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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 Havelock Ellis, 20 May 1913, NLSA Cape Town, Special Collections, Olive Schreiner Letters Project transcription’. Please also supply letter line numbers for specific quotations.
|Letter Date||20 May 1913
|Address From||De Aar, Northern Cape
|Who To||Havelock Ellis
|Other Versions||Cronwright-Schreiner 1924: 325-6
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 Havelock Ellis.
2: De Aar, 20th May.
4: Do you who know all about everything know of a good history of France,
5: not too expensive, say, like Green's Short History? Also do you know
6: of a good history of French literature - I don't mean fine writing,
7: but one which gives simply the facts of literary history? I've had a
8: very good history of German literature, giving you names of writers,
9: dates, short biographies and descriptions of the different schools of
10: thought. I want very much a good history of the Jesuits. ... How
11: ridiculous it is to teach children only the history of their own
12: little countries. By the time a man or woman is fifteen or sixteen
13: they should at least once or twice have read through the histories of
14: the leading European countries. We make so little effort to make
15: education broad. I think the teaching of languages takes an altogether
16: undue place in education. What a farce to spend time gaining a little
17: dry smattering of the grammar of a foreign language and to know
18: nothing of its literature or the history of the nation! Language
19: should not be taught through grammar, but through reading and speaking
20: and hearing it; grammar should be studied as a science apart,
21: comparative grammar. The structure of different languages should be
22: compared: Kaffir is a most fascinating study from that standpoint;
23: they inflect the beginnings of their words, not the ends, and they are
24: inflected so as to make the words curiously harmonious. ... Good-bye,
25: dear; I wonder if I shall go to England. It will be a ghost revisiting
26: the earth where it once lived.