"Rhodes as almighty might-have-been" Read the full letter
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Letter ReferenceLetters/517
Archive
Epistolary Type
Letter Date20 May 1913
Address FromDe Aar, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToHavelock Ellis
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 325-6
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.
2De Aar, 20th May.
3
4Do you who know all about everything know of a good history of France,
5not too expensive, say, like Green's Short History? Also do you know
6of a good history of French literature - I don't mean fine writing,
7but one which gives simply the facts of literary history? I've had a
8very good history of German literature, giving you names of writers,
9dates, short biographies and descriptions of the different schools of
10thought. I want very much a good history of the Jesuits. ... How
11ridiculous it is to teach children only the history of their own
12little countries. By the time a man or woman is fifteen or sixteen
13they should at least once or twice have read through the histories of
14the leading European countries. We make so little effort to make
15education broad. I think the teaching of languages takes an altogether
16undue place in education. What a farce to spend time gaining a little
17dry smattering of the grammar of a foreign language and to know
18nothing of its literature or the history of the nation! Language
19should not be taught through grammar, but through reading and speaking
20and hearing it; grammar should be studied as a science apart,
21comparative grammar. The structure of different languages should be
22compared: Kaffir is a most fascinating study from that standpoint;
23they inflect the beginnings of their words, not the ends, and they are
24inflected so as to make the words curiously harmonious. ... Good-bye,
25dear; I wonder if I shall go to England. It will be a ghost revisiting
26the earth where it once lived.
27