"About Rebecca Schreiner, OS's childhood, her writing" Read the full letter
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Letter ReferenceLetters/579
Epistolary Type
Letter Date1919
Address FromLondon
Address To
Who ToHavelock Ellis
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 363
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.
2London, late 1919.
4I've been reading a new book they say is like Jane Austen. It's no
5more like Jane Austen than - . All that glorious simplicity and
6directness of language and effect, which is in all great works of art,
7seem always wanting in twentieth century art. You laugh at my reading
8Dickens? Well, just that one description of the old inn in Barnaby Rudge:
9 one sees the inn, smells it, knows it, one could go up to the north
10of London to look for it, feeling so sure it does exist - that's art.
11Dickens was not an intellectual man, not an educated man in the
12bookish sense - but an artist: so his work will live. When the whole
13of our middle-class life as lived to-day, when all London slums and
14their poverty and sorrows have passed away, men will still find them
15in Dickens's work. He never painted a lady or a gentleman - he
16couldn't, but he painted much more important things. The world is full
17of great men of genius and ability now. A greater genius than Lenin
18has not appeared in these last hundred years - unless it was Karl Marx.
19 And the ability of the age goes into science, into medicine,
20chemistry, etc; art and fine writing are in this age secondary. If
21Michael Angelo lived now he would not paint pictures or make statues.
22The great genius gives voice to the great wants of his age. The only
23really great book which will set its mark on English development at
24least is Keynes's new book, The Economic Consequences of the Peace.
25Smillie is the biggest, strongest man in England, not the writers and
26painters. When Rome was burning, Nero was fiddling. Good-bye, dear old