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Letter ReferenceHRC/CAT/OS/5a-xii
ArchiveHarry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date3 September 1915
Address From30 St Mary Abbotts Terrace, Kensington, London
Address To
Who ToHavelock Ellis
Other VersionsDraznin 1992: 491-2
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. In the absence of other information, dating this letter has followed Draznin (1992), who has done so by reference to a version in the Lafitte Letters typescript in the British Library. Schreiner was resident at St Mary Abbotts Terrace for a number of periods in early and late 1914 and then also in 1915.
1Dear Havelock this cutting bears out what your Indian friend wrote you
2about sex relations between Indians & white women.
4Its been raining here this all week so I hope it will be fine next: &
5its been very cold. My gums & face are 100 times worse than before my
6teeth were drawn. I would give anything to have them back again. My
7strong hard teeth with which I could crack the hardest nuts. Take a
8lesson & never have sound strong teeth drawn. The pain in my face &
9head is part of the pain in every part of ones body. not a cause, but
10an affect. I can’t think why I was so silly as to let them be drawn.
11Its the fashion now. The moment a doctor sees your case & complex & he
12doesn’t understand it he says “Draw your teeth.” I am feeling very ill
13again though the pure air & the good food here bucks one up.
15No, a young man’s love is not so selfish as that of an old married man.
16 The old man (I don’t mean an old man who’d always been perfectly
17celibate like a Catholic priest who had never ^even^ kissed a woman; I
18mean the average middleaged man) makes love,^ or^ plays at being
19fascinated by a girl or younger woman & then forgets her in a few
20weeks or months entirely. She’s not a person to him, she’s a object on
21which his passions can play & who flatters his vanity by being or
22pretending to be, in love with him. When I was just 15 a young man of
23about 21 was very much in love with me & asked me to marry him. I
24wasn’t the smallest bit attracted to him, & didn’t treat him very
25sympathyecally; yet 30 years after when I was married & he was married;
26 we were travelling in the same train on a long journey. My Husband &
27he often met & talked but he & I never spoke: till the train was
28delayed somewhere in the veld & the passengers to pass the time got
29out & walked about. On the railway track were some tiny little flowers
30growing. He picked them & came to the window at which I was sitting &
31put them in. He said “You used to like wild flowers once!” & turned
32away ^with out another word or look.^
34That was the
36No elderly man who made love to a woman would keep as much feeling for
37her even for 12 or 14 years! Its the absolute evanescence of an
38elderly man’s philandering that prevents one from sympathizing with
39them. ^& makes them repulsive^ It is the same with the fashionable
40middleaged made-up London women who spend their time attacting young
41men. – but the better type of elderly woman because of her strong
42tendency to maternal feeling often does really unselfishly love a
43young man as that fat woman in the scarlet letter ^Dark Planet^ did.
45^Give my love to Edith. I shall never forget how kind she was to me in
46London, the darling. I’ve No thanks I don’t want a book about Shelley
47or anyone. If you’ve read & loved a writer no one else can tell you
48anything about them.^
The ‘scarlet letter’ refers to Hawthorne’s novel of that name, while the ‘dark planet’ as a story by him has not been traced. The reference is: Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850) The Scarlet Letter Edinburgh: William Patterson. Draznin’s (1992) version of this letter is in some respects different from our transcription.