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Letter ReferenceOlive Schreiner: Mimmie Murray 2001.24/36
ArchiveNational English Literary Museum, Grahamstown
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date7 May 1913
Address FromDe Aar, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToAndre Murray
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.
1 De Aar
2 May 7th 1913
3
4 My dear Andre
5
6 I am so glad to hear you are really better. With regard to writing.
7Your father is I think quite right. The mere desire to write is like
8the desire some people have to talk. They will talk: (note some men in
9parliament who will get up & talk though they have nothing worth
10saying!) Such people are a curse to all about them, & it worse when a
11person has a desire to write with nothing really that humanity needs,
12nothing new or wise or beautiful to say.
13
14 Some people of course are born with a desire to express certain things.
15 Some people are born who always have stories or poems coming into
16their heads whether they want or not; & they generally feel a desire,
17though not always to make them as it were permanent to themselves by
18writing them down. Whether these things are good or worth giving to
19the world depends entirely on the nature in which they have grown. A
20deep passionate much-feeling nature with will if it rightly expresses
21its own feelings, also be expressing who what thousands or millions of
22others feel, if a little less; & it will give the world great joy as
23poets do.
24
25 A person with a great intellect who thinks deeply & sees far into life,
26 thinks that others can see clearly or understand of themselves, makes
27forlife for its fellows a nobler & better thing if it expresses what
28it sees. But no person can ever write anything more beautiful or wise
29or great than what is in themselves. Merely to write, for the sake is
30writing is the poorest way in which a person can spend their life;
31they had much better make good bread, or nurse a sick person, take
32care of sheep.
33
34 The great rule is - never write for the sake of writing - write only
35when you feel there's something in your brain or heart you must
36express, & if that be really great or true or beautiful then it will
37be worth writing. All that you learn, I don't mean only in school but
38of life & the world about you, will help to make your nature richer &
39fuller: I think the right words come if the feeling & the thought is
40there.
41
42 Whenever you try to write write just out of yourself. Don't try to
43imitate any one or even any book; write what you think & feel.
44
45 Monday. I wrote so far some days ago but wasn't able to finish dear.
46I'll write another day & tell you about my writing & how I began. My
47great advice to you if you feel you want to write, is to read only the
48best books as far as possible & above all poetry. Not because you may
49ever want to write poverse, but because the poets have been some of
50the men who have felt most keenly about words & the most beautiful or
51true way to use them.
52
53 Read the Bible & Shakespeare a great deal, & learn some of the long
54passages of Milton by heart.
55
56 ^Good bye dear. Your loving friend
57 Olive Schreiner^
58
59