Olive Schreiner’s exhilaration in Matjiesfontein

Olive Schreiner loved the Karoo. On March 25, 1890, she wrote to Havelock Ellis saying she was going to put on her hat and “go out for a walk over the Karoo, where such a sense of exhilaration and freedom comes over me.” At the time she was living at Matjiesfontein, where she had “a tiny bedroom in a little house built of iron” [This cottage still exists]. She wrote: “In a few days I am to have three rooms in a brick cottage all to myself.’ Describing the area she continued: “This is a wide, long plain with one or two little koppies on it: I am going to walk to one this morning. There are no farms or homesteads: The only place is this. It consists of the railway station, Logan’s House, and a row of outbuildings or cottages of which mine will be one. There is not a tree in the veld, nor a bush in the mountain, as far as the eye can see. The water is brought from a long way off in iron pipes. Even near the house there is not a tree or bush except a few little blue gum saplings that Logan put in about four months ago; they are nearly the only things that would grow here.” Matjiesfontein was a peaceful place: “The event of the day,” she wrote, “is when twice in the twenty-four hours a railway train sweeps by.”


© Rose’s Roundup, vol. 2, no. 76, January 2010

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