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Letter ReferenceOlive Schreiner BC16/Box2/Fold2/July-Dec1899/32
ArchiveUniversity of Cape Town, Manuscripts & Archives, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter DateSunday 24 September 1899
Address FromKarree Kloof, Kran Kuil, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToWilliam Philip ('Will') Schreiner
Other VersionsRive 1987: 381-2
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.
1 Karee Kloof
2 Sunday
3 Sep 24th 1899
5 Dear Laddy
7 Your two notes of the 20th & 18th enclosing the cable are to hand.
8Always open any cables or letters which may come for me if you think
9they contain matter of any interest. The cable I have not yet replied
10to. I am much in the dark as to what I ought to do. It would be a
11great thing for our side is some one known ^& trusted^ ^unreadable^ & at
12least by a certain party in England & America trusted, could be
13war-correspondent, & I would go up as I am a bit better now; but in
14that case Cron will go up & I know he will get shot. It would not
15matter at all if I died in a cause I have so f much at heart, I shall
16never die in a better. But I can’t feel it right he should die in a
17cause which though he is sympathetic is not one of life & death to him
18^in the same sense as to me^. (Don’t refer to this when you write, I
19mean re Cron.)
21 I th Do I am writing to Smuts however to ask if facilities will be
22given me to go with the troops &c, & will make up my mind when I get
23his reply. My feeling will always be that if there is war I should be
24in the Transvaal.
26 The long other letter you sent me was a long one from dear old General
very sad in tone "How often in our youth do we imagine that we
28might have made the world better - happier? – It is only a vain
29dream which age dispels – Death is as necessary to man as life, it
30is more merciful! I am going to write him a long letter in reply. He
31speaks most affectionately of you. Ah, had they sent us out such a man!!
33 Yes, dear I know you have not only always thought to do the right
34thing, but I think under your success has been phenomenal. If the
35situation is saved it will have been saved by you. But hope is now
36almost dead with-in me. I cannot feel so utterly hopeless with regard
37to our success in war as from a mere logical consideration of the
38facts I should feel; at the worst we shall pay a great & terrible
39price for a mighty lesson. The blood of our Burgers will impregnate
40South African soil with a something which in years to come will make
41it impossible for the capitalist to live & flourish here. I have lain
42awake all night in an agony of despair, but in the morning as you say
43comes hope, & the determination to fight on.
45 We may be coming down to Cape Town next week or may not come at all.
46Do you think I could still do any good by seeing Milner? Now I feel as
47if it were too late for everything now. I sent off last week an
48article on the Boer to an American paper, but when I sit down to write
49my hand seems paralyzed by the thought it is too late.
51 //I read with great interest what you said. You are undoubtedly quite
52right as to Milner & Chamberlain never having expected war: but I
53think, I think, there is one point on which my position enables me to
54see clearer than you. You say that that "if Kruger had avoided the
55fatal policy of delay & yielded by inches the situation would have
56been saved." My dear Laddie it would not! If you knew those Uitlander
57hounds of Rhodes’s as I know them, if you knew Johannesburg & the
58hundreds of thousands (literally) being expended there in working up
59intrigue you would well understand what I mean. No concession of
60Krugers would have done anything but wet the appetite of the Rhodes
61crew for more. I wish I could tell you what I know on this matter, but
62in writing nothing is possible. During the first months of my life in
63Johannesburg I saw much of the Wrights Napiers & other League leaders,
64& from that time I felt I felt hopeless of peace being attained by
65means of any concession.
67 I sometimes feel I must come & see you, dear, even if I only stay for
68one day, & have one talk. You could enlighten me greatly, & I could
69perhaps throw for you a little light on the Johannesburg situation. I
70have a curious deep feeling that I cannot explain that Rhodes blood
71stained hand will never grasp that Johannesburg gold he has so sinned
72for. I see for that miserable man his doom approaching rapidly.
74 Good bye, dear. My love to you all.
75 Olive
77 Did you note that dear old Spencer had spoken out on our side at
78Morley’s meeting. Strange that with the exception of a man like
79Kolbe here & there the whole English Christian world is silent at this
80juncture. The Morleys Spencers & socialists at home who are on our
81side, & who are speaking out for a ?losing
The article on 'the Boer' referred to was one of those intended to compose 'Stray Thoughts in South Africa', with most 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. The 'missing' end of this letter will be found at BC16/Box12/Fold1/Undated/17. Rive's (1987) version omits part of this letter and is in a number of respects incorrect.