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Letter ReferenceLetters/316
Archive
Epistolary Type
Letter Date2 November 1888
Address FromAlassio, Italy
Address To
Who ToHavelock Ellis
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 144-5; Rive 1987: 142
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
Legend
When Cronwright-Schreiner prepared The Letters of Olive Schreiner, with few exceptions he then destroyed her originals. However, some people gave him copies and kept the originals or demanded the return of these; and when actual Schreiner letters can be compared with his versions, his have omissions, distortions and bowdlerisations. Where Schreiner originals have survived, these will be found in the relevant collections across the OSLO website. There is however a residue of some 587 items in The Letters for which no originals are extant. They are included here for sake of completeness. However, their relationship to Schreiners actual letters cannot now be gauged, and so they should be read with caution for the reasons given. Cronwright-Schreiner comments that Olive Schreiner began ‘Ganna’ in the final sentence with an ‘L’, which suggests she was going to write ‘Lelie Kloof’.
1To Havelock Ellis.
2Alassio, 2nd Nov. (second letter).
3
4Please order for me a copy of your Ibsen and send it to my brother
5Fred in time to reach him on the morning of the 7th which is his
6birthday. If you have one of Zola’s novel in French you might send it
7me. I read only to deaden myself and stop myself from thinking;
8puzzling over a difficult French book could not do that. But I must
9learn more French because I am probably going to Paris next year; so
10please send it. … My Mary Wollstonecraft is going on. It is all poetry
11from the first to the last, except a few sentences. There are six or
12seven allegories in it; I’ve tried to keep them out, but I can't. I
13have come to the conclusion that only poetry is truth. That other
14forms are parts of truth, but as soon as a representation has all
15parts, then it is poetry. As soon as there is the form and the spirit,
16the passion and the thought, then there is poetry, or the living
17reality. I don't mean that I attain to true poetry - all I mean is
18that what makes a man strive after and seek to see the thing in that
19way is that it is the reality. It's the other that's fancy and fiction,
20 and this that is real. It's so easy for a mind like mine to produce
21long logical arguments, or strings of assertions, but when I have done
22it I feel, such a “valch” against it: that is only the material; it
23has to be combined and made alive. I know I shall die a beggar in my
24old age. You will have to support me. I shall write slower and slower.
25... I am very happy, as happy quite as I used to be in Ganna Hoek.
26
Notation
‘My Mary Wollstonecraft’ refers to an ‘Introduction’ to a new edition of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman which Schreiner agreed to write, but which was never completed. A very early draft fragment of it appears in Carolyn Burdett (1994) History Workshop Journal 37: 189-93. See also: Mary Wollstoncraft (1792) A Vindication of the Rights of Woman London: J. Johnson.