"'From Man to Man', Rhodes dream, friendship should precede marriage" Read the full letter
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Letter ReferenceLetters/481
Archive
Epistolary Type
Letter DateSunday October 1909
Address FromCape Town, Western Cape
Address To
Who ToAdela Villiers Smith nee Villiers
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 290-1
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
Legend
When Cronwright-Schreiner prepared The Letters of Olive Schreiner, with few exceptions he then destroyed her originals. However, some people gave him copies and kept the originals or demanded the return of these; and when actual Schreiner letters can be compared with his versions, his have omissions, distortions and bowdlerisations. Where Schreiner originals have survived, these will be found in the relevant collections across the OSLO website. There is however a residue of some 587 items in The Letters for which no originals are extant. They are included here for sake of completeness. However, their relationship to Schreiners actual letters cannot now be gauged, and so they should be read with caution for the reasons given.
1To Mrs. Francis Smith.
2Cape Town, Sunday Night, Oct.
3
4My darling, you’ve seemed so with me in thought all day. I've seemed
5to feel you about me. The thought of you has comforted me so. Only my
6friend Edward Marriott, that English officer who died about 5 years
7ago, ever seemed so near me when he wasn't, as you do. The strange
8thing was that after he was dead I had that consciousness of his pure
9beautiful presence more even than when he was alive. I didn't think of
10him, I felt him near me. I don't believe in a personal life after
11death, but, if there were such a thing, those who have been drawn to
12each other, not by circumstance or even by passion, but by a deep
13natural sympathy and likeness would be likely to find each other again,
14 if any could. ... On the other end of the table is a huge brown paper
15parcel which contains my novel that I love so, much of it unrevised
16and no good if I died. I've been sorting my papers to-day and it's
17made me feel so hopeless, all that mass of half finished work. All my
18life seems such a failure, but I've lived and I've loved many
19beautiful things; and had even more love than I was worthy of. ... I
20am sending you the little Prelude. Send it back when you've read it.
21I've got to revise it yet. It’s just as it came to me many years ago
22one day on the Riviera. I know you'll understand it. I love it
23specially because it came to me in such a curious way. I wrote the
24rough draft of this novel years and years ago when I was quite a young
25girl before I went to England. In England I was too absorbed in social
26problems ever to read it over even. One day, I think it was in the
27winter of 1888, I was on the Riviera at Alassio; I was sitting at my
28dear old desk writing an article on the Bushmen and giving a
29description of their skulls; - when suddenly, in an instant, the whole
30of this little Prelude flashed on me. You know those folded up views
31of places that one buys; you take hold of one end and all the pictures
32unfold one after the other as quick as light. That was how it flashed
33on me. I started up and paced about the room. I felt absolutely
34astonished. I hadn't thought of my novel for months, I hadn't looked
35at it for years. I'd never dreamed of writing a Prelude to it. - I
36just sat down and wrote it out. And do you know what I found out -
37after I'd written it? - that it's a picture in small, a kind of
38allegory, of the life of the woman in the book!! It's one of the
39strangest things I know of. My mind must have been working at it
40unconsciously, though I knew nothing of it - otherwise how did it
41come? Don't show the Prelude to anyone, and don't tell anyone about it.
42 It's only for you. Good night, dear one. Olive.
43
Notation
The novel Schreiner ‘loved so’ is From Man to Man and the ‘Prelude’ appears in it.