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, 29 May 1886, NLSA Cape Town, Special Collections, Olive Schreiner Letters Project transcription’. Please also supply letter line numbers for specific quotations.
|Letter Date||29 May 1886
|Address From||Harrow, London
|Who To||Havelock Ellis
|Other Versions||Cronwright-Schreiner 1924: 100-1; Rive 1987: 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 Havelock Ellis.
2: Harrow, 29th May.
4: Havelock, all day yesterday I was writing and thinking about the unity
5: of the Universe and our love of truth arising from that conception. I
6: sat up till one writing. I couldn't sleep when I went to bed. For the
7: first time for long, long, I thought of death, realised it, that
8: wandering out of the soul alone; that's what I always feel death will
9: be, though 1 know it won't be. I got that kind of suffocating feeling
10: I used to have at Ratel Hoek, as if I couldn't bear to think of it, as
11: if my physical heart was breaking. And then, sudden, out in the garden
12: in the dark, in a tree just at my window, a nightingale began to sing,
13: more beautifully than any sound I have ever heard. You can't think
14: what a strange effect it had on me, how wonderful. I'll never forget
15: it. In that utter still lonely night, when I felt so, to hear it. ...
16: Thank you much for Walden. I love it. ... I haven't sent the MS., nor
17: your books yet, because I can't goad myself into walking through the
18: town to the post office. I can't bear to see people. I am so happy
19: alone. I feel just like I used to at Lelie Kloof.
Which manuscript Schreiner is referring to is not certain.