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Sketches and studies in South Africa online

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Royal Empire
Society Library





First Edition, June 1899
Second Edition, J%dy 1899









Printed by Ballantynk, Hanson &= Co.
London &" Edinburgh











Some whose judgment I value are of opinion that thejbllowing
^'^ Sketches and Studies'''' may be of general interest. If so,
it zaill be chiefly because the views and opinions expressed in
them have been formed, not by reading books — although I have
read everything on the subject which has come in my wayjor
many years — but because I have had opportunities of con-
versing Ji-eely with men who know, on all sides of the questions

South Africa is, Jor many reasons, one of the most inte-
resting parts of the Empire ; and it has before it — orw cannot
doubt — a great future. It affords examples of some of our
gravest mistakes, and gives us, therefore, lessons Jor the time
to come. It is encouraging, as being the theatre of some of the
most energetic efforts of Englishmen. I am unable to recount
any str'iking or sensational journeys in waggons, or any hair-
breadth escapes in pursuit of " big game "" ,• bid to many it may
be interesting to realise what rapid strides civilisation has made
in a land scarcely known until recent years, and what a wealth
of interest and beauty belongs to a region still — as apart of the
Empire — young.



/ HA VE every reason to be grateful for the reception accorded
to this book. Written as it was, at first, for occupation
and amusement and without any settled thought of ptib-
lication, it was the dispassionate expression of conclusions,
qfler careful examination, on some South African problems.
It was written, not — like some other xvorks on the same
subject — ^^with a purpose.'''' Had such been the case it
would have been prudent, perhaps, to alter it in some
respects. It was intended simply to state what I believe
to be the truth.

It is by a curious accident that it has appeared just at
the time of " the Transvaal Crisis."" I am glad to find
all I have written on that subject borne out completely by
high authorities — by the last Blue Book, by the Colonial
Secretary s great speech on June S6, by Mr. Rider
Haggard's remarkable letter to the Times, and by the
weighty article in the Nineteenth Century ^o?- Jtily by no
less an authority than Sir Sidney Shippard. Umlcr such
circumstances I am gratefd for some kindly and intelli-
gent criticisms, and bear with equanimity some strictures
from quarters where political partisanship has stifled

Studying South Africa as it is, I could not but feel that
there had been a steady fall for some years in our moral


temperature as to our duty there ; that toe had lost clear-
ness of vision hy allowing the habit to grow of " making
the worse appear the better cause^'' and forgetting our
grave responsibility in jirst founding and tlien tolerating
a corrupt and disturbing oligarchy under the misleading
title of Republic. Now is an opportunity for correcting,
in some measure, a terrible mistake which entailed untold
sufferhig both on our own countrymen and the natives
whom we professed to protect. /, Jbr one, hope with all
my heart that we shall not let it slip. For saying this,
I have been accused of being an enemy to peace. I am
an enemy to dishonourable peace — to peace purchased by
the neglect of duty — / am not ashamed to accept things
in the Prophefs order, " Love the Tridh and Peace.''''

I shall be thankfid if any words of mine — though not
written '■'■Jor a purpose "" — may be of use, in the very smallest
degree, towards hindering my country from another in-
glorious betrayal.


Jidy 10, 1899




I. Capetown and its Neighbourhood ... 15

II. Capetown to Johannesburg by Natal ... 30

III Johannesburg, Pretoria, Boksburg, to Mafeking 51

IV. Mafeking to Buluwayo, the Matoppos, Kimberley 80


I. Cape Colony ....... 107

II. The Orange Free State . . . . .147

III. The Transvaal Annexation and Afterwards . 171

IV. The Transvaal — The Surrender . . . 201
V. The Transvaal — The Raid and Afterwards . 244


I. Confederation — The Bartle Frere Polk y . . 277

II. South Africa Now ...... 290

III. Homeward Bound ...... 310

Index 323





We left England, driven out in search of health, in
the late summer of 1898. Our voyage to the Cape,
like many other voyages, was uneventful and pleasant.
Not many hours before reaching our destination, we
first sighted land. The Table Mountain and the wild
rocky ridge of its attendant peaks rose more and
more above the horizon. We passed Bobbin Island,
entered the beautiful harbour, saw the beetling crags
towering above us, and the city lying outspread below,
and so, just eighteen days from London, found ourselves
one glorious evening of a southern spring safe, after a
prosperous voyage, on the long looked for shores of
South Africa.

Capetown and its neighbourhood are of immense
interest. The town itself is in no way striking, but
it is an improving town and compares very favourably
with the new towns of America. There are some fine
streets, and, gradually, the low houses are being re-
placed by more lofty ones. The Houses of Assembly,
the General Post Office, and the Standard Bank are
really fine buildings ; " the Avenue," as it is called, is
a pleasant promenade, and affords refreshing shade on a
burning day. The buildings of the South African
College and the Good Hope Hall are well adapted for


their respective purposes. The Cathedral, an ugly-
erection of the Georgian stamp, built in imitation of
St. Pancras Church, is spacious and well suited for
congregational purposes ; the harbour is one of the
finest in the world ; and in the Docks there is the
usual scene of bustle and seafaring energy which
speaks of commercial vigour. Adderley Street is a
busy and lively street and contains excellent shops ;
and the whole city, though possessing no buildings of
any special interest or beauty, is a town of respectable
proportions and capacities.

What is really striking in Capetown is its situation,
the actual view from its thoroughfares, and its sur-
rounding neighbourhood.

When the traveller walks in the streets of Inns-
briick, he has indeed the venerable houses and the
quaint and picturesque alleys of the ancient town ;
but these are set off by the ring of majestic moun-
tains rising around in the Bavarian highlands and
the Tyrol. In Capetown, indeed, there are no quaint
streets nor picturesque monuments of the past, but
there is a view of majestic mountains. Raising one's
eyes when walking in some of the streets, they rest on
the rugged cliffs above the town. Directly above it
rise to the height of three to four thousand feet the
bold and beetling crags of Table Mountain. First there
is a slope, in parts clothed with green underbrush
and mountain grass, and above this are rugged and
threatening precipices. The top, though really broken
into gullies and depressions, appears flat, and hence it
has its name — a name perhaps too bourgeois and
domestic for the 'dignified mountain it denotes. At
either end are separate and bold pinnacles of crag.


and onward, one after another, continue what may
be called the lines of the related mountains, while
away before it stretch the beautiful blue waters of the

To the north-west of Capetown the scenery is very
striking. Here is the pretty suburb of Sea Point, a
favourite resort of many of the inhabitants of the
town. Bay after bay cuts into the coast-land with
wild boulders of rock and mountain landward, and
seaward the constant heavy swell and fierce breakers
of the Atlantic. There is a fine drive here, " the
Victoria Boad," round the peninsula, which reminds
one of the roads winding along the coast to the North
and North-west of Ireland, and which commands en-
trancing views towards mountain, valley, and sea.

Eastward and south-eastward the environs appeared
to us even more beautiful. A series of pretty villages
or towns are scattered along the bays which on either
side open out into the Atlantic or the Indian Oceans,
or stud the line across the peninsula — Woodstock,
Mowbray, Bondebosch, Newlands, Wynberg, Muizen-
berg, St. James, and so on. All of these, and — away
from Wynberg — Constantia, are of indescribable
beauty. Woodstock, a station on the Capetown- Wyn-
berg Bailway, is in itself no way remarkable ; but
behind it up the slopes of its mountain — an ofishoot of
the Table Mountain range — the views are of wonderful
loveliness. Between the railway and the mountain runs
the main road for tramcars and general trafiic between
Capetown and Wynberg. At Woodstock this road is
not striking — pretty enough with its fine fringes of
eucalyptus-trees tossing their soft sad leaves in the
wind, but certainly the least pretty part of the route ;


but above this, on the rough slope of the mountain,
there stands a large Anglo-Catholic establishment for
mission work, under the care of the All Saints' Sisters,
and a little lower down to the left a small hospital
under the charge of an excellent English Sister and
some good nurses. To this admirable little hospital
we owe a debt of gratitude for the good nursins:
which, with the kind and skilful medical treatment of
Dr. Fuller — an eminent physician in Capetown — •
restored to health, after severe illness, one in whom we
had the deepest interest. It Is, however, the beauty
of the scene from and around Woodstock Hospital with
which we are now concerned. Immediately behind are
dotted solemn woods of stone pines, and above them
rises the jagged mountain peak. Standing on the
hospital stoep (or verandah), the eye ranges across
the blue waters of the Bay. To the left is seen the
shipping about the harbour of Capetown, to the right
a part of the flats of the peninsula, until the eye rests
on the rugged line of giant mountains which guard it
towards the north-east.

It is impossible to exaggerate the beauty of form
and outline of this bold range, the outlying sentinels
of the Quathlamba. Seen in the evening from Wood-
stock, and still better a little farther on in the direction
of Mowbray, they " gather lights of opal," and recall
to one's mind, in the exquisite effect of atmosphere
upon them, the beauty of the mountains of Attica.
There, the rugged ranges are, like these, greatly de-
nuded of wood, but, like these also, they never suggest
to the eye that they are bare, being clothed with an
exquisite garment of atmospheric colour. Here, and
indeed throughout South Africa, the marvellous hues-


of the mountains and the tender clearness of the
opalescent air often reminded us of similar effects in
Attica and the Peloponnese, where the Ancient Greeks

" Ever delicately marching
Through most pellucid air — " *

Farther to the east on the same line of road is Mow-
bray. The little town has less of the "ragged"
appearance of small houses, squatted about anyhow,
which belongs to the nearer environs of Capetown. It
is the entrance into the well-wooded neiofhbourhood
near Wynberg and Constantia. It has, too, a charac-
ter of its own, and suggests something of the " home "
feeling of an English village, with still the fine solemn
mountain peaks above it, and the brilliant colouring
of South African flora everywhere.

It is here that one is first struck with the splendid
avenues of pine which form such a feature in the
peninsula. Leading up from Mowbray village to Mr.
T. E. Fuller's pretty place — Bollihope — is one of these
fine avenues. The pines are of vast height, and on a
breezy night there is something weird and ghastly in
the sound these giant trees make in striking against
one another — where they seem to ache and groan
under the lashes of the wind. From this, eastward,
the road becomes more and more beautiful. There are
dense woods and overhanging mountains. Fine old
places are to be found embedded in these woods, and
of these the most interesting and striking is Groote
Schuur, the seat of the Et. Hon. Cecil J. Rhodes.

This remarkable man was the younger son of a

* ail 5ia "Kajj-irporaTov
^aivovTis d,Spws aWipos. — Eurip. Med. 829, 30.


clergyman in Hertfordshire. He first came to South
Africa in 1871 on account of the then delicate state of
his health. He entered at Oriel College, Oxford, in
1874 ; but, having suffered from a chill caught in
rowing, returned to South Africa owing to the conse-
quently injured condition of his lungs. His fortune,
as is well known, was made by persevering effort and
ability in the diamond fields of Colesberg Kopje
in Griqualand, now known as Kimberley. Men soon
discovered that, unlike the ordinary run of money-
getters and speculators — of whom South Africa has
had more than its share — Mr. Rhodes cared nothing
for money in itself, but only for what he deemed the
patriotic and unselfish uses to which it could be put.
The passion of his life became the expansion of
England's influence over the unappropriated regions
of Africa, and thereby the enlargement of that civilisa-
tion and liberty which Englishmen have some reason
to believe can be hoped for only — at least in their
completeness — under the English flag. No man has
suffered more from false friendship and bitter enmity.
No man has been more subjected to calumny and de-
traction from the heated partisanship of political

His successes have aroused bitter envy in jealous
rivals ; his one grave mistake has been condemned
with unsparing violence by detractors who have
seemed willing enough to compass, if possible, the ruin
of his patriotic schemes and the paralysis of his poli-
tical life ; but he still remains, one is forced to confess,
the greatest of Imperial statesmen, and carries on, in
spite of all difficulties and hindrances, the work which
he had undertaken as an Englishman convinced of


England's mission to advance enlightenment and pro-
gress and as an unflagging friend to South Africa.
This by the way, as the details of the interesting
events connected with his name fall rather under
the head of history. We are concerned at present
with the beautiful estate and house at Groote Schuur,
which is to a great extent, in its present form, a
characteristic creation of its owner.

The estate itself is formed from several farms which
were purchased and thrown together. It includes a con-
siderable part of the mountain range behind. Off the
main road at Rondebosch the house is approached by
one of those avenues of pine and oak so frequent in this
neighbourhood. A short, straight, wide drive turning
to the right out of the first avenue leads to the front
of the house. The present house, though with all the
appearance of antiqviity, is really, in great part, quite
modern. The old house was gutted by fire almost
entirely in 1896. There is a characteristic story told
of the owner at that time. He was absent in Khodesia
when the fire occurred ; his old friend Dr. Jameson
was laid up with severe illness. His friends felt that
to tell Mr. Bhodes of the destruction of Groote Schuur
was a thankless task, as the place was his home, and
he loved it with a genuine afiection. " I am sorry, I
have very bad news for you, Rhodes/' said one of them
at last. " What ? " he asked, with a look of horror.
** Groote Schuur is burnt," was the answer. " Oh,
thank God ! " was the reply in a tone of relief " I
thought you were going to say that Jameson was
dead. We can build up Groote Schuur again ; we
could not have built up Jameson."

The house is in the best old Dutch style. At the


head of the flight of steps by which it is entered is a
stoep, and within, two spacious entrance-halls. The
drawing-room, dining-room, library, and billiard-room
are all lofty and striking, as is the main staircase.
At the back is a long deep verandah (or stoep), where
it is pleasant to rest in the heat of the day, or from
which it is restful to gaze in the quiet evening at the
changing lights and deepening shadows on the moun-
tains above. The long front is terminated at either
end by quaint gables, and the chimneys are extremely
picturesque, with a twist like the chimneys of ancient
manor houses in England, especially, for instance,
Compton Winyates, of the date of Henry VIL

The house has one main characteristic. It is
distinguished and unusual ; the mark of distinction
is unmistakably upon it, and, like its owner's character,
it is the distinction of what has been called " massive
simplicity." There is nothing about it gaudy or vulgar
or petty. There is no display of wealth, but everything
in it is beautiful, real, and in good taste. The furni-
ture is well chosen and mostly antique. The spacious
bedrooms and wide airy passages and staircases have a
simple dignity about them which is almost monastic in
its severity, and yet in no house in the world, probably,
are guests made more thoroughly comfortable and " at
home." It is difficult to compare it with any other
house of its dimensions : like its owner, it falls into no
common category. It is unusual ; it is distinct.

The grounds around the house are as striking and as
remarkable as the house itself Passing out under
the broad beautiful colonnaded stoep at the back, the
eye rests first on low walls or balustrades marking
off the gravelled court from the rising ground above.


On these low walls cluster bougalnvilleas, of which the
deep hues contrast strikingly with the clear white of
the low balustrade and the rich brown of the gravel.
Beyond the balustrades rise terraces with steps of old
brickwork, and, on either side, flower beds rising up —
height above height — to the green turf beyond. But
there are no tiny flower beds cut out in trim arrange-
ments, but huge masses of flowers — fuchsias, tall many-
coloured kannas or Ceylon lilies. To the right, and
stretching down past the right-hand gable of the
house, are fascinating rose gardens. These are on a
large, almost wild scale, and yet of the choicest and
most exquisite roses. It is impossible to imagine any-
where in a comparatively small compass a greater
profusion of magnificent flowers. Farther down,
towards the avenue leading to the house, is a
further extent of garden mixed and herbaceous with
sweet-smxclling herbs and flowers. But the feature of
the flower gardens is higher up beyond the rose
garden. Here is a wide far-reaching cavity in the
stretch of turf which slopes towards the heights above.
This has been treated in a masterly way. Anything
small or pre-Raphaelite — so to speak — in detail, would
be out of harmony with the stately background of
the giant mountain. Instead of attempting to treat
this perplexing reach of ground in the ordinary way
by laying it out in garden beds, it has been made an
extensive acreage of the most magnificent blue hy-
drangeas, so that there is a wide extent of glorious
colour contrasting with the green forest scenery and
rugged mountains close above. For when the eye is
raised and rests upon the turf in the upper terrace, it
meets long lines — like the aisles of a great cathedral —


of gigantic pines. Beyond these are the wilder planta-
tions of oak and pine and silver-trees, and, as a back-
ground, the stately mountains.

The forms of the mountains here are singularly bold
and picturesque. Nothing of its kind can be imagined
more beautiful than the view from the stoep towards
these gardens, forests, and hills. The exquisite atmo-
sphere, the ever-varying lights and shadows in the
crannies of the mountain precipices, the bold colours of
the gardens, the deep green of the lofty pines with
their gigantic blue-brown shafts, the wide wash of the
soft violet-coloured hydrangeas, in every light — in the
gold of an African morning, or the opal of the African
sunset, or the dreamy wealth of basking colour of the
South African afternoon, or the warmer clearer brilliance
of the African moon and stars — create a scene which is a
constant dream of beauty. As in and about the house
itself, so in these grounds everything is on a large
scale. There is nothing petty or finikin. Nature and
art combine to make it all wide, generous, inspiring of
great thoughts, like the character of its owner, as that
character was sketched to us, not by mere flatterers, but
by good men who know him well — a character whose
wonderful width of sympathy and breadth of mental
grasp and imagination the whole place reflects.

To the right of the spectator as he gazes from the
stoep or the drawing-room or dining-room windows
towards the mountains, stretches a long straight
walk, rising up some quaint steps to " the Glen."
Here in a cleft of the hillside, deep down, is a
wealth of flowers — above all, more of the many
coloured and magnificent hydrangeas ; while above,
under the deep shelter of the forest trees, are walks


winding about, and rustic seats from which the eye
can range through vistas of trees and flowers over a
wide stretch of country to the glorious mountains
terminating the peninsula towards the north-east, and
where the grateful shelter protects the loiterer from
the burning sun.

In England we have a wealth of noble parks and
mansions, and some of them are made available from
time to time for the amusement of the people ; but
we are by nature an exclusive and retiring and re-
served, if not selfish, race, and among us great land-
owners, as well as small, are too often addicted —
though perhaps not now so much as formerly — to
locking and barring and fencing themselves up from
all intruders, and to considering themselves aggrieved
if others enjoy their beautiful grounds or gardens,
unless under the strictest limitations, and in some
cases not even then. What strikes an Englishman
and a stranger is the large generosity with which Mr.
Rhodes shares the delights of his beautiful place with
his humblest neighbours. There is scarcely a gate of
any kind in the place, and never a lock and key,
except in the enclosures up the mountain- side where
native birds and animals of Africa wander freely in a
kind of wild and beautiful " Zoo," or in the large
building appropriated, also higher up on the mountain
slope, for some African lions. The whole place
literally serves as a great " People's Park." There is
never a Sunday afternoon, scarcely any week day,
when ** all sorts and conditions of men " are not to
be found with their wives and children enjoying the
beauty of the place after the heat and dust of the
town. On great holidays such as Christmas and New


Year's Day — which of course occur in the African
midsummer — it is a sight to see half Capetown and
its neighbourhood trooping about the grounds of
Groote Schuur, picnicking, having games of all sorts,
and carrying away armfuls and even cartloads of
splendid flowers from " the Glen," and not seldom
some of them invading the verandah and peeping
into or entering the house itself! When some have
ventured to suggest that he was " too kind," and that
occasionally the people were over-greedy about his
flowers, he only smiled and answered, " Well they
enjoy it : why should I keep it all to myself? " What-
ever real faults may be his, or whatever invented
faults enemies may have placed to his account, one
thing cannot but strike a dispassionate onlooker —
there is nothing narrow, self-seeking, or small about
this remarkable man. Having visited the place, one
can well understand the saying of a London news-
paper at the time Groote Schuur was partly burned,

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Online LibraryW. J. (William John) Knox-LittleSketches and studies in South Africa → online text (page 1 of 22)