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Letter ReferenceOlive Schreiner BC16/Box3/Fold3/1904/17
ArchiveUniversity of Cape Town, Manuscripts & Archives, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter DateThursday 16 June 1904
Address FromHanover, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToBetty Molteno
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. The name of the addressee of this letter is indicated by salutation and content.
1 Hanover
2 Thursday evening
3 June 16th 1904
5 My dear dear Friend
7 I was glad to get your letter this morning & know you were better. It
8is curious that I felt it was the going to England that was pressing
9you down, you looked almost unearthly. But I did feel that if you &
10Miss Greene got away together in the long run it might be for the best
11for you, because you are so one that if she cannot be at rest here
12neither can you. Oh this strange strange, terrible strength of human
13affection which knows no reason & no law. And strange that ^some human
14beings pass through life with out ever knowing it.^ Cron left this
15morning for the Transvaal. I drove to the station with him to see him
16off. As soon as I got away from Hanover to Hanover Rd I was quite well.
17 Had no difficulty in breathing instead of fighting for ever breath as
18I do here. It is not the district that is wrong but just the spot on
19which Hanover is built with the fl vlie all round & the quantities of
20water is deadly to me. I have only been back two or three hours & all
21the life is gone from me I am struggling for breath as I would if I
22lived at Claremont.
24 I have just heard an interesting bit of news this afternoon from the
25man who drove us. There is a lovely farm about 15 minutes from the
26town, one of the finest in the district abov with nice house & garden
27& beautiful koppies sheltering it from the wind. I always thought that
28the Mrs Botha to whom it belongs would never sell it; but Mr Van Zÿl
29tells me she was very anxious to sell it a little while ago & he
30thinks would be glad to now. Money is so scarce that if you had the
31money she might sell it cheaper than at any other time. You might let
32the farm at any time for £180 or so a year if you didn’t want it, &
33Cron would always be able to give you advice about farming it. But
34when I think how beautiful it is near Cape Town I wonder you don’t
35want to live there. But Miss Greene I know would never be happy in
36Cape Town, & I fancy if she had a big farm with plenty of out door
37interests she would renew her youth like an eagle. But perhaps I take
38a too bright view of having an up-country farm because since I was a
39girl of 15 it has always be the one fixed ambition of my life to have
40a farm upcountry in South Africa - & a little up country village has
41always seemed to me Hell. If I get out for the day to one of the most
42miserable farms near I am quite, quite happy, only I feel I can’t
43come back to the village. Perhaps you would not feel this little
44village life as I do, but you don’t like Beaufort West, & Beaufort
45is mentally a much larger & freer place than this. I always feel in
46Hanover as if some one had a rope round my neck, & was drawing it
47tighter & tighter round my throat mentally & physicall. But if you
48come only for a week or a fortnight you may find it very delightful.
49Everyone will be friendly & kind & you will not see all the other side.
50 Then you & Miss Greene can go to church & share their religious life
51as I can’t
. It is strange than since I came back the only two people
52who have written me friendly little notes & seemed glad to see me were
53the Magistrate & the Drs wife wives, two jingoes.
55 I sometimes feel if I had to spend all my life here I must go mad, it
56is killing my brain. Then you two are two together – but I see
57nothing of Cron. He goes to his business as soon as he is up in the
58morning after a hurried breakfast, comes back at one for a hurried
59dinner. When his office closes at 4 he has always people to go & see.
60There is tea about 6. Then he goes to his room to write or lie on his
61bed to read or goes out to see people. I wish him good night at half
62past nine or ten & that is all I see of him. On Sunday we sometimes go
63for a little walk, but he cannot bear going for walks & I walk too
64slowly for him. So the question comes to me continually, what good am
65I to him here? And yet & yet I can’t leave him he might be ill &
66need me. I often think if I went away to Italy or some where & lived
67under conditions where I could write the money I could earn could be
68of more use to him & unreadable after I was dead than I ever could be,
69& yet & yet, something says in me that I can’t go & that I must not!
70Dear one I write & talk very freely to you. You will say nothing about
71it to any one. One of the sad things of growing older & ones life
72becoming complex & clouded, is that one can share it with no one, as
73one could when one was young & one’s life was simple. Then one could
74share every experience with one’s closest friends. Good bye. I will
75go & see Mrs Van Zÿl tomorrow about a room for you in case you ever
76want to come; & will go & see Mrs Botha about her farm. But I can see
77many advantages in your living at Nel’s Poort, your friends so near
78you, & Cape Town so much nearer than here. On the other hand this is
79very central, one can run so easily to Bloemfontein or Port Elizabeth
80&c. If you leave this by the 12 o’clock train Cron left by this
81morning he ^you^ will be
83^in Bloem-fontein at supper time this evening.^
87 ^You know deep down at the back of all is another curious feeling
88whether I am right in sacrificing all my writing: Every thing is easy
89when you know which is the path of duty: but it is the strange
90difficulty of the two duties cutting each other’s throats which
91makes life so hard, isn’t it? No one need complain if they know
92without doubt & with absolute certainty their path of duty even if
93that lead straight to death.^