Letter to Leonard Hobhouse
52. TO LEONARD HOBHOUSE
[Wynberg House], Cape Town 25 May 1903
I have had long talks with the Chief Justice, in whose house I now find myself, about the situation generally and “Joe’s” visit. All seem fairly content with the way things are gradually working out in this Colony. “Joe” told Sir Henry that a week here in Cape Town had caused a great alteration in his mind and views, especially in the question of the rebellion. Also the 300 men composing the Afrikander deputation made a profound impression upon him; they were physically and mentally a very fine set, and “Joe” gave great satisfaction by markedly polite manners to them, shaking hands with everyone, etc. All agree that if the loyalists would be as conciliatory as the Colonial Secretary, harmony might return, but they go on rubbing in loyalty at every turn. To me it seems that the bitterness against England is far deeper and more intense than on my previous visit, the sense of injustice has gone in so deep that it can never be effaced; in fact so much is this the cause that now and then it makes me fell hot and uncomfortable to hear what is said; they speak out in front of me as if I were one of themselves… They know nothing here of what is going on up-country, and on many points know far fewer facts than we English…But books are not easily come by; my book, MacDonalds’s book, Kestell’s book, Songs of the Veld and others-all seem under silent prohibition. The first consignments got in, but they were quietly squashed now, though if any bookseller chose to bring the matter into Court probably the prohibition would be removed, as was the case with Van Edelingen’s History of the War. But no one will take that step, so the bulk of the population neither see nor hear of such books. Olive Schreiner wrote me a very nice letter about mine. She appreciates fully the difficulties of my position in writing it and says she does not think it could, considering those, have been better done. This is kind of her but I do not agree… Lady De Villiers took me for a wonderfully lovely drive yesterday to Groot Constantia, famous for its wine. It is the old family place of the Cloetes’ and is a fine specimen of the old Dutch style of house with thatched roof and white gables. The oak avenues about it are every fine, and in one of these the great alfresco luncheon was given to Chamberlain. The most beautiful thing is the view from the stoep, which is of almost unrivalled beauty, across a richly cultivated plain with woods and fields to the seas and the cliffs of False Bay and beyond the seas the grand range of mountains around Stellenbosch. On the other side rose Table Mountain and its attendant peaks, and over all the rich autumn colouring, the vines golden as bracken is at home. Today I have been to town to get my permit, and meeting young Mr. Van Zyl in the road got him to go into office with me. I had to fill in a form asking all kinds of questions and seeing I was English the official was most hearty, said there was no difficulty-I could go everywhere. Presently he read my paper attentively and it began to dawn upon him who I was-his manner changed at once and he hummed and hawed and raised difficulties and said I must come again to=morrow and meanwhile he would see. From this I imagine my name must be on some list for special considerations of reference to His Excellency and so I await my verdict tomorrow. The weather has been very wet and rather cold and I have been prevented from getting about as I should wish…I have a great number of invitations to stay with people, more than I can possibly accept…Now I want to hurry on not to miss the cold weather at Pretoria and in the North Transvaal, and work southwards as the weather grows warmer.
From the memoir
a) While there, Captain V. came to lunch and entertained us with many stories of the war. The more humorous ones I should spoil in the telling, but I found the following characteristic: Captain V. told us he had captured a young girl of eighteen, a Miss J. (I will suppress her name). He had come across a small body of Boers, and in a cart with them, also armed with a rifle, was this pretty girl. He went up to her and touching his hat said he was sorry to have to molest her, but it would be necessary to send her to Springfontein Camp where he felt sure she would be very comfortable. “That,” she replied, “I feel sure I shall not, for I have lived there already four months and escaped, finding it unbearable.” The Commandant of the Boers told Captain V. that the girl had such spirit and courage, more so than any of his men, that he had found it necessary to place her in a cart and order her to keep in the rear. She was sent by Captain V. to the camp. After peace he visited the family now re-united, whom he found sheltering in an outhouse on their farm. The mother thanked him for capturing the girl about whom she had been extremely anxious. He gave the girl a Queen’s medal, thinking she deserved it!!
b) Miss Emmie Murray asked me to visit her Home for Girls in Wynberg and I see that the last day of the month was spent with her there. Her information, as noted down, is serious, but cannot be here repeated. The daughter of the Rev. Andrew Murray, she had worked a good deal with the Salvation Army. If someone would write a book on the effect of war on public morality her experiences should find a place. .
- Hobhouse, Emily. Boer War Letters: Letters. Ed. Ryker Van Reener. Capetown: Human & Russeau. 1984. pp. 180-181