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Letter ReferenceLetters/377
Epistolary Type
Letter Date27 November 1889
Address FromGrahamstown, Eastern Cape
Address To
Who ToHavelock Ellis
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 171-2; Rive 1987: 162-3
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
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.
1To Havelock Ellis.
2Grahamstown, 27th Nov.
4I heard my mother was dying; the doctor telegraphed for me; I started
5on Friday evening at 7 o'clock from Cape Town and we travelled without
6undressing or stopping for an hour for three days and nights. I got
7here at 5 in the morning. My brother-in-law, Robert Hemming, came with
8me to take care of me. We passed all through the Karroo and through
9Cradock where I used to live; it was splendid to see the old sky and
10earth. It's just like it was to me. I was fighting for breath all the
11way. I am staying here with my cousin Mrs. Orpen. My mother is much
12better. Mrs. Orpen is very kind. She sat up with me the whole of one
13night. Robert Hemming sat up the next. Everyone is so kind. I am going
14down to see mother at the Convent this afternoon. ... I rather fear
15that as long as I am in this country I shall not find a place where I
16can lie down one night. The fight for breath is quite habitual now.
17This is all the material news about myself. Mentally I have no news,
18having no feelings or thoughts. I go about as one in a dream; seeing
19all a hundred miles off. I have only been touched or moved once since
20I came to this country, and that was when I saw in a colonial paper
21that John Burns was going to hold a meeting of bakers in Hyde Park. It
22is curious how life repeats itself. Just the old feeling of utter
23separation from - all the people about me, so good, so kind, so
24nice-and-yet not a common bond between us. It's so funny after England
25where you felt that every man and woman was treading right into your
26heart. It's the pace these people live at, their peaceful cattle-like
27lives. It seems to me as if all the streets were full of cows and
28sheep. All the men stand at the door with their arms folded; if they
29are doing anything it seems as if they were doing nothing; they do it
30so slowly that you can't see the movement. ... You can have my brain
31when I die for that society. ... If ever I get well I shall work well
32in Africa. But I some-times think that the struggle for breath has now
33become permanent.