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Letter ReferenceJohn X. Merriman MSC 15/1906:233
ArchiveNational Library of South Africa, Special Collections, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter DateWednesday 1906
Address Fromna
Address To
Who ToJohn X. Merriman
Other Versions
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
Legend
The Project is grateful to the National Library of South Africa (NLSA), Cape Town, for kindly allowing us to transcribe this Olive Schreiner letter, which is part of its Special Collections. The date has been written on this letter in an unknown hand.
1 Wednesday night
2
3 Dear Mr Merriman
4
5 I have just had a great pleasure. Sir William Butler spent 24 hours
6with us. I have always said God doesn't give it to any man born in
7England ever to understand affairs in South Africa. But if he hasn't
8given it to any Englishman he has at least given it to this Irishman!
9I have not met any one born in this country or out of it with such a
10wonderful grasp on South African affairs as a whole. Large hearted,
11many sided, he is just the man South Africa has had need of, & has
12never had since Sir George Grey was here.
13
14 I have been reading with a good deal of interest that rather curious
15book "Frenzed Finance." Why oh why is the African News so dead & alive;
16 why does not not give poignant reviews, & con-cise bright leading
17articles dealing with such books & the endless other book & facts &
18that would educate the thought of young South Africa & set it thinking
19on the problems before it. We are terribly in need of a paper which
20shall be an awakening leading force in the country.
21
22 I hope we shall be able to see something of you & Mrs Merriman when we
23are in Town. At least I shall hear some of your speeches from the
24gallery. It is very important for some of us that parliament should be
25meeting in this cold wet time instead of two months earlier. The end
26of March, say the 25th would be the best time for its opening
27
28 Have you considered why I never refer to the question of womans
29position & the need for change in many directions, in my letters to
30you? Well, its because I can't. The matter lies so near to my heart,
31touches me so deeply that I can hardly dis-cuss it as an indifferent
32matter. It touches me as deeply as the question of the divinity of
33Christ & the sacredness of the Lords Supper touches an earnest
34Catholic. There are two subject which in the course of a rather long
35life I have never been able to dis-cuss with any one from academic,
36for the sake of dis-cussion, fond as I am of dis-cussion as a purely
37intellectual exercise - & these are religion & the matters relating to
38womans position. They lie too deeply among the roots of life to be
39ever lightly touched upon.
40
41 You will say, "But the mere question of woman's of political
42enfranchisement cannot be one affecting life so deeply." Yes - in one
43way the matter is a very, very little one; & yet in another it is very
44great. If you, John X Merriman were for five years owing to illness,
45business or absence from home, to abstain from casting your vote it
46would probably not appreciably affect the country, & not by a little
47affect your personal health, wealth, happiness or freedom; & so, in a
48way, it would be a small matter. But if a law were passed, that you,
49John X. Merriman, were not a fit & proper humanbeing to exercise the
50vote & prohibiting you from doing so, then in a moment the matter
51would become one of primary importance, worth fighting over & perhaps
52even under certain conditions laying down your life for. So small a
53thing in itself it would yet indicate your place in the society of
54which you form a part, your relation to your fellow men in a hundred
55ways, & so be of vital import.
56
57 More than that, the woman's question always presents itself to me as a
58whole. I cannot dis-cuss the ^seemingly small^ question of the franchise,
59 without out tracing its relation to other vast & vital human problems
60- prositution, the whole body of sex problems, the terrible parasitism
61of the woman of our upper wealthier classes, robbed of all forms of
62labour & becoming mere toys & seekers of pleasure; & the terribly
63under paid over worked condition of our women of the poorer classes, &
64the whole vast problem of the right of the individual human to freedom!
65 It's for me the bundle of straw, which pulled out of a hay rick
66brings the whole rick down upon your head! so I cannot dis-cuss it
67alone. ^But I fear my long scrawl will bore you.^
68
69 My husband is away at de Aar, or would join me in hearty greetings to
70you.
71
72 Yours ever
73 Olive Schreiner
74
75 ^Would it be possible for you if not too busy to tell me shortly, what
76the exact steps were by which the Imperial Government & the Military
77landed the responsibility for paying compensation for war losses on
78the heads of the unfortunate inhabitants of this Colony? I am not sure
79I have the facts quite right, & may need them shortly for something I
80am writing.^
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Notation
The book referred to is Thomas William Lawson (1905) Frenzied Finance New York: Ridgeway-Thayer Co.