"Detailed advice for nursing Will Schreiner just before his death" Read the full letter
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Letter ReferenceOlive Schreiner BC16/Box1/Fold4/1897/25
ArchiveUniversity of Cape Town, Manuscripts & Archives, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter DateThursday 16 December 1897
Address FromKimberley, Northern Cape
Address ToGirls Collegiate School, Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape
Who ToBetty Molteno
Other VersionsRive 1987: 321-2
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. The date of this letter has been derived from the postmark on an attached envelope, which also provides the address the letter was sent to. The name of the addressee is indicated by salutation and content.
1 Thurs-day
2
3 Dearest Friend
4
5 I have just got your letter. I can’t tell you how great a joy &
6comfort your sympathy is to us both. If they had charged us with the
7full damages that were asked £500 we could of course not have been
8able to pay it with the costs which would have brought it up to £700
9or £800. But the £50 damages & costs will be only about £250 & that
10we can manage. I have just most fortunately got the money for a
11year’s sale of An African Farm £80 & I can manage the £250 quite
12well. If it should by any chance come to more (& our attorney has not
13rendered the account but he thinks it will be £250) I will write &
14borrow from you whatever I need to make it up.
15
16 We were very much touch by this mornings post to get a cheque for £25
17from a public man in Kimberley of whom we know very little, saying he
18considered the case a public matter & wished to contribute. Of course
19we can’t take it, but we have all the comfort & p of knowing that
20silent as Kimberley is on the surface, there is life below.
21
22 Private
23
24 One man was told by Cornwall himself that Rhodes agent had given him a
25list of names of men he was to try & remove from the voters lists; but
26no one could come forward in court & give the evidence they gave us as
27it would ruin them. It is not for nothing one feels so sad as one
28drives through Kimberley streets. I suppose there are few places on
29earth where Europeans live where freedom is so dead as here.
30
31 I am hoping Miss Greene is quite well again. I know she doesn’t mind
32the pain of being ill, but the not being able to do the work one longs
33to do is so hard. Yet even this one must except. If I could only work
34all would soon be all right. I have only been one day out of bed since
35I returned from in Cape Town; but today I feel stronger & better than
36I have done for a long time & am going to get out my manuscripts.
37
38 The heat is greater here than any one has known it for years, day
39after day 104 & 105 in the cool shade. But it must rain soon. I have
40got such a good Hottentot Boy from Port Elizabeth as servant. He was
41going to leave at Xmas, but now he says he will stay on a few months
42longer.
43
44 Good bye my dear dear friend. I think it is your letter has made me
45feel so much better today. I have had a very nice letter from Merriman,
46 & a wire from my brother Will, congratulating Cron on the stand he
47made. Under the surface there is a strong feeling against this tyranny
48& corruption that is eating the heart of the country out, what not at
49is needed that come is some strong leader to give expression to it.
50
51 But all that happens in the Colony seems to me such a small thing
52compared with what has gone on in Mashona & Matabele land. Did I tell
53you of the educated Christian Kaffir who came to see us the other day?
54I fancy I did. He had been up in Matabele-land talking to the chiefs
55and indunas there. I asked him what they gave as their reason for
56fighting. He said, "They say they fought for death." I asked what he
57meant; & he said that they had never any hope of conquering the white
58men or driving him out, but their treatment was such that death was
59the one thing they desired. The Chartered Company are trying to drive
60them down into the fever swamps to live where they all must die by
61inches. Ah my dear friend, it is these things that are so terrible to
62me. I Sometimes feel ashamed to look at a black man. But we can but
63each live out our little life, doing the best we can with the little
64fragment of strength that is given us.
65
66 Yes, I am very sorry for Rhodes. Rather be the most crushed &
67miserable Mashona than he, & he perhaps does not see the path of
68justice & mercy as we see it. It is those who do see, but who are so
69fearful to speak out & act that it is so hard not to blame.
70
71 The tw Two days ago Cron got a letter from a leading man at Bulawayo
72on the employ of the Chartered Company on some business. At the end of
73his letter he sent his kind regards to me & said "Tell Mrs Schreiner
74Peter Halket is quite true, but she would find it very hard unreadable
75to get anyone ^here^ to stand to it." He is a hard man of the world &
76not at all a friend of the native. The only ray of comfort on this
77matter for many months passed have been John Morleys two fine speeches.
78 Did you read them?
79
80 Olive
81
82
83
Notation
The manuscripts referred to are those intended to compose 'Stray Thoughts', and are essays originally published pseudonymously as by 'A Returned South African'. Although prepared for book publication, a dispute with a US publisher and the South African War (1899-1902) prevented this. They and some other essays were posthumously published as Thoughts on South Africa. Rive's (1987) version omits part of this letter and is also in a number of respects incorrect.