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Letter ReferenceHRC/CAT/OS/1a-iii
ArchiveHarry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date28 March 1884
Address FromEdinburgh Hotel, St Leonards, East Sussex
Address To24 Thornsett Road, South Penge Park, London
Who ToHavelock Ellis
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 14; Rive 1987: 35-6; Draznin 1992: 38-40
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
The Project is grateful to the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, the University of Texas at Austin, for kindly allowing us to transcribe this Olive Schreiner letter, which is part of its Manuscript Collections. The address this letter was sent to is provided by an associated envelope.
1Edinburgh Hotel
2March 28 / 84
4My dear Mr. Ellis,
6I have just finished reading your article in the Westminster, & I have
7read “A pair of blue eyes.” I think your criticism very adequate &
8just. I shall read “Far from the madding crowd” & then I shall
9better be able to make up my mind as to whether I like Hardy much or
10not. Now I hardly know – there seems to me a certain shallowness &
11un-real-ness about his work – no, that’s putting it too strongly;
12it seems to me as though he was only fingering his characters with his
13hands, not pressing them up against him till he felt their hearts beat.
15Thank you for your letter. I liked the last sheet about your
16Australian life. Yes, our African sky gives one the same sense of
17perfect freedom & wild exhilaration; sometimes one feels as though,
18for no reason that could be given, one were almost in an ecstasy of
19happiness when one goes out alone. Here one never is alone.
21The book that the Stranger gives to Waldo was intended to be
22Spencer’s “First Principles.” When I was up in Basuto Land with
23an old Aunt & cousin, one stormy, rainy night, there was a knock at
24the door; they were afraid to go & open it so I went. There was a
25stranger there like Waldos Stranger exactly. There was no house within
26fifty miles so he slept there: the next morning he talked with me for
27a little while & after that I saw him twice for half an hour: & then I
28never saw him again. He lent me Spencer’s “First Principles.” I
29always think that when Christianity burst on the dark Roman world it
30was ?about what that book was to me. I was in such complete, blank
31atheism. I did not even believe in my own nature, in any right or
32wrong, or certainty. I can still feel myself lying before the fire to
33read it. I had only three days. I always hoped I should see him again
34some day & tell him how he had an had helped me - Just after I had
35written that part of the story where he comes in I heard that he had
36killed himself. I am not sorry he did it if life was too sore for him;
37but I cannot bear to think of all he suffered before he did it; – &
38he helped me so. I always feel as though his grave was^ere^ one of my
41If you write any other articles for reviews & do not mind telling me
42^of them,^ I should be glad; it would interest me to read them very much.
44Have you read a little play called “Nora” by Ibsen, translated
45from the Swedish by my Frances Lord?? It is a most wonderful little
46work. I should like it to be reviewed by some able reviewer that it
47might be more widely read, but perhaps you would not like it. It shows
48some sides of woman’s nature that are not often spoken of, & that
49some people do not believe exist – but they do. I think
51Yours sincerely
52Olive Schreiner
54^It is very funny that in the book that I am revising now there is one
55character who reminds me somewhat of Knight in his relation to Elfride.
56 The likeness is not strong, still it is there. He is a man who when
57the woman he loves confesses to him turns away from her; but my woman
58tells him that which he could never have known if she had not told him^
60^& he yet turns away from her.^
Ellis's article is: Havelock Ellis (1883) 'Thomas Hardy's Novels' Westminster Review no.119, 1883: 334-64. The Stranger and Waldo appear in The Story of An African Farm. The character in 'the book I am now revising' is Bertie in From Man to Man. The Knight and Elfride reference is to Hardy's Pair of Blue Eyes. The books referred to are: Thomas Hardy (1877) A Pair of Blue Eyes London: Henry King; Thomas Hardy (1875) Far From the Madding Crowd London: Smith, Elder & Co; Herbert Spencer (1862) First Principles London: Williams & Norgate; Henrik Ibsen (1882) Nora (later A Doll’s House) (trans Henrietta Frances Lord) London: Giffith, Farran & Co. Draznin's (1992) version of this letter is in some respects different from our transcription. Rive's (1987) version omits part of the letter and is in a number of other respects incorrect. Cronwright-Schreiner's (1924) version is incorrect in major ways.