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The Dawn of Civilisation - NLSA ms

The Dawn of Civilisation

National Library of South Africa, Cape Town

Olive Schreiner Collection, MSC 26, 1: 6




This introduction to the National Library of South Africa typescripts connected with Olive Schreiner’s The Dawn of Civilisation accompanies the genetic transcriptions of the NLSA transcripts that will be found elsewhere on the ‘Manuscripts’ pages of the Olive Schreiner Letters Online. These are full, detailed genetic transcriptions of her avant-textes and show her ‘bird in flight’ way of combining editing and writing.

Unfinished, fragmentary, and not widely known about, nonetheless Olive Schreiner’s The Dawn of Civilisation, concerned with the origins of and remedies for war, is one of her most significant writings. The Dawn of Civilisation was written at the same time as a number of other (also now largely unknown) anti-war writings, produced in the last years of her life. A collection of these writings will appear later in 2018, edited by Liz Stanley. Further information about this will appear on the Olive Schreiner Letters Online website in due course.

In addition to the NLSA transcripts, there are also typescripts and manuscripts of a different part of The Dawn of Civilisation in the Schreiner collection of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas. Although known about by Conwright-Schreiner, and with signs of his editing activities marked on them, he did not use any of these now-HRC materials in publishing the short essay called ‘The Dawn of Civilization’ (with a ‘z’ spelling) that appeared in 1921. Instead, he used the main, but short, NLSA typescript for this.

The NLSA Schreiner holdings are of some typescripts, or more exactly a top typescript and number of copies of the same short sections, each of them edited in Olive Schreiner’s handwriting, but in somewhat different ways. The most significant is the one which Conwright-Schreiner used.

As a result, in order to gain full purchase on the project that Schreiner was engaged in, reference needs to be made to the ‘avant-textes’ or ‘genetic transcriptions’ of both the NLSA and the HRC versions of The Dawn of Civilisation and the OSLO introductions to them. Both can be accessed via the ‘Manuscripts’ page on the Olive Schreiner Letters Online website.

Genetic transcriptions provide detailed interpretation of an original manuscript or typescript as an author has edited this and which as a result shows every amendment that they made. A genetic transcription consequently gives enormous insight into the writing processes that an author is engaged in. It will also helpful to read relevant letters Schreiner wrote over the period from later 1913 through to 1920.


NLSA and HRC typescripts & manuscripts of ‘The Dawn of Civilisation’

Some Olive Schreiner manuscripts and other material were donated a few years after her death to the National Library of South Africa, then known as the Cape Town Public Library, by her estranged husband Conwright-Schreiner after he had completed editing and publishing as much as he thought feasible from her remaining papers. Among them were some remaining sections of a project referred to in her letters and elsewhere as ‘Stray thoughts on Peace and War’ and ‘my little war & peace book’, and which appears on the title page of the remains of the latter as ‘The Dawn of Civilisation’, with an ‘s’ spelling (NLSA MSC 26, 1: 6).

No known manuscript version in Olive Schreiner’s own handwriting exists for any part of ‘The Dawn of Civilisation’. The NLSA Schreiner collection holdings are of some typescripts, or more exactly a number of typescript-copies of the same short sections, each of them edited in Olive Schreiner’s handwriting, but each in somewhat different ways. In addition, there are typescripts of the same section and also a manuscript, in someone else’s writing but definitely by Olive Schreiner, of a longer, different part of the intended book, in the Schreiner collections of the Humanities Research Centre at the University of Texas, Austin. The HRC manuscripts are longer and contain much material not previously known about and which significantly add to an appreciation of what the completed ‘The Dawn of Civilisation’ might have been like. However, although known about by Conwright-Schreiner, he used the main short NLSA typescript.


The NLSA typescripts

Regarding the NLSA typescripts, the spelling of the title of the projected book on the first page of the first typescript is unexpected, as it uses the ‘s’ version of civilisation, while Schreiner elsewhere in her writings used the ‘z’ form of spellings. However, clearly the manuscript has been edited by her and also, on the back of the last page of the second typescript ,‘The Dawn of Civilisation’ has been written in her handwriting.

Following the title page, ‘PART I. CONTENTS’ gives the names of three sections in a numbered list 1, 2 and 3; and numbers 4, 5, 6 and 7 have been added in Olive Schreiner’s handwriting, but no names for these are provided. There is no indication as to what Part II might consist of.

Although there are 17 pages in this first typescript, and the page numbers written at the top right are in Schreiner’s writing, the typed page numbers that are also given are in fact not consecutive. There are seven consecutive page numbers of one thing, and then pages of something else, which is headed ‘Somewhere, some time, some place’, and had originally started at numbered  page 13. Therefore there must have been something that was numbered pages 1 to 12 before it. This is probably not the present pages 1 to 7, as these seem complete in themselves. From now on, this first typescript is referred to as TS1.

TS1 is paper-clipped together. Following it are six further typescripts, all of which are repeats of the first more complete one. The first of these, TS2, implies because of where page numbering starts that Olive Schreiner had written a section more, which was inserted into section 2, headed ‘Somewhere, some time, some place –’. The differences of content between the various other typescripts, and what is in TS1, are not enormous although some are interesting in a suggestive sense – for instance, ‘the powers that lie behind life’ becomes ‘whatever powers lie behind life’ in TS2. And the accumulation of these changes does make significant difference.

TS3 has the same number of pages as TS2, and is page-numbered the same. It too has been edited by Olive Schreiner, in ways that are mainly the same, but with some differences from both TS1 and TS2. These are followed by two further versions of the typescript, TS4 and TS5, both of which have title pages followed by contents etc, just like TS1. Both of these are ‘the same [more or less]’ as the first seven pages of TS1, with just a minor variations. The last two fragments, TS6 and TS7, are versions of the second section, ‘Somewhere…’, in the other typescripts. Again, they have been edited; and again, these changes are mainly, but not entirely, the same; although some of the differences are suggestive.


Some detail and the genetic transcriptions

The NLSA version of The Dawn of Civilisation, then, is composed by a typescript edited by Olive Schreiner of two sections, headed ‘Introduction’, and ‘Somewhere, some time, some place’. On its title page is a note by Cronwright-Schreiner, which states that “This MS, with her own corrections, was handed to me at 9 Porchester Place, London, in August 1920. (She sailed on the 13th.) She said it might be published if she should die. It was published in The Nation and the Athenaeum of the 26th March 1921. (She died on the night of the 10th Dec. 1920)  S.C.C.S.”.

Filed with it are the six related fragments. The first two are slightly differently edited versions of pages numbered 17 to 20 in what Cronwright-Schreiner has called ‘This MS’. The second two are slightly differently edited versions of the section headed ‘Introduction’. The last two are slightly differently edited versions of the section headed ‘Somewhere, some time, some place’. Cronwright-Schreiner categorically claims that ‘This MS’ is exactly what was published by him. However, the differences between the published version, ‘This MS’, and the other fragments, show this is not entirely correct. At various points, for instance, Olive Schreiner has realised there are missing words (that is, missing from what Cronwright-Schreiner refers to as ‘This MS’, that is, TS1) and has inserted them, but these were not included in the published version. In addition, he has made little use of the additional phrases or passages that Olive Schreiner has also inserted into the edited fragments, as a comparison of what is here with the published version of ‘The Dawn of Civilization’ – with a ‘z’ – that he edited and appeared in The Nation & the Athenaeum on 26 March 1921.

Footnoted information in the following transcription draws on both ‘This MS’, referred to earlier as TS1, and the other six fragments, TS2 – TS7, to indicate the whole range of editing changes that Olive Schreiner made. That is, the main text of the transcript is provided by a detailed transcription of TS1, while the footnotes make reference to deletions, additions and other amendments contained in TS2 to TS7.

The transcription conventions that have been followed are detailed ones and provide a version of a manuscript or typescript that is extremely close to the source document. It differs from a digital- or camera-copy of the document because it is, and is intended to be, an interpretation. Whenever a written document is changed, interpretation of exactly what the changes were and what the results they produced are is needed, not least because of difficulties in handwriting and frequently difficult to read words or phrases in amended texts. These conventions are provided at the end of this introduction and also on the ‘Manuscripts’ page on the Olive Schreiner Letters Online website.

The result details (a) as many of the editing changes that Olive Schreiner made to the paper transcript of ‘This MS’, TS1, as it is feasible to include short of a digital image, together with (b) all the insertions and deletions that she made to the remaining fragments, TS2 – TS7. Together, these provide indications of her thought process as she returned to the typescript and edited, probably doing so on different occasions, perhaps when she was in different places, explaining why these different part-edited pieces of typescript exist as well as ‘This MS’/TS1.

The following conventions have been used in producing all the genetic transcriptions of Olive Schreiner manuscripts, including the NLSA typescript of ‘The Dawn of Civilisation’:

     delete - a word or phrase that has been deleted

     ^insertion^ - the beginning and end of an insertion

     underline - a word or phrase that has been underlined

     unreadable - an unreadable word

     ?uncertain - a word that is difficult to make out, with this the possible reading of it

     [stuff] - an editorial interpolation