Some Schreiner letters sold

Some Schreiner letters sold

schreiner-letters-articleA report has been published in a local Afrikaans-language Sunday newspaper – the Rapport – regarding an auction of Olive Schreiner letters. A translation will be found at the end of this blog post. It appeared in the newspaper’s business supplement, and it details activity at the spring auction of Stephan Welz & Co, a well-known South African firm of auctioneers in Sandton, Johannesburg. Seven lots of Schreiner letters and postcards were sold to the value of ZAR 72,668. The report mentions the Van Riebeeck Society publication by Liz Stanley and Andrea Salter, The World’s Great Question, and directs readers wanting further information to contact the Riebeeck Society via its email address. There have been a number of contacts subsequently from people expressing an interest in buying the book.

The news item indicates that seven letters and postcards were sold, and from the information provided it seems that some are potentially important in filling in some gaps in Schreiner’s political activities and thinking, although of course this is difficult to tell from such brief descriptions. No information is provided about who bought these items, and overtures to the auctioneer have not been fruitful although the VRS is still pursuing this. If any more information is gained, it will be posted in another blog.

Schreiner’s letters sought after at auction

Olive Schreiner, South African activist for women’s rights and one of Cecil John Rhodes’ fiercest enemies caused a stir this past week at the spring auction of Stephan Welz & Co in Sandton.

Bidders paid out a total of R72 668 for just seven lots of letters and postcards in her own handwriting and directed to family members.

An original copy of her controversial book Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland fetched R9 790.

The lots were a part of the F.W. Reitz collection. The lot which fetched the most in this section, R18 554, was a letter of four pages which Schreiner wrote to her neice Bessie Reitz on 11 October 1917 which dealt with personal matters and South African politics. At the time Bessie and Schreiner were living in London. Another letter to Bessie, which fetched R8 954, was written in London in 1919 and discussed the Paris Peace Conference.

A letter detailing literary events and addressed to Bessie, written from De Aar in the Karoo in 1912, fetched R7 760.

An undated letter to Bessie discussing the establishment of the League of Nations, currently the United Nations, fetched R15 075.

In 2014 the Van Riebeeck Society published a collection of letters with a political slant titled The World’s Great Question: Olive Schreiner’s South African Letters 1889-1920. Send email to for more information.

Last updated: 15 September 2016


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