"Olive died peacefully" Read the full letter
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Letter ReferenceLetters/457
Epistolary Type
Letter Date9 November 1903
Address FromHanover, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToHavelock Ellis
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 240-1
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.
2Hanover, 9th Nov.
4I have been reading for the first time in my life several French
5novels in succession by Daudet, Dumas, Balzac, Maupassant, etc. Of
6course, Balzac is a giant. But how strangely monotonous French novels
7are when you read a number, one after the other by different authors.
8Always the same types of persons, always the same small circle of
9subjects, always the same kind of love-making, with prostitutes and
10other men's wives, and the marriage portions of women and marriage
11settlements playing such an uncommonly large part in life and covering
12half the sky! French life and human nature must be more complex than
13that; the only explanation is that it is a fashion to leave out all
14elements in human existence but these few. Just as in our ridiculous
15absurd conventional farces there is always a mistress and nearly
16always a servant girl, etc. How anyone can call French novels immoral
17beats me! They are not only truthful enough in substance, but more
18ascetic than any other works of art in the world. They make sex
19relations in every form and shape unseductive. When one reads even
20Miss Weatherall's little stories for girls, and how Daisy broke her
21foot, and the doctor carried her in his arms, and she felt as he
22carried her for one instant his moustaches brush against her lip - one
23longs that one had broken one's leg and been carried by the doctor,
24and felt the moustache brush one's lip! But who ever wanted any
25wretched kiss that any French novelist ever painted? - Except George
26Sand of course. Possibly to men of a certain type they may appear
27seductive; but to me they appear moralistic sermons of the most stern
28and awful kind. Poor Guy de Maupassant is said to have been one of the
29most sensual of men; and yet he paints passion like an awful old
30prophet! Good-night, dear. I wish so much I could see you. Shall I
31ever see you again?