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Letter ReferenceHRC/OliveSchreinerUncatLetters/OS-PhilipKent/8
ArchiveHarry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date After Start: Tuesday 13 May 1883 ; Before End: 30 May 1883
Address From5 Harrington Road, Kensington, London
Address To
Who ToPhilip Kent
Other Versions
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 other letters to Philip Kent which Schreiner wrote from Harrington Road about publishing matters.
15 Harrington Rd
2South Kensington
3Tuesday morning
4
5My dear Mr Kent
6
7According to your kind permission I send you the agreement. It seems
8so simple that even a “stupid African” can almost understand it;
9but I shall be very glad if you will look at it. I think Chapman has
10dealt generously with me on the whole: but if it hadn’t been for
11what you wrote to me, I would certainly have taken the £10 at first.
12
13I have never written in any review. At the time I wrote “An African
14Farm”, I had never seen a book of Uuida’s nor did I know there was
15such a person. The review in the “Pall Mall” only amused me. I
16felt the review in the “Saturday” very keenly; I don’t know what
17I cried, I think I was too much pained for that.
18
19When you are sending back the agreement will you please tell me
20whether you ever thought that Lyndall’s stranger, & Waldo’s
21stranger were one & the same person. Some one who has read the book
22has thought so. There must have been some very bad work-manship on my
23part which could cause to be confused two such utterly & diametrically
24opposed characters. I can not see where I have said a word to lead to
25such an idea; if I have I must try & alter it in this edition. It
26destroys the whole book.
27
28I am,
29Yours very sincerely
30Olive Schreiner
31
32I shall certainly stick to my “nom de plume”. Mr C-s idea is that
33if it were known as the work of a girl from the Cape it would ^be more^
34read & more gently received. That is just what I don’t want: It must
35stand on its own merits, & fall by its own faults.
36
Notation
Schreiner refers to the popular and prolific writer Ouida, but the particular book by her which was being compared with The Story of An African Farm (or vice versa) cannot be established. Lyndal and Waldo are characters in The African Farm. The reviews in the Pall Mall Gazette and the Saturday Review referred to include as follows:

Pall Mall Gazette 11 May 1883: "The story is a painful and a terrible one. It is the old tale of human misery flavoured with a modern pantheistic despair... The world may be hollow, and our doll may be stuffed with sawdust; but constant insistence upon these unpleasant facts does not tend to increase the greatest happiness of the greatest number, even in the worst of all possible worlds. In spite of all faults of matter or manner, however, "The Story of an African Farm" is certainly a remarkable and interesting book."

Saturday Review 21 April 1883: "The Story of an African Farm is clever, imaginative, original, and terribly dull. Yet it is only fair to say that the dullness is relative, or rather is the result of conscientious experiences during a comprehensive survey; for their are effective scenes and bright pieces of description which prove that Mr. Iron might be entertaining if he pleased. We own to a certain preliminary disappointment, for we fancied we should have a story of South African speculation and adventure on the borderland between savagery and civilization... so much for a novel which is a striking example of how a really clever and ingenious writer may overreach himself in ambitious efforts after originality."

Schreiner's non de plume was Ralph Iron, eventually abandoned in new editions.