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would fall in love. So little of the British writing about Boer women
allows them as potential objects of desire that Hales™ portrait stands out
starkly. Although such a picture of a Boer woman could appear in a
pro-government newspaper during the war, the Boer woman as desired
or desiring could not exist in propaganda, in publications that were
aimed at constructing the British soldier as either a rapist or as entirely
self-controlled. Neither Doyle nor Stead could allow a British soldier to
form a romantic attachment to a Boer woman.
Rape by British soldiers does make it into Stead™s propaganda in one
important place. Methods of Barbarism includes actual testimony of Boer
women rape victims, excerpted from the transcript of the Spoelstra
censorship trial of ±°±, in which a Dutch journalist defended a letter
he had written to a Dutch newspaper and had tried to have smuggled
past the British censors. The letter had charged British troops with
±°° Gender, race, and the writing of empire
˜˜shameful treatment of women and children™™ (), including farm-
burning, the herding of women and children into concentration camps,
and British rudeness to anyone Dutch. The Spoelstra letter had not
mentioned rape, but when he called as witnesses the sources he had
used for the letter, some of the women told detailed tales of rape and
attempted rape by British soldiers. One witness described the manner
in which a soldier raped her and reported that her husband had not
¬led a complaint in the matter, because, she asserted, ˜˜We were all
frightened.™™ The President of the Court is then reported to have said,
˜˜If such a most awful thing happened to a woman as being raped,
would it not be the ¬rst things for a man to do to rush out and bring the
guilty man to justice? He ought to risk his life for that. There was no
reason for him to be frightened. We English are not a barbarous
nation™™ (“°). Stead was unable to resist making the last sentence of
the judge™s statement into a headline.

¤   ¬ ™   ° ® 
Doyle™s defense of the British soldier in The War in South Africa: Its Cause
and Conduct had been prompted initially by Continental ˜˜calumnies,™™
but it responded even more directly to Methods of Barbarism. Doyle
indignantly quotes huge passages of the Stead pamphlet in The War in
South Africa. He particularly objects to Stead™s assertion that the British
soldier would take advantage of sexual opportunities whenever possible.
Doyle quotes Stead™s assertion of how far one could trust the sexual
honor of the British soldier:
We all know him at home. There is not one father of a family in the House or
on the London Press who would allow his servant girl to remain out all night on
a public common in England in time of profound peace in the company of a
score of soldiers. If he did, he would feel that he had exposed the girl to the loss
of her character. This is not merely admitted, but acted upon by all decent
people who live in garrison towns or in the neighborhood of barracks. Why,
then, should they suppose that when the same men are released from all the
restraints of civilisation, and sent forth to burn, destroy, and loot at their own
sweet will and pleasure, they will suddenly undergo so complete a transform-
ation as to scrupulously respect the wives and daughters of the enemy.(sic) It is
very unpopular to say this, and I already hear in advance the shrieks of
execration of those who will declare that I am calumniating the gallant soldiers
who are spending their lives in the defence of the interests of the Empire. But I
do not say a word against our soldiers. I only say that they are men. (quoted in
Doyle War ±±)
±°±
Cannibals or knights
Doyle takes issue with Stead™s charge that it is natural for men to rape,
especially in wartime. Stead has constructed the British soldier as a
natural man with primitive, violent instincts to which he gives in when
freed from the constraints of civilization. In describing the British soldier
thus, Stead normalizes behavior of which Doyle can never believe
Tommy Atkins guilty. According to Stead™s description, in wartime,
when women are available, they will be taken advantage of:
No war can be conducted “ and this war has not been conducted “ without
exposing multitudes of women, married and single, to the worst extremities of
outrage. It is an inevitable incident of war. It is one of the normal phenomena of
the military Inferno. It is absolutely impossible to attempt any comparative or
quantitative estimate of the number of women who have su¬ered wrong at the
hands of our troops. (quoted in Doyle War ±±)
˜˜When stripped of its rhetoric it amounts to this,™™ writes Doyle,
˜˜˜µ°,°°° men have committed outrages™™™ (±±). Doyle mocks Stead™s
voice, ˜˜˜How do I prove it? Because they are µ°,°°° men, and there-
fore must commit outrages™™™ (War ±±“°). Doyle could not muster a
rebuttal to such a charge “ he could only expect that in repeating Stead™s
claims he would reveal their ridiculousness. What Doyle reveals instead
is his own lack of language with which to rebut an assertion that
masculinity includes the potential to rape. Such a charge was unfathom-
able to one who put forward the chivalric ideal as a model in his ¬ction
and in his personal life, and who saw the conduct of war through such a
lens as well.

¤   ¬ ™    ¬¤©  
Doyle™s military men, in his history and his ¬ction, are chivalrous to the
core. Their bravery and ¬erce sense of honor make them masculine, not
their sexuality. Micah Clarke defends the weak and even prevents his
friend from killing an enemy soldier when he is down. Brigadier Gerard
is a stickler for honor in ¬ghting, and our view of his masculinity comes
from his military exploits “ he breaks many women™s hearts, but only
o¬stage. Most other adventure writers of the turn of the century had
nonsexual heroes, of course, especially Rider Haggard. These stories
are, after all, aimed at least partially at pre-pubescent boys.¹° But the
Kipling who is so often invoked in discussions of the British soldier
during the Boer War had never hidden the sexuality of the soldiers he
drew; they were, after all, only ˜˜single men in barracks.™™ Honor and
masculinity went hand-in-hand in Kipling. But masculine honor is not
±° Gender, race, and the writing of empire
sexual restraint in Kipling, as any of ˜˜The Ladies™™ of the poem of that
title could have testi¬ed.
In Doyle™s writings on South Africa, women have as small a place as
they do in his ¬ction about war. Boer women occasionally crop up,
where they can ¬t Doyle™s defense of British male honor. But even in his
discussions of the concentration camps, Doyle did not give much atten-
tion to Boer women. Instead, he focused on male visitors to the camps
and their praises of the camp conditions.
War was men™s business. The focus on sexual honor in Doyle was a
question of conduct toward women, but it was an issue for discussion
among men, and it was a question that arose only in single-sex circum-
stances. Only when men were away from the company of women did
they get a chance to shine in battle, for Doyle, and did they succumb to
their primitive instincts to rape, for Stead. The homosociality of war was
either an inspirer to greatness or a spur to immorality, depending on
whose version you believed. Doyle™s was the traditional version of war
and its single-sex glories. Stead™s perhaps represents twentieth-century,
post-Oscar Wilde, fears that a single-sex environment might be a
dangerous one. Once homosexuality had sprung up as possibility, it was
di¬cult to make innocent an environment contaminated by now-
spoken possibility. Stead does not have to articulate a fear of homosex-
uality in his description of the life of the soldier “ he simply locates
disorder in the soldier™s sexuality. ˜˜Normal™™ sexuality is not possible in
the abnormal condition of war. Doyle solves the problem by ignoring
the possibility of sexual expression by soldiers “ their sexuality is sub-
merged into their chivalry.
Doyle™s The Great Boer War, like The War in South Africa, did not devote
much space to women. When Boer women did appear in The Great Boer
War, they were cruel or devious. During the siege of Ladysmith, for
example, ˜˜the [British] garrison could see the gay frocks and parasols of
the Boer ladies who had come down by train to see the torture of the
doomed town™™ (Great ±“µ). And when the British were ˜˜clearing™™ the
southeast, ˜˜Troops were ¬red at from farm-houses which ¬‚ew the white
¬‚ag, and the good housewife remained behind to charge the ˜rooinek™
extortionate prices for milk and fodder while her husband shot at him
from the hills™™ (Great °). Doyle never got more personal, nor more
general, than these casual mentions of Boer women. When he wrote in
The Great Boer War about the concentration camps, he never referred to
Boer women directly, never characterized them as a group or individ-
ually. In the single paragraph devoted to the camps in all the book™s µ°°
±°
Cannibals or knights
pages, Doyle said that the camps had been formed for surrendered
Boers. He then added his only use of the word ˜˜women™™: ˜˜As to the
women and children, they could not be left upon the farms in a denuded
country™™ (Great ). He summed up the controversy about the camps
by noting that ˜˜Some consternation was caused in England by a report
of Miss Hobhouse, which called public attention to the very high rate of
mortality in some of these camps; but examination showed that this was
not due to anything insanitary in their situation or arrangement, but to a
severe epidemic of measles which had swept away a large number of the
children™™ (Great ). While Doyle™s summary of the concentration
camps controversy certainly left out key elements of the camps story, it
was remarkably free of that emphasis so prevalent in most writing about
the camps “ Boer-blame. Doyle did not malign the Boers as a nation in
the way other pro-Britain writers had. He could not. For Doyle™s version
of the South African drama to work, the Boers could not be a backward,
slovenly nation. The Boers had to have a nobility that made them a
¬tting enemy for the noble Britons. Nevertheless, sticking too closely to
that formulation would have landed Doyle in some trouble as well: the
noble mother dying with her child in the British-run camp was a potent
propaganda image for the other side, the pro-Boers. So Doyle was left
with no choice but to pass as quickly as possible over the camps
controversy in The Great Boer War, blaming a non-partisan measles
epidemic rather than his British soldiers or ignoble Boer women.

   °  ®¤ ® 
But in The War in South Africa, Doyle devoted much more attention to the
camps “ they were an important part of his defense of the sexual honor
of the British soldier. First Doyle gave his version of the origin of the
camps: ˜˜Considerable districts of the country [had been] cleared of food
in order to hamper the movements of the commandos,™™ therefore ˜˜it
was the duty of the British, as a civilized people, to form camps of refuge
for the women and children™™ (War ±). In this he con¬‚ated two ap-
proaches to the camps “ the pro-camps de¬nition of them as ˜˜refugee™™
camps for women and children in danger on the veldt and the anti-
camps assertion that the camps were formed not because women and
children felt the need for refuge but because the British had cleared their
country and deported them from the farms. Were the camps simply an
unavoidable part of the fortunes of war or were they places of refuge for
needy women and children? Doyle wa¬„ed “ it could never simply be
±° Gender, race, and the writing of empire
unavoidable for women to su¬er, yet he had seen too much of the war to
assert that the camps were a purely chivalrous gesture.
Stead had attacked the chivalry of the British government in its
policies towards women and children in South Africa, and Doyle would
have a tough job defending the policies that were resulting in hundreds
of deaths a week in the camps. Stead asserted that the British were
˜˜waging war upon women and children. Under the plea of military
necessity, we have destroyed the homes and sustenance of °,°°°
women and children; we have denuded their farms of all the live stock
and grain upon which they were able and willing to sustain themselves
without asking for help; we have burnt the roofs of their houses over
their heads™™ (WAW ·). According to Stead, the army had dug itself into
a hole by burning the Boer farms and was left with only three possible
courses with regard to the women and children: ¬rst, and ˜˜most merci-
ful,™™ would have been ˜˜to have followed the precedent of Elizabethan
times, to have put the women and children to the sword™™ (WAW ·),
next, ˜˜to leave them, homeless and foodless, to cower round the ashes of
their ruined homes, at the mercy of all the Ka¬rs and Cape bastards
who form a kind of diabolic fringe to every British column™™ (WAW ).
The third option was the course actually adopted, ˜˜that of carrying o¬
as prisoners of war the women and children whose homes we had
destroyed, and to supply them with the necessaries of life™™ (WAW ).
Stead again employs an image of rapists who are British proteges. In´´
Stead™s reading of the possibilities, the Africans who threaten the Boer
women accompany every British troop and so would not be a threat
were it not for the actions of the British. This is another image of rape by
proxy. It must be noted that the Africans Stead blames for rape are
those a¬liated with the British “ he takes pains to point out that the Boer
women ˜˜did not seek to be protected from the Ka¬rs, with whom they
appear to have lived on very good terms™™ (WAW µ°). So he does not
subscribe to the War O¬ce™s and even Emily Hobhouse™s rhetoric that
Boer women on the farms needed protection from the African men of
the warring districts, although he does quote State Attorney Smuts™
language about the ˜˜Cape boy and the Ka¬r™™ who ˜˜infest™™ the British
troops and threaten the Boer women (WAW µ).
In Stead™s subsequent discussion of the conditions in the concentra-
tion camps, his focus is not so much on the women and children in the
camps as the inhumanity of ˜˜journalists, university graduates, and
orthodox Christians™™ who expressed their dismay at the waste of British
money that the camps represented. Stead lambasted the government for
±°µ
Cannibals or knights
˜˜mak[ing] babies prisoners of war™™ (WAW ) and then feeding them
with bully beef. The policy whereby the wives and children of men on
commando were kept on half-rations (a policy abandoned after the press
got wind of it) came in for the full Stead treatment:
It was then deliberately determined . . . to subject the women and children
whose husbands and fathers were still obeying the orders of their Government,
in defending their country against the invader, to a policy of systematic
starvation. To a woman whose husband was on commando, to the helpless
child of a man who had not yet laid down his arms, the decree went forth that
they should be deprived of one half of the rations necessary for their proper
sustenance. (WAW )
To an image of the Boer soldier as defender of his country from invasion
Stead weds the language of the Slaughter of the Innocents (a ˜˜decree
went forth™™).
In attacking Stead and the other critics of the camps, Doyle noted
that ˜˜the British nation would have indeed remained under an ine¬ace-
able stain had they left women and children without shelter upon the
veldt in the presence of a large Ka¬r population™™ (War ±). According
to Doyle, ˜˜It was not merely that burned-out families must be given a
shelter, but it was that no woman on a lonely farm was safe amid a black
population, even if she had the means of procuring food™™ (War ±“).
This, of course, was an extension of the arguments used by the British
government to make racism work to its bene¬t. The government had
pointed out that it needed to bring in white women and children from
farms if they had no sustenance, because of the threat from blacks. But
Doyle declared further that it was unsafe to leave women on the farms,
even if they had food. All Boer women without men at home were in
danger from black men. So Doyle™s earlier assertion that the camps were
formed for families without food is supplemented by this new assertion
that white women who could support themselves were nevertheless
brought into camps because they were in danger from black men. At the
same time that he o¬ered this blanket indictment of black men, Doyle
was working to vindicate white British men from the very thing of which
he was accusing African men.
When rumor in Britain had it that women and children without food
were to be left on the veldt, Stead had vehemently criticized the British
army. Doyle complained about what he termed Stead™s ˜˜harrowing
pictures of the moral and physical degeneration of the Boer women in
the vicinity of British camps™™ (War ±). Stead, Doyle declared, was
assuming that Boer women would give themselves to lascivious British
±° Gender, race, and the writing of empire
soldiers in return for food and other necessities. But when Doyle
proposed a corrective to that image, it was not the character of the
women that he sought to redeem “ it was that of the British soldier. ˜˜It is
impossible without indignation to know that a Briton has written . . . of
his own fellow-countrymen that they have ˜used famine as a pander to
lust™™™ (War ±). Male honor was the guarantee of female chastity in the
chivalric code. Virtuous British soldiers would keep the Boer women
from moral degeneration.
The concept of degeneration that Doyle invoked implied a moral
responsibility on the part of the woman. A Boer woman who would
sleep with a British soldier would be choosing that course of action
herself, Doyle implied, even if famine had been her motivation. It was
fortunate that the British soldier was pure and controlled enough to
resist such an opportunity. The Boer woman, then, had the potential to
act in a sexual way toward a British soldier, as Stead allowed as well, in
his escape clause from his charges of sexual violence against British
soldiers. But there is no ambiguity in either Doyle™s or Stead™s descrip-
tions of the Boer woman™s potential for agency in sexual contact with a
˜˜Ka¬r.™™ No Boer woman would submit to a black man voluntarily;
such a connection could only be rape. For Doyle, as for Stead in his
earlier propaganda, black men became the locus of animal sexuality to
be counterposed against the white man™s controlled, civilized sexuality.
African men had to be rapists of white women if Doyle were to vindicate
British soldiers of the charge.
Making use of such assumptions, Doyle shifted the focus of the
arguments against the concentration camps. Rather than arguing over
the morality of leaving women and children vulnerable to starvation
once the British had burnt down their farms, Doyle could emphasize the
sexual vulnerability of white women. He could make Stead a villain for
suggesting that the British soldier was a sexual predator, con¬dent that
his readers in Britain would assume that to call the average Tommy a
rapist was going too far. At the same time, he could call the average
African man a rapist. To justify the formation of the concentration
camps, Doyle chose to focus on the sexual vulnerability of white women
and the necessity for the British government to protect those women. He
could then ignore the economic vulnerability of the same women “ a
vulnerability created by the British when they burned farms and crops.
The aspect of medievalism that survived from Scott through to
Ruskin and then to Doyle was the notion of chivalry as primarily a sense
of the protection of the weak by the strong. We see this sentiment in the
±°·
Cannibals or knights
way Doyle discusses the concentration camps. The ¬nal appendix he
added to The War in South Africa was a testimony from an Austrian visitor
to South Africa during the war. ˜˜What struck me most,™™ Count Hueb-
ner reports, ˜˜was the elaborate and generous system devoted to the
amelioration of the condition of the old men, women, and children in
the Concentration Camps™™ (Huebner ˜˜Appendix™™ ·°). The protection
of the weak by the strong is late Victorian medievalism™s strongest value,
and if Doyle is the inheritor of Scott and Ruskin™s medievalism, then his
horror at the charges of sexual misconduct against the British soldier is
wholly logical. His ¬ctional Micah Clarke even declares that a man™s
duty toward a woman in distress supersedes his duty to a superior
o¬cer, ˜˜For the duty which we owe to the weak overrides all other
duties and is superior to all circumstances, and I for one cannot see why
the coat of the soldier should harden the heart of the man™™ (Doyle Micah
Clarke ). In such a system, what more blatant violation of the code of
chivalry could there be than rape?
If chivalry is a guiding ideology for Doyle™s soldiers past and present,
then he cannot portray the kind of soldier Kipling can portray, complete
with moral compromises. So Doyle never depicts his Boer War soldier
in the kind of detail he provides for the soldiers in his historical ¬ction.
His ¬ctional soldiers are all set safely centuries in the past, while his
real-life soldiers are all stick ¬gures in histories of events rather than
stories about men. The soldier is the ultimate ¬gure of masculinity,
combining bravery with honor and strength. But he is also the ultimate
¬gure of the nation: Micah Clarke is the better instincts of Dissenting
Britain ready to throw o¬ the corrupt King James; Sir Nigel, comic as he
can be, is nevertheless the pure and brave Englishman who is the
ancestor of the British soldier of the twentieth century.
Doyle was at a distinct disadvantage in trying to defend British honor
in the South African War, fought for control of land and gold¬elds. The
con¬‚ict was not the stu¬ of noble quests. But Doyle had rehabilitated a
war before “ Micah Clarke™s portrait of the Monmouth Rebellion made
that con¬‚ict a noble and valorous one, even if it could not rewrite history
to make it a successful one. Doyle™s e¬orts for the Boer War were not
unlike those in Micah Clarke, and he did his best to draw noble lessons
from what was essentially an ignoble event. Doyle was one of the last
great defenders of British chivalry, and his knighthood, conferred in
±° for his propaganda e¬orts, rewarded him for his chivalric defense
of what would, in a few decades time, seem to have been essentially
indefensible.
±° Gender, race, and the writing of empire
The Doyle-Stead debate reveals the extent to which public discourse
about imperialism relied not only on assumptions about gender and
race but also assumptions about class. Sexual honor was, of course, a
gendered notion. But class status, whether of the soldier or of the
woman, played an important role in the de¬ning of proper honorable
conduct in general. The Boers, often cast in British writing as an entire
country of the lower class, took on a nobility in both Doyle and Stead
that made them either worthy opponents or worthy pastoralists to be left
alone on their land. In either case, the Boers are not the uneducated,
unlovely peasants seen often in Boer War writing. Race certainly came
into play in public debate about the war, and in the Doyle-Stead debate
both sides maligned Africans in much the same way as the writers about
the concentration camps had. Sexual honor during the Boer War was a
white notion, and, for the most part, a white British male notion, while
always dependent on shared attitudes about both white women and
black men. In the end, sexual honor was an important construct for both
soldiers and o¬cers, but it remained important to maintain in public the
distinctions between those two categories, distinctions of class that
reveal the di¬culty of looking at gender and race as independent of class
in public debate during this imperial war.
° µ

Interpreting South Africa to Britain “ Olive Schreiner,
Boers, and Africans



Just as British imperial policy depended on colonial as well as domestic
factors, so did public discourse on imperialism. This chapter examines
the writings of a South African literary ¬gure, perhaps the South
African most well-known in Britain during the Boer War, apart from
Boer president Paul Kruger. Olive Schreiner™s non¬ction about South
Africa, addressed to British audiences, was a di¬erent kind of journal-
ism from the press coverage of the Boer War, a di¬erent kind of
propaganda from the kind practiced by Doyle and Stead. Schreiner™s
e¬orts in periodicals and pamphlets are the most important pro-Boer
writings by a literary ¬gure in a public debate that was notable for the
presence of literary ¬gures. Schreiner™s pro-Boer writings were pub-
lished before the war and were aimed at promoting British fellow-
feeling toward the Boers. The Boers would, Schreiner argued, be
mixing with Britons to produce the future, blended white race of the
united British colony of South Africa.
British relations with South Africa were a¬ected by questions of race,
but it is important to note that the questions of race that were of most
immediate concern to the British in the years just before as well as
during the war were questions of the compatibility of the two white
˜˜races™™ in South Africa. The prosperous South African colony that the
British hoped would result from the Boer War was a colony not unlike
Australia or Canada “ a colony in which the indigenous population was
seen as hardly signi¬cant. South Africa, of course, was complicated by
two major di¬erences from those colonies of longer standing: the in-
digenous population formed a much larger percentage of the popula-
tion, and the British were preceded by another settler population, the
Afrikaners. Public discussion of British-South African relations focused
much more extensively on the latter point than the former. So while no
discussion of British Boer War writing can ignore the presence of
African races in the discourse about South Africa, it is the presence of
±°
±±° Gender, race, and the writing of empire
Afrikaners as a race that was more signi¬cant for a future English South
Africa.
Schreiner™s presentation of the Boer to the British public contextual-
izes the sense of the Boer character we see in the press coverage and
propaganda of the Boer War and complicates our understanding of the
signi¬cance of ˜˜race™™ in the British view of South Africa during the war.
Schreiner, an English-speaking South African, proposed in the British
periodical press that the central question for British-South African
relations was a racial question: how do problems of race, especially
racial de¬nition among white peoples, prevent the consolidation of an
English-speaking union between South Africa and Britain?
Critical work on Schreiner has focused primarily on her ¬ction “ The
Story of an African Farm (±) was a bestseller in Britain, and it and the
un¬nished From Man to Man (±) mark Schreiner as an important early
feminist novelist.¹ Schreiner™s participation in the intellectual discussion
group called the Men and Women™s Club in London in the ±°s, with
Karl Pearson, Eleanor Marx, and others, has also been spotlighted.² But
Schreiner™s writings on her black fellow South Africans have recently
come in for a good deal of attention as well. When critics have examined
Schreiner™s writings about Africans, they have either praised her for her
progressivism in not being as bad as everybody else, as Joyce Avrech
Berkman does, or chastised her, as does Nadine Gordimer, for letting
her feminism distract her from the real struggles of South Africa. This
chapter argues, however, that Schreiner™s writings on Africans are not
her most important writings on race. Race, for Schreiner, means the
di¬erences between Briton and Boer as much as between black and
white, and Schreiner™s articles and pamphlets that discuss the Boer are
her most signi¬cant attempts to de¬ne the racial future of the South
African nation.
Schreiner™s writing about her homeland attempts to shape British
perceptions of South Africa and so to shape British-South African
relations. She tries to envision a political future for South Africa within a
British imperial culture that is already in decline by the turn of the
century. She attempts to de¬ne a South Africa of the future by ¬xing a
cultural identity called ˜˜South African™™ out of a region of disparate and
sometimes hostile communities. Shaping that South African identity
means de¬ning a national identity that is South African rather than
English-South African or Afrikaner, and that takes account of Africans
without actually incorporating them into the concept of the nation. To
create such a national identity, Schreiner de¬nes a South African ˜˜race™™
±±±
Interpreting South Africa to Britain
in the de¬nition of which we see the complexities of the notions of race
and nation in turn-of-the-century Britain and South Africa. South (or,
perhaps more properly, southern) Africa in the period leading up to the
Anglo-Boer War of ±“±° consisted of British colonies and protec-
torates in uneasy alliance with Boer republics; in Schreiner™s writing of
the Boer War period we see how languages of race are invoked to create
a nation out of two peoples “ a nation of one white race in a land of
many African races.
In the lead-up to the Boer War, Schreiner wrote a series of essays and
pamphlets about her homeland for British readers, hoping to create
sympathy and understanding of the Boer position and so to avert war. In
these essays, Schreiner ¬nds her own position as an intellectual and a
South African, a position that demands that she interpret Boer to
Briton. Schreiner interprets a culture that is not her own, though it is
from her own country, to a culture that is her own, but not of her own
country. The ±°s essays, which Schreiner considered ˜˜personal™™
writing (˜˜simply what one South African at the end of the nineteenth
century thought, and felt, with regard to his [sic] native land™™ [Thoughts
on South Africa ±]), combine with her more overtly political tracts of the
same period (The Political Situation [±] and An English-South African™s
View of the Situation [±]) to reveal the importance of race to consider-
ations of national identity at the turn of the century. Schreiner employs
de¬nitions of race that rely on both socialism and evolution, in what
Saul Dubow has called ˜˜a curious mix of political radicalism and
biological determinism™™ (Scienti¬c Racism ·). But the discourses of evol-
ution and socialism prove incompatible in Schreiner™s analysis of late-
Victorian imperialism, with the result that even this most progressive of
Victorians is incapable of envisioning a truly multi-racial or non-racial
future for South Africa.³
In turn-of-the-century Britain and South Africa, many de¬nitions of
race were in circulation at once, with race-as-ethnicity, race-as-nation-
ality, and race-as-color each tied to a particular discourse and political
purpose. Then, as now, the concept of race was politically charged yet
virtually inde¬nable. During the Boer War, de¬nitions of race that
distinguished between English South Africans and Boers took on more
signi¬cance than de¬nitions of the African races of South Africa, and
Schreiner™s contributions to the debates point up the signi¬cance of the
racializing of white populations “ de¬ning the characteristics of separate
groups as racial characteristics “ at the turn of the century.⁴ Schreiner
asks, ˜˜How, of our divided peoples, can a great, healthy, harmonious
±± Gender, race, and the writing of empire
and desirable nation be formed?™™ (Thoughts on South Africa ). To answer
that question, she has to create a national identity that can eliminate the
˜˜racial™™ issues that divide the two groups. She must racialize South
Africa “ de¬ne the characteristics of its separate groups “ in order to
construct a future, ˜˜blended™™ South African who inherits the character-
istics of both groups. The British public Schreiner addresses has a stake
in South Africa; Schreiner assumes that her readers understand the
advantages of a South Africa formed of ˜˜our divided peoples.™™
Schreiner is able to look ahead to a day when the Afrikaners and
British would not hold all the cards in South Africa. In An English-South
African™s View of the Situation, she notes that no ˜˜white race™™ had ever
˜˜dealt gently and generously with the native folks™™ () in South Africa,
and that ˜˜[t]here is undoubtedly a score laid against us on this matter,
Dutch and English South Africans alike; for the moment it is in abey-
ance; in ¬fty or a hundred years it will probably be presented for
payment as other bills are, and the white man of Africa will have to settle
it . . . when our sons stand up to settle it, it will be Dutchmen and
Englishmen together who have to pay for the sins of their fathers™™ (·).
This forecast betrays a lack of faith in a natural evolution of South
African society to the control of white peoples. Evolution will take care
of the di¬erences between Briton and Boer, but it cannot take care of the
other kind of racial di¬erence in South Africa “ the one between white
and black. For Schreiner, the erasure of the Boer in the evolution of
South African society is not paralleled by an erasure of Africans.

  ©®    µ  ¦ © ®
As a ¬gure located both within and outside the social structures of late
Victorian Britain, Olive Schreiner was uniquely placed to in¬‚uence
British ideas about race and South Africa. Born in South Africa of an
English mother and a German missionary father, Schreiner came to
London just before the ± publication of The Story of an African Farm,
and she soon became active in progressive intellectual circles, living in
London through much of the ±°s. Throughout her life, like many
other English South Africans, she referred to Britain as ˜˜home.™™ Yet she
spent, o¬ and on, only about twelve years in Britain. After her return to
South Africa in ±, she wrote a series of articles about her homeland,
focusing on the character of the Boer, for British periodicals including
the Fortnightly Review and the Contemporary Review, and for the American
magazine Cosmopolitan.µ These essays were collected after her death as
±±
Interpreting South Africa to Britain
Thoughts on South Africa (±). Schreiner™s other ±°s writings include
Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland (±·), an extended allegory aimed at
stirring public opinion against Cecil Rhodes™ Chartered Company in
Rhodesia and An English-South African™s View of the Situation (±), which,
on the eve of the Boer War, calls for British understanding of the Boer
position. Once the Boer War broke out, Schreiner helped to organize
anti-war congresses; she spoke out against the war and against the
concentration camps and was much in demand for her ¬ery oratory.
Schreiner had faith that her writing could help make political change.
When she published Trooper Peter in ±·, it was in hopes of staving o¬ war
between Britain and the Boers: ˜˜If [the British] public lifts its thumb
there is war, if it turns it down, there is peace; if, as in the present case they
are indi¬erent and just letting things drift, there is no knowing what they
may be surprised into at the last moment. It is for them . . . that the book is
written. They must know where the injustices and oppression really lies,
and turn down their thumbs at the right moment.™™⁶ Schreiner™s sense of
the power of the ˜˜public™™ goes along with her sense of the power of
writing addressed to that public. She believed in the power of writing to
make political change and said that her criticisms of Cecil Rhodes™
Chartered Company™s policies toward Africans in Rhodesia in Trooper
Peter were her most important work.· Although Schreiner™s pro-Boer
views were unpopular in Britain, her political pamphlets and journalism
sold well in Britain as well as in her native South Africa. In July ± she
heard from her publisher that An English-South African™s View of the Situation,
her pamphlet aimed at preventing the Boer War, had sold ,µ°° copies at
a shilling apiece in its ¬rst ¬ve days. Her pamphlets were reviewed widely
“ she had received thirty-two notices of An English-South African in the
same post with the letter from her publisher.⁸ The major South African
newspapers ran leaders about her political writings, commenting on her
speeches and articles as well as her books and pamphlets. As ˜˜the one
woman of genius South Africa has produced™™ (Garrett ˜˜The Inevitable
in South Africa™™ ·), Schreiner was noticed, though not always taken
seriously as a political commentator. Edmund Garrett, the English
journalist who edited the Cape Times and was a member of the Cape
parliament, charged in the Contemporary Review in July ± that An
English-South African ˜˜supports the logic of a schoolgirl with the statistics of
a romanticist, and wraps both in the lambent ¬re of a Hebrew prophet-
ess™™ (˜˜The Inevitable in South Africa™™ °).
Although much contemporary anthropological and ethnographic
discussion centered on categorizing the many African groups who made
±± Gender, race, and the writing of empire
up late-Victorian South Africa,⁹ Schreiner does not draw on such
literature in her writing on race in South Africa. Despite her interest in
social Darwinism, Schreiner does not join the debates on ranking
African ˜˜tribes,™™ as such discussion was irrelevant to her political goal
for South Africa “ reconciling Briton and Boer. Nevertheless, Schreiner
as a South African is incapable of discussing the future of South Africa
without considering Africans. She sees the possibility of a non-British,
non-Boer white South Africa because she thinks of the British and Boer
˜˜races™™ in social Darwinist terms. Africans cannot be part of the South
African of the future; Schreiner™s writings on South Africa describe
Africans less in terms of social Darwinism than in terms of the other
major discourse available to her as an English South African progressive
“ political economy. Schreiner sees Africans as the working class of the
new South Africa. The irony of her use of social Darwinism is that the
language of evolution was most commonly used to discuss African
inferiority to Europeans in late Victorian Britain; Schreiner, however,
uses evolution to account for Boers and turns instead to political econ-
omy to account for Africans. Strategically, her choices were subtle. If
she had argued for a South Africa in which all races interbred, she
would have lost political credibility in both South Africa and Britain.
Neither white South Africans nor white Britons were likely to look
forward to a future in which white and black intermarried. But a future
in which Briton and Boer eventually melted into each other to form a
strong white breed of vaguely British-¬‚avored South Africans was an
evolutionary result that was palatable “ South Africa could become an
America that remained loyal to the mother country. Schreiner could not
argue for a future in which the Boers were a political entity because Boer
political strength was the South African threat about which Britain was
most worried in the late ±°s. Instead, the Boers became a racial entity,
to be absorbed in an evolutionary progression. The threatening political
category becomes the non-threatening racial category.
By the same token, Africans moved from racial category to political
category. One of the most common ways to discuss Africans in this
period of high imperialism was, of course, through the language of
evolution. Colonialism was justi¬ed by the language of social Darwin-
ism: Africans were lower on the evolutionary scale than Europeans and
in need of guidance, direction, and encouragement so that they could
eventually reach the Europeans™ level. In her essays on the Boers and
South Africa, Schreiner refuses the prevailing discourse of evolution for
discussing Africans; instead, she discusses Africans as a political and
±±µ
Interpreting South Africa to Britain
economic category, as a class. This reversal enables her to avoid the
fraught area of miscegenation while taking Africans seriously as a
political group. Schreiner™s strategic construction of categories means
that she can posit a future in which Africans remain important for South
Africa but not as South Africans. They will do the manual labor for the
future South African, who is white. And they will then be entitled to the
rights of working classes worldwide. By eliminating Africans from her
vision of the ideal South African, Schreiner can argue for Africans™
political and economic rights. By giving in to fear of miscegenation,
Schreiner wins herself a position from which to construct an argument
based on political rights.

    © ®    ® ¤      
Schreiner understood her own inability to sympathize fully with the
majority of the population in her country, and she knew how racism and
other ethnocentrisms were reproduced. She knew, for example, that she
had to explain to her British readers how it was that she (and they) could
sympathize with the Boer. In the introduction to the essays that were
eventually collected as Thoughts on South Africa she writes: ˜˜Neither do I
owe it to early training that I value my fellow South Africans of Dutch
descent. I started in life with as much insular prejudice and racial pride
as it is given to any citizen who has never left the little Northern Island to
possess . . . I cannot remember a time when I was not profoundly
convinced of the superiority of the English, their government and their
manners, over all other peoples™™ (Thoughts ±µ). Schreiner explains her
bias against Boers as ˜˜racial pride™™ and goes on to illustrate her ˜˜insular
prejudice™™ with this example:
One of my earliest memories is of . . . making believe that I was Queen Victoria
and that all the world belonged to me. That being the case, I ordered all the
black people in South Africa to be collected and put into the desert of Sahara,
and a wall built across Africa shutting it o¬; I then ordained that any black
person returning south of that line should have his head cut o¬. I did not wish to
make slaves of them, but I wished to put them where I need never see them,
because I considered them ugly. I do not remember planning that Dutch South
Africans should be put across the wall, but my objection to them was only a
little less. (Thoughts ±µ“±)
This story is about Africans transgressing what Carolyn Burdett has
called Schreiner™s ˜˜apartheid wall.™™ Why would Schreiner think she was
using it to illustrate her prejudice against Boers? She recounts her
±± Gender, race, and the writing of empire
childhood reluctance to eat sweets given to her by a Boer child and her
refusal to sleep in a bed that had been slept in by a man she mistakenly
believed to be ˜˜a Dutchman™™ (Thoughts ±µ). Boers were ˜˜dirty.™™
Schreiner explains that ˜˜[l]ater on, my feeling for the Boer changed, as
did, later yet, my feeling towards the native races; but this was not the
result of any training, but simply of an increased knowledge™™ (Thoughts
±·). Throughout Schreiner™s writing on South Africa, the pattern of
these childhood reminiscences recurs “ relations with Afrikaners are
concrete, described in the detail of personal acquaintance, sometimes of
fondness, while relations with Africans are rarely described, and when
they are, it is in abstract, not personal terms. When Africans appear in
Schreiner™s writing, it seems almost accidental “ a description of her
aversion to Boers turns into a description of her aversion to Africans. In
±°± Schreiner wrote that she wished she had had the health to write,
˜˜above all,™™ ˜˜what I think and feel with regard to . . . our Natives and
their problems and di¬culties™™ (Thoughts ±), but she never did so.
Africans remain fantasy ¬gures or metaphors in most of her writing.
Although she never systematically explores the condition of black Afri-
cans, they inhabit her discourse about South Africa probably much as
they inhabited her everyday life in South Africa: always present but only
within the terms established by white communities.
In her essays about the Boers, Schreiner was working against British
anti-Boer feeling that had originated early in the nineteenth century,
when Britain took possession of the Dutch-occupied Cape of Good
Hope. Boer rebellions against British rule, especially its regulations
about the treatment of African servants, had cropped up periodically
through the ¬rst part of the nineteenth century, culminating in the
Boers™ ±· Great Trek into the ˜˜unoccupied™™ lands beyond the Orange
and Vaal Rivers, where they set up independent Boer states after bloody
battles with Dingaan™s Zulus in Natal. The ¬rst signi¬cant British
skirmish with the Boers came in ±±, when the Boers, with a humiliat-
ing defeat of the British at the Battle of Majuba Hill, won back the
sovereignty of the Transvaal, which had been annexed by Britain four
years before. British public opinion maintained that the Boers were
stubborn, cruel to their African servants, and trapped in the seventeenth
century. By the time of the South African War, British anti-Boer
sentiment had taken on increasingly anthropological tones. ˜˜A Situ-
ation in South Africa: A Voice from the Cape Colony,™™ by the Rever-
end C. Usher Wilson, which appeared in the Nineteenth Century just after
war was declared in ±, rebutted the defenses of the Afrikaner that
±±·
Interpreting South Africa to Britain
came from Schreiner and other ˜˜pro-Boers™™: ˜˜The Boers are supposed
to be a simple, pastoral and puritanical people, who plough their ¬elds
and tend their cattle during the day, and read their Bibles at night . . .
Truly, distance lends enchantment. Instead of this the Boers are nothing
more nor less than a low type of the genus homo . . . In self-sought isolation
they have tried to escape the tide of civilisation™™ (µ“). The descrip-
tion has a tint of science, but it also employs another discourse “ that of
the necessity for ˜˜civilising™™ Africa. Various British entrepreneurs and
explorers had throughout the century justi¬ed incursions into Africa by
citing Africans™ need for civilization, which was billed as Christianity but
more often meant commerce (with Britain). The Boers, however, were a
special case. Descended from Dutch and Huguenot settlers, they were
already Christian, but they were still agricultural and decidedly not
modern.
Schreiner™s characterization of the di¬erences between Boer and
Briton was both scienti¬c and sentimental. Perhaps the most controver-
sial of her descriptions of the Afrikaner for a British audience was her
essay called ˜˜The Boer,™™ which appeared in the Daily News and the
Fortnightly Review in ±, although it had been written in ±. Its
appearance followed directly on the Jameson Raid, the ill-fated attempt
by Cecil Rhodes to stir up the English in Johannesburg to armed
rebellion against the Boer government of the South African Republic.
Schreiner™s essay presents the Boer, the descendent of early Dutch and
French Huguenot settlers, as a survival of the seventeenth century. She
describes the Boers as completely cut o¬ from the intellectual life of the
rest of the world for two hundred years.
Victorian and especially Boer War stereotypes of Boers presented
illiterate and crude peasants who never washed or changed their
clothes; South African Republic President Paul Kruger was described as
blowing his nose through his ¬ngers. Metaphors alternated between
social class and evolutionary status “ the Boers were a nation of peas-
ants, paralleled in the British working classes and poor, but they were
also holdovers from an earlier stage of European civilization, either in a
state of arrested development or culturally degenerate. Although
Schreiner chooses the terms of evolution rather than those of social class
to describe the Boers, she refuses the evolution-in¬‚ected discourse of
degeneration. Degeneration theorists declared that the Boers had,
through their isolation and their too-close contact with Africans, back-
slid as a European race.¹° Schreiner™s purpose, however, is to create a
sympathetic British perception of the Boers as a pastoral race whose
±± Gender, race, and the writing of empire
uncomplicated love of the land would mix well with British intellect and
progressive spirit to make the South African of the future.
South African critics of ˜˜The Boer™™ charged that Schreiner had
focused too much on the up-country Boer, the descendent of the early
Dutch voortrekkers, rather than the better educated Capetown shop-
keeper, who spoke both English and Afrikaans. But Schreiner had
chosen the farming Boers because she saw them as uniquely South
African. ˜˜[T]he Boer, like our plumbagos, our silver-trees, and our
kudoos, is peculiar to South Africa,™™ she explains (Thoughts µ). The real
South Africa, in Schreiner™s estimation, was to be found in the species of
human, like the species of plant and wildlife, that had developed in
response to the conditions of the country.
Schreiner emphasizes the impact of the relatively small number of
Huguenot ancestors on the national character of the Boer. She cites the
Huguenots as the primary cause for the development of the Boer
identity as South African, as distinct from Europe. The Boer, Schreiner
argues, ˜˜is as much severed from the lands of his ancestors and from
Europe, as though three thousand instead of two hundred years had
elapsed since he left it™™ (Thoughts ). This distinct separation resulted
from the religious exile of the Huguenots. Unlike the Pilgrims, who left
England because of their disagreements with the political party in
power, the Huguenot, Schreiner argues, ˜˜left a country in which not
only the Government, but the body of his fellows were at deadly
variance with him; in which his religion was an exotic and his mental
attitude alien from that of the main body of the people. To these men,
when they shook o¬ the dust of their feet against her, France became the
visible embodiment of the powers of evil™™ (Thoughts ). This attitude,
combined with a sense of religious entitlement to the land that became
the Boer view of South Africa as the Promised Land, produced the
separation from Europe that made the Boers unlike settler populations
anywhere else.
Schreiner™s religious freethinking produced her profound admiration
for the Huguenot history of the Boers: ˜˜They were not an ordinary body
of emigrants, but represented almost to a man and woman that golden
minority which is so remorselessly winnowed from the dross of the
conforming majority by all forms of persecution directed against intel-
lectual and spiritual independence™™ (Thoughts ·µ). Ironically, Schreiner™s
own religious dissent meant that she could praise the Boer for the very
aspect of that civilization that others saw as representing its backward-
ness: its seventeenth-century, Calvinistic, bible-based thinking. But
±±
Interpreting South Africa to Britain
Schreiner does recognize Boer biblical literalism as a problem: she cites
the Transvaal parliament™s majority view that the insurance of public
buildings was an insult to Jehovah, who should be allowed to burn down
a building if it was his will (Thoughts ). For all her a¬ection for the Boer,
Schreiner nevertheless sees Boer culture as lagging far behind that of
England and the rest of Europe. But for that fault she sees a clear cause,
and one that would, she thought, soon be remedied.

   °    ¬   ¦     ¬
Much of ˜˜The Boer™™ is devoted to explaining how the language of the
Afrikaner, the Taal, had sti¬‚ed intellectual development in the Boer:
˜˜[S]o sparse is the vocabulary and so broken are its forms, that it is
impossible in the Taal to express a subtle intellectual emotion, or
abstract conception, or a wide generalization; and a man seeking to
render a scienti¬c, philosophic, or poetical work in the Taal, would ¬nd
his task impossible™™ (Thoughts ·). She cites a story of two South African
students evicted from their Edinburgh rooms for repeatedly disturbing
the house with peals of laughter “ it seems they were engaged in
translating the Book of Job into the Taal (Thoughts ).
Schreiner™s focus on the shortcomings of the Boers™ language has a
familiar ring for students of Victorian writings on the Celts. Celtic
languages had been discussed in similar terms “ they were corruptions of
earlier languages, and they isolated and restricted the people who spoke
them. An ± leader in The Times attacking Matthew Arnold™s cham-
pioning of Welsh cultural heritage used the same arguments with which
Schreiner would criticize the Taal thirty years later:
The Welsh language is the curse of Wales. Its prevalence and the ignorance of
English have excluded, and even now exclude, the Welsh people from the
civilization, the improvement, and the material prosperity of their English
neighbours . . . [T]he Welsh have remained in Wales, unable to mix with their
fellow-subjects, shut out from all literature except what is translated into their
own language and incapable of progress . . . Their antiquated and semibarbar-
ous language, in short, shrouds them in darkness. If Wales and the Welsh are
ever thoroughly to share in the material prosperity, and, in spite of Mr. Arnold,
we will add the culture and morality, of England, they must forget their isolated
language, and learn to speak English, and nothing else. (Dawson and Pfor-
dresher Matthew Arnold ±±“)
In her discussion of the Taal in ˜˜The Boer,™™ Schreiner never makes this
¬nal move “ she never calls for the abolition of the Taal and its
±° Gender, race, and the writing of empire
replacement with English. But we can see it coming. Boers still believe in
witchcraft and biblical literalism because they missed out on the Euro-
pean Enlightenment. According to Schreiner, ˜˜If it be asked whether
the Taal, in making possible this survival of the seventeenth century in
the Boer, has been bene¬cial or otherwise to South Africa, it must be
replied that the question is too complex to admit of a dogmatic answer™™
(Thoughts ±°µ). The Boers are the equivalent of a medieval village
preserved into the nineteenth century:
[We] might ¬nd in it much to condemn; its streets narrow; its houses overhang-
ing, shutting out light and air, its drains non-existent; but over the doors of the
houses we should ¬nd hand-made carving, each line of which was a work of
love; we should see in the fretwork of a lamp-post quaint shapings such as no
workman of to-day sends out; before the glass-stained window of the church we
should stand with awe; and we might be touched to the heart by the quaint little
picture above the church-altar; on every side we should see the material
conditions of a life narrower and slower than our own, but more peaceful, more
at one with itself. Through such a spot the discerning man would walk, not
recklessly, but holding the attitude habitual to the wise man “ that of the
learner, not the sco¬er. (Thoughts ±°µ)
Schreiner™s is a distinctly ambivalent sentimentality: the Boers are
noble, but they are medieval.

°  ® ¬ ® ¤ ° ¬ ©© ¬ ·© ©® §
The di¬erences between the ˜˜personal™™ essays, written in the early
±°s, and An English-South African™s View of the Situation (±), the Boer
War pamphlet, are striking. Schreiner in An English-South African de-
scribes ˜˜cultured and polished Dutch-descended South Africans, using
English as their daily form of speech, and in no way distinguishable from
the rest of the nineteenth-century Europeans,™™ () as being more
representative of the late-nineteenth-century Dutch South African than
the up-country Boer.¹¹ Schreiner is consistent with nineteenth-century
language theorists such as Ernest Renan in her argument that if the
Boers were to learn to speak English as well as the Taal, the ˜˜natural™™
result would be that ˜˜in another generation the fusion will be complete.
There will be no Dutchmen then and no Englishmen in South Africa,
but only the great blended South African people of the future, speaking
the English tongue and holding in reverend memory its founders of the
past, whether Dutch or English™™ (Thoughts °). The amalgam of English-
man and Boer that will make up the future South African sounds much
±±
Interpreting South Africa to Britain
like the blend of Teuton and Celt that Arnold saw as the Englishman. It
was natural, for the Victorians, for a more advanced culture to displace
an outdated one. And just as the Teuton dominated the softer, more
primitive Celtic elements of the English character, so the Englishman
would dominate the primitive Boer elements in the South African of the
future. In An English-South African, Schreiner asserts that the Taal must be
supplanted by English in the end. Schreiner™s prediction of a ˜˜blended™™
South Africa, ˜˜speaking the English tongue,™™ would have seemed a sad,
if inevitable, vision to the author of ˜˜The Boer.™™¹² But the author of An
English-South African is pragmatic and knows that the way to appeal to the
better instincts of the English people is not to parade the seventeenth-
century Calvinism of the Boers but their kinship with the nineteenth-
century Briton and, indeed, their eventual cultural subordination to
Britain.
Schreiner constructs the Boer-Briton union as positive, despite her
professed fondness for the Boer, because she sees the melding of the two
in terms of nationalism and evolution, not imperialism. Eric Hobsbawm
points out that in the late nineteenth century:
the only historically justi¬able nationalism was that which ¬tted in with
progress, i.e. which enlarged rather than restricted the scale on which
human economies, societies and culture operated, what could the de-
fence of small peoples, small languages, small traditions be, in the over-
whelming majority of cases, but an expression of conservative resistance
to the inevitable advance of history. The small people, language or cul-
ture ¬tted into progress only insofar as it accepted subordinate status to
some larger unit or retired from battle to become a repository of nos-
talgia and other sentiments. (Nations and Nationalism ±)
This is the position, derived in signi¬cant part from her reading of
Herbert Spencer, to which Schreiner assigns the Boer within the new
nation of South Africa in the twentieth century.¹³ Her formulation
allowed the idea of an English South Africa, with close ties and loyalties
to Britain, while disallowing actual imperial acquisition of the region.
That Schreiner could be anti-imperialist and yet see the Anglicizing
of South Africa as natural and good is consistent with evolution-in-
¬‚uenced political progressivism at the turn of the century such as that of
J. A. Hobson, who saw the ˜˜civilising™™ of the ˜˜lower races™™ as a good
thing, but only if it was not imposed by capitalism. According to
Hobson, if, as a result of contact with white people, ˜˜many of the old
political, social, and religious institutions [of ˜˜lower races™™] decay, that
decay will be a natural wholesome process, and will be attended by the
± Gender, race, and the writing of empire
growth of new forms, not forced upon them, but growing out of the old
forms and conforming to laws of natural growth™™ (Imperialism °). The
natural growth model applied by imperialist and anti-imperialist alike to
African races is applied by Schreiner to the Boers as well, marking the
Boers as one of the ˜˜lower races™™ by analogy. Schreiner constructs the
Boers as a race, de¬ning what makes them unique, in order to hold on to
those characteristics for her future South African citizen. She can skirt
the political issue of Boer treatment of Africans because the language
she uses to describe the Boer race is the language of social Darwinism,
not ˜˜politics.™™ So the Boer she creates is a sentimentalized portrait of a
people through whom one, as a future South African, might want to
trace one™s heritage but among whom, in the twentieth century, one
would not want to live.

©   §  ¦ ¦ ©  ® 
The picture of African peoples that was in circulation in British period-
icals during this period also relied on the discourse of evolution. The
Canon of Grahamstown Cathedral, A. Theodore Wirgman, asserts in
an article on ˜˜The Boers and the Native Question,™™ published in the
Nineteenth Century during the early stages of the war, that the South
African republics could no longer coexist with British colonies in the
region because of the two peoples™ incompatible notions of justice. ˜˜It is
a question of survival of the ¬ttest,™™ declared Wirgman, ˜˜and, quite
apart from national feeling and patriotic fervour, there is no doubt in the
mind of any right-minded man, who knows the facts, that peace, order,
and justice to the natives can only be secured in South Africa under the
Union Jack, as the symbol of political and religious liberty™™ (˜˜The
Boers™™ µ). Of course clergy had a long history of calling on Britain to
use its ˜˜superior™™ civilization to ˜˜protect™™ black Africans. But Wirg-
man™s argument is a most unusual employment of the discourse of
evolution to defend the British cause in the Boer War. ˜˜Survival of the
¬ttest™™ means that Britain is most ¬t to protect the liberty of peoples
un¬t to survive on their own. Here the Darwinist contest for survival,
usually seen as between a European power and an indigenous people, is
transformed into a contest between European races for the advantage of
an indigenous people.
John Macdonell, the chair of the government-appointed South Afri-
can Native Races Committee, also sees the situation in South Africa in
evolutionary terms:
±
Interpreting South Africa to Britain
Whatever be the issue of the war in South Africa, it will probably leave behind it
a struggle not less enduring or grave: a struggle between the white races and the
coloured; between a minority of about three-quarters of a million and a
majority of about four millions; between a vigorous modern industrial civilisa-
tion and primitive communities falling into decay: an economic struggle of a
large and hitherto unknown scale. (˜˜The Question of the Native Races™™ ·)
Macdonell sees Africans as degenerate, lapsed into a state lower than
one which they had previously achieved. Macdonell asserts that black
people were much more contented without white people around, hint-
ing that perhaps it was contact with white people that had caused the
African™s decay. The Boers, as a nation of Europeans, are not living up
to their obligations to black Africans because they do not share the
British ˜˜fundamental principles “ in particular as to the rights of the
weak, the duties of the strong™™ (˜˜The Question of the Native Races™™
·).
While Patrick Brantlinger attributes the increasing racial intolerance
in late nineteenth century Britain to issues of class mobility, Macdonell
links the new racism directly to science:
Anyone reading the early history of the anti-slavery movement, or the forma-
tion of the Aborigines™ Protection Society, must be struck by the change in the
public conscience towards slavery and the welfare of uncivilised races “ a
change so signal that it must be doubted whether if the work of emancipation
had still to be done there exists the enthusiasm to carry it through . . . The creed
of the Eighteenth Century that all men are equal is discredited. Many are
convinced of the contrary; and the teaching of Darwin as generally understood
seems to have placed on a scienti¬c basis the pretensions of civilised races to
dominate the black races . . . The Dutch farmer, quoting Deuteronomy in
justi¬cation of high-handed acts; the mine-owners, demanding measures to
secure cheap labour; and the man of science, citing Darwin, are here in
apparent accord. (˜˜The Question of the Native Races™™ ·)
But Macdonell is not shy about making the declarations about racial
type that characterized Victorian anthropology: the British are ˜˜an
aggressive industrial civilisation™™ coming into contact with black races
with ˜˜many-sided aptitudes: . . . people who do not readily take to
regular toil, but, possessing considerable physical strength and no small
ingenuity, are capable of performing many kinds of work admirably™™
(˜˜The Question of the Native Races™™ ).
J. T. Darragh, writing in January ±° from South Africa for the
Contemporary Review, stresses the importance of the question, ˜˜How is the
superior race to treat the inferior justly and fairly, without treason to the
civilisation of which it is at once the bene¬ciary and the trustee?™™ (˜˜The
± Gender, race, and the writing of empire
Native Problem™™ ·). The writers in the British reviews or quarterlies,
including Schreiner, never deny that the African was or should be the
working class of South Africa or that Britain had a civilizing role to play
in relation to the African. Darragh condemns ˜˜stay-at-home ne-
grophilists™™ whose ideal is ˜˜non-interference™™ with the lives of Africans.
African labor is necessary, he argues, and so Africans must be taught the
importance of work and the value of private property. Schreiner, too,
believes in the obligations of European cultures to Africans. After the
Boer War, in Closer Union and in her un¬nished novel From Man to Man,
she calls for European responsibility toward Africans in a language less
condescending and evolution-centered than some of her earlier writings.
While the position Schreiner assigns to the Boer in an English South
Africa arises from an evolutionism that ultimately erases the Boer as a
national and cultural identity, the positions within the new South Africa
that Schreiner assigns to Africans are more problematic still. Although
the language of evolution was commonly used in discussing Africans in
the late nineteenth century,¹⁴ and although Schreiner herself uses that
language when it is convenient to explain some aspects of Boer-African
history, she relies much more heavily on political economy than evol-
ution in her analysis of Africans™ place in South African society. At the
time of the Boer War, black South Africans were foremost an economic
issue for Schreiner.
The Political Situation, which Schreiner wrote with her husband, who
delivered it at the Town Hall of Kimberley on ° August ±µ, is directly
engaged with South African politics, addressing speci¬c Cape legisla-
tion. In constructing Africans as a working class comparable to Euro-
pean working classes, Schreiner calls for rights at the same time as she
reassures her readers that she is not ignoring the question of race. She
argues against compulsory labor for Africans, made necessary by tax-
ation (Political Situation ±“±). ˜˜In South Africa,™™ she declares, the
˜˜Labour Question™™ inevitably ˜˜assumes gigantic importance, including
as it does almost the whole of what is popularly termed the Native
Question; the question being indeed only the Labour Question of
Europe complicated by a di¬erence of race and colour between the
employing and propertied, and the employed and poorer classes™™ (Politi-
cal Situation ±°“). She o¬ers two alternatives for white attitudes toward
African workers:
the one held by the Retrogressive Party in this country regards the Native as
only to be tolerated in consideration of the amount of manual labour which can
be extracted from him; and desires to obtain the largest amount of labour at the
±µ
Interpreting South Africa to Britain
cheapest rate possible; and rigidly resists all endeavours to put him on an
equality with the white man in the eye of the law. The other attitude, which I
hold must inevitably be that of every truly progressive individual in this
country, is that which regards the Native, though an alien in race and colour
and di¬ering fundamentally from ourselves in many respects, yet as an individ-
ual to whom we are under certain obligations: it forces on us the conviction that
our superior intelligence and culture render it obligatory upon us to consider
his welfare; and to carry out such measures, not as shall make him merely useful
to ourselves, but such as shall tend also to raise him in the scale of existence, and
bind him to ourselves in a kindlier fellowship. (Political Situation ±°“±±)
The return of evolutionary language here reassures Schreiner™s readers
that she is not discounting ˜˜racial™™ di¬erence that would make Africans
inferior to Europeans. She can argue for ˜˜equality with the white man
in the eye of the law™™ without being accused of arguing that Africans
were equal to Europeans in ˜˜intelligence and culture.™™
Schreiner goes on to link the plight of African workers with that of
workers worldwide, declaring that the person who takes up the attitude
supportive of African workers ˜˜will ¬nd himself in accord, not merely
with the Progressive Element in this country, but with the really ad-
vanced and Progressive Movement all the world over. In fact, I go so far
as to think that the mere subscription to the latter mode of regarding the
Labour and Native question would constitute an adequate test in this
country as to a man™s attitude on all other matters social and political™™
(Political Situation ±±±). To be politically progressive in South Africa is to
advocate rights for African workers.
Whether Schreiner employs it consciously or not, the strategy is
fascinating. Schreiner pulls out the evolutionary references only where
necessary to de¬‚ect opposition to the political point. If she is to make a
strong case for economic and political rights, she cannot risk losing the
argument by allowing her reader to think that she is arguing for
immediate social equality as well. At the same time, her long-term vision
clearly includes such a possibility. In Closer Union, in ±°, Schreiner
appeals to white self-interest to ask South African citizens to think of a
new kind of future: ˜˜As long as nine-tenths of our community have no
permanent stake in the land, and no right or share in the government,
can we ever feel safe? Can we ever know peace?™™ (µ). She wants white
South Africans to consider that their own humanity depends on the
extent to which they allow for the humanity of African workers: ˜˜We
cannot hope ultimately to equal the men of our own race living in more
wholly enlightened and humanised communities, if our existence is
passed among millions of non-free subjected peoples™™ (Closer Union µ).
± Gender, race, and the writing of empire
Schreiner declares that the state is a white state but must win the
loyalty of blacks and must provide opportunities for Africans to ˜˜take
their share in the higher duties of life and citizenship, their talents
expended for the welfare of the community and not suppressed to
become its subterraneous and disruptive forces™™ (Closer Union ). In-
deed, her predictions in Closer Union are chilling in their accuracy:
if we force him permanently in his millions into the locations and compounds
and slums of our cities, obtaining his labour cheaper, but to lose what the
wealth of ¬ve Rands could not return to us; if uninstructed in the highest forms
of labour, without the rights of citizenship, his own social organisation broken
up, without our having aided him to participate in our own; if, unbound to us
by gratitude and sympathy, and alien to us in blood and colour, we reduce this
vast mass to the condition of a great seething, ignorant proletariat “ then I
would rather draw a veil over the future of this land. (Closer Union µ°)
Schreiner™s political analysis, which she opposes to the personal re¬‚ec-
tions of her articles on the Boers, stresses the African™s position and the
necessity for twentieth-century South Africa to stop treating African
workers as a subordinate race and start treating them as a working class
with rights commensurate with working classes everywhere, including
the right to class mobility. Although she never goes so far as to advocate
miscegenation, she hints that the South Africa of the distant future
would be plagued no more by the Native Question because Africans will
have been ˜˜raised™™ in the scale of existence to a place alongside
Europeans.
The turn-of-the-century racial problem, Schreiner indicates, is the
failure to acknowledge that distinctions between black and white
peoples ˜˜form a barrier so potent that the social instincts and the
consciousness of moral obligation continually fail to surmount them™™
(Political Situation ). Schreiner asserts that ˜˜only in the case of excep-
tional individuals gifted with those rare powers of insight which enable
them, beneath the multitudinous and real di¬erences, mental and
physical, which divide wholly distinct races, to see clearly those far
more important elements of a common humanity which underlie and
unite them, is the instinctive and unconscious extension of social feeling
beyond the limits of race possible™™ (Political Situation ). She does not
include herself among these exceptional individuals, for she is aware of
her shortcomings in relations with Africans. Scienti¬c, evolutionary
di¬erences, the ˜˜real di¬erences . . . which divide wholly distinct ra-
ces,™™ overcome her politics. A social problem, racism, arises from a
˜˜real™™ condition, the ˜˜limits of race.™™ The biological di¬erences
±·
Interpreting South Africa to Britain
Schreiner sees between races need not be a social problem if only
people can look beyond them, to ˜˜a common humanity.™™ Schreiner™s is
a classic liberal position “ rea¬rming a biological determinism that
describes di¬erences between races, yet calling for a color-blindness
that would ignore those di¬erences.¹µ Schreiner™s acknowledgment of
racial barriers is at least in part a defense of the Boers, an argument
that all European-descended peoples are limited in their dealings with
Africans. Given those limitations, Schreiner asks, why should we trust
British capitalists any further in their dealings with Africans than Boer
farmers? Here, where the concept of race is used to link white peoples
rather than to separate them, race is nevertheless used in defense of the
Boer.
In Thoughts on South Africa, Schreiner uses the category of race to
describe the distinctions among Italians, Swedes, and French (±) as well
as to describe what she also referred to as ˜˜colour™™ “ the di¬erences
between white European peoples and Asians or Africans, in her essay on
˜˜The Psychology of the Boer™™ (Thoughts “). Schreiner™s assertions
about the di¬erences between African and European peoples are, in
fact, set out largely in social or economic terms rather than biological,
once she has moved away from the extremely science-¬‚avored dis-
cussions of the Bushman and begins to discuss the African peoples
whom she sees as more equivalent to Europeans, the Zulu, ˜˜Bantus,™™ or
˜˜Ka¬rs.™™ These new social and economic terms seem to arise more
from her socialism than her evolutionism. In ˜˜The Problem of Slavery,™™
she describes the Bantu repugnance for the concept of private property,
noting that ˜˜[t]he idea which to-day is beginning to haunt Europe, that,
as the one possible salve for our social wounds and diseases, it might be
well if the land should become the property of the nation at large, is no
ideal to the Bantu, but a realistic actuality™™ (Thoughts ±±). Although she
could posit this aspect of African society as a model for European
society, her overall prediction for South Africa was a more traditional
economic structure.
The ˜˜Native Question,™™ Schreiner wrote, was ˜˜indeed only the
Labour Question of Europe complicated by a di¬erence of race and
colour between the employing and propertied, and the employed and
poorer classes™™ (Political Situation ±°). The question was the key to the
future of South Africa, but whites would determine that future.
The issue of the role of cheap black labor in South Africa served as a
huge wedge between white and black in that country, whether the white
be Briton or Boer. As South African radical historians Jack and Ray
± Gender, race, and the writing of empire
Simons have pointed out, ˜˜racial and national cleavages distorted class
alignments™™ in the diamond town of Kimberley and on the Witwater-
srand at the turn of the century (Class and Colour µ). The class a¬nities
that should have united white and black manual laborers never arose,
partly because di¬erent wage structures pitted them against each other.
In addition, the white ethnic groups were not able to achieve class
solidarity, as English mineworkers organized separately from Afri-
kaners; and neither white group expressed any identi¬cation with Afri-
can laborers.
The rival nationalisms of the Afrikaners and the British in South
Africa made for a complicated system of racial oppression against
Africans. Both white groups were content to have ˜˜coloured,™™ Asian,
and black African workers perform most manual labor, whether it was
in the mines, on the railroads, on the farms, or in the home, for wages so
low as to be unacceptable to white workers. Color complicated the issue
of class. British South African women looking for white domestic help
complained that the young working-class women emigrating from Brit-
ain to work in South Africa could not get along with colored or black
fellow-servants or were unwilling to work as hard as these other servants.
No working-class solidarity emerged in the mines or the kitchens be-
tween black and white laborers.
Schreiner™s ˜˜personal™™ essay ˜˜The Problem of Slavery™™ contains
more on Africans than any of her other pre-Boer War writing, although
Schreiner presents it as an essay not about ˜˜natives™™ but about the
Boers. In ˜˜The Problem of Slavery,™™ Schreiner di¬erentiates among the
many African peoples in South Africa, as she had di¬erentiated among
the Dutch, Huguenot, and English whites in the region in her essay on
˜˜The Boer.™™ She is careful to point out that the black peoples in South
Africa were not slaves:
It would have been as easy for the early Boers to catch and convert into beasts
of draught the kudus and springbucks, who kick up our African dust into your
face, and are o¬ with the wind, as to turn into pro¬table beasts of burden our
little, artistic Bushmen, or our dancing Hottentots; and our warlike Zulu
Bantus from the East Coast would hardly have been more acceptable as
domestic slaves than a leash of African lions. Then, as now, when submissive
slaves are desired in South Africa, they have to be imported: we do not breed
them. (Thoughts ±±)
Schreiner asserts the superiority of the various South African peoples
over the Central Africans who were the staple of the European slave
trade, and she uses the language of evolution (or agriculture), to support
±
Interpreting South Africa to Britain
her arguments: ˜˜we do not breed them.™™¹⁶ In her discussion of South
African society, African groups are considered separately when con-
venient and together when convenient. In this essay about the Boers, it
is politically expedient to discuss the separate African peoples in making
a case for the maintenance of South Africa as independent. But as she
glori¬es the social structures of South Africa in her essays, Schreiner
must also take account of the recent profound changes in those social
structures, such as the near-total disappearance of the Bushman (San)
people in South Africa.

         ® ¦ © ®  
To account for the loss of the Bushman, Schreiner needs a discourse of
evolution, invoked to justify the actions of the Boers. One African group
evolves away in a social Darwinist encounter with a superior people.
Evolution can account for the place of the Boers in South Africa in the
present and will take care of the place of the Boers in South Africa in the
future. Schreiner™s ¬rst loyalty is to the future white South Africa. She
must win sympathy for the Boer in Britain and create a climate in which
Britons would look forward to a future South Africa with blended Briton
and Boer. To that end, the elimination of the Bushman must be
justi¬ed. Later we will see Schreiner switch terms in her discussion of
Africans, defending them against white economic exploitation. But that
defense can only be made against a generic white South African, not
against the Boer. The Boer is not a political entity but a racial one; the
African is a racial entity only when necessary to account for Boer
excesses such as the slaughter of the Bushman.
The loss of the Bushman had to be accounted for in Schreiner™s
account of South Africa, and the language of evolution accommodates it
well. Whereas Arnold located art and spirituality in the Celt, Schreiner
locates it in the African Bushman. The Boer did not have the aesthetic
sensibility necessary for Schreiner™s future South Africa, so art came by
way of the Bushman. The modern South African poet, she argues, owes
a debt to the artistic Bushman. But this debt need never be repaid, since,
conveniently, the Boer has destroyed all Bushman communities in
South Africa.
Schreiner™s ˜˜The Wanderings of the Boer™™ (±) lined up the Boers
alongside black Africans as the legitimate owners of South Africa. Of the
Boers Schreiner wrote, ˜˜[T]hese men, and the women who bore them,
possessed South Africa as no white man has ever possessed it, and as no
±° Gender, race, and the writing of empire
white man ever will, save it be here and there a stray poet or artist. They
possessed it as the wild beasts and the savages whom they dispossessed
had possessed it™™ (Thoughts ±°). In this passage, Schreiner appears to
deny the Boers the status of ˜˜white.™™ The Boers possess South Africa as
˜˜no white man ever will™™ possess it. The Boers have the right to the land
because ˜˜they grew out of it; it shaped their lives and conditioned their
individuality. They owed nothing to the men of the country and every-
thing to the inanimate nature around them™™ (Thoughts ±°). But in
constructing the Boers as a species of South African ¬‚ora or fauna,
Schreiner sets them up in opposition to the categories of poet, artist, and
native. White men can possess South Africa if they are poets or artists,
but the Boers are neither. Their title to the land is organic, like the title
of ˜˜wild beasts™™ or ˜˜savages.™™
While Schreiner recognizes the British aversion to the Boers, she
attempts to romanticize them in the terms available to her, the new
nationalism of blood and land. The Boer is inextricably linked to the
land of South Africa, Schreiner argues, having earned title to it in a ˜˜fair
¬ght™™ with Africans (the Boers used no superior technology, no maxim
guns). The Boer victory was, therefore, a triumph of the ¬ttest. By
placing Boer and black South African on a similar level, able to engage
in a ˜˜wild, free ¬ght on even terms™™ (English-South African ), a ˜˜merci-
less, primitive ¬ght,™™ ˜˜fair and even™™ (˜˜The Wanderings of the Boer™™ in
Thoughts ±µ), yet allowing that the Boers won the ¬ght, Schreiner
constructs the Afrikaner-African struggle as an example of evolution in
action. Boer must have been further up the evolutionary scale than
Africans because the Boers, in a kind of ˜˜natural selection,™™ had won.
Evolutionary discourse here conveniently allows Schreiner to ignore
Boer policies of repression of Africans in political and domestic contexts.
She casts Boer-African battles as biological instead of political, although
we know from The Political Situation and other writings that she was quite
capable of seeing black-white relations as problems of economics and
politics.
The battles Schreiner describes in An English-South African™s View of the
Situation and those in ˜˜The Wanderings of the Boer,™™ although presented
in similar terms, are actually against two di¬erent African enemies. In An
English-South African, the ˜˜free, even stand-up ¬ght™™ of Boer against Zulu
is a battle in which ˜˜[t]he panther and the jaguar rolled on the ground,
and, if one conquered instead of the other, it was yet a fair ¬ght, and
South Africa has no reason to be ashamed of the way either her black
men or her white men fought it™™ (Thoughts ). The Zulu people are
±±
Interpreting South Africa to Britain
dispossessed of their land, but they remain in South Africa. The image of
the ¬erce, proud Zulu warrior had remained strong in Britain after the
Zulu Wars, and a defeat of the Zulu would carry weight in Britain,
marking the Boers as great ¬ghters. A Boer victory in a ˜˜fair ¬ght™™ with
the Zulu is a triumph, showing that the Boers are destined to control
South Africa. And although the defeat of the Zulu is signi¬cant, the Zulu
survives to become part of the South Africa of the future. The Zulu are
defeated militarily and su¬er only the usual consequences of that “ they
lose their land and are subordinated to those who defeated them.
In both her descriptions of the Boer battles with Africans, Schreiner
uses the language of evolution, but she describes the defeat of the Zulu in
scienti¬c metaphor, while she portrays the disappearance of the Bushman
as true natural selection, a triumph of the ¬ttest. Schreiner™s goal is to
justify Boer title to the land of South Africa, and she does so in
evolutionary terms, even though those would certainly not have been
the terms Boers would have chosen. In ˜˜The Boer™™ she explains that
˜˜[t]he primitive Boer believes he possesses this land by a right wholly
distinct from that of the aborigines he dispossesses, or the Englishmen
who followed him; a right with which no claim of theirs can ever
con¬‚ict™™ (Thoughts ). This claim is, of course, a religious one: ˜˜Its only
true counterpart is to be found in the attitude of the Jew toward
Palestine™™ (Thoughts ). A Boer claim to South Africa by virtue of its
being the Promised Land would not go far with British colonial o¬cials
or the British public. So it is not surprising that Schreiner turns to the
evolutionary argument for Boer rights to South Africa.

    ©  §  ¦   µ   ®
In ˜˜The Wanderings of the Boer,™™ Schreiner describes the battle be-
tween Boer and Bushman, in which the Bushman™s ˜˜little poisoned
arrow™™ is ˜˜inevitably™™ wiped out by the ˜˜great ¬‚int-lock gun,™™ although
the Boer-Bushman battle ˜˜seems to have been, on the whole, compared
to many modern battles, fair and even™™ (Thoughts ±µ). Perhaps the
elimination of the Bushman need not have happened, Schreiner says,
but ˜˜the fore-trekkers were not missionaries, nor thirsting to sacri¬ce
themselves for the aborigines,™™ and, ˜˜the Bushman, being what he was,
a little human in embryo, determined to have his own way, the story
could take its course in no other direction than that in which it did!™™
(Thoughts ±µ“µ): a more advanced race physically replaces one ˜˜a
million centuries of development™™ behind its ˜˜kinsman™™ (Thoughts ±µ).
± Gender, race, and the writing of empire
Schreiner is reluctant to criticize Boer treatment of Africans because she
wants the British to see the Boers as partners in the future South African
nation, and the language of evolution provides her with a handy
mechanism with which she can justify Boer genocide against the Bush-
men.
Lest the philanthropic English blame the Boers for killing o¬ the
Bushmen, Schreiner brings the problem into her reader™s middle-class
home:
It is easier yet for the fair European woman, as she lounges in her drawing-
room in Europe, to regard as very heinous the conduct of men and women who
destroyed and hated a race of small aborigines. But if, from behind some
tapestry-covered armchair in the corner, a small, wizened, yellow face were to
look out now, and a little naked arm guided an arrow, tipped with barbed bone
dipped in poison, at her heart, the cry of the human preserving itself would
surely arise; Jeames would be called up, the policeman with his baton would
appear, and if there were a pistol in the house, it would be called into
requisition! The little prehistoric record would lie dead upon the Persian
carpet. (Thoughts ±µ)
This scenario reveals Schreiner™s ambivalence about the destruction of
the Bushman. She must justify it to her readers, yet she cannot fully
approve. The woman she describes in her hypothetical self-defense plea
is not entirely sympathetic. The upper-class woman in the story lounges
around in drawing rooms and calls on servants to do her dirty work for
her “ just the kind of ˜˜sex-parasite™™ Schreiner™s Woman and Labour seeks
to eliminate in favor of productive, self-supporting women.
By awarding the Boer moral title to the land, gained in a tooth-and-
claw evolutionary battle, Schreiner legitimizes the Boer right to govern
in republics threatened by Britain. This justi¬cation of Boer land rights
comes at the same time as Schreiner is declaring, in The Political Situation
(±), that the ˜˜Native Question™™ is the most politically signi¬cant issue
in South Africa. It was hard to praise the Boer on that issue, as Schreiner
knew. Describing the Boers in evolutionary, biological terms allows
Schreiner to avoid describing them in terms of their historical behavior
towards Africans in South Africa, whether it was land-grabbing, denial
of political rights, or use of the strop on farmworkers. In both of her
descriptions of the Boer-African ˜˜fair ¬ghts,™™ Schreiner emphasizes that
South Africa need not be ˜˜ashamed™™ of either party in the ¬ghting “
that is, South Africa need not be ashamed that the Boers have dispos-
sessed or destroyed Africans. Only an evolutionary argument could
have allowed Schreiner to make such a case.
±
Interpreting South Africa to Britain
Although Bushmen have been physically eliminated from Schreiner™s
vision of South Africa, they are not totally absent from the new nation-
race. While lamenting the loss of the Bushman as a human ˜˜species,™™
Schreiner immortalizes the Bushman through his art (the Bushman
artist is always male in Schreiner™s writings). In the ˜˜Plans and Bush-
man-paintings™™ chapter of The Story of an African Farm and in ˜˜The
Wanderings of the Boer,™™ the Bushman lives on after virtual extinction
through his cave-paintings that remain. Schreiner™s eulogy in the essay
is worth quoting at length:
Ring round head, ears on pedestals, his very vital organs di¬ering from the
rest of his race “ yet, as one sits under the shelving rocks at the top of some
African mountain, the wall behind one covered with his crude little pictures,
the pigments of which are hardly faded through the long ages of exposure,
and, as one looks out over the great shimmering expanse of mountains and
valleys beneath, one feels that the spirit which is spread abroad over exist-
ence concentrated itself in those little folk who climbed among the rocks; and
that that which built the Parthenon and raised St. Peter™s, and carved the
statues of Michael Angelo in the Medici Chapel, and which moves in every
great work of man, moved here also. That the Spirit of Life which, incarnate
in humanity, seeks to recreate existence as it beholds it, and which we call
art, worked through that monkey hand too! And that shelving cave on the
African mountain becomes for us a temple in which ¬rst the hand of human-
ity raised itself quiveringly in the worship of the true and the beautiful.
(Thoughts ±µ“µ)
Waldo, the artist-¬gure in The Story of an African Farm, elaborates on the
artistic inclination of the Bushman, who ˜˜did not know why he painted,
but he wanted to make something, so he made these. He worked hard,
very hard, to ¬nd the juice to make the paint; and then he found this
place where the rocks hang over, and he painted them. To us they are
only strange things, that make us laugh; but to him they were very
beautiful™™ (). The Bushman connects South Africa to a transcendent
spirit of art. As the Bushman is more in touch with the land, with nature,
than the ˜˜civilised™™ European, so is the artist or poet closer to the land,
and ˜˜the artist or thinker who is to instruct mankind should not live too
far from the unmodi¬ed life of nature™™ (Thoughts ±°), according to
Schreiner.¹· The poet or artist, whose claim to the land is aesthetic, is
closely allied with the African, the ˜˜artistic Bushman™™ and ˜˜dancing
Hottentot,™™ if not the ˜˜warlike Bantu.™™ But if the non-African artist has
a mystical tie to the artistic Bushman, this tie can only be metaphorical
and spiritual, since, in Schreiner™s construction of South Africanness,
the Bushman is only art, no longer a human to be reckoned with.
± Gender, race, and the writing of empire
The Boer elimination of the Bushman, according to the ˜˜fair ¬ght™™
model, was only proper, in evolutionary terms, but Schreiner™s vision for
South Africa had to include the spirituality represented by the Bush-
man. Such racial traits as the Boer a¬ection for the land can be passed

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