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Letter ReferenceJohn X. Merriman MSC 15/1897:17
ArchiveNational Library of South Africa, Special Collections, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date3 April 1897
Address FromGrand Hotel, Alassio, Italy
Address To
Who ToJohn X. Merriman
Other VersionsRive 1987: 307-8
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
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.
1 Grand Hotel
2 Alassio
3 Riviera
4 Italy
5 April 3rd 1897
7 Dear Mr Merriman
9 I have just got your letter of March 1st. I am indeed glad of your
10opinion of Peter Halket.
12 I should have long ago have written to you but have been unable since
13we left England. We tried Rome Naples & the beautiful Amalfi, but the
14doctors ordered me to return here, & I am getting fit; though not yet
15able to work - & that is all I care for. I had so wished to revise the
16two last articles of the Stray Thoughts which I had hoped might be of
17a little use if published just now. But I must wait.
19 With regard to Chamberlains attitude. There may be much in what you
20say. There is no doubt he hates Rhodes, but there is no doubt also
21that Chamberlain is a man who will always do what is best for himself
22"with a single eye to his own interests." - At the same time I have it
23on good authority, (you would recognize it to be such if I could
24mention the name of my informant) that Chamberlain is only going "to
25play down to Rhodes for the present to strike him at the end of the
28 Yes, I realize how nobly you have stood, & how fearlessly you have
29spoken; my fear is that you may get weary of it. That you may say, "I
30have lost my following & much of my influence" - & that the devil may
31appear to you in the only form he ever dares assume to a good man,
32saying, "For the sake of re-acquiring your large influence for good!,
33had you not better just tone down a little & keep quiet, &c &c" It is
34such a terrible thing to stand alone that the bravest soul may be
35forgiven if the thought flashes on it a moments - "If I am in the
36right path why am I walking on it alone, why have I no fellow
37travellers." On the whole I suppose in all the rest of your life you
38never did anything like such valuable work, nor produced such large
39effects as during the last fifteen months. What would it have been if
40there had not been your voice during this time??
42 Yes, I have no doubt Rhodes Sievewright has a hold on Rhodes! There
43must be many men who have. Rhodes's career will probably come to an
44end forever, when one of his confederates in evil is so filled with
45anger that he refuses to be bought & speaks the truth. Did I tell you
46how we came upon Rhodes & Jameson, having lunch at the Zoo when we
47were in London: & again we my husband met Rhodes & Maguire at ^in^ the
48?coliseum at Rome? Curious we should always be coming across him.
50 There is one point I hope you & Sauer & Innes will keep in mind, &
51that is that Rhodes is a coward.
53 If you are going to handle him with kid gloves, we he may return to
54the Cape Parliament. If you ^three^ are going to fight straight from the
55shoulder he dare never show his face there. I believe if only one of
56you stood firm, he would not dare.
58 But after all - the old sorrow comes back again. We fight Rhodes
59because he means so much of oppression, injustice, & moral degradation
60to South Africa; - but if he passed away tomorrow there still remains
61the terrible fact that something in our society has formed the matrix
62which has fed, nourished, & built up such a man! It is the far future
63of Africa during the next twenty-five or fifty years which depresses
64me. I believe we are standing on the top of a long down-ward slope. We
65shall reach the bottom at last, probably amid the of a war with our
66native races (then not the poor savage but generous races whom we
67might have bound to ourselves by a little generosity & sympathy - but
68a fierce & half educate much brutalized race, who will have their own).
69 I see always that day fifty or sixty years hence; & it is with
70reference to it that I judge of many things in the present. The men to
71come after us will reap the fruits of our "native policy", as we today
72in a smaller fashion are reaping the fruits of the "Dutch Policy" of
73sixty years ago. One tenth of the consideration that the Dutch have
74wrung from us during the last 15 years, yielded them from motive of
75humanity & with sympathy & respect, would have blended us into one
76people emotionally long ago.
78 I shall make all inquiries about literature with regard to Touss-ant
when I am in Paris next month. I myself have long been
80anxious to learn more of him. I have also written to a friend in
81London Havelock Ellis who is an Encyclopaedia on European literature,
82to hear if he knows of anything.
84 I do hope you will see some way of all acting together out there. Even
85if it g

87 Yours very sincerely,
88 Olive Schreiner
90 Did you see my husband's little paper in the Progressive Review.
The two articles Schreiner refers to are part of a group initially published pseudonymously from 1891 on as by 'A Returned South African' intended for publication in book form 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 related essays were posthumously published as Thoughts on South Africa. Schreiner would have 'made all inquiries' regarding books about Toussaint Louverture, rather than by him. For Cronwright-Schreiner's article, see: S.C. Cronwright-Schreiner "Notes on South Africa" Progressive Review vol 1, no 6, March 1897 pp.542-547. Rive's (1987) version omits part of this letter and is also in a number of respects incorrect.