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Letter ReferenceSchreiner-Hemming Family BC 1080 A1.7/71
ArchiveUniversity of Cape Town, Manuscripts & Archives, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date12 November 1903
Address FromHanover, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToHenrietta ('Ettie') Schreiner m. Stakesby Lewis (1891)
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 was resident in Hanover from September 1900 to October 1907, after 1902 with visits, sometimes fairly lengthy, elsewhere.
1 Nov 12 / 03
3 My darling
5 I am so sorry about the sweet old eyes. You know when I was in Town I
6didn’t like the look of them, but we all have such strong eyes
7whatever else may be break, that I thought it was fancy Perhaps a long
8change of air & real rest by building up your general strength might
9help them. I wish you could see Nettleship the great oculist in London
10his glasses made a new man of Cron.
12 About my coming, this is how it is.
14 There is a talk of Cron’s being chosen for Parliament for Prince
15Albert: the committee have to decide whether he or le Roux are to
16stand. If they decide he is to stand then he will be away at Prince
17Albert three weeks unreadable seeing his people, I my plan has been
18during that time to come to Cape Town as I cannot bear to leave him
19alone here. But week after week passes & the committee comes to no
20decision. & I didn’t like to write & ask them when they will decide.
21If I wait much longer I can’t come at all. I can’t come in the great
22worst heat. I shall sleep at Mrs Purcells when I come, as it is cooler
23there. My chest is getting steadily worse: every six months when I
24look back I can see a change. I am so grateful I kept so well that
25little time when I saw our little mother for the last time.
27 You know, there is in a way a difference between my feeling for mother
28& yours. You are sorrowing for the dear beautiful little old lady who
29has been like your little baby for the last two years. The mother I
30think of that fills my heart with anguish is not at all the mother of
31my early childhood, & not the mother you buried the other day. It is
32the mother who for from the time I adopted her for my child about 34
33year ago till a few years ago was the great unchanging element in my
34life, whom I never missed a week in writing to fo not one for 30 years
35except when I was on board ship. My little mother of the Seymour days,
36who one great interest in life was my holidays when I came to her, for
37whom I saved up all my little bits of money, who was the one person
38for whom I always felt I must keep on living because what could she do
39with out me. I wish you could have known her well in the Seymour days.
40She was beautiful. All those long dashing rides she & I used to take
41together on horse back, such a wild sudden agony comes into my heart
42when I think of that little Seymour mother. Did I ever tell you a
43beautiful little things? I once wrote a novel when I was very young
44long before an African Farm, it was my first long novel. It was about
45a little child in the first part whose youth childhood has been very
46bitter with the hunger for love & sympathy, & then there was the later
47life. I never showed it to any one, I had never shown anything I wrote
48to any human being. I was copying it out with some other ^old^things
49during the holidays at Seymour once, & mother & Mrs Laing were always
50very curious to know what I was writing at all day. One night I don’t
51know why, it suddenly came to me to tell mother she could read the M.S.
52 book if she liked. I gave it her when we went to bed, & I got into my
53bed in the same room & went to sleep. When I woke about two o’clock in
54the morning I felt she was t felt something was moving on the foot of
55my bed; it was mother lying across in her night gown, kissing my feet
56& unreadable crying "Oh my child my wonderful beautiful child, am I
57really your mother! Have I really given birth to a human creature who
58could write that! Oh forgive me, forgive me. You could never have
59written it if it had not been your own childhood. Oh forgive me,
60please forgive me." You know they say Ettie a person never knows what
61perfect bliss is; but twice in my life I have known it – that night, &
62during the first weeks in England when I first got to know Fred. For
6330 years there was never one little, little, little rift between
64mother & me. All the years in England she was the great ?light of my
65life. I kept journals which I sent her every week – when I got to
66England Fred wanted to give me £60 a year £5 a month: but I begged him
67instead to send it to mother. He only used to write to her once or
68twice a year, but I got him to write to her once unreadable a week. I
69wanted mother to be buried at Balfour mainly because I know the
70thought would have been beautiful to father that she should be with
71him; but back in my mind I think there is also a curious feeling that
72then I should have my little mother back again, that then I should
73know it was her as I stood by the grave.
75 I am going to Kat River next winter just to see it once more for the
76sake of those old days.
78 Of late years I was nothing to her, she didn’t need me. I went down
79from Kimberley to see her because I always went to see her twice a
80year. When I got there I got a letter not written by herself but by
81Notre Mere saying she did not want to see me. I must go back. Theo &
82Katie had left a few days before. Cron wasn’t with me I was alone. I
83never saw her again till when she was ill last in Grahamstown when you
84were there. I kept on writing to her every week just the same, but I
85knew she didn’t need me any more.
87 I think that picture is so beautiful to me where she lies dead because
88it looks just like she used to look in Seymour.
90 I hope I shall be able to come & see you, dear one. I will wire as
91soon as I know, but if you have any plans of going
93 ^any where don’t wait for me
95 Olive^
The 'first long novel' referred to is Undine.