"Dream for federation of South Africa, one day we shall need love & devotion of black & coloured man" Read the full letter
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Letter ReferenceOlive Schreiner: Edward Carpenter SMD 30/32/c
ArchiveNational English Literary Museum, Grahamstown
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date17 June 1904
Address FromHanover, Northern Cape
Address ToMillthorpe, Holmesfield, Sheffield
Who ToEdward Carpenter
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 243-4
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
The Project is grateful to the National English Literary Museum (NELM) for kindly allowing us to transcribe this Olive Schreiner letter, which is part of its Manuscript Collections. The address this letter was sent to is provided by an attached envelope.
1 Hanover
2 June 17 / 04
4 Dear old Edward
6 Some friends have asked me to come to England & they say you wanted me
7to come too. It can't be that I go. But its very very very beautiful
8that you any of you want me. I specially want to see you again.
10 It's a cold night. I am sitting in the little front room of our three
11roomed cottage with a fire at my back. We have 16 degrees of frost
12here at night often in the winter, the milk froze solid in the pantry
13the other night, & to-day a dish of water standing in the yard which
14was frozen last night was not melted except at the edges this evening
15though the sun had been shining on it all day. I have never felt cold
16anywhere in Europe except once in Geneva where a little north wind was
19 Cron has gone to the Transvaal, & I & my meerkats, & my dog & a little
20Kaffir boy of nine years old whom I brought up from the reformatory in
21Cape Town have the world to ourselves. My dear old meerkat, 'Arriet,
22is sleeping on my shoulder. She will sit there for hours wide awake
23while I write & do my work. I'm always so glad I didn't come into the
24world when people had killed off all the dear beautiful animals &
27 My little Kaffir boy is so nice. He was sentenced for four years for
28killing a goat. He has served two in the Reformatory & I have got him
29for two. He is only a baby, & so sweet & dear. I am feeding him up: he
30is awfully thin. I am so fond of Kaffirs, there's a kind of natural
31affinity between me & them. And the capitalist are working for a big
32war with them soon, & we shall murder them right & left. They will
33kill a good many of us because they have been all armed & trained by
34the British during the war, & England will be greatly surprised when
35the war comes at what she has drawn on herself; but in the end the
36natives will be crushed & the capitalist will have cheap native labour,
37 when the tribal & communal system which now prevents the employers
38from blood-sucking them, is broken up. Besides some of their
39territories are rich in mineral wealth & the white man wants it.
41 Its pretty sad out here, Edward, in many, many ways. The saddest
42thing is the reaction that has come over us since the war, or rather
43since the "peace". The little quiet Boer woman who the day after we
44heard of the "peace" came to my rooms & when I told her that the
45"peace" had been made & the Republics had not got their independence
46unreadable ^threw^ her arms over her head & astonished me by crying,
47"Then there is no God! There is no God!" is very indicative of our
48state of mind. There is a kind of awful moral disintegration among us.
49England here is going straight on to her destruction but the effects
50of the war upon us have been very terrible.
52 Edith Ellis says she saw you lately & you were looking well. I'm so
53glad. I have had a very beautiful little visit to Cape Town while my
54husband was there in Parliament. It was so beautiful to see my four
55friends. Now I've come back to this strange, sad unearthly little
56village, which doesn't seem to be in world at all, & my visit seems
57like a glorious dream. But its much to have had a lovely dream. And
58now the beautiful letters I have had from Edith & Mr Lawrence & other
59friends asking me to come to England have been a great joy to me, how
60great I can't explain because no one knows how lonely this life is.
62 I can't go to England because I couldn't leave my husband for so long
63just for my own pleasure. I should always fancy he might be ill, or
64might need me. And I couldn't do any good by going to England. There's
65nothing to be done by talking now for this sad land. A better day will
66come, but much has to be lived through first.
68 Dear Edward I wish I could see. I wasn't half grateful enough when I
69was in England for all my many friends. Whatever life has or hasn't
70given me, it's given me the best friends any one ever had. (I wish you
71could see my little meerkat sitting here with her head under my chin
72as I write. She's so lovely.)
74 Good night. Remember me to all the old friends.
75 Olive
77 ^You see Edward, the terrible point in our position in South Africa now
78is that its not true. Since the 'peace' came, we, naturally, are
79acting a part. We know perfectly well that we are not beaten, & that
80we are going to conquer in the long run & that England will someday go
81out bag & baggage, & yet we are all to act as if we didn't know this.
82Perhaps, it may be said, its the only attitude people crushed for the
83moment can assume. How painful it is, how it makes one resolve you
84will absolutely say nothing at all. I think you can understand. I do
85not object to silence. But I do object to protestations of loyalty to
86the King or the Empire, when we know we are cursing them in our hearts.
87 The curious thing to see is that England can be taken in by it. This
88is private, Edward.^
Cronwright-Schreiner's (1924) version of this letter is incorrect in a range of respects.