"About Rebecca Schreiner, OS's childhood, her writing" Read the full letter
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Letter ReferenceLetters/458
Archive
Epistolary Type
Letter Date13 May 1904
Address FromCape Town, Western Cape
Address To
Who ToHavelock Ellis
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 244-5
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.
1To Havelock Ellis.
2Cape Town, 13th May.
3
4No, I don't agree that one wants sympathy and love less as one grows
5older. What I think happens is that generally, if a man or woman has
6ordered their life wisely, they generally have more! and therefore
7long for it less - just as a well-fed child doesn't long so much for
8food as a little street-Arab. He has quite as much appetite but he
9doesn't know it! Ordinarily, a woman, for instance, who marries at 20
10or even 30, at 40 or 50 has a family of children grown up or growing
11up about her, and perhaps a husband who is fond of her society. She
12may have even too much of close human relationship, and may never
13therefore be conscious of any hunger for them. So with friendships. If
14I, for instance, had gone on living in Europe I should now have had
15not only you and Bob Muirhead and Ed. Marriott, and all the old
16friends of my youth, but I should have made many more. I should
17probably have found it quite a relief to get away to Italy or
18somewhere where I could be quite alone for a couple of months - and
19might fancy I didn't want love or sympathy so much as when I was young;
20 as after an overfull meal one fancies one doesn't care about eating
21at all. But it's not so. Of course merely intellectual sympathy one
22does perhaps care for a little less, but only because, as one grows
23older, personal tenderness and love seems relatively more important. I
24made Rebekah say, years ago when I was a young girl (and it's a
25curious thing as showing how instinctively one knows things one can't
26have experienced) that in youth, though one longs for love and
27sympathy, one's master passion is for the intellectual knowledge of
28truth and for experience; but when one grows older, though one still
29loves knowledge, one's master need is for human relations of love and
30sympathy. The fact that perhaps this afternoon a friend of mine, one
31of the three only real friends I have in South Africa, will perhaps
32come in for a moment with her little boy as they go for their walk and
33ask me how I am and kiss me, seems the great and beautiful fact of the
34day. Twenty years ago it: would have seemed to me a very little thing.
35Three weeks ago a girl whom I know slightly gathered a little bunch of
36pink flowers for me on the mountain because she heard me say I was
37fond of them: they are in two little vases on my mantelpiece now,
38quite withered. Twenty years ago I would have liked them in a way, and
39kept them while they were quite fresh, but as soon as they withered I
40would have thrown them away. You will say it was because I had so many
41flowers and so many friends long ago, and that of course has something
42to do with it, but I think, at least in my own case, one prizes all
43forms of human love and sympathy more as one grows older, and one
44longs so for sweet and gentle things because life becomes so awfully
45stern.
46
47We are going back to Hanover on the 26th as Parliament is likely to
48break up earlier than usual this year. I am trying to get a little
49black boy from the Reformatory to take up with me; then I shall have
50someone in the house, and he will help me with the house and work.
51Give my love to Edith and ask her to send her lecture on Carpenter if
52it is printed. Good-bye. It's been splendid to be here at this
53boarding-house with the grand old mountain before me.
54
Notation
Rebekah is a character in From Man to Man.