"Writing process, 'Prelude', 'Peter Halket', you can't alter the pictures as they come to you" Read the full letter
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Letter ReferenceHRC/OliveSchreinerUncatLetters/OS-PhilipKent/5
ArchiveHarry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date3 May 1883
Address FromEdinburgh House, Warrior Square, St Leonards, East Sussex
Address To
Who ToPhilip Kent
Other Versions
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.
1Edinburgh House
2Warrior Square
3St Leonards
4Ap May 3 / 83
6My dear Mr Kent
8Thank you for your letter & thank you very much for your suggestion
9about mortgaging the copyright, but I think I had better make the
10arrangement with the publisher pure & simple.
12Business & friendship don’t mix nicely like fire & water –
13mutually des-tructive.
15I will accept Mr Chapman’s offer unless I can get him to allow me so
16much a copy; which I would rather have. In one sense I am in no need
17of money: I have a dear old brother, the limit of whose goodness to me
18is only the limit of what I will take from him. I have supported
19myself entirely since I was fourteen, but since I have been in England
20my health has broken down & I have been obliged to depend on him, & I
21am only anxious for money to relieve him. I think the man or woman who
22cannot support themselves had better die.
24Your letters always cheer me but I fear your kindness makes you take
25an unduly sanguine view, & I have no doubt the Saturday Reviewer is
26right when he says the work is dull & uninteresting; & every thing I
27writing will likely be the same in kind.
29I shall read it with double interest. Do you know, I made sure you
30were yourself a writer of stories, when I read your article in
31“Life”. It seemed to me that no one who was not, could have fixed
32on just those points for notice that you did. Thank you for the
33printed sheet. It has made me wish yet more to get the book.
35I hope you are quite well now. Physical pain is so dreadful because it
36always presses on the mind. Thank you so much for having written so soon.
38I remain,
39Sincerely yours,
40Olive Schreiner
42I have just now come by chance on a very nice review in the St
43James’s Gazette for March 20th. But nothing that is ever written
44will be to me what yours was, because it was the first. You don’t
45know how surprised I was. You were quite right in saying that that
46chapter “Times & Seasons” has no right where it is. Placed there
47it is altogether inartistic. I took it out once, & then I put it back
50Wouldn’t I be glad if I could picture someday champion-ing a brain
51child of yours with an obdurate old publisher; but I’m afraid
52it’ll never be. By no conceivable stretch of imagination can I
53picture standing in the good graces of a publisher.
Early largely unsigned reviews of The Story of an African Farm appeared in a wide range of publications, with Kent's being published in LifeSome of the more notable are as follows:

Broad Arrow Saturday 3 February 1883: "This is a powerfully-written story, in which many odd problems that have puzzled the wisest are presented under new aspects."

Life 8 February 1883: "This is so exceptional a book that we go out of our way to treat it in an exceptional manner. Since reading, now many years ago, Le Pere Goriot, Jane Eyre and Adam Bede, no romance has created so profound an impression on our mind as this one... We have no room for any more extracts, and must now confine ourselves to a few general remarks on the merits and defects of this extraordinary work. Its defects resolve themselves, for the most part, into one grand defect - the intrusion into the body of the story of a long dissertation entitled, 'Times and Seasons.' From a strictly artistic point of view, this is indefensible; one the other hand it must be admitted that the dissertation is not only remarkably well-written but full of deep thought and sober reasoning which prove Mr Iron to be a clear-headed, highly-cultivated and right-minded man.... One word more: we hope that Mr Iron - who has not stolen his name - will not wrap his 'talent' in a napkin. Unless we are gravely mistaken, that 'talent' is genius."

The Athenaeum 3 March 1883: "The Story of an African Farm shows considerable power. Mr Iron has followed no recognizable model of romance... His descriptions are wonderfully graphic and his pathos is forcible. The book is too melodramatic to be altogether pleasant; but Mr Iron obviously writes about what he knows with a successful result which is well deserved."

St James Gazette 20 March 1883: ""Put down enthusiasm" was the advice of Primate Manners Sutton. Nevertheless, after reading this book we find ourselves in the frame of mind which he deprecated. It is, indeed, one of those pleasant surprises which so rarely befall reviewers. ... No doubt this work will encounter reprehension in many quarters - indeed, the author seems himself to expect it; but attention it must receive in all. ... recommending all and sundry to read "The Story of an African Farm.""

Saturday Review 21 April 1883: "The Story of an African Farm is clever, imaginative, original, and terribly dull. Yet it is only fair to say that the dullness is relative, or rather is the result of conscientious experiences during a comprehensive survey; for their are effective scenes and bright pieces of description which prove that Mr. Iron might be entertaining if he pleased. We own to a certain preliminary disappointment, for we fancied we should have a story of South African speculation and adventure on the borderland between savagery and civilization... so much for a novel which is a striking example of how a really clever and ingenious writer may overreach himself in ambitious efforts after originality."

Pall Mall Gazette 11 May 1883: "The story is a painful and a terrible one. It is the old tale of human misery flavoured with a modern pantheistic despair... The world may be hollow, and our doll may be stuffed with sawdust; but constant insistence upon these unpleasant facts does not tend to increase the greatest happiness of the greatest number, even in the worst of all possible worlds. In spite of all faults of matter or manner, however, "The Story of an African Farm" is certainly a remarkable and interesting book."

Fortnightly Review December 1883, Henry Norman, "Theories and practice of modern fiction": "memorable... this novel offers a rare treat... This book teaches the lesson that wherever there are human hearts beating with natural impulses there is scene enough for all the tragedy and all the comedy of life - that for the delineation of the highest interests of men and women una dumus sufficit. The characters are all original - we have met none of them before; the style is fresh and full of humour; and, in spite of its occasional lapses, the whole story is of fascinating interest, and, what is more, of great moral power."

'Times & Seasons' is part of The Story of An African Farm.