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A Handbook of the Boer War

Rhodes refrained from publishing a Kimberley book


meanwhile was finding his position almost intolerable, and his representations convinced Lord Roberts of the necessity of raising the siege of Rhodes without delay and at any cost. It was effected on February 15 by French's brilliant cavalry movement; but at the cost of the convoy of 170 wagons which were snapped up by De Wet at Waterval Drift, and of an Army compelled to march and to fight for nearly four weeks on reduced rations. But the harvesting of the crop of diamonds was resumed, and as far as Kimberley was concerned the war was at an end.

Although the siege lasted for more than three months the casualties were few, only 40 persons being killed and 123 wounded by acts of war. The privations suffered by the inhabitants, especially during the last few weeks, were no doubt great, but certainly not greater than the privations which unhappily are endured by the unemployed in Great Britain during a hard winter. The siege was conducted without much vigour and determination, and the most important operation on the side of the defence was a sortie on November 29 after the news had come in of Methuen's approach.

The relief of Kimberley closed the public career of the most conspicuous figure in the British Empire; and with great dignity and self-restraint, which might well have been imitated by other persons whose conduct during the war was impugned, Rhodes refrained from publishing a Kimberley book.

justify;">If the Siege of Kimberley brought out the weak side of his character, his egotism and impatience, his lack of power to adapt himself even temporarily to unaccustomed conditions, it will be remembered that these defects were inherent and that his marvellous success in life had accentuated them. The acts of a public man are so variously regarded by his opponents and his admirers, are seen by them in such different lights, that there can rarely be any general agreement on the question of the ratio between his merits and his failings; but the chief phases of his life afford the raw material out of which each man for himself can form an estimate of his character.

Like many men who have afterwards become famous in the secular world, Cecil Rhodes was intended for the Church. His health suffered from the rigours of the East Anglian climate and he was sent out to South Africa. His brother's farm in Natal, to which he was consigned, he found derelict on his arrival, but he was soon growing cotton on it, against the advice of the local experts, but with eventual success. At the age of 18 he was prospecting for diamonds at Kimberley, and forming the opinion during a visit to the Transvaal that an insufficient proportion of the South African Continent belonged to the British Empire. In 1872, being then 19 years of age, he went to Oxford, but in a few months his health broke down and another voyage to the Cape became necessary. In 1876 he returned to the University and remained there for two years when South Africa recalled him. As soon as he could be spared he went back to his college and, eight years after matriculation, completed his undergraduate course. It was a high compliment to the value of a Pass Degree at Oxford, where, however, he formed the opinion, which was not publicly divulged until his will was opened twenty-one years later, that Oxford Dons were "children in finance."

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