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Letter ReferenceHRC/CAT/OS/4b-xxi-a
ArchiveHarry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date6 November 1907
Address FromDe Aar, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToHavelock Ellis
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 274; Draznin 1992: 482
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.
1De Aar
2Nov 6th 1907
4My dear old Havelock
6I sent you last week a letter that should have been posted four ^or three^
7weeks ago, but it was mislaid between the leaves of my pad. I shall be
8glad to see your book on Spain. It will be invaluable if only it’s
9in your simple concise style like when you wrote letters to me. Not
10one word too much not one for show or ornament – & therefore all so
11ornamental. Yes, Lewes’s Life of Goethe is one of the two or three
12biographys in the world really worth reading. It’s long years since
13I read it as a young girl before I went to Europe, but I was a
14passionate lover of Goethe’s, & if it had not been true to the man,
15the real man of the writings, I should have felt it at once.
17A man can only write the life of a man whom he understands & of whom
18he understands not only one side but all the important sides. & Lewes
19was particularly fitted to understand Goethe. Most people seem to
20think any smart writer who gets all the documents about him can write
21of any man. The older one gets the more one realizes there can be no
22absolutely true life anyone except written by themselves & then only
23if written for the eye of God. Only after long years looking back does
24one really understand oneself sometimes.
26I’m still living here in this little room in the veld, in the dust &
27sand & wind of this great terrible plain, & yet I’m happier than
28I’ve been anywhere for twelve years. If only I could get well a
29little & go on with my book.
31What have the women quarrelled about?
33Good bye.
The books referred to are: Havelock Ellis (1908) The Soul of Spain London: Constable; George Henry Lewes (1907) Goethe’s Life at Weimar London: Greening. Draznin's (1992) version of this letter is in some respects different from our transcription. Cronwright-Schreiner's (1924) extract is incorrect in various ways.