"That I may finish that book, 'From Man to Man', being of some use, tragedy & bitterness of woman's fate" Read the full letter
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Letter ReferenceLetters/490
Epistolary Type
Letter Date22 October 1910
Address FromDe Aar, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToAdela Villiers Smith nee Villiers
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 295-6
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
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.
2De Aar, 22nd Oct.
4... We went to a Boer farm where there was a wedding (oh, such a
5quaint, grim wedding!); my husband had to go for business and said I
6might go with him. We drove for three hours and only once saw a house
7and twice a small flock of sheep till we got there. The mother and
8three other elderly ladies were sitting on one long sofa; they must
9all have been over 200 lbs. in weight!! The eldest son, a huge man of
106 foot four inches in height, is dying of heart disease, he has been
11dying for three months, so huge, and bloated, and blue; they have
12tapped him but it doesn't help. Such a wild curse against God came
13into my heart when I saw his anguish-stricken face fighting for breath.
14 No creature has a right to make another suffer so. But there is no
15God, in the narrow, personal sense; if there were he would be a devil;
16only a great terrible mystery of which we can and do know nothing. We
17must fight it to the end; it will beat us at length, but we must fight
18it as long as we can. When you saw that room full of strong,
19determined, iron-willed women, you understood all the South African
20war afresh, the glory of that struggle of a handful of folk against a
21mighty folk, and also the narrowness and hardness of South African life.