Olive Schreiner

  • Ursula Edmands


Olive Schreiner’s The Story of an African Farm, published in 1883,1 had the distinction of being the first novel written by a colonial to be warmly and widely acclaimed in Britain. Its author was a remarkable woman whose lack of formal education had not hampered her intellectual growth, nor her eagerness to challenge conventional attitudes (particularly towards women), outworn beliefs, and old ideas. She was lionised in London during the 1880s, but to English readers she is little more than the writer of a minor Victorian ‘problem novel’. She wrote two other novels, Undine2 and From Man to Man,3 neither of which was intended for publication. They were edited and posthumously published by her husband, and have remained relatively unknown. In South Africa, however, she established a second reputation. She became one of the prominent public figures in Cape Society at the turn of the century, the friend of Cecil Rhodes, Saul Solomon, Paul Kruger, and later of the young J. C. Smuts. Her advice on politics and social questions was sought and listened to with respect, although her refusal to compromise on matters of principle inevitably lost her many political acquaintances. Her championship of minority groups, whether Coloured people or the Jews, prostitutes or underpaid working women, won her gratitude and admiration from every section of the South African community.


English Reader South AFRICAN African Farm Train Journey South African Community 
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  1. 2.
    Olive Schreiner, Undine (London: Ernest Benn, 1929).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Olive Schreiner, From Man to Man (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1926).Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    W. H. Nevinson, The Fire of Life (Nesbitt, 1924) p. 123.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    S. C. Cronwright-Schreiner, The Life of Olive Schreiner (London: T. Fisher-Unwin, 1924) p. 87.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    S. C. Cronwright-Schreiner (ed.), The Letters of Olive Schreiner, 1876–1920 (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1924) p. 112.Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    A. James and N. Hills (eds.), Mrs John Brown: 1847–1935 (Edinburgh: Murray, 1937) p. 189.Google Scholar
  7. 12.
    Olive Schreiner, Woman and Labour, (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1911).Google Scholar
  8. 15.
    D. L. Hobman, Olive Schreiner, Her Friends and Times (London: Watts & Co., 1915) p. vii.Google Scholar
  9. 22.
    Olive Schreiner, Trooper Peter Halkett of Mashonaland (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1897).Google Scholar
  10. 26.
    Olive Schreiner, A South African’s View of the Situation or Words in Season (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1898).Google Scholar
  11. 27.
    Olive Schreiner, Thoughts on South Africa (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1923 posthumous) p. 243.Google Scholar
  12. 29.
    Olive Schreiner, Closer Union: a Letter on the South African Union and the Principles of Government (Fifield, 1909).Google Scholar
  13. 34.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays, vol. 1, (London: Geo. Bell, 1884), p. 167.Google Scholar
  14. 38.
    Olive Schreiner, Dreams (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1891)Google Scholar
  15. Dream Life and Real Life (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1893); Stories Dreams and Allegories (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1923).Google Scholar
  16. 44.
    Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm (London: Chapman &. Hall, 1892) p. 4.Google Scholar

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© Ursula Edmands 1978

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  • Ursula Edmands

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