"Coming war, fighting now?" Read the full letter
Collection Summary | View All |  Arrange By:
< Prev |
Viewing Item
of 586 | Next >
Letter ReferenceHRC/CAT/OS/4b-xiii
ArchiveHarry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter DateTuesday 14 May 1890
Address FromMatjesfontein, Western Cape
Address To
Who ToHavelock Ellis
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 186-7, 187; Rive 1987: 172, 172-3; Draznin 1992: 462-4
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
Legend
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.
1Matjesfontein
2Tues day May 14 / 90.
3
4I got up as soon as the girl brought me my tea & had my bath in the
5little backroom, & then went over to breakfast at the station. After
6breakfast the train came. There were no letters for me, only a bottle
7of nitrate of Iron & quinine I’d sent for to Cape Town. Then I wen
8came back. It is bitterly cold today & dark snow clouds lying all over
9the hills. I walked up & down a little to try & keep warm, & then I
10began to think how unkind my brother’s wife & her relations had been
11to me in Cape Town, & how wicked & mean & jealous women are. And then
12I thought how wicked I was to think about other people’s actions
13towards me & I calmed myself & sat down & wrote to Mrs. Fuller the
14wife of a Member of Parliament in this country. They are very nice
15people the only people I’ve ever felt a bit near to in this country or
16been able to love at all. Oh Havelock I have tried so to like the
17people here, you don’t know how terrible they are! Fancy a whole
18nation of lower middle class people. I am sure they are quite
19different in Australia. I am reading Dilke’s Greater Brittan. It’s
20very interesting comparing all the colonies. There’s a lot about
21Australia. Now you see how wicked & uninteresting my journal is when I
22try to keep one. Afterwards I’ll go out in the veldt & look at the
23Karroo plants in spite of the cold.
24
25Evening. I am sitting in my large new room. I went out this afternoon
26& saw the little Karroo plants, & I laid down on a big flat rock in
27the dry sluit, & looked at the sky & the bushes, and when I was
28climbing among the rocks I saw three “korans” big birds that make a
29loud noise. I am so depressed, I can’t understand it. Some how I I’ll
30tell you some day lots of little things that take too long to write. I
31am going over now to Mr. Logan’s house. I wish I had some times a book
32to read or that the sun would shine again, but there is four months of
33cold & winter yet.
34
35Thursday.
36
37I went for a ride on hoseback this morning. It was so splendid.
38There’s nothing in the world quite like riding.
39
40I am going to begin scribbling not. It’s almost Sunset. I’ve not done
41anything yet.
42
43Friday Night. I got a very nice letter from my sister-in-law this
44evening. It’s very funny how Nature always repeats itself. Women are
45always jealous of me then afterwards (when it’s too late) they get
46sorry. It’s late at night I’m sitting in my big square empty room.
47I’ve got a tiny fire burning, coals are too expensive here to have big
48fire, £5 a ton.
49
50My future movements are quite uncertain. I only see that for the
51present I must remain here & work. I wonder if my work is very good &
52great or not. I do it in a kind of dream & I don’t know why but I know
53it’s all true that I write, but I think what I write seems to become
54less & popular. I mean fewer people will understand it. Did I tell you
55that I’d at last dis-covered Wordsworth. I knew I should some day, & I have.
56
57No one understands your New Spirit here. They are simply horrified. As
58for my allegory, they are silent to my face, & behind my back say I am.
59 It is very curious to be absolutely isolated as one is in this
60country, but perhaps it is good. If you fall in love will you write &
61tell me about it? I’ve told you all about my life. I should like to
62get married now. It’s very curious but I could now. It wouldn’t
63impinge on my individuality too much. No one could reach me now. You
64know what I mean. I know I shan’t marry, but now for the first time in
65my life I feel that I could marry; but I have also given up the
66thought of ever finding a human being I could so love & look up to
67that I could marry them. Now that I expect so little from any personal
68relation or from marriage whether of mind & body, I could marry safely,
69 there would be no disappointment. Do you ever wish you had some one
70to love you completely still? I don’t go
71
72I am sitting here expecting the English mall to come in, but I don’t
73think there will be any letters for me. One of the clerks said he
74would bring them if there were.
75
76I am getting so pretty again you wouldn’t know me! My complexion is so
77beautiful like it used to be when I was a young girl. I don’t look
78more than 20, that’s what all the people here think I am till I tell
79them! I expect they will pitch very much into the second part of my
80allegory; but more would my book.
81
82^How long are you going to stay in Paris, for good?^
83
84^Saturday. I got your letter, read it a lot of times, you must write more.^
85
Notation
On the back of the first sheet, Schreiner has started and then crossed out a letter to a Mrs Fuller, as follows:

‘Matjesfontein
Tuesday
My dear Mrs Fuller
I send back the papers with many thanks. I don’t think I shall come down to Town till August’.

On the bottom of the second sheet there is the excised start of another letter, ‘Matjesfontein May 9 / 90’.

The particular allegory Schreiner refers to cannot be established. The books referred to are: Charles Dilke (1868) Problems of Greater Britain London: Macmillan and Co; Havelock Ellis (1890) The New Spirit London: George Bell & Co. Draznin’s (1992) version of this letter is in some respects different from our transcription. The version in Rive (1987) is separated into two letters; both of these omit parts of the letter and are also in a number of respects incorrect. Cronwright-Schreiner’s (1924) extract is incorrect in various ways.