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Letter ReferenceHRC/CAT/OS/1b-ii
ArchiveHarry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter DateFriday 11 July 1884
Address FromBolehill, Wirksworth, Derbyshire
Address To24 Thornsett Road, South Penge Park, London
Who ToHavelock Ellis
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 28-9; Rive 1987: 45-6; Draznin 1992: 90-2
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. This letter has been dated by reference to an associated envelope and its postmark, which also provides the address it was sent to. Schreiner stayed at Bolehill near Wirksworth from early to late July 1884, moved to Buxton for about ten days, and then returned to Bole Hill from mid August to early September 1884.
1Friday Night
3I do feel better today. I have been sleeping ever since I got here, &
4yet not fast asleep.
6Henry, I am so depressed thinking of my work. You see, dear one, I
7have so cut up & changed the thing that there is hardly anything left
8& I don’t know how to put it together. This afternoon I nearly got
9off the sofa, & burnt the whole MS. I would give hundreds of pounds if
10I had never touched it, & published it just as it was [bottom half of
11page torn off]
13splendid scenes.
15We won’t think about that any more.
17This place is so beautiful. Behind the house is a place called
18“Black Rocks.” I am going to take you to it when you come. You
19will like it so. I do like this Derbyshire so much. I will be so happy
20if I can get well here & work. I is just the place that seems made for
21me. I have such a beautiful bedroom up stairs with a great white bed &
22a top with little brown flowers on it. If you & I were [bottom half of
23page torn off]
25right. The people were real in the novel; but they are not real in
26that epitomy.
28Dr. Aveling & Miss Marx are coming up to Middleton next week. That is
29about a mile & a half from this I can see the house on the top of the
30next hill. Alfred St Johnston is coming to visit too. At least he has
31written to ask if he can. He is at Birmingham.
33My heart is heavy over my work. It is heavy because I am in
34uncertainty, & nothing has the same evil effect on my nature as
35uncertainty. The question in my mind is this. – Is it best to set my
36teeth together & to bring “From man to man”, up to my standard, or
37to leave it & throw myself onto new-work? The last would be easiest I
38could do splendid new work, but something in me a kind of love for my
39work that perhaps no one can understand makes me feel that I must
40labour on at my work till I am satisfied. I think it was the devil
41made me unpick it. Ach, I will set my teeth, & work at it & make it
42something better than it was, eh Henry. I can’t have Bertie &
43Rebekah die. They are as much to me as ever Waldo or Lyndall were. You
44don’t know how real my people are to me.
46I am covering this with blots. I am tired I think that’s why. I will
47have your diary perhaps tomorrow
51It is much later I am just going up to bed. What a troubled foolish
52letter the first part of this is. I am ashamed, not that you should
53read it but that I should feel so. Not good work is ever done while
54the heart is hot & anxious & fretted.
56It is a great comfort to me that you are feeling so able to work & are
57working. I sort of take it for my work & feel satisfied by it. You
58know Henry all these months when I have been in such suffering, & have
59had that yearing to do something for others that I feel when I am in
60pain I have always built upon the fact, “From man to man” will
61help other people, it will help to make men more tender to women
62because they will understand them better; it will help to make some
63women more tender to others; it will comfort some women but showing
64them that others have felt as they do,” Now if I were to tell it
65fall to the ground I should feel that so much of my life had been
66wasted, gone for nothing. Do you long so too sometimes to lessen the
67pain & suffering in ^the^ world? Especially the greatest agony, despair.
68That feeling is always growing in me & sometimes it breaks over me in
69a wave of passion. It isn’t for happiness or good to myself, or to
70make others merry, it is to lessen the suffering of others that I have
71to live. It is for this that I have lead the life that I have, that
72now when the power of self-feeling is almost worn out in me, I should
73comfort others.
75Good night. This is a poor letter but you want me to write just as it
76comes. Your, Olive
78Love to Louie & ask her if she hasn’t got one of her likenesses to
79spare for me
'The thing' that Schreiner had 'cut up & changed' and 'nearly burned' is the manuscript of From Man to Man. Draznin's (1992) version of this letter is different in some respects 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) extract is incorrect in various ways.