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Letter ReferenceLetters/548
Archive
Epistolary Type
Letter Date1914
Address FromMaer Lake, Bude, Cornwall
Address To
Who ToEmily Hobhouse
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 341
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. The year of the letter is implied by its place in the sequence of Cronwright-Schreiner letters; he has incorrectly transcribed ‘Maer’ as ‘Maver’ Lake here and elsewhere.
1To Miss E. Hobhouse.
2Maver Lake, Bude.
3
4... Again and again when I tried to get rooms they wouldn't let me
5have them on account of my name. Just before I left I found very nice
6cheap rooms in Chelsea, there was a sweet refined looking little woman
7who let them; I told her I would take them, and come the next day.
8When I told her my name she turned and glared at me. I enquired what
9was the matter. She asked me if my name was not German. I said it was,
10but I was a British subject born in South Africa, that my husband was
11a British subject of pure British descent, and my mother was English,
12that my father who left Germany 80 years ago, was a naturalised
13British subject, and had been dead nearly 50 years. She turned round
14and stormed at me, all her seemingly gentle face contorted with rage
15and hate. She said that if my ancestors came from Germany "three
16hundred years ago" it would make no difference, no one with a German
17name should come into her house, and poured forth a stream of abuse
18that was almost inconceivable. The worst was, that I was feeling so
19ill and worn out, that I dropped into a chair and burst out crying.
20It's the only time I've cried in two years. It seemed so contemptibly
21weak of me; but you know how you feel when you are utterly worn out
22mentally and physically! I could only say, "It isn't because you are
23so unkind to me, it's because all the world's so wicked."
24
25Oh Emily the worst of war is not the death on the battle fields; it is
26the meanness, the cowardice, the hatred it awakens. Where is the free
27England of our dreams, in which every British subject, whether Dutch,
28English, French or German in extraction, had an equal right and
29freedom? I wouldn't have come here if I had not thought one would not
30be free here from these petty attacks. What this war has shown me is
31not so much the wickedness as the meanness of human nature. War draws
32out all that is basest in the human heart. Perhaps I shall be able to
33get up to London before you leave.
34