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Letter ReferenceHRC/CAT/OS/2a-xix
ArchiveHarry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter DateWednesday 10 September 1884
Address FromBlackwell, Alfreton, Derbyshire
Address To24 Thornsett Road, South Penge Park, London
Who ToHavelock Ellis
Other VersionsDraznin 1992: 146-7
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. Schreiner stayed in Alfreton for most of September 1884.
1Wednes-day Morning
3I got your letter of Monday & Tuesday. The medicine has done me such
4good, but still I can’t eat without getting sick. I am reduced to
5gruel made with water. This began two days before I left Bole Hill & I
6fancy is it is the effect of that Bole Hill water. I have great pain
7in my stomach when I swallow any thing even water. I am certainly
8better the last two days. I think now I have told you everything about
9my-self, except that I am very weak in the legs & fall about like a
10drunk man. I haven’t eaten a meal since last Saturday week.
12I feel as if I would like to be a little child, & somebody put me on a
13clean white nightgown, & put me into bed & pat me till I go to sleep
14to sleep.
16I don’t think Highgate will be too far out of town because of going to
17see things or people because I don’t want to go out at all, but I am
18always better the nearer the centre of London I am. I am always quite
19well in Bloomsbury & that part, but it is so noisy. The only part of
20the North of London I ever was in was Belzise Gardens, Belzise Park.
21That seemed nice & quiet & fresh but a long way from a bus.
23Don’t look any more for rooms, Henry, just take what comes. You know I
24mayn’t be able to stay long & it is taking all that time up & don’t I
25know what terrible work looking for rooms is! How feet & head get to
26ache at last. And then the North is such a long way for you to go.
28I don’t know why my legs are so funny but I am much better. I think
29those little stories of Bret Harte’s are beautiful; that “Blue Grass
30Penelope” as a study of woman equals “Nora” & the marvellous truth of
31that “Lone Star Mountain” to “Digger” life is something the depth &
32genius of which can only be understood by one who knows the life.
34I can’t read hard books. It’s funny to realize that the condition of
35one’s own mind in illness is the normal condition of many other minds.
36It makes one feel tender over other blunter natures to feel this. I
37think a great deal of psy-chology can be learnt from watching the
38state of one’s own mind when weakened by illness (or rather from
39remembering what it was afterwards, when one’s ill one can’t watch
40much!). It is nature carrying on experiments with the human soul, as
41it were.
43I will talk with you about some mental things connected with memory &
44imagination that I have noticed the last few days, but I’m too tired
45to write more now. I like when you call me your little sister. I wish
46I was your own ^sister,^ but it doesn’t matter.
48I take the medicine in half doses because if I was to drink so much it
49would make me sick. I can only take a very little of water or anything
50at a time.
The books referred to are: Bret Harte (1996 [1869]) Bret Harte's Gold Rush: Outcasts of Poker Flat, the Luck of Roaring Camp, Tennessee's Partner, & Other Favorites New York: Heydey Books; Henrik Ibsen (1882) Nora (later A Doll’s House) (trans. Henrietta Frances Lord) London: Giffith, Farran & Co. Draznin's (1992) version of this letter is in some respects different from our transcription.