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Letter ReferenceLetters/502
Archive
Epistolary Type
Letter Date11 June 1912
Address FromNewlands, Cape Town, Western Cape
Address To
Who ToAdela Villiers Smith nee Villiers
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 307-9
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 Mrs. Francis Smith.
2Newlands, Cape Town, 11th June.
3
4Darling, I am here at Will's; I came down last Wednesday. On Thursday
5I went out to Blauberg, that sad wonderful place where my sister died,
6and saw the beloved face for the last time lying in the little room
7where she went through her 7 months of mortal agony, with its two
8windows looking out on the wild sea she loved so. Adela, you know what
9is so strange is that, since she has died, even the memory of the sad
10agonised woman has passed from me, and I live always in thought with
11my beautiful little girl sister whom I worshipped with that peculiar
12worship a younger sister sometimes gives to am older. I see her often
13as a radiant girl of 18, with her long golden hair and passionate life
14and activity. It's been a wonderful life of labour and self-sacrifice,
15and of marvellous intellectual gifts left undeveloped. Your face
16always reminded me of her. Dear, the lines of agony were so terrible
17in the dead face; but it was so superbly grand!
18
19Last Sunday we buried her. We had had four days of unbroken rain and
20wind, but Sunday rose one of those superb days we only have at the
21Cape when there has been rain. All the world was green and glittering
22and the sky and sea intense blue. Will and I and Lyndall and his
23eldest son Will motored out at 11 to a place called Milnerton about 8
24miles from here. There we met the dear body coming from Blauberg on an
25old open African ox-wagon, such as she and I always loved. All the
26family gathered there, and we put it on the hearse and drove after it
27in carriages to a place called Salt River through the beautiful green
28fields and sunshine. At Salt River all the wonderful crowd of the
29people she had helped and befriended, and thousands of the poor
30coloured people she had loved so and worked among, met us. There were
31about 10 thousand in the procession, and we travelled slowly the mile
32and a half to the cemetery at Maitland through green trees and fields.
33There were old men who could hardly walk, and parents had brought
34their young children that when they grew up they might say they had
35walked behind her.
36
37It was her wish no one should wear mourning for her, and nearly all
38the women and girls were in white, many carrying little bunches off
39flowers. The most touching thing to me was when the poor coloured
40people filed past the grave each dropping in their little poor bunches
41of flowers till the coffin was deep buried. The whole took so long we
42did not get back till seven in the evening. It was strangely beautiful:
43 quite different from other funerals, with their terrible black and
44sadness. At the very time she was being buried, my husband's mother,
45who died here on Saturday, was being buried in another graveyard.
46