the roughs who
16sand-bag folk here (ie hit them on the head & neck with sand bags, to
17stun & rob them) three men were sand-bagged last Monday. Miss Molteno
18remarked quite seriously "I suppose these are the sand-baggers." She
19absolutely would not believe when I told her we were among the wealth
20& aristocracy of Johannesburg. The panic has gone down here the last
21two days & shares are up.
22
23 Private
24
25 Will, does it ever strike, I’m sure it must, it does come to me
26often - in ten years time or five, if we live so long, looking back
27will we see that it was best not to have fought now? I think & think
28the matter over, & I cannot but feel that the immediate thing is to
29work for peace, but it is possible that in after years one will see
30that war now was our last chance against the enemy. Don’t think I
31would not do all I can on the side of peace, that what little I can do
32is done on that side, "give them all they want rather than fight," -
33but the doubt will come!! If we had the natives on our side it might
34perhaps be better to make the stand now, we will have to make it one
35day – but our birds are coming home to roost. Every act of injustice
36against the black man, is tying our hands to-day. If the name Boer was
37a name to conjure by among the natives of South Africa, if we knew
38they would stand by us we could meet the Capitalist now. As it is, war
39would be a catastrophe, so awful that one feels it an imperative duty
40to put it off as long as possible. Whatever comes war or no war you
41men must stick to your places
. You must ^give^ Chamberlain no chance of
42dis-charging you as rebels. To throw up the sponge in case of war,
43would it seems to me be suicidal. If you do nothing else you keep the
44men out who would turn the full force of the volunteers upon us. I
45myself am not afraid that we could ^not^ deal with the English troops
46except they were in the very largest numbers, but with a squad of
47Eastern Province volunteers it would be otherwise. What you men have
48to do is to sail on, & on as close to the wind as you can, & never
49give them a chance of turning you out.
50
51 Good bye dear. I hope you are still feeling the benefit of your trip
52physically. Don’t smoke more than you can help, & take some
53exercises.
54
55 I'm sorry to hear my darling lass has been ill.
56
57 Your small sister
58 Olive
59
60
61
Notation
Rive;s (1987) version omits part of this letter and is also in a number of respects incorrect.