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Letter ReferenceOlive Schreiner BC16/Box4/Fold4/1911/19
ArchiveUniversity of Cape Town, Manuscripts & Archives, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date2 May 1911
Address FromDe Aar, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToWilliam Philip ('Will') Schreiner
Other Versions
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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.
1 de Aar
2 April
3 May 2nd 1911
4
5 Dear Laddie
6
7 I certainly think it would be most unwise to start a branch of the A.P.
8 society here. Under that name it could but do harm. There is so much
9in a name – a new society called, for instance, just simply "The
10Peoples Defense League, or B better still the "Peoples League"
11standing for a society in which the few people in South Africa who
12take a liberal view of the native question might band themselves
13together & so increase their strength, would be a good thing. I have
14often in my mind worked out the details of such a little society. But
15to connect it with Exeter Hall" or any organization would be fatal. I
16should not be a propaganda society at all ^i.e. Its aim should not be
17to increase its numbers^ The great endeavour should be to keep the
18people out of it who were not entirely to be trusted, it should be of
19the nature of a small select committee of the leading persons in South
20Africa deeply interested in the development of the native races After
21the society was once started ^new^ members should be balloted for; one,
22or two or three black balls at most, to exclude. That is the kind of
23society I should like to start for dealing with the woman’s
24questions. A society which according to its carefully drawn up
25principles, which each member would have to subscribe, would be in
26favour of the doing away of ^with^ all the artificial restriction of sex,
27 & which would seek the good of all women quite irrespective of race
28or creed. Its purpose would be to bring into touch with each other
29those of us who are in sympathy for the strengthening ^of^ each other &
30the making of plans of action.
31
32 I have great belief in the power of small, united intelligent bodies,
33all the members entirely in sympathy with one another. I have not
34heard of that niece of Sir Charles Dilks & her work till you mentioned
35her.
36
37 Strangely enough, I am one of the persons, perhaps the only person,
38who would remove all that stain in its darker quantities which rests
39on this ^his^ memory. I knew & was thrown much against my will much into
40the society of that terrible woman Mrs Crawford ^at the time of his
41trouble^. But the tragedy of life is, that continually where you could
42set wrong & injustice right your hands are ^continually^ tied by that
43deep spirited law from which one cannot escape, that what you have
44learnt privately – though not in confidence – you cannot use
45publicly; especially when it would crush an already out cast woman.
46You may take it from me that Dilk was a deeply wronged & lied against
47– that he was the victim of a plot. I do not say he was a pure or
48ideal man in sexual matters – he was far from it – but, he was the
49victim of a cold, blooded, & deliberate plot. I could tell you about
50it if we were speaking but it would take too long to write.
51
52 No dear I can’t go to Europe. Sometimes when the horror comes over
53me at the thought of the next summer that has to be lived through in
54Africa, with the complete mental & physical prostration the heat
55brings for me, I have a feeling I must leave next November to return
56at the end of May & spend the winter in my old haunts in Italy & the
57Riviera where I am always so well, writing ^& trying to get on with my book^.
58 But I know when the time comes I won’t leave Cron. No man can
59understand the feeling a woman has to the man she marries. He is her
60little child. She can’t leave him, unless he wishes it ^& its for his
61own good!^ You may say ‘But you have to leave de Aar for three or
62even four months every summer, why not for six & go to Europe. But I
63can’t; he might be ill; he might get into trouble. I should feel
64like a captain who forsook his ship. If I am here, if he needed me I
65could come at any moment. There is also of course the question of the
66heat in the tropics – but if it made an end of me I should not mind
67at all – the problem of life would be over.
68
69 I long much to see Ursula & Oliver before they go, & for Dot whom
70I’ve not seen for so long; & I may, just possibly, come down for a
71few days ^early^ in June if I feel I’m not able to write. If I feel I
72should be able to work I can’t waste a bit of the cold weather which
73is all the life I have! I would like so to finish one of my novels
74before I die; I know quite well I never shall, but I have to go on
75after the hope, like the donkey after the bundle of carrots – though
76he knows he’ll never reach it.
77
78 I hope you are going to Neuheim again.
79 Good bye, dear.
80 Olive

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