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Letter ReferenceHRC/CAT/OS/4b-x
ArchiveHarry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date25 July 1899
Address From2 Primrose Terrace, Berea, Johannesburg, Transvaal
Address To
Who ToHavelock Ellis
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 226-7; Rive 1987: 369-70; Draznin 1992: 477-8
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. This letter has been dated by reference to information written onto it by Ellis. Its first page has been torn away and is missing. Schreiner was resident in Johannesburg from December 1898 to late August 1899. Draznin’s (1992) version is in some respects different from our transcription. Rive’s (1987) version is taken from Cronwright-Schreiner. Cronwright-Schreiner’s (1924) long extract includes material from a different letter and is also incorrect in other ways.
1[page/s missing]
2
3full life is that which lives in past present & future; in the life of
4the intellect, of the emotions, of actual present labour.
5
6I quite understand that, it is quite right a man should say, “I cannot
7live all my life; I can only live part & select, the past, or a life
8of pure intellectual reflection; or the life of practical labour alone,
9 if I try to live more I shall not live at all.” I quite understand
10that a man should chose some tiny section of life & make that is all,
11& he may be quite wise & right in doing it. But that any intelligent
12man should not see the countless sides of life, should not wish he
13could live all, & should not that other men who have taken exactly the
14opposite part for their share, are just as right, that I can’t
15understand.
16
17If I had twelve lives one life I should be a mother devoting myself
18entirely ^the joy of^ to bearing rearing & suckling my ^14^ children, one
19life I might devote to study of the past, one to labouring in the
20present for the future, one mainly to science another mainly to travel,
21 & so on. Now I’ve only one life, & try to satisfy that illimitable
22craving to live all lives ^I have always had ever since I could
23remember^ as far as I can in a small way, to sol living all round. I am
24not so narrow as to think other men must do it because I do. Darwin
25sacrificing all life & its possibilities to life in one narrow
26direction was right, so was Goethe right living all, so was Plato when
27he fought, governed wrote thought, & dreamed: so when Jesus when he
28preached his one living doctrine of love, & Buddha when he dreamed
29under his Bo tree. There is one glory of the moon & another of the
30stars, & each star differeth from another in glory.
31
32As to Luther having saved the church, (I suppose you mean the Catholic
33church,) the unreadable ?woman or Jesus having made hypocrates, that
34you intend as a joke. It is not given to any mortal man to make &
35unmake such a thing a church or a hypocrate. Hypocrates & churches
36there will be till after countless ages human nature changes. What a
37man may do each soul is excert a tiny influence in the direction good
38& beautiful to him: & then he dies peaceful, having attained his end,
39whether it he making fairer one soul, making one impulse of tenderness
40& love in another soul, painting a picture, discovering a beautiful
41sequence in events, in & realizing the reason in the nature of the
42universe, & showing it to others, as all true scientific discoverors do.
43
44I can’t understand your stand point in a man who if old in the days I
45first met you seemed one of the broadest least walled in souls I ever
46met. I shall never be a mathematician, nor a man of science making
47vast discoveries, nor a great leader of the people bound to them in
48love & sympathy & giving them voice, I shall never be the mother of
49ten children, creating them and feeling their dear soft hands on me; I
50shall never find out if I have the power for music I have always felt
51I have, shall never know if that craving to paint I have had since I
52was a little child was the craving of power, in my poor little handful
53of life, which consists now mainly of cooking & house cleaning, I
54shall know few things, I am only a broken and untried possibility –
55but this I have that I can sympathize with all the lives with all the
56endeavours, with all the accomplished works; even with all the work
57attempted & not accomplished of other men. I love nature, & I love men;
58 I love music & I love science; I love poetry & I love practical
59labour: I like to make a good pudding & see people eating it; & I like
60to write a book M that makes their life fuller. I can do very little
61and have never been so situated that I could do my best – but I can
62live all the lives in my love & sympathy!
63
64I can sympathise with the man who spends all his life in collecting &
65cataloguing sea weeds; or who is merely a reader & critic of other
66men’s book, or lives in some other tiny corner of life – but I cannot
67understand the man who says my corner is the world, ^or^ your corner is
68the world. I love Plato & I love Aristotal too, I thank the gods for
69them the ?lived the beautiful lives & did the beautiful work I can
70only live & do through sympathy with them. All that is sad is that
71life is short & one can live so little of it beauty oneself.
72
73Please tell me just what Ediths heart exercises are. If you can me a
74cheap book explaining them please get one ^it^ me, & I will send you the
75money. If you have one you could lend me I will return it.
76
77It’s a curious solitary life I live here; seldom speaking or seeing a
78humanbeing. Cron goes out at eight in the morning, & when he comes
79back at seven, he sit and reads after dinner. I have never led
80
81^such a solitary life because when I was a girl I had nature & in
82Europe I had friends^
83
84Olive
85