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Letter ReferenceLetters/464
Epistolary Type
Letter Date11 September 1906
Address FromDe Aar, Nothern Cape
Address To
Who ToAdela Villiers Smith nee Villiers
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 255
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
When Cronwright-Schreiner prepared The Letters of Olive Schreiner, with few exceptions he then destroyed her originals. However, some people gave him copies and kept the originals or demanded the return of these; and when actual Schreiner letters can be compared with his versions, his have omissions, distortions and bowdlerisations. Where Schreiner originals have survived, these will be found in the relevant collections across the OSLO website. There is however a residue of some 587 items in The Letters for which no originals are extant. They are included here for sake of completeness. However, their relationship to Schreiners actual letters cannot now be gauged, and so they should be read with caution for the reasons given.
1To Mrs. Francis Smith.
2De Aar, 11th Sept.
4... I am now at De Aar in a strange sort of place they call an Hotel.
5It was built for the officers just after the war, or during it. This
6was I believe the largest military centre in South Africa; for miles
7the ground is all trodden bare, not a bush will grow; they have been
8killed at the roots; grey sand flies about everywhere and the earth is
9full of broken whiskey bottles empty tins; if you kick at something in
10the sand it turns out to be an old soldier's jacket or boot thrown
11away here. They had a vast prisoners' camp here too, where the
12prisoners died; and horse camps where horses died; so the dust is
13pretty organic. Now there are only a few railway men and Jews, living
14for the most part in tin houses (a few have little red brick cottages),
15 and the remains of the location of camp followers the military drew
16here, Hottentots and other coloured half-castes of the lowest class,
17the women mainly or almost entirely prostitutes, so eaten up by
18horrible diseases that one is afraid to have them to do one's washing.
19It is like a more sordid edition of Poker Flat, Do you know Bret
20Harte’s little story?
22There is so little water here that the woman who manages this place
23asked me to use as little as possible in washing. I am going to look
24for a little coloured boy this afternoon and hire him to bring me bath
25water every day. I tell you this that you may picture the queer sort
26of life it is here! The only white woman in this house is a red
27fat-faced sort of barmaid with staring blue eyes, who calls herself
28the housekeeper.