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Letter ReferenceOlive Schreiner: SMD 30/33 h(i)
ArchiveNational English Literary Museum, Grahamstown
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date23 October 1910
Address FromDe Aar, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToAdela Villiers Smith nee Villiers
Other Versions
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
The Project is grateful to the National English Literary Museum (NELM) for kindly allowing us to transcribe this Olive Schreiner letter, which is part of its Manuscript Collections. This typescripted extract from a letter to Adela Villiers Smith was produced by Cronwright-Schreiner using original letters when he was preparing The Life... (1924) and The Letters of Olive Schreiner (1924). With a few exceptions, the original letters in his possession were then destroyed, as with many Schreiner letters he had been given by Adela Villiers Smith. When Schreiner’s originals can be compared, this shows his versions to be severely shortened, and/or inaccurate in sometimes minor but sometimes major respects, while their frequent multiple dates (eg. 8-15 August, or August) indicate that he often combined a number of original letters, among other bowdlerisations and intrusions as well as deletions. While this surviving Villiers Smith extract, archived among Cronwright-Schreiner’s miscellaneous papers, is affected by the same problems, it is provided for the sake of completeness, because it gives clues as to where Schreiner was resident, and indicates some of her activities. However, it should be read and used with considerable caution for the reasons spelled out here.
1To Mrs. Francis Smith
2De Aar, 23 Oct. 1910
5 … Last night we had an earthquake here. I had been bad and lain down
6all day, but at 9 o’clock I went out to look at the stars and breathe
7a little. It was perfectly, deadly still not a breath of air stirring
8and I came back, and lay down on my bed again. At a quarter past nine,
9a most astonishing series of shocks began with the most terrific noise
10I ever heard in my life. The house reeled and shook, and when you
11stood up on the floor you felt like a little rat in the jaws of a
12great dog that was shaking you this way and that, and the noise was
13astonishing, a sound of bursting and rushing. After the first shock
14there was a pause and then it began again, but it was all over in
15three or four minutes and a perfect dead silence reigned again. I have
16been through several earthquake shocks in Italy, that great one that
17killed so many people in 1889, I think it was. But though the ground
18moved much more, the noise was nothing to this. This morning the hotel
19keeper’s wife in the Camp sent up the barman early before breakfast to
20ask how I was, knowing I’d been here alone, and the man told me nearly
21every bottle and glass was smashed in the bar, but I haven’t seen
22anyone else to-day to know if much damage was done.