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Letter ReferenceSteyn Papers: Emily Hobhouse (Olive Schreiner) 156/3/12/5
ArchiveFree State Archives Repository, Bloemfontein
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date5 November 1903
Address FromHanover, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToEmily Hobhouse
Other Versions
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
The Project is grateful to the Free State Archives Repository for kindly allowing us to transcribe this Olive Schreiner letter, which is part of their collections. The letter exists in the form of a handwritten copy made by Emily Hobhouse; the original cannot be traced.
1From Olive Schreiner. Copy.
4Novbr 5, 1903
6Dear Miss Hobhouse,
8How must I wish I could have had just one long talk with you. I don't
9know what becomes of my letters, they are often weeks in reaching
10their destinations or never reach them at all.
12With regard to Mrs Nienaber and the machine, we thought of the very
13thing you suggest, sending it to Bethulie if she could not use it. But
14the poor woman cried so and seemed so cut up at the thought of not
15having it, that I have let her have it on the condition that, if she
16breaks down utterly, and can do nothing more, then I send it to
17Bethulie or some other orphanage. She did some washing with it, but
18was in bed again all last week. This week she is up and at work.
20Your plan about sending groceries from a shop is good. It's what I
21always do with her. To some people it is best to give your money (such
22people as the Cilliers) as you know they will spend it exactly where
23most needed, but Mrs Nienaber has a miserable sister in law who
24sponges on her, does nothing and gets what we give her (Mrs N.). So we
25none of us in the village ever give her money, we send her food in
26small quantities, (see enclosed a/c of things I have just sent her)
27and clothes, pay her doctor's bill &c: we could do so much more for
28her & the children & the old father if it was not for this sister in
29law who will live with her, yet will not touch the washing or ironing
30or do anything to help her. But you know enough of these little
31difficulties. I shall keep the £10 to send her small supplies of
34Friday. I saw Mrs Nienaber last night. It is arranged she goes away to
35the sea-side with the two youngest children. The Doctor thinks that
36may help to cure her. Your money will be of immense help.
38With regard to the Cilliers. The money comes in most opportunely.
39David Cilliers has bought a cart & mules on credit. We have got him
40the contract for riding in the sand for the new school building, which
41will give him work for some months. But the first instalment of
42payment for the cart and mules comes due on the 14th of this month and
43he has not the money to pay for it & would have had to borrow again.
45I went down to their cottage at half past six this morning. I found
46Mrs Cilliers in the kitchen kneading the bread. I told her first about
47the £2.10.0 which you had sent her. She stood with her two hands full
48of dough & the tears started into her eyes, (the first I have seen
49after all the terrible things she has gone through) she said "This is
50too much, too much kindness."
52Then I took out the £20 cheque for David and said you had sent this
53to him because you had heard how terribly he had suffered & how
54bravely he had stood. The poor thing turned deadly white, and said,
55"Oh! its too much that this good should come to us! Aren't there
56others whose need is even greater than ours? I can't understand that
57this has come to us".
59She seemed quite overpowered & she is such a strong calm woman - the
60bravest strongest Boer woman with two exceptions that I know. What
61that woman has gone through would make a wonderful chapter in the
62history of the War - all because a train was taken near her farm! And
63she has never uttered a complaint, always been brave and smiling &
64working hard. I am sure the money could not be better spent, that none
65of the money you have given away has gone better. It is these people
66who are battling to keep their heads up who really ought to be helped.
67The other £5 I am going to spend as you suggested in sending them
68meal &c.
70I am writing you this long letter because I thought perhaps you would
71like to know. There are some people it is so unsatisfactory to try and
72help, the more you give the more they demand, and you never seem able
73to help them on to their ^own^ feet! With the Cilliers it's so different.
75Mrs Cilliers is going to write you a note, but you know letterwriting
76is quite an undertaking with them, so the letter will not be ready
77till tomorrow.
79I wish I could come down to see you before you go, but fear I can't.
81Yours ever
82Olive Schreiner
84I think the work you have done in the Colony has been almost more
85useful than the first time you came, because it is important that
86England should know that she is not doing the wonders for the unhappy
87people in this Country which she is told she is doing.