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Letter ReferenceOlive Schreiner: Mimmie Murray 2001.24/38
ArchiveNational English Literary Museum, Grahamstown
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date30 August 1909
Address FromDe Aar, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToMinnie or Mimmie Murray nee Parkes
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 288-9
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.
1 De Aar
2 Aug 30th 1909
4 My dear Mrs Murray
6 You will have wondered at my long silence after your kind letter
7asking me to come & visit you; but I have been too unwell to write any
8except absolutely necessary letters. The heat & sand even at this time
9of year are very trying here. I hope your woman's work is getting on
10well in Cape Town from my friends letters I should judge they were
11doing very well I do not know if if we shall go down to Cape Town in
12September, but if we do seeing you is one of the pleasures I look
13forward to.
15 About my visit to you; I do not like to leave de Aar while the weather
16is cool enough for it to be possible for me to remain I have to be
17separated from my husband during the heat of the summer, so I don't
18like being away one day when its not absolutely necessary. I have
19written to ask Miss Molteno & Miss Greene about some place called Aud
20"Oud-Kamp" or some such name, a little hotel high up in the mountains
21on this side of Graaff Reinet where they used to go in summer. If I
22should go there instead of Matjesfontein or Basutu-land I will easily
23be able to come on to your part of the world & spend a few days with
24you. It must have been splendid camping out, the dream of my life is
25to possess a large old fashioned tent waggon of my own, & go
26travelling about & even when fixed anywhere always to sleep it in it,
27so that with the flaps up you get the fresh night air & yet are raised
28from the ground. I am afraid I am not a very civilized person, I like
29life & work in the velt & the open air so much better than between
30four walls. On the farm when I was first married I was always out with
31my husband rounding up the strays & counting the sheep at the outposts.
32 It was a lovely life. Please thank your husband for his note. It was
33my mistake sending him that paper!! I read in his letter that he want
34an article of mine written since the war on "keep your votes pure."
35The word in his letter must have been races not votes. I couldn't
36think which thing he meant, so sent him that as it refers to votes!
37The article he means I wrote about 19 years ago & published in the
38Fortnightly Review. I am going to republish them in book form soon, &
39will send him a copy. It is written showing our duty to the half-cast,
40but showing also the evil that springs from a mixture of races while
41the men of mixed race are ashamed of their darker ancestors. That is
42why I admire E.K. Soga so. His mother was a Kaffir wo Scotch woman;
43but he always calls himself a "Kaffir" & never tries to pass himself
44off as a pure white man. It is strange how many of the leading & most
45successful men in South Africa have dark blood!!!!! That's the curious
46part of it all! If people with one 4th or one 10th of dark blood can
47say they will not have a man of half dark & half light blood sitting
48beside them in Parliament, why have not we who have pure European
49des-cent (both our parents coming from Europe) the right to say "We
50will not sit with you! You are not of pure European descent"!!!
52 ^Please excuse this hurried letter - I am baking & turning out my
53kitchen today, & I have only a rough Kaffir girl to help me who can
54only scrub & clean the pots &c.
56 Yours ever, hoping we shall yet see more of each other.
57 Olive Schreiner^
The article in the Fortnightly Review on 'mixed race' is Schreiner's 'Stray Thoughts on South Africa By A Returned South African No 3: The problem of slavery', published in 1893. Schreiner published her 'Returned South African' essays in various journals between 1891 and 1898. A set of them was to have been published as 'Stray Thoughts on South Africa'; however, although prepared for publication, a dispute with a US publisher and the events of the South African War prevented this. They and some other essays were posthumously published as Thoughts on South Africa. Cronwright-Schreiner's (1924) version of this letter is incorrect in various respects.