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Letter ReferenceOlive Schreiner BC16/Box5/Fold3/1914/2
ArchiveUniversity of Cape Town, Manuscripts & Archives, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter DateSunday 18 January 1914
Address FromGrand Hotel, Alassio, Italy
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. This letter is written on two printed headed notepapers, featuring the logos of the 'Hotel Paol, Florence' and the 'Grand Hotel, Alassio', and it was posted from the latter.
1 Hotel Paol, Florence
2 Jan 11th 1914
4 My dear Laddie
6 Oliver will no doubt write you a long letter telling of our adventures
7so far. This morning he & Pethick-Lawrence have been out sight seeing
8& I went to see Carloni, whom I don’t like at all - he strikes me as
9a charlatan ^but don’t mention this to any one as it might pain Miss
if she heard it.^ I went also to to look for rooms in which I
11can can settle down.
13 Alassio Italy Jan 16th 1914
15 This letter was begun a week ago at Florence Oliver will have told you
16of our travels since then We spent three days at Mentone, & went over
17twice in the train to Monte Carlo. The weather here is said to be the
18coldest known in Europe for 40 years. The mountains are everywhere
19white with snow even here in the Riviera & the streets with ice – a
20thing I never ^before^ saw here. I was so sorry the beloved boy had such
21terrible weather for his journey – we have only had one fine day
22without rain & mist since we started. He left me last night at Mentone
23for England & I came on then to my old haunt. As far as human power
24could do it they have completely destroyed this lovely spot, big
25hotels & houses are springing up everywhere & they have pulled down
26more than half of the old village – but it is still Alassio, with a
27curious charm of peace & quiet about it. I shall stay here for two
28weeks & then return to Florence to try Carloni’s treatment. I
29don’t like the man, but his treatment as he explained it to me seems
30rational. Like all the other doctors he says my lungs are very much
31distressed & quite hardened so that I am only breathing with & through
32the upper half of one lung, & that part of the hardened lung has got
33pressed between the wall of the chest & the heart – where there
34should be no lung, & that the enlarged heart & lungs are pressing down
35all the other organs, & that the enlargement of the liver & the
36internal pains are caused by this pressure which has pressed every
37organ out of its right place. This is what all other Drs have said for
3818 years – but whereas they say there’s nothing to be done Carloni
39says he can t soften the lungs & restore their elasticity & make them
40work again & that that will make it possible for the heart & liver to
41contract. His special invention is a room permeated with ^hot^ air
42loaded with iodide of pottassium, which as everyone knows softens &
43moistens all internal tissues. You sit in this room for an hour every
44day absorbing this air, & then you sit for an hour in another room in
45a mechanical armchair, fastened into it, while two great pads like
46hands worked by machinery press you softly back-wards & forwards all
47with the object of mechanically ^in case of the lungs & heart^ restoring
48the circulation to the bottom of the lungs & heart. Once a week the
49spinal cord where it connects with the brain & great nerve centres is
50treated with radium. This seems to me most rational treatment, & if I
51had had it 20 years ago I can believe it might have cured me, but I
52can hardly believe it now. However I am going to try him, I shall stay
53here till this unlucky bad weather is broken – I expect for two
54weeks or perhaps 4. I am in the same hotel in which I used to stay
55years ago, but the prices have risen so enormously that instead of my
56nice large room below, I have a tiny room on the third floor, as big
57as Willie’s room at St James, but it has a nice large window & the
58sun shines in, when there is any, & I shall sit up here like a bird in
59a small nest & try to revise some of my old stray thoughts which I
60have brought with me. The sea is grey tonight & the clouds are closing
61in so I think we shall have more snow or rain tomorrow.
63 When we were at Ventimelia having our luggage examined, we bought a
64copy of the Daily Mail which gave us the best news of the terrible
65goings on at the mines &c. I felt as if I ought to go back to South
66Africa at once by the first steamer. But what could I do? Lie ill in
67the Hotel at Muizenberg, no good to any one. Please tell me what you
68think of affairs & send me a paper with any special news. I only see
69the Daily Mail here, & that is a tissue of lies. It said Botha had
70armed 100, 000!! men & brought them to the Rand. The next day it said
7120,00: None of the English papers would report Miss Hobhouse’s
72speech except the "Manchester Guardian." Its curious how the English
73people dislike to hear anything about the Boer war.
75 Saturday the 17th It’s a little finer to to-day but rained this
76afternoon & looks like snow.
78 I have met a very nice German woman & her husband here, most
79interesting people who talk English perfectly. I think he must be a
80professor. In a few days a friend of his is coming who has been a
81professor in Japan & married a Japanese wife. His bringing his wife
82with him it will be interesting to meet them. I went out for a little
83walk this morning. In spite of all my beloved Alassio is still my
84beloved Alassio, with a peace & rest about it that no other place in
85Europe has. When once I come here I never want to go away. I suppose
86its because the air suits me so. I don’t feel like this in any other
87place in the world.
89 Are you coming in April dear, I shall be in England then staying with
90Alice Corthorn. It will be lovely to see you there. I wish Fan & Dot
91were coming too. It would be fine to be altogether.
93 Ellis writes me that the papers were full of accounts of the dinner
94they gave me & that the one paper comments on "the very youthful
95appearance of the author of an African Farm"!! & another is even more
96complimentary! Who can believe a newspaper after that! But I felt so
97happy when I was in London I might have been 16.
99 Sunday. Its been a glorious day. I’ve been to my beloved Santa Croce.
100 The view was more wonderful than ever. The blue sky, the blue sea,
101the far blue mountains of the Bay’s towards Geneva, the great white
102snow mountains beyond Spitzia showing beyond them. One felt the tears
103coming into one’s eyes with joy, it was so lovely. I think the rain
104& snow are over now. At de Aar I couldn’t without great difficulty
105walk from the station to my house, & sometimes dropped down in the
106sand half way feeling I was dying. This morning I walked nearly two
107miles with-out feeling it. I wish everyone I love was here enjoying
108this beautiful air.
110 Good bye dear old man
111 Olive
The 'stray thoughts' Schreiner mentions are the essays originally published pseudonymously from 1891 on as by 'A Returned South African', intended for publication in book form as 'Stray Thoughts on South Africa'. However, although prepared for publication, a dispute with a US publisher and the events of the South African War prevented this. They and some related essays were posthumously published as Thoughts on South Africa. Emily Hobhouse's speech was the one she was to have made at the unveiling of the Vrouemonument, the memorial to women and children who died in the concentration camps of the South African War, on 16 December 1913. She was too ill to do so, but the speech appeared in newspapers and was read out at the ceremony. See Schreiner's letter of November 1913 to her brother Will (Olive Schreiner BC16/Box5/Fold2/1913/47) regarding her role in editing Hobhouse's speech.