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Letter ReferenceOlive Schreiner: Havelock Ellis 2006.29/8
ArchiveNational English Literary Museum, Grahamstown
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date14 May 1886
Address FromSt Dominic?s Convent, Mutrix Road, Kilburn
Address To98 Earlsbrook Road, Earlswood, Surrey
Who ToHavelock Ellis
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 98-9; Rive 1987: 79
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 date of this letter is provided by the postmark on an attached envelope, with the address it was sent to on its front. Schreiner lived at St Dominic's Convent in Kilburn from early April to mid May 1886.
1 My Harry
2
3 I am going to go tomorrow to the Academy for a couple of hours. On Sat
4morning I leave for Harrow. Address will just be
5 Convent
6 Harrow-on-the-Hill
7 Nr. London.
8
9 I don't quite know what's the matter with me, I'm so much knocked down.
10 Will my book ever ever ever be done? One thing every word of it is
11truth to me, & more & more so as the book goes not. It could not be
12otherwise that is all that can be said for it. One thing I am glad of
13is that it becomes less & less what you call "art" as it goes on. My
14first crude conceptions are always what you call "art", as they become
15more & more living & real they become what I call higher art, but what
16you call no "art" at all. I quite understand what you mean but I
17cannot think that your use of the word "art" in that sense is right i.e.
18not misleading & therefore untrue. If I understand what you mean
19Wilhelm Meister is not art, ^one of^ Balzac's conser novels is.
20Wilhelm Meister is one of the most immortal deathless ?action production
21of the greatest of the world's artists, the result of twenty years
22labour, worth any six of Balzacs. novels, great & glorious as Balzac
23is; yet if you were writing a review of it you would, ridiculous as it
24would seem, be obliged to call it "not art".
25
26 You say, "I will call art, only that artistic creation in which I can
27clearly see the artist manufacturing the parts & piecing them together;
28 what ever where I cannot see that, though the thing be organic, true
29inevitable like a work of God's, I will not call it art. I must see
30the will shaping it: (of course there always has been a will shaping
31it whether it is visible or not) or I will not call it art.
32
33 ^This of course is not in justification of my method, but touches what
34seems to me a weakness or shallowness in your mode of criticism. It is
35very valuable that the two kinds of art should be distinguished but
36not that the one should be called art & the other not art. Of the two
37it would be better to call the one artificial art & the other real art
38- but that would not be just. I should rather call the one organic,
39the other inorganic, of the one you think of as a thing made, the
40other as a thing that grew.^
41
Notation
Schreiner's 'Will my book ever ever ever be done?' commenty concerns From Man to Man. The Goethe book referred to is: Johan Wolfgang von Goethe (1871) Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship London: Chapman & Hall. Rive's version omits part of this letter and is also in a number of respects incorrect. Cronwright-Schreiner's (1924) version is incorrect in various ways.