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Letter ReferenceOlive Schreiner: Mary Sauer MSC 26/2.11.53
ArchiveNational Library of South Africa, Special Collections, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date8 May 1892
Address FromMatjesfontein, Western Cape
Address To
Who ToMary Sauer nee Cloete
Other VersionsRive 1987: 205
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
Legend
The Project is grateful to the National Library of South Africa (NLSA), Cape Town, for kindly allowing us to transcribe this Olive Schreiner letter, which is part of its Special Collections.
1 Matjesfontein
2 May 8 / 9.
3
4 Dear old Mary
5
6 How I wish you were here this morning so beautiful & fresh after the
7five terrible days & nights of rain wind & snow we have had. It seems
8like getting out of the storm & self-conflict of life into a much more
9calmer more peaceful world. Oh dear one you say you wish you could
10feel more intensely; but
I'm just writing this line to ask you a
11favour dear. Please don't dis-cuss me ^or my affairs^ in any way with
12Miss Shippard. She looked so sweet & bright & fresh this morning when
13she passed & her face seems developing so finely to me. She will be
14even much finer & more interesting as a woman than as a girl. I only
15ask you not to talk about me to her because I know she is the only
16person you would dis-cuss me with. Don't think I don't trust you dear.
17I do absolutely but my nature is so different from other peoples. I
18can't bear what I feel or think except in an impersonal way dis-cussed
19by those who love me, with others who don't. It is the only thing I am
20exacting about towards my friends, & those I love. If I had a husband
21he might flog me every night & it wouldn't kill my love for him or my
22loyalty to him. But if he went & discussed me with third persons I
23know it would die.
24
25 I may come down next week for a couple of days to see the Marriotts
26baby. It's so beautiful to me that they are both my friends, that I
27hardly know which of the two is more like my own flesh & blood. I hope
28so much you will get to know them & care for them. I always sympathize
29so with a man friend of mine, a professor at England Cambridge who
30says, "My ideal of love is a great circle all living & aiding one
31another."
32
33//I'm doing now the hardest work of my life finishing off my big sex
34book or rather making an epitome of it which I shall publish first. It
35deal with love marriage & all questions of sex. What its worth may be
36I do not know. It has cost me my life, I have given up every thing to
37do it. I often ^sometimes^ wonder whether when life is done, & I look
38back at it, I shall feel I spent it rightly in concentrating on this
39one end, whether if I had made thousand & thousands by writing novels,
40& had danced & dressed & married about like other women, whether I
41loved or not, I might not have made more of it. But it is only in my
42most weak moments I ever feel so. What ever the work is, it is the
43work I had to do, I had no choice.
44
45 It is so beautiful to see the sun after the rain again. I wish you
46were it's so much nicer to talk than to write.
47
48 I should very much like to have spent the winter in town, but if I do
49I shant get the book done by the end of July; it only wants revising &
50copying now, but even that I can't do unless I have a perfectly quiet
51room while is ?unfit at ?all in Cape Town.
52
53 You don't mind my asking you what I did, dear.
54
55 The part of my book I am revising now is about the relations of women
56among themselves, & see always possibilities of things so beautiful &
57great, which is so difficult for us to realize because of the
58smallness of our natures.
59
60 Give my love to the wee folk & to dear old nurse.
61
62 Yours always
63 Olive
64
65 I need not tell you that if ever I met Miss Shippard, which is not
66likely, I would would never most remotely hint at anything you told me.
67
68 ^I want to read Mrs Wards book Some of my friends are sure to send it
69me from England, so I haven't bought it.
70
71 Good bye
72 Olive^
73
74
Notation
The 'sex book' referred to was destroyed when Schreiner's house in Johannesburg was badly damaged during the South African War; it was re-written as her two 'Woman' articles and then Woman and Labour. The book referred to is: Mrs Humphrey Ward (1892) The History of David Grieve London: Smith & Elder. Rive's (1987) version omits part of this letter and is also in a number of respects incorrect.