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Letter ReferenceOlive Schreiner: Extracts of Letters to Cronwright-Schreiner MSC 26/2.16/20
ArchiveNational Library of South Africa, Special Collections, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeExtract
Letter Date8 June 1898
Address FromThe Homestead, Kimberley, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToS.C. (‘Cron’) Cronwright-Schreiner
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 224-5; Rive 1987: 330
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
The Extracts of Letters to Cronwright-Schreiner were produced by Cronwright-Schreiner in preparing The Life and The Letters of Olive Schreiner. They appear on slips of paper in his writing, taken from letters that were then destroyed; many of these extracts have also been edited by him. They are artefacts of his editorial practices and their relationship to original Schreiner letters cannot now be gauged. They should be read with considerable caution for the reasons given. Cronwright-Schreiner has written the date, where it was sent from and the place it was sent to onto this extract. There are some differences between this transcription and the version that appears in The Letters....
1 …Intuitions are strange things on the surface, but really there is
2nothing wonderful about them. They are simply based on knowledge of
3the particular character you have to deal with, in a lesser degree on
4human nature in general, but mainly on an exact knowledge of one
5character, and its desires and modes of thought, and moral principles!
6Of course the thing flashes on you instantaneously - you see it. But
7that doesn’t mean that what you see is not based on knowledge
8previously stored in the brain, any more than when a savage sees a gun
9pointed at a bird fall dead, apparently at the same instant, there is
10nothing superhuman- - as he fancies! - the bullet has really travelled
11the air and hit the bird exactly as his own stone does, only so
12quickly it can’t be seen by the eye, even of the man who shoots!!
13The thing why “intuitions” are generally experienced about the
14great, especially the intense, the mean and the wicked or the noble
15and heroic actions of life, lies not in the fact that under certian
16certain conditions one couldn’t arrive at the same “certain
17knowledge of perception”, as with regard to great or evil things,
18but simply from this, I think - that certain knowledge with regard to
19actions we have not physically witnessed can only be based on a
20knowledge of the intense unchanging passions of some character; in its
21heroism, its greed, its lust, its selfishness, its ambition, its power
22of pity, etc. etc. When I had the intuition, absolute and unshakable,
23that Rhodes was the bottom of the Transvaal rising (I have the same
24absolute unshakeable knowledge that he is backing the Swazies now!),
25it was based entirely on my knowledge of Rhodes’ character and his
26master ambitions of power and greed, unrestrained by conscious…
28 Intuition is really based on one great fact - that character is
. The Trade Winds, the movements of the stars, are not
30really so inevitable as the action of character when once fully
31developed. What men of old used to call prophets, and the men who
32really thought themselves so, were only men with a power of reading
33certain characters under certain conditions!... I am running on so
34about intuitions because I’ve been thinking so much about them
35lately, and what they really mean, and how they rise; why some men
36have them and some men have them not. It’s very curious...
Rive's (1987) version of this extract is in a number of respects different.