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Letter ReferenceOlive Schreiner BC16/Box6/Fold4/1918/33
ArchiveUniversity of Cape Town, Manuscripts & Archives, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter DateSaturday 1918
Address From9 Porchester Place, Edgware Road, Westminster, London
Address To
Who ToWilliam Philip ('Will') Schreiner
Other Versions
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
Legend
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. The year has been written on this letter in an unknown hand. Schreiner was resident at Porchester Place from early April 1917 until August 1920, when she left Britain for South Africa. The proposal Schreiner refers to concerns the possibility of turning The Story of An African Farm into a film. Two letters about this were sent Will Schreiner. The first, dated 7 September 1918, is from the African Film Productions Ltd of Johannesburg and states that the company is interested in acquiring the filming rights to The Story of an African Farm but has thus far been unable to get in touch with Olive Schreiner directly and would Will Schreiner pursue the matter. This letter also comments on the company?s filming credentials, contrasting the films made of books by Cynthia Stockley by another company, which is said to portray the African atmosphere as ?ludicrous in the extreme?. The letter also states that the company has contacted its London Agent, the International Variety & Theatrical Agency in Leicester Square, to made headway in this matter. The second letter, dated 7 October 1918, is from the International Variety & Theatrical Agency, and it follows up the attempt made by African Film Productions Ltd to acquire filming rights and again asks for Will Schreiner?s assistance. The film of ?Les Miserables? referred to was released in 1918.
1Saturday
2
3Dear Will
4
5Thanks much for your letter. Don’t quite know what answer to give as
6to the proposal about the S.A.F.
7
8Long ago Wilson Barrett (a celebrated actor & theatre owner in the old
9days who was a friend of mine wanted to dramatise it, & told me I
10should make money from it) but I scornfully refused. I should of
11course rather not have anything of mine on a stage or bios-cope: but
12if there was any chance of my making any money by it, I must consider
13it. I don’t know in such a case whether one would be paid anything?
14I need never read what was said about it, & need never go to see it!
15
16I don’t fan quite see either what there is to put on a bios-cope.
17The danger common place parts, by being shamefully exaggerated ie the
18parts about Bonapart & Tant’ Sannie could be made humorous by
19perhaps – but of course they were just put in to counter-poise the
20tragedy & sorrow of Lyndall & Wald. - & that tragedy cannot be put
21into a picture because it is purely intellectual & spiritual. The
22tragedy was not at all vulgar tragedy that Lyndall had a baby got a
23disease & died, or that Waldo died suddenly, that is a common vulgar
24tragedy enough. The tragedy of whole book the eternal tragedy of youth
25& genius & beauty unreadable struggling against the mat adverse
26material conditions of life, & being hurt by them. It is a cry out
27against “fate”.
28
29How any of this could get into a picture I don’t see. It must be
30absolutely vulgarised. At the same time I hardly see how with out
31altering it, it could be made dramatic to the eye. For instance Waldo
32when he hears of Lyndalls death would be simply a young man howling, &
33the last scene where he sits in the sun & chickens sit on him might
34seem simply comic?
35
36Still if there were a chance of my earning anything by it I should
37perhaps If I could have a talk with the actress. I have seen only two
38things that were so artistic well done as to be “artistic on a
39bios-cope “Les Miserable” by Victor Hugo, a little Russian thing
40that moved me to tears, taken from some Russian. It was so splendidly
41acted, that you read the whole character of the people, all they were
42suffering & thinking simply in their faces.
43
44Of course the whole point of an African Farm turns on Lyndall being a
45child of seventeen when she dies, with a tiny body with dark brown
46hair & large intellectual brown eyes. If she had been a full grown
47woman of twenty or twenty two, the book couldn’t have been written.
48Because Lyndall at 20 would have been much to wise to ca act as she
49did, & a far fair haired blue eyed Lyndall would have been impossible,
50because then her character would have been different!
51
52If I were in London I should like to see the lady & have a talk with
53her: but I doubt whether without altering the story they could make it
54telling.
55
56Thanks dear for the trouble you took in writing about it.
57
58I’m always so afraid of breaking down absolutely & needing doctors &
59nurses, the horror of my life has always to become a burden on others.
60It must the the crowning tragedy of life to feel others must say,
61“Why doesn’t she die?”
62
63It’s sad to die young; but there are much more tragic things in life
64though they are seldom spoken of.
65
66Love to Fan.
67Yours ever
68Olive Schreiner
69