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Letter ReferenceOlive Schreiner: Edward Carpenter SMD 30/32/gii
ArchiveNational English Literary Museum, Grahamstown
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date6 February 1908
Address FromDe Aar, Northern Cape
Address ToMillthorpe, Holmesfield, Sheffield
Who ToEdward Carpenter
Other Versions
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
Legend
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. The address this letter was sent to is provided by an attached envelope.
1 De Aar
2 Feb 6th 1908
3
4 Dear Edward
5
6 Months ago I began the enclosed letter. I haven't written because I
7wanted to go on with it. But it's too big a subject to take up at a
8moment's odd time.
9
10 Yesterday I got your little pamphlet - very good - thanks. I've sent
11one copy to my friend Constance Lytton who when she wrote had been
12some weeks ill in bed as the result of influenza & found your book
13Love's coming of age her best companion. I always among so many other
14things want to come to England that I could show you to eachother. She
15is a "born" socialist; one who couldn't have been anything else in
16what ever country or age she had been born. One to whom the letter of
17socialism is not necessary because they always live in its spirit. How
18are you, dear old pall? I sometimes get afraid when I think I never
19come to England & see your, dear old face again.
20
21 For five months I have been living at a Railway camp in the desert
22called de Aar. Here four railway lines crossing South Africa meet; it
23is the greatest in fact the only great junction in the Colony & in the
24war it was one vast military camp much the biggest in South Africa. It
25was the great central camp & for miles & miles around the veld was
26trodden absolutely bear, & is still covered with their relics. We are
27living in one little room about a mile or three quarters of a mile
28from the camp ^station^, alone in the veld. Being here one is a little
29out of the dust & smoke of the trains. I have been very happy in this
30little room in spite of dust, & heat, & sand, & I am quite sorry my
31husband is building on some more rooms. It's really wonderful how the
32nature of your house simplifies & alters all life! But when the house
33is done in addition to the other rooms there will be one tiny spare
34room always ready for a traveller from Milthorp, if he should turn up.
35It will have a nice little plain blue paper on the wall, & be
36absolutely quiet. I've never had a spare room before except at
37Johannesburg. How it really seems to me perhaps you will turn up!
38
39 You would like de Aar better than most people, because you like heat &
40in summer the thermometer stands at 110 & 111 in the shade on a
41verandah but the winters are just pleasantly warm - then you like
42railway men, & here there are nothing but railway-men; "niggers"; &
43the few hotel keepers & shop keepers who supply their wants. There is
44no "society" here except the bank manager's wife, & the English
45clergyman's wife, & the Engineer's wife. And only the Bank Manager's
46wife has called on me. I think she was so shocked at my little room
47with its bedroom & bathroom & study all in one that the others never
48came. De Aar is a low, drunken cursing swearing place; but anyhow it's
49free! In other upcountry towns you are prosecuted if you play golf on
50Sunday & fined, but there they play cricket & foot ball.
51
52 The terribly oppressive shadow of the big Dutch Church, which rises up
53as the physical & mental centre of life in all upcountry towns &
54village, is very modest here, is very small & stands quite in the
55back-ground, & one can breath. My life is a very solitary one here,
56Cron goes to his business in the camp soon after seven in the morning,
57& I do not see a human creature again, except the little boy that
58brings the milk or water till near seven in the evening when Cron
59comes up for his bath & wash, & we we go down & have supper at the
60Hotel, where he has his dinner & breakfast. After supper we come up
61here generally about 8 o'clock: Cron works at his books accounts a
62little or goes to bed & reads, & I read or write & then go to bed: but
63its not nearly so lonely as Hanover as I do see Cron in the morning &
64evening & know he's well. I have my three dear little meerkats still,
65the eldest of whom is now over 7 years, an almost unheard of age for a
66meerkat, & Cron's little dog Ollie, who is the daughter of my dog &
67dear friend Neta.
68
69 I have just been reading a book which if you have not read it you must
70at once, you will find it very interesting, "Eskimo Life" by Nansen.
71He must be a lovable man there is a most delicious letter in the book
72from a Greenlander to his missing [page/s missing]
73
74 ^Good bye, write to me soon.
75 Olive^
76
77 ^Have you any late news of Bob & his family. I think the last letter I
78wrote to them must have been misaddressed. If not too much trouble
79give me their new address. I've had two very nice notes from your
80cousin. I want her to come & see me here in the winter.^
81
Notation
There is a missing page or pages after 'a Greenlander to his missing, with the next insertion on the first sheet of this letter. The 'enclosed letter' is no longer attached. It is not clear which pamphlet Carpenter had sent Schreiner, but from her comment about the earlier 'Love?s Coming of Age', it could be his (1908) The Intermediate Sex (London: Allen & Unwin). See also Edward Carpenter (1902) Love’s Coming of Age London: Swan Sonnenschein; and Fridtjof Nansen (1893) Eskimo Life London: Longman.