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Theophilus Schreiner

Theophilus Lyndall (Theo) Schreiner (1844 - 1920) was an elder brother of Olive Schreiner's, a teacher in early adulthood, but better known as a temperance worker. Theo was educated at the Wesleyan Collegiate Institution (later Queen's College) in Taunton, England, but returned to South Africa to help support his younger siblings financially after Gottlob Schreiner's 'ruin'. In particular he contributed towards Will Schreiner's education, and also he and his sister Ettie when living together in Cradock where he ran a school also took in their younger sister Olive, then aged BBB.. Will and Olive Schreiner often referred to Theo as the 'oubaas', the old man in the sense of baas meaning a boss, and so both affectionate and also indicating something of Theo?s temperament. Theo Schreiner worked as a teacher in Bedford and then at Cradock where he was appointed headmaster and Ettie kept house for him and taught younger girls. In 1870 he went to the Diamond Fields as a prospector, accompanied by Ettie, and it was here that he first became involved in temperance work, founding a Good Templar Lodge in the town. He later became involved in mission work in the Orange Free State and the Transvaal, and in 1889 visited the USA as a Good Templar.

Early in her life, Schreiner wrote about Theo with admiration, while also recognising his sternness; later, however, the relationship became strained and then there was a major lasting rift between them. Around the events after the Jameson Raid and leading up to the South African War (1899 - 1902), Theo Schreiner, like his mother and his sister Ettie, was fervently pro-Rhodes and pro-British; also, Theo made public private information about Olive and Cronwright-Schreiner in serving the Rhodes and pro-war cause. These events resulted in a family rift and in particular an estrangement between Theo and Olive. Theo was however also a firm supporter of 'native' rights and in 1910 he represented Tembuland, a largely black constituency. He served in parliament alongside Will Schreiner who had been nominated as a senator to represent black political interests. When Will Schreiner was appointed South African High Commissioner in 1914, Theo took over this senatorship.

Theo Schreiner did not marry and during the 1870s his sister Ettie acted as his companion and domestic help. Later his niece Katie Stuart (nee Findlay) took over this role after the early death of her husband, and the alliance between Theo Schreiner and Katie Stuart, who cared for Theo from then until his death in 1920, caused further friction in Olive Schreiner?s relationship with her brother, indeed regarding the whole family's relationship with him. As she noted in 1920 letter to Fan Schreiner after Theo's death, 'If only she [Katie] had not divided him so from us'.  It is very likely that letters were exchanged between Olive and Theo Schreiner in the earlier period in their lives, although none have been traced.

For further information see:
E.H. Brookes (1981) 'Schreiner, Theophilus Lyndall' in (ed) C.J. Beyers Dictionary of South African Biography  Vol IV Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council, p.  546
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collection icon Cullen Library, Historical Papers, University of Witwatersrand: Historical Papers in the Cullen Library is a leading location for accessing archival papers across many periods, organisation... Show/Hide Collection Letters
collection icon Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin: The HRC, Austin, is one of the world leading locations for archival papers pertaining to literary life and manuscripts across... Show/Hide Collection Letters
collection icon SCCS Edited Extracts: Four groups of edited extracts from Olive Schreiner's letters can be accessed from here, made by her estranged husband Cronwr... Show/Hide Collection Letters
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