"Been to Women's International Federation meeting, woman in street says 'traitor meeting'" Read the full letter
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Letter ReferenceSmuts A1/207/185
ArchiveNational Archives Repository, Pretoria
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date19 October 1920
Address FromOak Hall, Wynburg, Cape Town, Western Cape
Address To
Who ToJan Smuts
Other Versions
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
The Project is grateful to the National Archives Repository, Pretoria, for kindly allowing us to transcribe this Olive Schreiner letter, which is part of its Special Collections. Schreiner stayed with her sister-in-law Fan Schreiner and her friend Lucy Molteno in Cape Town after her arrival from Britain on 30 August 1920, moving to a boarding-house in Wynberg in late October, where she was resident until her death on 11 December 1920.
1 Address
2c/o Mrs. W P Schreiner
3 Lyndall
4 Garden Street
5 Plumstead
6 nr. Cape Town

7 Oct 19th 1920
9 Dear Jan
11 Thank you for your kind words of welcome. I wish you & Isie were down
12here now. Do try & get Isie down here when you come down to parliament.
13 I would like to have a long talk with you on the native question -
14not only South Africa’s great question, but the world’s great
17 Oct 28th 1920
19 Dear Jan
21 I began this but wasn’t able to finish it a week ago. Yesterday I
22read of the troubles in Port Elizabeth. I wish I knew you were taking
23as broad & sane a view on our native problem as you took on many
24European points when you were there. The next few years are going to
25determine the whole future of South Africa in 30 or 40 years time. As
26we sow we shall reap. We may crush the mass of our fellows in South
27Africa today, as Russia did for generations, but today the serf is in
28the Palace & where is the Czar?
30 No, Jan, I feel more lonely here than I did in England. I did not live
31in your great fashionable world – but I knew there were millions of
32my fellow men about me all over Europe who thought & felt exactly as I
33did. Here it is otherwise.
35 I have got a little room in a boarding house at Wynberg; but I have
36spent nearly two months finding it. The conditions of life are much
37harder here than in England for a person living alone. This accursed
38war has spoiled everything. I should never have come out had I
39realized what the conditions are, but now I shall never be able to
40undertake the journey back. I wonder what you thought of the
41Prince’s speech in London. He says the great aim of British
42Emperialism is to turn all parts of the world where it obtains into
43Englands men. By God, he’ll find his mistake if he tries to do it
44here! It seemed to me the most vain undiplomatic speech that was ever
45made by a man coming out to a country like South Africa. It puzzles me
46why you tried to get him out here. It may please the Unionists & the
47more snobbish sort of Dutch but even in your own South African party
48there are men with stiff backs & knees!!!
50 Jan dear, you are having your last throw; throw it right this time.
51You are such a wonderfully brilliant & gifted man, & yet there are
52sometimes things which a simple child might see which you don’t! You
53see close at hand - but you don’t see far enough.
55 I do hope you will get Isie to come down when the parliament meets. I
56want so to see her.
58 Thine ever
59 Olive
61 This is the 20th century; the past is past never to return, even in
62South Africa. The day of princes, & Bosses, of is gone forever: one
63must meet the incoming tide & rise on it, or be swept away ^forever.^