"Please don't discuss my affairs, my big sex book" Read the full letter
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Letter ReferenceLetters/520
Epistolary Type
Letter Date5 July 1913
Address FromDe Aar, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToHavelock Ellis
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 327-8
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.
2De Aar, 5th July.
4Adela Smith, to whom I wrote saying I shrank from seeing my friends
5again, being so changed, says, as you do, that people don't change,
6that the old heart is always there; but I don't think it's true - some
7people do change - some people. Ettie changed so completely before she
8died that she was not Ettie at all. Both physically and mentally she
9didn't even recall herself to you. Two years before she died, when she
10had already begun to die, she was still Ettie, though she had to lie
11still and motionless in bed with a ghastly blue face. But a year later
12she was not Ettie, and by the time she died it was quite impossible to
13believe she had ever been Ettie. In face she became very like my
14mother whom she had never in the least resembled. She had always had a
15little snub or round nose (the only one of the whole family who seemed
16to have it); during the last two years, as all the muscle fell away,
17you saw she had a sharp curved Roman beak underneath. Her character
18changed entirely. There was nothing left of her strong active nature -
19only a cry for air and to be lifted up. Disease and unutterable
20anguish does change people. My mother suffered a great deal for years
21from her heart and she lived to be 82, but she was still my mother to
22the end, old, broken, diseased, but just as you would have expected
23her to be at 82; she kept the old bright flashing eye, the keenness to
24the last; a photograph taken of her three days before she dropped dead
25was the best ever taken of her. She looks exactly like Cardinal Newman.
26 I feel as if I were changing like Ettie. I would give thousands if I
27had not seen her dying the last two years.