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Letter ReferenceOlive Schreiner BC16/Box4/Fold1/1908/29
ArchiveUniversity of Cape Town, Manuscripts & Archives, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter DateSunday 10 May 1908
Address FromMatjesfontein, Western Cape
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. Schreiner stayed in Matjesfontein from late April to late May 1908.
1 Sunday afternoon
2 10 May 1908
3
4 Dear Laddie
5
6 I was glad to see thy handwriting. Yesterday afternoon the servant
7came in with a wire, & got rather a big jump thinking you might be
8worse; but it was only a wire from Isie Smuts saying her mother was to
9pass here by the morning train. If ever you go up to Pretoria look her
10& Jannie up specially. He has always felt so kindly to you. I remember
11just after the war when I was there his saying to me "We mustn’t by
12any means let him pass away from us" (politically, of course he meant)
13"He’s too valuable. We must never let him slip – ^He’s really one of us^.
14" He was speaking of the attitude of some others towards you. He & his
15wife have continued so beautifully unchanged by all their success: &
16it takes big folk to stand success. Some here have fallen so terribly
17under it: Dear old General de Wet is another; & Malan & his wife will
18I think stand it always.
19
20 Yes, I’ve read the hard Rd. Dear old John X Merriman sent it me some
21weeks ago. He sent me quite a touching little note when he passed here
22to go up. However we may differ on the woman question, I shall always
23love him. I can never forget that he was the one, only, human creature
24in South Africa, who (except old ^F^ Reitz who sent me a message through
25Fan) who wrote me one word of sympathy when at so much terrible cost
26to myself I brought out Peter Halket. His letter was not only
27sympathetic, it was one of the most emotional, the most beautiful
28letter I ever knew old John X to write: it came straight from the
29heart, & his letters & view of all things generally come entirely from
30the head. Peter Halket killed me, as the Raid did old Robinson, only I
31haven’t "kicked out" in the same way. It isn’t artistic; it failed
32in doing anything; & ^yet^ if I were dead I would like them to write on
33my grave "She wrote Peter Halket", nothing else. It’s funny but when
34I think of dying the only thing that comforts me is that I wrote that
35book.
36
37 All the time when I am writing this here, ‘Arriet is sitting on my
38arm with her head tucked deep in my neck, fast asleep but making
39little "chuck chucks" from time to time to show how happy she is in
40her dreams. Good bye, dear. Be good & stay in bed. Have you read Ed
41Carpenter’s
new book "Sketches from Life" which he’s just sent me.
42Its very valuable to me because it brings back that glorious time in
43the 80’s when socialism was in its dawning, & ^we^ were all fighting
44with the conviction that full day lay just over the next hill. It does
45lie over the hill; but the day is hot, & it takes the race a long time
46climbing. I never have any doubt that the end of the 20th century will
47have witness as wonderful a moral & social ^emotional^ an evolution in
48mankind the 19th one in material matters.
49
50 "All we have dreamed, & hope, & willed, if good shall exist; Not its
51semblance but itself, in beauty & in power;
52 When eternity shall have confirmed for the melodist,
53 The conceptions of an hour."
54 And if it takes a few centuries – what matter.
55
56 I am feeling so wonderfully well the last two days; have been for long
57walks again. My heart suddenly empties itself of all the blood thats
58distending it, & I’m a new person. That the doctors say is the
59meaning of this sudden astonishing better-ness that comes on in two
60minutes. I would
61
62 ^go up to de Aar at once but Crom writes paint is still smelling
63strongly, & I can’t go till its gone.^
64
65 ^I do hope you’ll go to Natal. I suppose you’ll go by sea as that
66suits. It’s a pity for me, it does, otherwise I might have a chance
67of seeing an old man here or at de Aar. Its strange to me to think
68anyone can prefer a ship to a train. My idea of an earthly paradise is
69a long train journey, if you only have two pillows & place to lie down.^
70
Notation
The 'hard Rd Schreiner mentions having read has not been traced. The 'All we have dreamed, & hope, & willed, if good shall exist' quotation is from Robert Browning's poem 'Abt Vogler', in his (1864) Dramatis Personae London: Chapman and Hall. The book referred to is: Edward Carpenter (1908) Sketches from Life in Town and Country London: G. Allen & Sons.