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Letter ReferenceLife/5
Epistolary Type
Letter Date25 May 1896
Address Fromna
Address To
Who ToHenrietta (‘Ettie’) Schreiner m. Stakesby Lewis (1891)
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner (1924) The Life…: 282-6
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
When Cronwright-Schreiner wrote The Life of Olive Schreiner, he included a small number of largely complete letters which do not appear in The Letters, then destroyed them. They are included here for sake of completeness. However, when Schreiner’s originals can be compared against his versions, his have omissions, distortions and bowdlerisations. Consequently the relationship of these letters embedded in The Life... to what Schreiner originally wrote cannot be gauged, and they should therefore be read with caution. Cronwright-Schreiner provides the date of this letter and the name of its addressee. The beginning and end of the letter are missing.
1[page/s missing] I would not reply to your letter were it not that it has made me feel
2I may have been unjust to [word missing], and, though have never mentioned her
3name to mother or to any human creature except yourself I feel I
4should tell you that your letter has made me feel sure that not she
5but you and perhaps Theo had been dividing between us. Had anyone told
6me that you or Theo would have written of me to mother, I should
7simply have told them it is a lie. I knew that, bitterly opposed as
8Will and I are on political matters, he could never say one word to
9mother which should embitter her against her child. He is not a
10Christian, but he is a noble man; and, until to-day I believed that
11just as, for twenty years, I have striven to open mother’s heart to
12you and to smooth away all little religious differences - which as
13little as political should be allowed to interfere with the love of
14parents and children - so you and Theo would have acted towards me.
16It is hardly worth answering anything else in your letter. What you
17mean by vindictiveness is inconceivable to me.
19A letter which I wrote to mother some months ago will perhaps throw a
20little light on my relations with Rhodes. For five years I have
21accepted no invitation to his house or had anything to do with him,
22since that day when I refused to shake hands with him on the
23Matjesfontein station; since he voted for the Strop Bill I have never
24entered his house. He not only invited me, but once sent Sauer and
25once his Private Secretary to press me to come. I have copies of all
26the letters I wrote to him during the year I often met him, and they
27are one wild passionate endeavour to wake the man to nature of the
28hell towards which he was hurrying; I had at one time a mad idea that
29I might save him, but from the time I found out about that piece of
30ground he wanted to give Logan and the Logan Contract, I saw that he
31had deliberately chosen evil, and that I could not save him. The
32perception of what his character really was in its inmost depths was
33one of the most terrible revelations of my life. That was about four
34years ago, just before I got the measles. It was then that, in the
35Midland News, I saw a splendid leader attacking Rhodes for voting for
36the Strop Bill and his throwing the Native as a sop to the Boer. I was
37so much struck by this article that I wrote to Cradock and found out
38who it was written by, and I found out that it was by a young farmer,
39who wrote the leaders for the paper, called Cronwright. Nine months
40after I met Cron for the first time. I mention this because I can only
41suppose that you think that I have urged Cron to take up his present
42position. Cron is the one Englishman I know of in South Africa who has
43consistently and persistently fought Rhode for six years and stood
44true to the Native. I did not fall in love with him; what bound us
45together was our absolute union on public matters, above all on the
46Native Question and Rhodes.
48This is private, I suppose I can trust you not to mention it.
50So far from any vindictiveness against Rhodes, as I fought him in
51season and out for five years when he was in power, I have felt that I
52had a right to be silent now. I have been offered from a leading
53London paper £20 per week for one short letter on Cape affairs, and I
54have refused; let the man work out his own destruction.
56Since that time before I had the measles, when I refused to shake
57hands with him on the Matjesfontein station, I have met him only once,
58that was for a few minutes in an hotel here a few weeks before my
59marriage. Rhodes and Will were sitting together in the drawing room. I
60attacked Will and him on the Strop Bill and Native Question generally;
61Will - dear, true, simple old Will - answered simply and truly; as
62soon as Will went out to get his hat, Rhodes turned to me and in a way
63I know so well cottoned up to me and said I must not think he agreed
64with Will, that his sympathies were all with me on the Native Question.
65 I told him what I thought of him, and then Will came in and they went
66out, I shall never forget looking at those two men’s faces that day.
67Will, poor old Will, with his lack of imagination and creative insight,
68 but so good, so simple, so pure: Rhodes with all his gifts of genius
69and insight - and, below the fascinating surface, the worms of
70falsehood and corruption creeping. It is the most awful sight; as he
71betrayed Sivewright and has betrayed all the men who trusted and loved
72him, so he will one day yet betray Will, who still, after all, in his
73heart loves him. Poor noble old Will; I am bitterly opposed to him on
74the Native Question now, but, if ever his intellect is enlightened (as
75it seems to me) and he takes another view, he will hold it honestly
76and truly. Rhodes wants no mental enlightenment - it is the man’s
77heart that is corrupt. I believe that once, as a little child, there
78were great possibilities before him, but never since I knew him.
80I know you will say: “Yes, but he only votes for the Strop Bill, etc.,
81to get the Boer to be satisfied”: Yes, to betray the Boer, the Native
82is to be thrown as the sop to the Boer.
84If you wish to send my letters to Theo, you are at liberty to do so;
85but I beg neither of you to write to me any more. I do not request
86either of you to mention me to mother: because you will do whatever
87satisfies your own passions. I know mother’s nature; she has many
88failings like the rest of us, but, unurged on by others, she is not
89the person to violate the life-long tenderness and friendship I have
90held for her abstract political views. If I knew that mother was on an
91opposite side of politics or religion from you, nothing would induce
92me to mention either of your names to mother in that connection. She
93is an old woman nearing eighty, it is an easy thing to stimulate her
94to madness and excitement in an abstract question; but only devils
95would try to make political or religious differences the source of
96bitterness in the hearts of families.
98In all the years Will has been in public life not one word of
99discussion of him from an adverse point has passed my lips, because I
100feel that family relationship gives you the power of stabbing under
101the ribs. I have never remained silent on the Strop Bill, the Native
102Question, the Bond, the Excise, or any other matter because Will’s
103views are opposed to mine; but I have never discussed him with anyone
104out of the family, nor allowed them to discuss him in my presence.
105There is such a thing as loyalty. Please return this letter. - Olive.
107P.S. - I have not shown or mentioned this letter to Cron. He has been
108quite wounded by mother’s attacks, and he has loved her and all my
109people so.
111You must also not imagine I shall mention your name or Theo’s ever to
112mother, except it be impersonally. The relations of parent and child
113are much too holy in my eyes to be interfered with. I write to her as
114I have done all my life, almost every day, about books and the weather,
115 etc. She is an old woman now, and the shadow of death must be very
116near her. I would like her surrounded by no feelings but those of love
117and tenderness for all her children. All the Cecil Rhodeses and
118Beaconsfields and Gladstones in the world would not make me say one
119word to embitter any mother or child. I have loved you and trusted you
120more than any woman in the world and been more loyal to you; and not
121all mother’s five months of attack upon me have struck me so bitter a
122blow as the thought that you were making my political views a subject
123of discussion with her. I feel as if it would be many years before I
124wanted to hear from you or of you again.
126Every man or woman is right to hold their own political or religious
127views, and has also a right to express; but something noble in the
128human soul which no law can exactly formulate says to all brave
129God-like hearts: “You cannot use the accident of your relationship to
130forge a weapon to strike your political adversary with.”
132Because I know that the accident of my relationship with Will would
133make a blow from me equal to a blow from fifty others, therefore I
134never strike it. It is under the belt. This week a public man wrote to
135me asking my opinion of Innes and of Will, etc. I answered him about
136Innes, for one thing because he is my dear friend whom I sympathize
137with - but I said nothing of Will and his views. I will give my views
138to anyone who asks them.
140P.S. - Tuesday morning. - Please understand that I am giving you
141permission to show
these letters to Theo only on condition that you
142make yourself responsible that he shall treat them as confidential and
143not refer directly or indirectly to them to anyone, most of all to
146Mother has been very loyal to you if you have ever mentioned me to her,
147 because in the last year she has never mentioned Theo’s name to me
148except to say he had been there for a visit, and once when she wrote
149to tell me you had sent her some lovely presents, otherwise I have not
150heard from her and I shall never break the rule I have made all my
151life in my relations with her of not discussing politics or religion
152or her children with her (unless I can say something to comfort and
153joy her old heart and bring her nearer to them). I will also be glad
154if you will not write to Cron on the question; as long as you do not
155write to mother against me and we do not hear what you say, it does
156not hurt.
158Cron’s relations, who are far more opposed to me on the Native
159Question and religion than even you are to Cron, have yet never
160written or spoken one word to insult or pain me. I might not have been
161connected with them for anything they have ever made me suffer. [page/s missing]
Although in Olive Schreiner's hand-writing, this letter is in fact a copy of a letter she sent to Rebecca Schreiner. Orignally, it was in an envelope with on its front, also in her hand-writing, 'Letters to Ettie & Mother about Rhodes'. The companion letter-copy is a letter to Rebecca Schreiner dated May 1896 - see Life/4.