"Will Schreiner's political duty, difficulty of finding path of duty,' Peter Halket' & lay aside ambition" Read the full letter
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Letter ReferenceLetters/574
Epistolary Type
Letter Date1916
Address FromLondon
Address To
Who ToAdela Villiers Smith nee Villiers
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 356-7
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.
2London, late 1916.
4... I'm determined whatever this war does it shall never divide
5between me and anyone I love, from my side. The great thing, when you
6differ in abstract matters from anyone you love, is never to speak of
7that matter. Great is silence. I don't mind a bit being alone now. I
8did last year but now I don't. I don't even wish to see and talk to
9people. I love to see the dear folk walking in the streets, but I know
10how divided we are in thought and outlook in life; I don't want to get
11off the top of my omnibus and talk to them and be among them as I did
12last year. It's not bodily contact or speaking that brings people
13together. The nearer you are in that way the more lonely you are, if
14your spirits are walking on different roads. I met a woman the other
15day whom I'd not seen for a long time and the first thing she said to
16me was, “Aren't you glad to hear the Kaiser's got cancer?" Now what
17could I say? I've had much too much physical suffering to rejoice in
18the suffering of any sentient creature; if a lion had torn my arm off
19I wouldn't want it to have cancer. There would be its physical
20suffering added to my physical suffering, to make the terrible sum
21total of suffering bigger! I think I can understand most things in
22human nature, but delight in human suffering (or animal) I cannot