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Fred Schreiner

Frederick Samuel (Fred) Schreiner (1840 - 1901) was Olive Schreiner’s eldest brother. He was educated at the Wesleyan Collegiate Institution (later Queen's College) at Taunton in England and then graduated from the University of London. After leaving South Africa as a young boy, he never returned. Fred Schreiner had found their parents’ harsh treatment of their eldest daughter Katie around her engagement to John Findlay unsupportable, with his letters to Katie herself describing them as hypocritical regarding their professions of Christian belief but failures in Christian practice.

In 1877, Fred Schreiner opened New College, his private school for boys in Eastbourne; New College became immensely successful for a long period, and then was later sold to a limited company, with Fred staying on as headmaster. Fred and Olive Schreiner met for the very first time on her arrival in Britain in 1881, with Will Schreiner having met Fred, again for the first time, a short time before this. For the younger Schreiners, he became known as ‘the Dadda’, with the kindly if patriarchal and ultra-respectable Fred taking on financial and other responsibilities for his younger siblings of a kind notably absent from their relationship with their improvident father Gottlob. Fred and Olive remained close, with ups and downs mainly occasioned by his concerns about the moral ‘tone’ of some of her writing, most notably regarding The Story of An African Farm. Fred, Olive and Will shared political views around the Jameson Raid and the ‘fall’ of Rhodes, and later regarding opposition to British provocation of the South African War (1899 - 1902).

Fred Schreiner died suddenly of the family heart condition inherited from their father Gottlob, with his health having been greatly affected by the sudden death from influenza of his much loved and much indulged son Wilfred shortly before. She wrote to Betty Molteno in May 1901 about Fred’s death, that “I have loved him better than any thing on earth but Cron, & in a way he struck root deeper in my nature than any other human creature ever has: a large part of me is dead with him.”. Fred was generally an assiduous family correspondent (although for many years he barely wrote to his parents in the wake of their treatment of Katie); there will certainly have been many letters were exchanged between Olive Schreiner and him, although none have been traced.
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