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Letter ReferenceOlive Schreiner BC16/Box1/Fold5/1898/13
ArchiveUniversity of Cape Town, Manuscripts & Archives, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date29 June 1898
Address FromThe Homestead, Kimberley, Northern Cape
Address ToChambers, Cape Town, Western Cape
Who ToWilliam Philip ('Will') Schreiner
Other VersionsRive 1987: 332-4
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
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 address this letter was sent to is provided by an attached envelope.
1 The Homestead
2 June 29th 1898
4 Dear Laddie
6 I posted a line to you this morning & got yours just after I posted
9 With regard to Hofmeyer taking the lead of the party, I think he is
10much too wise to make such a mistake. The more the Dutch party make
11Englishmen their spokesmen & ^official^ leaders the stronger their party
12becomes. You or Merriman could say things which if said by any
13Dutch-man would fill the country with howls of "treason," "Dutchmen
14attacking Englishmen" &c. I have never agreed with those who blamed
15Hofmeyer for remaining in the back ground. I believe that if ever a
16really liberal party is formed in this country (not progressive!
17Liberal) its leader must also be content to remain permanently out of
18office, & to make his party powerful by being contented with the
19substance of power without the show. As to your taking the lead, dear,
20I need hardly say, I am influenced not at all by any ambition for you.
21Every year as I grow older fame & success in the usually apprised
22manner, seems to me of less & less value. And the ambition I have not
23for myself I have not for those I love. If any other man seemed more
24likely to lead to the ends we desire I should earnestly wish you to
25stand aside. But I do not see any other man who can lead at the moment!
26 The position is in a sense forced on you. I have sometimes thought
27that if it were possible to make Sauer Premier & yourself Attorney
28General, this one great advantage would be gained that you would have
29secured Sauer! His one great ambition is to be Prime Minister. He will
30never rest till he is; there fore by giving him the object of his
31desire, you insure his loyalty. Doubtless the party would not have him
32now: but it has struck me, (knowing nothing of the inner personal
33working of matters in Cape Town of course!) that possibly some time
34might arrive when it would be useful to bind Sauer in that way!! ^He is
35the doubtful horse: but perhaps he would not greatly benefit his side.^
37 Pl As to the more personal matter whether considering your health, &
38the necessity of your earning money, you ought to undertake heavy
39political responsibilities – one can only say it is one of those
40subtle & close questions a man has rather to feel-out, than to
41think-out! It seems to me possible that you in years to come you may
42hold the position of the man South Africa needs. The man who
43represents no party & section to the sacrifice of others, a man who
44shall be trusted by Dutchman & Englishman & native to represent
45justice & impartiality towards them in government. No man will ever
46truly be great, in South African public life, till he takes such a
47stand; & difficult as it may seem retains it. If it is possible that
48such a large & useful career lies before, it seems a terrible loss
49that you should withdraw. On the other hand it is quite possible that
50one may practically kill oneself but by putting on too much strain at
51any time: & I myself feel very anxious about you. One can only let all
52ones conflicting duties & obligations balance themselves, in one’s
53mind, & then accept the conclusion that is forced in on one. After I
54had finished Peter Halket I spent three days & nights almost entirely
55with out sleep pacing up & down my verandah, trying to decide whether
56I should publish it or not. I believed that Rhodes & the Chartered
57Company would proceed against me; & I felt sure that the matter would
58kill me, as it did to a very large extent. There was all the other
59possible future work I might do; my box of manuscripts lying unrevised,
60 & on the other hand the great doubt whether that whatever the book
61meant to me, it might have any effect in increasing justice at all
62commensurate with the price I was paying. At last the matter decided
63itself within me. Don’t think I mean anything supernatural takes
64place; though that decision which taken is given ^one’s nature gives^
65when one tries to silence the lower & purely personal interest & to
66allow the higher elements in it to adjudicate among themselves is what
67the ancients called the ‘Voice of God’; & is so to a certain
68extent; because it the highest & for each soul within itself, the most
69ultimate injunction it can ever receive. It was Socratie’s little
70demon, & is undoubtedly in every one who lays himself open to be
71guided by it. And this one thing is certain, that when one acts in
72obedience to it, one never regrets even though absolute failure in the
73eyes of the world follow on it. A man may be mistaken, but when he has
74acted under such a guidance, he know he has followed the highest
75course open to him: & he never looks back & regrets which is the main
76thing in life. Peter Halket has been apparently such a dead failure,
77in spite of its immense circulation. I do not believe it has saved the
78life of one nigger, it had not the slightest effect in forcing on the
79parliamentary examination into the conduct of affairs in Rhodesia, &
80it cost me, every thing. And yet I have never for one moment regretted
81that I published it. When I had that bad attack of the heart in Naples
82& they carried me into a chemist shop & I believed I was dying, the
83one thought that was with me was "Peter Halket." In my moment of
84greatest need the book I believed to be such an absolute failure stood
85by me & comforted.
87 I think you will see what I am driving at. Only lay aside all ambition
88& selfseeking & let the higher elements in your nature determine your
89path of duty, & then it doesn’t matter what happens! If a man should
90come to die, & he felt he was not leaving his family provided for as
91he would wish, if he felt he had sacrificed at the shrine of personal
92ambition he might feel the most crushing remorse. If on the other hand
93a man forsook his public life for the purpose of providing for his
94family more adequately, & perhaps prolonging his own life, in the face
95of a conviction of duty, he would be consoled by no consideration that
96his wife & children were well off. The great difficulty is to get that
97inner verdict!
99 -------------------------------------------------------
101 Saturday. Do you think we can hope to come in much stronger after the
? I can’t help feeling rather hope-ful, but my hope is not
103based on much knowledge. De Beers people here seem so sick & that is
104rather a hopeful sign!! The secretary of De Beers, (Willie Pickering
105who’s married to Cron’s cousin) wrote to him the other day saying
106that if the country is to run in this way, the sooner England makes
107this a Crown Colony again the better.
109^Thy stupid little sister ^
110 Olive
Rive's (1987) version omits part of this letter and is also in a number of respects incorrect.