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Letter ReferenceHRC/CAT/OS/4b-i
ArchiveHarry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter DateThursday 11 April 1889
Address FromParis, France
Address To98 Earlsbrook Road, Earlswood, Redhill, Surrey
Who ToHavelock Ellis
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 161-2; Rive 1987: 154-5; Draznin 1992: 451-2
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 has been dated by reference to an associated envelope and its postmark, which also provides the address it was sent to.
4My dear Boy, I am completely demoralized. I can’t work at all I eat, &
5sleep, that is all, & am perfectly contented with this animal
6existence. ^It’s lasted three days^ I’m coming over to England on
7Saturday evening. I believe I get to to ^25^ Montague Street WC.
9I know how people drink the cognac. I saw a man do it this evening.
10You open your mouth as wide as you can, throw your head back & take it
11in at one “snaps”! I’m flourishing. I hope you are.
13I’m writing a most grizzly ^(spelt wrong!)^ dream about blood, blood,
14blood, at least I’m inlarging it.
16I’m going to have a last look at Notre Dame tomorrow. I’m not going to
17the Morgue.
19Good night.
22You can I know about the busses now. I know about every thing.
24I’ll be so glad to get back to my novel. I love it more than I love
25anything in the world. More than any place or person. I’ve never loved
26any work so, & I haven’t cared for it all these years. I’ve only cared
27for people. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy
28of me.”
30I know this dreams good because I wouldn’t for the world show it
31anyone till its printed – but its cost me a lot.
34I’m opening my letters to give you an interesting bit of information
35I’ve been wondering why I go so slowly & why with all my images so
36clear seem struggling so after something, & I find I’ve been writing
37sort of verse that scans the whole time. ^in this dream.^ Th I don’t
38know what kind it is this ^is^ a simple
40‘But, listen, if there rose among them one
41“Who, sitting long beside them at the board
42And dring ^drinking^ deep, should suddenly arise
43And starting cry, “my brothers, oh my friends”
44&c., &c.
46It’s very interesting because I’m so bitterly aposed to all versified
47forms ^& think my own prose^ so much higher!! & here I’m drawn
48unconsciously into doing the very thing I hate. “There’s a deal of
49human nature in man.”
51What bothers me is that it isn’t the right sort of thing, it bothers
52me a great deal. I don’t like that lilt, & if I try to get out of it I
53only get into another, still worse.
55^Its blank verse, only onl some words have to answer sitting, suddenly,
56starting & if I could put an l & say startling it would be more right.^
58Damned if I shan’t write plain prose now right on to the end & get the
59thing done. It’s an awful temptation to go on with that kind of thing,
60because as long as you do there’s such a delicious sensation going on
61all through your body as if the whole of it was keeping time.
Schreiner has put complicated dot marks to mark the beat under words in the ‘versified’ form of her writing. Very faintly, upside down, on the second sheet of the letter is ‘Paris My dear old Baas’, which is likely to be the discarded start of a letter to Schreiner’s brother Theo. Schreiner’s dream about ‘blood, blood, blood’ is a reference to ‘The Sunlight Lay Across My Bed’, later in Dreams. The novel Schreiner intends to ‘get back to’ is From Man to Man. Draznin’s (1992) version of this letter is in some respects different from our transcription. Rive’s (1987) version is in a number of other respects incorrect. Cronwright-Schreiner’s (1924) extract is incorrect in various ways.