"Rhodes as almighty might-have-been" Read the full letter
Collection Summary | View All |  Arrange By:
< Prev |
Viewing Item
of 586 | Next >
Letter ReferenceHRC/CAT/OS/4b-iiHRC/CAT/OS/4b-iv
ArchiveHarry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter DateMonday 18 March 1889
Address FromMentone, France
Address To98 Earlsbrook Road, Earlswood, Redhill, Surrey
Who ToHavelock Ellis
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 157-9; Rive 1987: 151-2; Draznin 1992: 448-50
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
The Project is grateful to the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, the University of Texas at Austin, for kindly allowing us to transcribe this Olive Schreiner letter, which is part of its Manuscript Collections. This letter is composed of a number of pages, which are now separated in the HRC collections as the result of pre-archiving happenstance. Schreiner stayed in Mentone from mid December 1888 to mid March 1889. The letter has been dated by reference to an associated envelope and its postmark, which also provides the address it was sent to.
3My Havelock, You remember that long ago I told you how nearly 20 years
4ago when I was at Dordrecht I had such a horror of eating before
5people ^I couldn’t^ & how I used to have to eat alone, & how it kept
6on all the time my period stayed away, & I told you what unkind untrue
7things they said about it. Well there came some people here ten days
8ago from the Cape I think or they know people there, & they have been
9talking to all the people in the Hotel about it. They are low rough
10people, you know the kind I mean who drop their H’s. They have heaps
11of money. They sit & jeer at me at the table. The man with one eye
12calls out across the table & asks, If that young lady can tell me what
13the word pick pocket means, & then every one at the table laughs. Even
14the servants won’t say good day to me any more. Only one prostitute
15to whom I’ve been kind speaks to me. Harry you won’t betray me you
16won’t talk about this to anyone. I’m hunted to death. If I stayed
17here a little time longer I must die. I am going to Florenze. I have
18written to that Italian boarding house. My cough is bad too & I feel
19so weak that it has taken me all day to think clearly enough to write
20this. Harry the world isn’t fair, I haven’t sinned so much more
21than other people to be hunted down so. If it goes on a little more I
22will kill myself. I wouldn’t if I thought my reason would stay, but
23I know I can’t bear much more. Oh I’ve been so desolate all my
24life Harry I’ve I never had a home I’ve never had anyone to take
25care of me of like other girls have I was thrown out in the world when
26I was eleven, & even before that I hadn’t a real home. Oh, you
27who’ve never been turned out of a house don’t know what it is.
28Long ago I could I bear but now I can’t any more. I know my reason
29will go Oh Harry if you knew how helpless a woman. I’ve been now for
30four & thirty years alone.
32Soon the bell will ring & I must go down to that room full of human
33creaturs. I am many years older when I come out ?in than when I come
34in. I dare not stay away twice I have. I must seem to feel nothing. I
35will go away to Florence next week if I can. I will try to finish my
36book & then I will kill myself. But oh Harry it seems as if my brain
37was going now. They surely wouldn’t try to hunt a human creature
38down if they knew what it was. Harry I’ve never willingly hurt a
39human being
41If you write address to Poste Restante. & don’t say anything that it
42would matter their reading. I am taking this to the post myself. Oh
43Harry why didn’t my mother put a garter round my neck the day I was
44born. I am a fine genius a celebrity, & tomorrow all these people
45would tread me under their feet. I can’t go back to Africa. They
46will torture me too much
48I want to go somewhere where non no one knows me. It’s harder than
49if the things were true. Its so cruel. I never told you the cruel
50things Mrs. Hemming said to me when she came to see me in London. Last
51summer it was that broke me down so. Long ago but my brain kept clear,
52but now I’m crushed.
54Read my prelude & tell me what you think of it. Harry if I could see
55me & I could be alone I would finish my book & then when it was done I
56could die. Harry can’t you think of a place where I could go & rest.
57Good bye, your little Olive
59Harry we mustn’t talk about this to any one to Alice or Louie. Every
60one will say again I am wandering with out a motive I have never moved
61without a motive; the hidden agony of my life, no human being
62understands. Harry you are young & ?per & fresh you will marry & find
63love, you are not cut off from your fellows. Oh this fame is so
64terrible. I shrink from it so.
68^I enclose a cheque for twenty pounds. Please cash it & send it out to
69me by £5 at a time for safety. Please send the first £5 at once. I
70can’t leave till I get it.^
72Oh Harry how utterly alone a soul is in its hour of anguish. If I
73could only think but I can’t work because of this pain they’ve
74given me in the head.
76^If people ask you where I am just say travelling in Italy. If I go to
77Florence my address will to Poste Restante^
79Harry please say one little word to comfort me, couldn’t you say
80something to keep my brain You haven’t dreamed what I’ve been
81through all these last years. I’ll tell you all some day before I
82die. Don’t tell Alice or anyone I’m ill. I’m only travelling in
83Italy like other people do.
85^PS. I have opened my letter again the thought has just struck me to go
86to Paris instead of Florence. I can live very cheaply there & I can
87pay for your coming over to see me What do you think. If I wire the
88one word Paris, you will know I have come & that I want the £5 note
89sent to Oxford & Cambridge Hotel, Rue D’ Alse Don’t tell anyone
90where I am.^
The 'Prelude' referred to is in From Man to Man. Draznin's (1992) version of this letter is in some respects different from our transcription. Rive's (1987) version omits part of the letter and is in a number of other respects incorrect. Cronwright-Schreiner's (1924) extract is incorrect in various ways.