Schreiner-Hemming Collection, Manuscripts & Archives, University of Cape Town

Schreiner-Hemming Collection, Manuscripts & Archives, University of Cape Town

The Schreiner-Hemming Collection is a complicated one involving the papers, or rather part of the papers, of three families, the Schreiners, the Hemmings, and the Browns of Taung, joined by marriages and friendships. It is less ‘a collection’ than a number of them, and its different components have somewhat different characteristics. Its main divisions are:

A. Family Correspondences
A.1 Schreiner family – 9 folders (usually mapping onto particular letter-writers)
A.2 Hemming family – 7 folders
A.3 Brown family – 9 folders

B. Other Correspondences
Friends
Other

C. General

D. Photographs and cards

There are over 4000 letters and other documents in the collection.

Broadly speaking, the connections between the three families are as follows. The eldest daughter of the LMS missionaries Gottlob and Rebecca Schreiner, Katie, married the trader John Findlay, with there being a separate and very large Findlay Family collection in Historical Papers at the University of Witwatersrand. The next daughter in age, Alice, married the farmer and later librarian Robert Hemming. One of the Hemmings’s daughters, Effie, married Arthur Brown, a younger son of the LMS missionary Rev John Brown of Taung. On the sudden death at a young age of Alice Hemming, the surviving Hemming children – Effie, Winnie, Guy and Elbert – were adopted by their aunt, one of the younger Schreiner daughters, Henrietta known as Ettie or Het or Hetty. She was an evangelical temperance worker. She subsequently married John Stakesby Lewis, a mining engineer, and was widowed soon after marriage.

A1. Schreiner Family

Folders 1and 2 are primarily letters to Ettie Stakesby Lewis, with the key letter-writers being Gottlob Schreiner and Rebecca Schreiner. Although these are in separate folders, they are considered together below. Themes that are covered include:

  • Family letters from Gottlob Schreiner, very literate in English and also very affectionate, which occasionally touch on his misfortunes when involved in missionary work, and also debts and other troubles.
  • Family letters from Rebecca Schreiner commenting on family and neighbours and also particular friends, including Eliza Read, also with various comments about Olive Schreiner’s illness and feeling that she was not wanted at home. There are also comments about financial support received from the Findlays.
  • The death of Alice Hemming features in a number of these letters, as do the births and also early deaths of various of her children, including Willie and Leo.
  • There are many oblique references to Ettie Stakesby Lewis looking after the surviving children of Alice Hemming after Alice’s death, and her travels including to London and New York accompanied by the children and Nannie.
  • Across the letters in the first two folders there is other interesting comment on Olive Schreiner, both when she was still in South Africa and when she went to Britain; these comments include the difficult circumstances when she was working for the Weakleys
  • Both of these sets are family letters and there are no clearly discernible differences of approach between Gottlob and Rebecca. They rarely if ever mention race matters, and this is where any notable differences might be expected to lie.

Folder 3 consists of letters by Fred Schreiner, based in England, to various family members but particularly Ettie Stakesby Lewis. Key points in these are:

  • Fred is deeply involved in the lives of members of his family and his role in supporting them. His assumption of financial support for many family is considerable
  • He works overly hard in establishing the success of his prep school, and then its transferal into a Company
  • By 1898, this includes the reduction in his income because of the decline of the school, and also the constant drain on his resources from his unsteady son Wilfred
  • A number of letters comment on his revulsion about the South African War and its horrors, including in dividing members of the family from each other
  • Later letters are concerned with Wilfred’s death, followed by the sudden death of Fred himself

Folder 4 contains letters written by Theo Schreiner, and sent to various family members, including Robert Hemming, his mother Rebecca, Ettie Stakesby Lewis and his niece Effie Hemming later Brown. They include:

  • Theo’s involvement in his temperance and other religious work
  • Comments on his financial position and shares
  • His hopes that his sister Olive will ‘come to Christ’
  • His work for ‘the Natives’ and involvement in a Select Committee on Native Affairs
  • There is particularly interesting material on his involvement in temperance, religious activities and organisation and especially in relation to his support for ‘the Natives’

Folder 5 contains a small number of letters from Alice Hemming to her sisters Katie Findlay and Ettie Stakesby Lewis, brother Theo Schreiner and sister-in-law Elizabeth Hemming These are concerned mainly with family news, in particular regarding her children and her feelings of a negative kind about Olive Schreiner’s book, The Story of an African Farm, although she had not read it

Folder 6 consist of just under 90 letters mainly by Ettie Stakesby Lewis, to a range of family correspondents. These include her father, the adopted children of her deceased of sister Alice Hemming, her brother in law Robert Hemming and in particular her nieces Winnie Hemming and Effie Hemming later Brown, as well as a significant number to Effie’s later husband, Arthur Brown. There are just small numbers to her nephews Elbert and Guy, her brother Theo and younger sister Olive. These letters are concentrated in the period from the later 1870s through to Ettie’s later illness then death from a heart condition in the 1910s. Topics covered in them include:

  • Family news and various happenings involving family members
  • Ettie’s leading role in the Good Templars organisation and temperance work generally
  • Religious views and religious matters more generally
  • The work undertaken by and patients at The Highlands in Gardens, the therapeutic house that Ettie ran (and Arthur and Effie Brown took over)
  • Notably, there are very few references to race matters, and those there are mainly concerned with the coloured community in the context of religious services and temperance work
  • That Nannie (Anna Tempo) is black, and that her close friend Eliza Brown is mixed-race or coloured (she is the granddaughter of James Read junior), and that so is Arthur Brown, is never mentioned

Folder 7 consists of the letters of Olive Schreiner to various members of the Hemming, Brown and also some of the Schreiner members of the family. They have been transcribed in full and are now published as part of the Olive Schreiner Letters Online. A number of them discussed matters of race and ethnicity, although this is by no means as high-profile as in letters to her closest friends and political acquaintances.

Folder 8 contains some 70 family letters by Will Schreiner, primarily to his sister Ettie Stakesby Lewis, also to other family members including his niece Effie Brown, his nephew Guy Hemming, brother in law Robert and sister Alice Hemming, and a small number to his mother Rebecca. There is also a small handful of letters from his wife Fan to Ettie Stakesby Lewis. Themes in these letters include:

  • Will’s strong sense of responsibility, including providing much financial support, for other members of his family
  • His political views and involvements, including his increasing support for a completely open adult franchise and support re the ‘native question’
  • Political controversies and strong disagreements within the family concerning the role of Britain in South Africa and the position of Cecil Rhodes
  • Will’s presence in London in opposing the Acts of Union of South Africa, and also the period when he failed to attend the International Race Congress in London. are covered

Folder 9 contains a group of letters from various members of the Stuart part of the family, in particular Katie Stuart, the eldest daughter of Katie and John Findlay, and her son Will and grandson Robert.

  • Those from Katie Stuart are the majority and are often immensely long and filled with much religious rhetoric, also tending to gush her proclaimed emotions and feelings. Topics included are:
  • Family matters and keeping in touch kinds of letters
  • Her religious convictions and activities including in Good Templars concerns
  • Her colonisation of Theo Schreiner, and oblique references to disagreements with Ettie Stakesby Lewis

A2. Hemming Family

The second family letters component of the collection consists of the letters of various members of the Hemming family.

Folder 1 holds letters that predate the arrival of any Hemmings in South Africa, and start with their origins in Ireland and the dispersal of various family members to North America as well as South Africa. In addition to letters, there are wills and some other papers. The majority of these early letters are by, to or concern John Hemming, a former soldier who migrated to South Africa and became a minor civil servant working for the Colonial government. They also include letters concerning George Hemming, Elizabeth Hemming and John’s son Robert Hemming, who married Alice Schreiner.

Folder 2 is primarily of letters by and some to Robert Hemming, and in particular his letters to Ettie Stakesby Lewis, both before but particularly after the death of his wife and Ettie’s adoption of his children. His business failure, his important role in establishing the Johannesburg Public Library, his somewhat withdrawn role as a father and disengagement from the lives of his children, all feature. This folder also includes miscellaneous letters of the Hemmings, including from a number of the Hemming siblings, but have mainly diverse contents.

Folder 3 contains letters by and to Winnie Hemming. She was a career children’s nurse. These letters are both by and to her, her older sister Effie who later married Arthur Brown, and their aunt and adoptive mother Ettie Stakesby Lewis. They cover topics including family connections and happenings, the establishment and issues in the running of The Highlands, the therapeutic community that Ettie ran in Gardens in Cape Town, the activities of brothers Guy and Elbert Hemming during the South African War and later the severe mental illness suffered by Guy and the rest of his life in a mental asylum.  Also associated is a sub-folder primarily of receipts and papers regarding various houses and leases.

Folder 4 contains letters by Effie Hemming nee Brown to her father, a large number to Ettie Stakesby Lewis, and a very large number to Arthur Brown.

  • The latter cover the period of their courtship including when Ettie was away working in a voluntary teaching capacity with the Browns at Taung (who were close friends of Ettie) and also working teaching children on a number of farms.
  • The majority, however, can be described as the small repetitive news of a period of courtship and also keeping in touch letters when she and Arthur were later apart for any reason.
  • These letters also hint at the strong but in some respects naïve religious convictions of Effie and her equally strong bond with her adoptive mother.
  • Notably, neither Effie’s letters nor those of anyone else ever mention the fact that Eliza Brown, wife of Rev John Brown, was a mixed race woman whose grandfather was James Read junior, and that Arthur and his siblings were noticeably people of colour.

Folder 5 consists of letters from Guy Hemming, in particular over the period of the South African War when he was both of volunteer trooper on military patrol, and then later a teacher. His letters are in particular to his father, adoptive mother and sister Ettie.

Folder 6 contains letters by Elbert Hemming, the youngest of the four siblings. They cover similar topics and are to the same range of people as his brother Guy’s letters, although they include more to his sister Winnie, and also cover the period of his relationship with Norah Johns, who he married. Elbert and Norah died in the influenza epidemic of 1919.

Folder 7 consists of a small number of letters by Elizabeth Hemming, a sister of Robert Hemming who kept house for her father and has earlier also worked in the family business.

A3. Brown Family

Letters in the Brown Family collection also have a complicated structure, in part mapping onto family members, but also containing both letters to and from people, and so there are no very clear separations involved.

Folder 1 consists of the letters of John Brown to various of his sons and in particular Arthur Brown, who seems to have been the main keeper of family letters. There are also letters to both Arthur and Effie, both before and after Effie’s marriage to Arthur. This section of the collection also includes letters from his mother Eliza Brown, the granddaughter of James Read junior, to her sons and also to her close friend Ettie Stakesby Lewis. In addition, there are some letters from Arthur Brown to his father-in-law Robert Hemming as well as over 140 letters from Arthur to Effie, mainly written during their courtship but also whenever they were not together.

Folders 2 to 11 are from and to the Brown siblings to each other, including a number of the sisters as well as the brothers. They include letters by Lyndall Brown to his aunt Winnie Hemming, and also those of his sisters Barbara and Ethelwyn to her. There are also diverse other letters, including from Katie Stuart, Will Schreiner and various of the Brown brothers and sisters to each other, but again particularly Arthur Brown.

Some interesting aspects of the Brown letters include:

  • The close continuing contacts between all the siblings and the many letters that were exchanged between them over time.
  • Ettie Stakesby Lewis as an important presence for the Browns, because of her religious and temperance work and her strong bond with and influence on Eliza Brown, and also later the important role she played regarding Arthur Brown and his work at The Highlands.
  • The number of the Brown siblings, female as well as male, who became involved in missionary and related activities with a strong religious basis; this includes a daughter in the Kuruman Mission station, a son being a missionary overseas, another teaching in a religious context, and also Arthur Brown and his ‘calling’ to work at The Highlands when his earlier draw to missionary work did not pan out.
  • The sense of Effie Hemming as a rather emotional and naïve person. When younger, she caused some disturbances when at Taung because following her adoptive mother’s views about medical treatment and acting precipitously without consultation with John Brown as head of the mission station. Older, she seems to have been rather fixated on remaining in constant contact with Arthur, was a ‘collector’ of his letters, and did not really like him to have ‘outside’ friendships.
  • The elliptical references made to the mental health issues of Guy Hemming and what it was that occurred that led to him not being looked after at home, but placed in the Vlackberg Asylum.
  • On matters concerning race and ethnicity, it is notable that there is no mention let alone discussion of race matters in relation to their own situation, with family photographs showing their ‘mixed’ heritage from James Read junior. It is simply taken for granted.
  • A related matter concerns the situation of ‘Nannie’, Anna Tempo, an African woman, although this too is never mentioned as a relevancy, but also simply taken for granted. However, later because of public policy changes, it becomes an issue for Anna herself.

Section B. Other correspondence

The folders here have two main sub-divisions.

The first consists of letters and short correspondences from a variety of friends, primarily of the Hemmings including Alice Hemming. Other principal letter-writers are Mary Brown (no relationship to the Browns of Taung) to Ettie and Alice.

  • Those to Effie Brown later Hemming are from various former school-friends, to Arthur Brown from friends and work colleagues, from friends to Winnie Hemming, and a small group of interesting letters from Anna Tempo.
  • There are also letters to Ettie Stakesby Lewis from a number of high-profile acquaintances and colleagues, including WT Stead, Sir George Grey, Sir Alfred Milner and Josephine Butler. Letters from wider family members are also present, including Theo Schreiner, Katie Stuart, and the two step-daughters of Ettie Stakesby Lewis,

The second is composed of letters by a variety of letter-writers to Effie Brown nee Hemming. The letter-writers include various family members and cousins and friends, including older family friends.

C. and D.

The C and D sections of the collection contain unsorted papers of various kinds and also a rather disparate collection of unsorted photographs. These have not been included in the WWW database.

 

Last updated: 8 February 2017


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