"Place with husband, Betty Molteno needs new world" Read the full letter
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Letter ReferenceLetters/76
Epistolary Type
Letter Date11 April 1885
Address FromHastings, East Sussex
Address To
Who ToHavelock Ellis
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 69-70; Rive 1987: 63-4
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.
2Hastings, 11th April.
4I have been working all the morning, but now I must give in and read
5French. ... Long ago I used to think that was quite a discovery of
6mine that there is as much structure in prose as in verse. The
7difference is that in verse (which is only a kind of style in which
8you set certain fixed laws for yourself, and then follow them, with
9regard to repetition, rhythm, pauses, etc.) you are able to see
10clearly by looking at the work what the structure is, whereas in prose
11(of course, I am not speaking of unstructural prose, but of prose
12which has an artistic structure) it is sometimes next to impossible to
13discover the law according to which it has been constructed. Take the
14last passage in Elle et Lui, take the first three chapters in
15Revelations in our English translation, one feels the structure, but I
16have not yet been able to bring sufficient analysis to bear on them to
17discover their law. With regard to my own work, I feel what I must,
18and what I must not, do; I know perfectly when a line or a word or a
19sentence breaks the law, and it causes me agony to let it go. But what
20law it breaks I don’t know. I suppose that I could find out if I gave
21enough time to analysis. But it wouldn’t help one a bit in one’s work;
22one must only follow one’s feelings there. I found out when I was a
23child that if I changed one word I had to change the whole sentence,
24and that writing “ribbed” was quite a different thing from writing
25plain. But I didn’t know what writing “ribbed” meant, nor do I know now.