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Letter ReferenceLevine Collection/15
ArchiveRonald Levine Collection, Johannesburg
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date13 August 1901
Address FromHanover, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToCaptain Skeet
Other Versions
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
The Project is grateful to Ronald Levine for kindly allowing us to transcribe this Olive Schreiner letter, which is part of the Ronald Levine Collection. Captain Skeet was appointed the local British military Commandant in Hanover in mid 1901, and this together with content regarding Rebecca Schreiner’s decline and Warner’s letter to Skeet below indicates the place and year of the letter.
1Dear Captain Skeet
3My husband promised he would post me a letter from the station last
4night. letting me know what It has not come. If possibly still in the
5censor’s hands would you let me know. I want to wire to him if he is
6still at the station & did not get off.
8Yours faithfully
9Olive Schreiner
11I have just sent a wire to my sister in Grahamstown, address Mrs Lewis
12The Convent
14to know how my mother is this morning. If you could do anything to
15hasten it getting through ^& my getting their reply^ I should be deeply
18My old mother has been for some months in a sinking condition & always
19longing to see me but I have been too ill. She is a Catholic & lives
20in the Convent there, I think she must be very bad or my sister would
21not have gone back to her. She is a very strong jingo & I cannot think
22the military authorities would object to my going to see her if I am
23able. I would only stay in Grahamstown & come back by the first train
24as I cannot stand stay near the coast.
26Yours faithfully
27Olive Schreiner
With Schreiner’s letter there is a further letter, sent to Captain Skeet by R. Warner regarding Schreiner’s situation in Hanover, and attached to this is a newspaper clipping. They are as follows:

13 / 8 / 01

Dear Skeet

Many thanks for your letter. I shall be coming down to Hanover the end of the month but don’t know about my wife as these block houses appear to do a deal of loose firing!

My wife sends her kind regards & wants to know if you will be treating her better than Olive Schreiner ?in ?an attached cutting!

Yours ever
R. Warner

P.S. Let me know if you have any difficulties about bills -

The newspaper cutting refers (erroneously) to Olive Schreiner’s treatment under martial law and cites an extract from an article by the popular writer Ouida:


An anti-British journal published yesterday a hysterical outbreak by Ouida on the subject of Olive Schreiner’s treatment by the British officials. The following is an extract: -

“It is, I think, entirely true that Mme. Olive Schreiner has been transported to a strange place and imprisoned within a fence of wire netting, which is protected by armed sentinels stationed at intervals, with orders to fire upon any one attempting to get through the netting and escape. In this place she lives alone with her dog, in one small room, for which she pays. Cooking for herself, and compelled to remain all night without any kind of light; her husband being refused by the English authorities permission to visit her, although he is the brother of the ex-Premier of the Cape Ministry.

“Apparently Mme. Schreiner has no other crime than that of sympathy with the Boer people, which one naturally would expect her to feel, her writings being what they are. It does not appear that she has either fought or conspired against the English invaders. She is a writer with original views of her own, and an intimate acquaintance with the races and lands whereof she writes. Is it tolerable that for this alone she should be subjected to indignity and isolation, and be carried away from all she loves?”

Mr Fisher Unwin, Olive Schreiner’s publisher, interviewed by a “Westminster Gazette” representative, states that there is reason to believe that there is substance in the story – that Mme. Schreiner is undergoing physical hardships and that her papers and manuscripts have been burnt.

On the other hand, the secretary of the Imperial South African Association in London thinks that the account is an absolute fabrication, except that Mme. Olive Schreiner is living at Richmond, in Cape Colony, under military surveillance.”

It is not possible to establish from what newspaper the cutting has been taken.