"Your astonishing letter, family duties, will never mention Katie's name as long as I live" Read the full letter
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Letter ReferenceHRC/CAT/OS/1b-viHRC/CAT/OS/1b-viii
ArchiveHarry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter DateMonday 21 July 1884
Address FromBolehill, Wirksworth, Derbyshire
Address To24 Thornsett Road, South Penge Park, London
Who ToHavelock Ellis
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 34-5; Rive 1987: 47-8; Draznin 1992: 106-8
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. The letter has been dated by reference to an associated envelope and its postmark, which also provides the address it was sent toSchreiner stayed at Bolehill near Wirksworth from early to late July 1884, moved to Buxton for about ten days, and then returned to Bole Hill from mid August to early September 1884.
1Monday Night
3I am so tired. I did not go to to sleep till the dawn light was
4shining strong in my windows last night. ^this morning^. I walked down
5to Wirksworth this afternoon to get my letters. I have done a little
6good work today & yesterday. Worked with such intense enjoyment, &
7then I know my work is good
9The feeling of pleasure thrills all through me.
11N Good night
14I have many plans about your coming. I wonder how you answered Miss
. Do you write as if you understood what she meant? Tell me as
16much about these things ^as^ you like. I like to know about you.
20I liked the letter I got this morning so much.
22You will find that I know nothing at all of ^F^french, but if you will
23teach me a little while you are here I will easily be able to go on by
24myself. It will be the first time anyone has ever helped me to learn
25anything except when I was very little & my mother taught me to read.
26I have never been to school you know or had one sixpence expended on
27my education. When I think of all the advantages ^that^ other people
28have I sometimes feel bitter, or at least I used to, I don’t ^now^
29know. When people say it is unnatural for people placed as Lyndall &
30Waldo were to have such thoughts & feelings, I laugh to myself
32It isn’t that one can’t teach oneself everything, one can, but
33it’s at such a fearful cost of strength. That makes me sorry that I
34never had any help. I haven’t told you anything really of my life
35yet, I will when we are together. My work is getting on splendidly Its w
36You will think perhaps that I’m writing sheets & sheets, but I’m
37not. It’s wonderful what a lot of thought & feeling goes just to
38make a few lines when they are written.
40It’s not Hayfever, because I can go & sit in the Hay fields. I
41don’t dislike Shiller. He is one of the weak second order of minds,
42but I feel kindly to him. I have not read anything since I came here
43except a few pages of Heine & Emerson. My dreaming takes up so much of
44my time. I wonder if they have medical books at the London. Sometimes
45when I can read nothing else I can lose myself in reading the account
46of a disease & the various remedies & mode of treatment. It seems to
47me that such a marvellous light is to be thrown on the whole physical
48& mental being of man, remotely on the whole universe by the study of
49morbid physical conditions But this doesn’t account for the peculiar
50delight I take in such things. It is strange that every member of my
51family (, except one brother & the sister who died the other day) have
52this feeling. This desire to doctor, this interest in all that belongs
53to the study of disease. In my little mother & in my eldest brother
54tears come into his old eyes now, when he talks of his longing to be a
55doctor & who it couldn’t be. There is something quite pathetic in
56the way in which he potters over his boys will bottles of medicine,
57– a kind of inbred instinct that will out. Really I have not often
58heard of a complex instinct like that running in a whole family, have
59you? I was quite touched when I came to England & found that my eldest
60brother who had left home when he was twelve long before I was born &
61who had never seen any of his friends since had developed exactly the
62same passion that Theo, & Ettie, & Katie, & I had. Alice may have had
63it too, but she never told me of it.
65I am going for a little walk [bottom part of page torn off]
67for your neuralgia. I don’t think that “will” is Colonial. I
68know Mrs. Brown does it too instinctively. I think I do it when I find
69that it expresses better what I mean than if I said “shall,” & so
70on. When I was little I used to have a great many ways of talking &
71words I used that were different from other children [bottom part of
72page torn off]
74tell when [part of page torn off]
76^I suppose that’s why so little is known.^
78^This book is going to be awfully outspoken An African Farm was nothing
79to it in ?heat. Perhaps I shall have work with the publishers but they
80like to make money.^
The poet Friedrich Shiller wrote, among many other things, the 'Ode to Joy' immortalized in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and also as the anthem of the European Union. The book which was to be 'awfully outspoken' is From Man to Man. Draznin's (1992) version of this letter is different in some respects from our transcription. Rive's (1987) version is misdated, includes material from the second part of the letter only, omits parts of this, and is in a number of other respects incorrect. Cronwright-Schreiner's (1924) short extract is incorrect in various ways.