18 MAY 1912, Page 16


[To THU ED/TOR OP THE " EFECTATOR.''.1 SIR,—Thank you very much indeed for your very kind review of my book "Alone in West Africa" in your issue of May 4th. Will you let me comment just once or twice upon your remarks ? I am sorry, of course, if I occasioned inconvenience and anxiety to others by my wanderings, but one cannot always count the cost even to one's self, and I think you will admit that on the whole it was better I should have gone if only to show that such things can be done, and done after all fairly easily. That I was afraid once or twice without cause is really nothing : one has to be afraid occasionally in life without cause, and it is all experience. The same may be said when one is afraid with cause—it is experience. Life would lack savour if it wore so sheltered that in all the years one had never had reason to be afraid. Surely it was worth doing if only to show that a woman could do it and be in good health all the time. That health question is the crux of the whole matter. You laugh at me very generously and kindly; and surely never had author a kinder reviewer ; I laugh at myself for writing as if what had occurred to me cannot have occurred to those who have been administering and trading with West Africa all these years, and as if " West Africa had now been discovered for the first time." I suppose I have done that, but for my excuse I must mention that though I have eagerly sought all information about West Africa for many years I have never heard anything good of it. Every man and woman seem banded together to curse the country. In England every one held up their hands in astonishment at the idea of a woman going there or expecting to do anything but ruin her health if she did. On the coast I never went anywhere but it seemed many of the inhabitants rose up to point out to me the manifold imperfections, not to say impossibilities, of the country. So often I came across merchants and officials who admitted no beauty, charm, or value in the country, who counted themselves miserable exiles, and who were emphatic on the impossibility of bettering the conditions, of bringing out white women, Do you wonder, then, that when I found an entrancingly lovely land in some places, that when I found I enjoyed the rudest health, I in my turn have tried to rub in, possibly a little too emphatically, that these West African colonies are of great value to the British Crown, and the fact ought to be recognized? Finally—I cannot say it too often— I feel that the English upbringing is becoming too soft and luxurious. It is delightful to have luxuries—no one appreciates them more than I do—but it seems to me there is grave danger to the community in the undoubted fact that so many English- women fail to follow their husbands simply *awe they are accustomed to being kept in cotton-wool. If only you had heard as often as I have done that a man cannot bring out his wife because she would have to sleep in a but with- out glass windows and with only a beaten earth floor, because the only other man in the station was single, because she would have to be left alone at times, because a good woman servant was an impossibility, because she might be sick, and who would escort her down to the coast in that case —for a hundred other reasons that would certainly, if they were worth listening to, have left Australia and Canada still empty wastes ! We must be a little harder, I feel it very strongly ; especially must our women be a little harder. Every second woman I meet I want to shake because she is so afraid of being uncomfortable. This intense desire for comfort is making of people so many sheep without any initiative, and is undoubtedly had for the nation.

Again I thank you very much indeed and am faithfully