"I know by experience I can make a woman perfectly happy" Read the full letter
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Letter ReferenceOlive Schreiner: Mary Sauer MSC 26/2.11.56
ArchiveNational Library of South Africa, Special Collections, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter DateWednesday July 1892
Address FromMatjesfontein, Western Cape
Address To
Who ToMary Sauer nee Cloete
Other VersionsRive 1987: 207-8
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
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. The month and year have been written on this letter in an unknown hand.
1 Matjesfontein
2 Th Wednesday
4 I've a long letter three sheets for you here, but I think I won't send
5it. I'm always writing letters to people & then I don't send them.
7 I don I wish you could come here a little. It's rather nice here some
8times when it doesn't & I don't mind the cold because I keep up a big
9fire. I moved a big double spring bed into my sitting room & it's so
10nice after I put my lamp out at night to lie & watch the fire dancing
11all over the walls. I don't feel lonely but I wish so sometimes I had
12you to talk with. It makes me so happy always to talk with you. You
13know I didn't mean, dear, you couldn't hurt me any more, because my
14thought of was was changed, but because as one gets older bits & bits
15of one's nature die out, & one can't be hurt because the feeling is
16dead in them. That's what I meant. Lately in the English papers there
17have been notices that I was a Roman Catholic, & a woman has lately
18written an article in the Novel Review saying I was an Anarchist & all
19kinds of other untrue things; & once it would have hurt me so, & I
20should have had to try hard not to mind & not to be angry, but now I
21don't mind at all. I couldn't if I tried. That's the sort of feeling I
24 I'm so glad Dorothy goes to school. She'll be so much happier. You'll
25make a splendid little mother for them, dear. I know they'll turn out
26so well. I wonder what you've all been doing in Cape Town & how the
27life there goes. It all seems so far away from me now.
29 I'm doing a good bit of work & am having a very happy peaceful time.
30Days when it doesn't rain here it is sometimes very fine, in spite of
31the intense cold. The velt is so beautiful & green. When the white wax
32flowers come out I'll send you a lot, with the two green leaves, & a
33lot of the little curled up plant that is so pretty & you must
34decorate your table with them one night. I would be nice to have a
35Karroo decoration altogether. The heads of the wax flowers are all
36formed but they can't open because the heavy frost keeps them shut.
38 Give my love to Ella Shippard & to Maggie. This is a poor letter, but
39I felt so I wanted a little talk last night.
41 Olive
43 Poor Miss Conybeare is very bad; she has had to undergo a terrible
44operation in the throat, & go abroad again. That influenza is a
45terrible thing. She was a strong hardy woman till she had it.
47 Have your likeness taken some day for me: - a nice one, like you look
48when we are talking together!
50 OS
52 I am very well and strong now, like six lions, but I don't feel as if
53I should be able to work so very much till I've had a real change away
For the article on Schreiner, see the Novel Review May 1892, vol 1, issue 2, pp.112-15; the particular description Schreiner objects to is 'In politics she is an anarchist, looking forward to the day when law sghall be put aside like a worn-out garment' (115), although there are other sweeping airy supposed 'facts' as well. It is written in a 'caged bird in England, unself-conscious goodness, woman of genius' vein, all the more surprising because, although the actual article is unsigned, on the contents page it is signalled as by "John Law", the pseudonym used by Margaret Harkness. Harkness's hyperbolic comments in some sense traded on the earlier friendship of Schreiner and her, and Schreiner certainly conveys her hurt and anger to Mary Sauer in spite of writing that she doesn't mind. Rive's (1987) version omits part of this letter and is also in a number of respects incorrect.