"That I may finish that book, 'From Man to Man', being of some use, tragedy & bitterness of woman's fate" Read the full letter
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Letter ReferenceColenso Papers, MSS. Afr. s. 1293/8, 1-3
ArchiveBodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies, Rhodes House, University of Oxford
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date23 September 1908
Address FromDe Aar, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToFrancis (Frank) Ernest Colenso
Other Versions
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
The Project is grateful to the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, for allowing us to transcribe this Olive Schreiner letter, which is part of their Special Collections. The name of the addressee of the letter has been provided by archival reference. The content of the letter, with phrases such as 'you & my brother', suggests that Harriet Colenso, working in close association with Will Schreiner, on the defence of Dinizulu in 1908, could have been its recipient, while its provenance in the Frank and Sophia Colenso papers in Oxford support this being Frank, who although resident in Britain remained very involved in South African matters. The letter is a copy of Schreiner’s original written out in an unknown hand, and is marked ‘copy’.
1de Aar
2Sept 23rd Sept 1908
4My dear Friend
6Thank you for your letter.
8I don’t think you can dream how my thoughts are with you in this
9matter. If ever you & my brother think I could be of any use by
10writing anything please let me know. It has been rather hard for my
11brother to give up the conference, & I feel deeply that we need at
12least one man there whose strength as well as his good intentions will
13tend towards justice to our dark races. But undoubtedly at this moment
14the trial comes comes first: & whatever the result we shall all feel
15that whatever could be done was done. I cannot understand their not
16being willing to let Dinuzulu remain longer in the hospital, there is
17no possibility or danger of his escaping. But perhaps there are some
18who would not grieve if he quietly passed out of the way.
20I am feeling very very anxious about this Convention. I believe the
21darkest times South Africa has yet seen lie yet before us. If with so
22much else to think of, you could send me the papers now & then when
23this trial is on I should be so glad. I doubt much whether the Cape
24papers will report fully. Judging from my terrible experience at a
25trial of a so called rebel after the Boer War, I should strongly
26advise you to have your own verbatim reporter in court, & one on whom
27you can depend. I got a man up from Capetown on purpose, & at the last
28moment he was “got at” & refused to report. So no account of the trial
29is in existence, but the shamefully lying reports wilfully mistaken by
30the ordinary newspaper reporters. We may need in future to refer to
31what took place at the trial.
33It is such a comfort to me that you have my brother, & that I know all
34that can be done will be.
36Yours ever with warmest sympathy
37Olive Schreiner
A comment in an unknown hand has been written at the end of the letter as follows: ‘We must not publish Olive Schreiner without her brother’s sanction in the circumstances, but shew her letter to me (enclosed) to e.g. Miss Browne, Porchester Terrace.’