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Letter ReferenceHRC/CAT/OS/1a-iv
ArchiveHarry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date8 April 1884
Address FromEdinburgh Hotel, St Leonards, East Sussex
Address To24 Thornsett Road, South Penge Park, London
Who ToHavelock Ellis
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 14-15; Rive 1987: 36-7; Draznin 1992: 42-4
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. The address this letter was sent to is provided by an associated envelope.
1Edinburgh Hotel
2April 8 / 84
3
4My dear Mr. Ellis
5
6It happens that the book I have been reading the last few days has
7been James Hinton’s “Life & Letters” I have loved the man
8him-self. I like to know that saying of his that you tell me of. In
9his feeling for woman he is like Jesus but like few other men. I have
10had a feeling while I have been reading the book that the writer,
11without meaning to be untrue is not quite showing the real man: your
12letter of this evening tells me that I was right. I look forward to
13seeing the book you talk of: will it be ready soon?
14
15Thank you for letting me see those sonnets. The first three express
16what has also been my experience; but sometimes I let the joy be
17overclouded by letting my own little personal life come in. Your
18sonnets & I think something in your letters help me. “Arabella” is
19a sweet little poem. & strikes one as being sincere. The last four
20lines I like better than the other ten. They are very strong.
21
22Thursday.
23
24I am not able to write very much at a time & could not finish my
25letter the other day. This morning I came across your Sonnet in
26“Today” “Sophia Perovskaia”. I am glad you feel sympathy with
27socialism.
28
29You ask me whether Spencer is to me what he was. If one has a broken
30leg & a doctor sets it; when once it is set one may be said to have no
31more need of the doctor, never the-less one always walks on his leg. I
32think that is how it is with ^regard to^ myself & Herbert Spencer. I
33have read all his works once, some three & four times, now I read him
34no more. He helped me to believe in a unity underlying all nature;
35that was a great thing, but he has nothing else to give me now.
36
37I have read Straus’s “Old Faith & New,” but that was lately. I
38suppose you have read his life of Jesus? It had a rather strange
39effect upon me; it made me love Jesus so much. I never cried over the
40crucifixion till I read Straus’s cold dispassionate criticism ^of^
41that poor loving human soul that had been so tender to other, left
42there to face death alone. I am glad those women went after him. I
43believe Mary Magdalene stood close to the cross where the blood of his
44feet dropped down on her.
45
46With regard to Nora. I think Ibsen does see the other side of the
47question, but in a book which is a work of art & not a mere
48philosophical dessertation it is not always possible to show all the
49sides. I have a sense of something wanting in the book, but I do not
50see how he could have supplied it. In the ideal condition for which we
51look men & women will walk close, hand in hand, but now the fight has
52often^est^ to be fought out alone by both. I think men suffer as much as
53women from the falseness of the relations. Helmer’s life lost as
54much as Nora’s did through the fact that they never lived really
55together.
56
57I have not got “Far from the madding crowd” yet; but I have been
58reading C. Brontë’s Villette. I think it splendid.
59
60Yours sincerely,
61Olive Schreiner
62
63We are having beautiful weather here. I went to Ecclesbourne Glen this
64afternoon & basked in the sun. Have you ever been there?
65
Notation
Ellis's sonnets were not published as a set until 1925, although some of them appeared contemporaneously in journals and magazines. 'Sophia Perovskaia' is in Ellis's Sonnets With Folk Songs. The books referred to are: Henrik Ibsen (1882) Nora (later A Doll’s House) (trans Henrietta Frances Lord) London: Giffith, Farran & Co; Thomas Hardy (1875) Far From the Madding Crowd London: Smith, Elder & Co; Havelock Ellis (1925) Sonnets With Folk Songs From the Spanish Waltham St Lawrence: Golden Cockerel Press; Ellice Hopkins (1878) Life and Letters of James Hinton London: Kegan Paul; David Strauss (1835-5) Life of Jesus (2 vols, trans George Eliot) London: Williams & Norgate; Ernest Renan (1864) Life of Jesus London: Trubner & Co; Charlotte Bronte (1853) Villette London: Smith, Elder & 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.