|List of Collections|
|Alfred Gillet Trust Archive|
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|British Library, London|
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|Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin|
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|War Museum of the Boer Republics Bloemfontein Autograph Collection|
|West Sussex Cobden Unwin|
|Western Cape Archives|
|Women’s Library Autograph Collection|
Copyright transcription: © Olive Schreiner Letters Project. This transcription can be freely used as long as copyright is acknowledged and it is referenced using the following citation: ‘Olive Schreiner to Adela Villiers Smith nee Villiers, 2 June 1908, NLSA Cape Town, Special Collections, Olive Schreiner Letters Project transcription’. Please also supply letter line numbers for specific quotations.
|Letter Date||2 June 1908
|Address From||De Aar, Nothern Cape
|Who To||Adela Villiers Smith nee Villiers
|Other Versions||Cronwright-Schreiner 1924: 279-80
When Cronwright-Schreiner prepared The Life...
(1924) and The Letters of Olive Schreiner
(1924), with few exceptions he then destroyed the original letters in his possession. When Olive Schreiner’s originals can be compared with his edited versions, his versions are severely shortened, and/or inaccurate in sometimes minor but sometimes major respects, and/or are combinations of a number of original letters. The status of ‘the Cronwright-Schreiner letters’ is therefore that they are artefacts of his editorial practices, rather than being ‘Olive Schreiner letters’ as such. Consequently, where original letters which appear in The Letters...
have been traced, they appear in the context of the appropriate archive collections and not as ‘a Cronwright-Schreiner letter’. In addition, where a version exists as one of the Extracts made in preparing The Letters...
, the extract version is provided because usually longer and in other ways closer to the characteristic writing practices of Schreiner’s original letters. The remaining ‘Cronwright-Schreiner letters’, of which this is one, are provided for the sake of completeness, because they give clues as to where Schreiner was resident at different points in time, and indicate some of her activities. However, they should be read and used with considerable caution for the reasons spelled out here.
1: To Mrs. Francis Smith.
2: De Aar, 2nd June.
4: ... It often has seemed to me that there is a form of danger for
5: delicate women. I can't enter fully into the matter because from the
6: impersonal standpoint there's so much I have to say about it I could
7: write a book about the matter in all its aspects. I mean that when a
8: woman is delicate, suffers horribly and continually, so that to most
9: of those about her it is an understood thing she should always be
10: suffering, and the mightiest love takes it as part of the thing that
11: has to be, then the one person, who has always to interest themselves
12: actively in that physical condition and try to relieve it, may become
13: a danger. They alone seem to enter the life of suffering, they alone
14: seem to understand, and the woman is apt to forget that the man has
15: had hundreds of other patients in just that relation to themselves,
16: that many of them make their fortunes and reputations (as many priests
17: and parsons do) by the influence they get over women in their times of
18: weakness and suffering. This may be well and kindly used - or it may
19: be hell. And more especially in those cases where a woman is operated
20: on and put under drugs - no one seems adequately to realise what the
21: effect of those drugs in many cases in weakening the will and
22: loosening all forms of self-restraint - but, not only so, altering the
23: character also. I think you would be astonished if I could tell you
24: the number of tragic and terrible instances of this kind I've come
25: across in the course of my life. The influence of a Doctor over a
26: woman is often of just the same nature as that quite devilish
27: influence which nurses so often get over the men they nurse, whom they
28: draw into marrying them, and into the most terrible and compromising
29: relations. One very curious thing about this relation between doctors
30: and patients, and nurses and the men they nurse, is this - the extreme
31: shortlivedness of the attraction if they recover full robust health.
32: The doctor who has so filled the life of some delicate suffering woman,
33: the nurse to whom some unhappy man has offered marriage, six months
34: after they have been in full health (i.e. themselves again!) becomes
35: to them a commonplace uninteresting or even repulsive person!