"Post-war typhoid, misery, common bond gone" Read the full letter
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Letter ReferenceLetters/504
Epistolary Type
Letter Date22 July 1912
Address FromDe Aar, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToEmily Hobhouse
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 310-11
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. Cronwright-Schreiner has supplied the ‘missing’ word as ‘beautiful’ in the second paragraph.
1To Miss E. Hobhouse.
2De Aar, 22nd July.
4It is with such distress that I have just heard from Mrs. Murray that
5you are in England, that the journey has been too much for you and you
6are very ill there. I was feeling so happy about you thinking you were
7much stronger and better. Dear, I know what this long stretch of
8unbroken physical suffering is - no one knows or can understand who
9has not lived through and is living through it. When I think of you so
10beautiful and strong and stately as I first saw you in Cape Town, and
11then even as you were when you spent that time at De Aar with me, my
12heart aches. Are you still able to walk about? Have you dear
13sympathetic friends about you? That is all, that is all that could
14comfort one, when one comes where you and I are. And oh, dear,
15remember all you did in the cause of justice and mercy in South Africa.
16 You have not lived for nothing. You were the only one who really
17succeeded in saving thousands from just that terrible physical
18suffering which has you now in its grasp. Let that thought comfort you
19in all your terrible pain and weakness, dear brave I woman. ...
21In the summer I was down in Cape Town for nearly three months to be
22near my favourite sister Ettie who was dying of the same form of heart
23disease I have. She had been dying for two years, but during the last
247 months her sufferings were too awful for any human words to describe
25it. She could never lie down, and someone I had to hold up her head.
26Her dear body was so swollen no one could touch her without giving her
27agony, and, if they wanted to move her only a few inches, two people
28had to stand on the bed and raise her with a sheet. One could I only
29pray for the end, and oh one was so grateful when it came. The day
30after the funeral I drove to the graveyard and it was so beautiful to
31see my darling sister whom I had played with and loved so when I was a
32little child resting under the great heap of flowers. I know some
33people don't feel so, but it is so beautiful to me to think she is
34having an everlasting sleep. I couldn't bear to think she was in
35another world where she might be made to suffer as cruelly as she was
36in this. It was such a beautiful funeral, there were ten thousand
37people in the procession; what was so [?beautiful] was that they were
38most of them poor people, many coloured and black, whom she had loved
39and helped who had come from all parts of the country to follow her.
40She had asked no one to wear mourning, so nearly all the women and
41girls were in white. As they filed past the grave many dropped a poor
42little flower or a bit of green in till the grave was almost quite
43full. Oh it is so sweet to think she's at rest.
45... Thank you, dear, so much, so very much for the sweet loving
46thought of me that lay behind your kind wish that I should try that
47man in Florence. ... You don't know what it meant to me that there
48were any people in the world who could feel so kindly to me that they
49wanted to help me to get better. It has taken away so much of the
50loneliness of this year. I had always thought the sadness of living to
51be very old, say seventy or eighty, would be that you had so outlived
52your world, and your human relations - I never realised one could be
53comparatively young and yet be so severed from your fellow humans and
54human life. The great joy of my life is now the Thursday's mail from
55England and the letters from my dear friends there, some of whom are
56so good in writing to me whether I write or not, and though they have
57not seen me for 16 years. A great man friend of mine in England says
58he finds that as he grows older he cares less for human love and
59sympathy than when he was young. With me it is just the other way
60about. When I was young and lived in England I was so surrounded by
61dear friends and sympathisers that I was like a millionaire who thinks
62nothing of money; but now I feel that every little bit of human love
63is like a precious bit of gold, to be picked up and treasured