"That I may finish that book, 'From Man to Man', being of some use, tragedy & bitterness of woman's fate" Read the full letter
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Letter ReferenceOlive Schreiner BC16/Box4/Fold1/1908/15
ArchiveUniversity of Cape Town, Manuscripts & Archives, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date24 March 1908
Address FromMatjesfontein, Western Cape
Address To
Who ToWilliam Philip ('Will') Schreiner
Other Versions
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
The Project is grateful to Manuscripts and Archives, University of Cape Town, for kindly allowing us to transcribe this Olive Schreiner letter, which is part of its Manuscripts and Archives Collections. Schreiner stayed in Matjesfontein from mid March to mid April 1908.
1 March 24th 1908
3 Thanks for wire, dear old man. I only want to live many years more if
4I can work, if not I’d rather die today. I’m getting to the last
5end of the money Fred left me, & yet even when I’m better as I am
6the last three days I can’t put pressure on myself or the pump stops
7working & sticks. You see all creative work of any kind, even original
8thought on impersonal matters, if its your own & comes from you, has
9to be done under a certain amount emotional & intellectual pressure, &
10that means physical heart pressure. I think I broke down at de Aar in
11the way I have just because I did write a chapter & a half shut up in
12that little room with the temperature inside from 85 to 95 day & night.
13 I am going to make a good beginning for the new year by getting out
14all my papers today, & tomorrow! I shall write! However I am doing
15flourishingly those sickening angina attacks going over, & Cron has
16promised me till I come back next month to sleep at the hotel, not in
17our little burgled room. I always think when I sit there & hear the
18men chopping at the bricks out side, that it is a grave they are
19building, not a house. But this is no doubt because I h am over
20strained with the life there. A curious thing happened a few ^two^ days
21before I left. Some people in the town say, they have heard a sound
22bitter unreadable agonized cries, as of a little girl about 6 or 8
23passing from the Camp to Mayer’s house. Mayer, told Cron, he also
24heard it; it seemed to him in his own back-yard, in his W.C. He took
25out his famous fierce bull-dog who would tear a man or woman to pieces
26as soon as as look at him, Mayer says, but the dog only whined & saw
27nothing! The sound of the agonized crys passed on from his house
28across the veld to our house ^Mayer says^ & died away near a lonely clup
29clum of aloes on the flat behind our house. This is all rather strange
30Of course the de Aar people are all quite sure it was a ghost! They
31will never come that way at night, & if they hear any cries it will be
32the ghost! But the whole thing is certainly curious!! To say the least!
34^I shall be here till the 13th of April as they are painting the house
35at de Aar. Do try & spend a day with me here. I shall never see you to
36have a talk with you even if I should come to Cape Town which is not
37likely. It’s about Dot something about which I should much like my
38mind sent at rest. Do leave the dear child there two years more. She
39is just beginning to reap advantages from her visit now. ^
41 Ol
43 I got a nice wire from the Naudes this morning. Was so glad to get it.
44Wish he could come here for a couple of months. The dear old fellow
45will enjoy some chats with about books &c
47 ^Of course you know that J T Molteno is to be the next speaker. It’s
48an open secret; but if it’s still regarded as a secret, make it one,
49though every one knows it in the SA Party.^
51 ^Private^
Schreiner’s helpfulness to her niece Dot included facilitating contacts for her through her own friends. In this connection, Constance Lytton sent to Schreiner a thank you letter of 17 March 1908 which Lyndall Schreiner had sent her, with her own note to Schreiner written at the end:

Aldhurst Farm

March 17th

Dear Lady Constance,

The Reading Party is now safely established down here in Surrey – The farm is a nice unreadable large one, & the country around beautiful. Our bedrooms are dear little low rooms with sweet lattice windows, & the garden is quite correct, it grows wall-flowers which are so old-fashioned – aren’t they? We order our own meals, & are lodgers, not boarders, so you may imagine the momentous & housewifely discussions which take place – Our appetites are terrible - calculated to ruin the farm people were they boarding us-

It was so nice to see you in Cambridge & so good of you to come & see me –

When I leav leave here I got to my Aunt in Eastbourne –

I hope you & Lytton are both well.

Yours v. Sincerely
Lyndall Schreiner

^This sounds happy don’t you think? Mother was staying with Mrs Sidgwick, head of Newnham, the other day. She told that Dot has friends in all sets & is so popular & never gives rise to any gossip.^

The final insertion here is Constance Lytton’s note to Schreiner.