"Saddest & loneliest old years eve, old days at Heald Town" Read the full letter
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Letter ReferenceOlive Schreiner BC16/Box1/Fold2/1895/9
ArchiveUniversity of Cape Town, Manuscripts & Archives, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date13 August 1895
Address FromKimberley, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToWilliam Philip ('Will') Schreiner
Other VersionsRive 1987: 255-6
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
Legend
The Project is grateful to Manuscripts and Archives, University of Cape Town, for kindly allowing us to transcribe this Olive Schreiner letter, which is part of its Manuscripts and Archives Collections.
1 Private
2 Kimberley
3 Aug 13 / 95
4
5 Dear dear old Laddie
6
7 I have been wanting to write you a long letter, but just because there
8is so much really that I wanted to say, I can’t feel that a note is
9worth writing. I have been very busy working at a paper on the
10political situation that Cron is to read in the Town Hall on the 20th
11next Tuesday. I have been somewhat exercised in spirit about it,
12because I wanted to exhonerate you ^personally^, justly, from the blame
13thrown on the Monopolist Party. But after deep thought I left it alone.
14 I have suffered much agony in my life from the well meant & loving
15defence of my friends, that I am very shy of making refferance to any
16one I love in print. So we decided it was just best to say nothing
17about you at all. I feel that especially when people are related they
18has to be very careful what they say of one another, because by an
19ignorant public all they say is suppose to be inspired & to carry a
20peculiar weight. There are many things I could say & be justified in
21saying; but its better to leave them alone.
22
23 Dear Laddie I know how terribly alone you must be. There is only one
24man in Colonial public life whom you ^you^ would work with with perfect
25joy & security & that is Innes: & now you are at opposite poles. There
26is nothing I brilliant or finished in the little paper, but it is
27sincere: & what we need in this country is just simple frank sincere
28statement of men’s thoughts & feelings on all public questions. More
29light more air, even if it comes with a storm!
30
31 //I sometimes fear Rhodes is coming near the end of his course. And it
32need not have been! He might have all that was best & greatest in
33South Africa to his side. ‘We that would have loved him so, honoured
34him, followed him!" – but he has chosen, not only to choose the
35worst men as his instruments, but to act on men always through the
36lowest sides of their nature,
to lead them through a narrow
37self-interest instead of animating them with large enthusiasms. And he
38might have done it! – Fort says he couldn’t that I am mistaking
39his nature. It may be: if so I am yet more mistaken in his nature than
40I thought. For the present I feel to him not as to a man who has only
41one path open to him, but as to a man who had, & who has looked
42steadily & carefully at both, & chosen the lower! He is to me an
43almighty, might-have-been.
44
45 Don’t mention all this to any one. I will send you a copy of the
46little paper it is equally Cron’s & mine, but the throwing it into
47form has been my work.
48
49 He’s a noble fellow when you get to know him: I think without
50exception the straightest human being I ever knew. I should like to
51see yourself you Innes, Cron & a few more such men working together in
52public life; if out of a ministry instead of in it, so much the better.
53 Don’t let Rhodes get hold of you, don’t accept any favour from
54him – "Keep thee today, tomorrow forever, free as Ahab from thy
55beloved"
56
57 Thy own little sister
58 Olive
59
60 ^I am very well indeed. Stronger in health than I have ever been since
61I went home to England the first time.^
62
63 ^Private^
64
65
66
Notation
The paper referred to is The Political Situation. The 'Keep thee today' quotation cannot be traced. Rive's (1987) version omits part of this letter and is also in a number of respects incorrect.