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Letter ReferenceThe Standard / 5 January 1887, page 5, col 6
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date4 January 1887
Address Fromna
Address To
Who ToThe Editor, The Standard
Other Versions
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
4Sir, -
6A short time back the remark was made in my presence, that in London
7no Englishwoman was safe from the hands of the Police. I regarded this
8statement with the cool scorn with we are apt to regard remarks that
9we consider uncritical. A few miserable and forlorn women, without
10money or friends, might suffer; but the mass of Englishwomen armed
11with friends and intellectual power, were safe from insult. There is a
12delightful philosophic calm with which from one’s study fireside we
13survey the wrongs of our fellows.
15Before setting down the facts which I wish to make public it may be
16necessary to state, to avoid misconception, that I am a writer, that I
17have taken an interest in the raising of the protected age in girls,
18and that my name will be found among the two hundred Englishwomen who
19signed the recently published letter on that subject.
21On a recent Sunday I spent the evening with a friend whose husband is
22a well-known medical man at the West-end. On leaving, a friend, a
23well-known physician, connected with one of our large hospitals
24offered to accompany me home. The square in which I live is a large
25and quiet one, well-lighted, and closed at one end by a convent. The
26cabman drew up at the wrong door. Alighting, we walked slowly up and
27down for a few moments, continuing the discussion we had begun. A
28policedman passed us and said “Good evening,” in rather an insulting
29manner. He then turned round shortly, and said, “What’s going on here,
30what are you up to here; I won’t have this; what are you doing here?”
31(I believe the words are quite accurate.) My friend said that the
32house before which we stood was the one in which I lived. The
33policeman said he did not believe it – “what was I doing out at that
34time of night,” &c, and he threatened to ring the bell. We said that
35he might do so, my friend remarking, with self-restrained politeness,
36that he was astonished at an interference with persons who were in no
37way breaking the public peace. The policeman continuing his insults,
38my friend gave him his card. He then said, “I’ve nothing to do with
39you, Sir; I don’t want to interfere with you; it’s her want.” After a
40time he rang the bell very lightly. We moved on a few steps. He said
41to me, “You’d better stand still, or I’ll walk you off to the station.
42” I then asked my friend for his pencil and a piece of paper that I
43might take the man’s number. “Want my number, do you, I’ll take yer
44off to the station,” he said, and added something about keeping his
45eye on me. He then came down the steps, and said, in a skulking kind
46of whisper, that if I would tell him my name he would go away. It was
47evident that he wanted money. I told told him to ring the front door
48bell again loudly, that it would be answered, and that he would learn
49my name. He touched the knocker lightly, and someone who was expecting
50me opened the door. We asked him if he were satisfied, and he slunk
51down the steps with the look of unsatisfied greed.
53That anyone thinks it a matter of importance that individuals well
54able to defend themselves should be insulted would be an entire
55mistake. But there are in London some hundred thousand women who are
56unable to defend themselves against the hands of the police.
58I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
60January 4.
Schreiner wrote two drafts of this letter, for which see HRC/OliveSchreinerLetters/OS-DailyNews/1 and HRC/OliveSchreinerLetters/OS-DailyNews/2. A reply following publication of Schreiner’s letter appeared in the newspaper the following day, as follows:


Sir, - I venture to suggest with all courtesy, and with deep respect for the good work done by your Correspondent “O.S.” on behalf of women, that both she and her companion acted very unwisely on the Sunday evening to which her letter in The Standard of to-day refers.

Her original opinion of the generally proper and courteous behaviour of the Metropolitan Police is better founded than her later impression. The folly or misconduct of an individual constable ought not to condemn the whole of our Police Force.

But, besides this, your Correspondent and her friend acted without good judgement. There should on their part have been no argument or wrangling with the foolish constable. They should have taken his number, and reported the circumstances the next day to the Superintendent, whose interest, indeed, in the quiet sensible and polite conduct of each of his men is of the utmost importance to him – his own character at Scotland-yard depends much on this.

I think that “O.S.,” and most especially the “well-known physician” who escorted her, have behaved unfairly to the Superintendent and the public, and, looking at all her story, I must confess that it impresses me with the belief that enthusiastic action and warm feelings about the defence of women have rather blinded your Correspondent to the fact that men also, especially in official positions, deserve consideration.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
January 5.

(The Standard Wednesday 6 January page 2, col 2)

This response from ‘B’ then produced a second public letter from Schreiner, for which see The Standard / Saturday 9 January 1887, page 5.