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Letter ReferenceHRC/OliveSchreinerUncatLetters/OS-PhilipKent/9
ArchiveHarry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date24 July 1883
Address From3 Beverley Villas, Barnes, London
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.
13 Beverley Villas
3July 24 / 83
5My dear Mr Kent,
7I send the MS. – a longer one than the one I mentioned. I don’t
8know how it is that I, who shrink from troubling others, have not the
9least conscience about imposing on you. I suppose I follow an instinct,
10 & an instinct is always right.
12Please don’t trouble about the MS. till some day when you are in the
13mood (I should never be in the mood to read an MS.) & please tell me
14just what you think. I think it is rather empty & wanting in depth; &
15I should be sorry to publish any of these small things if they injured
16my next book. It had a kind of charm & interest for me because it
17deals with the Diamond Fields, but to those who have never been there
18the charm will be wanting.
20Thank you very very much for your wish to justify my ^little^ book in
21print. Some of the criticisms upon in I have felt much, very much.
22They have made me feel that I would never like anything else of mine
23to be published while I was alive to hear what was said. It is just
24that ^feeling^ that is keeping me form from bringing out my new book.
25Yet it is a wrong one; & the praise which you & others have given my
26little book has been so generous, so sympathize sympathetic, so much
27more gentle to its faults than it has deserved, that I oughtn’t to
28see the face of the old “Saturday Reviewer” looking at me
29when-ever I write any scene that I particularly like. I always feel
30“No, he mustn’t read it.”
32I don’t fancy those faults are only where the characters require it.
33If you notice any of the same kind in “New Rush” please mention
34them. None are intentional there. I do feel grateful for your offering
35to wade through my huge MS, & would accept your offer to go throught
36that or the proof, only I feel ashamed. I am as bad as old Bonaparte
37taking every thing & giving nothing.
39Yours sincerely,
40Olive Schreiner
42I’m afraid you won’t be able to make out the last part of the MS.
43It was written in bed, & therefore even worse than usual.
45Mrs Es-cott, the editor of the “Fortnightly Review”, tells me that
46an article on novels will shortly appear in which an “African
47Farm” is mentioned; whether favourably or unfavourable he doesn’t
48say, though.
The manuscript Schreiner sent to Kent with this letter was 'New Rush'. The 'little book in print' is The Story of An African Farm. The article Escott had told Schreiner about was actually a review by Henry Norman in the Fortnightly Review. It and the review in the Saturday Review are as follows:

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."

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."