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Letter ReferenceOlive Schreiner: Havelock Ellis 2006.29/13
ArchiveNational English Literary Museum, Grahamstown
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date6 April 1889
Address FromParis
Address To98 Earlsbrook Road, Earlswood, Surrey
Who ToHavelock Ellis
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 160-1; Rive 1987: 154
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
The Project is grateful to the National English Literary Museum (NELM) for kindly allowing us to transcribe this Olive Schreiner letter, which is part of its Manuscript Collections. The date of this letter is provided by the postmark on an attached envelope, with the address it was sent to on the front.
1 Paris
3 You quite intentionally misunderstand me in every thing, or, sometimes
4I think are we grown so wide apart that no understanding is possible
5between us. As the strongest personal feelings my nature has known are
6gloriously "funny" & "absurd" to you, & my ideas, which after all are
7my real life dearer much to me than any person or than my self simply
8bore you, so even such a common place remark as that in my letter to
9my brother you willfully misunderstand or can't understand. No human
10creature's ^feel feelings^ could possibly be further ^removed^ with
11respect to my artistic work - not of course the scientific - than mine
12from George Elliots. Her great desire was to teach, mine to express my
13self for my self & to my self alone The thought that hundreds of
14thousands will read my work does offend me & hinder me, not because I
15wish to teach them, but because terrible as it is to show them my work
16at all, the thought of throwing it to them to be trodden under foot is
17double desecrating of it. I'm almost beginning to hate my Prelude now
18because three or four people have looked at it. & if many more do I
19shall throw it into the fire. If you sermonized me on the wickedness
20of not caring & sharing my work with other people, you would be much
21nearer the truth.
23 The best stories & dreams I have had nothing would induce me to write
24at all because I couldn't bear one person to read them. As for its
25being a new development its a feeling that's rather growing weaker,
26because as a child if Will or anyone got hold of a scrap I'd written I
27tore up the whole thing at once. It was like a knife in my heart
28to-day when I saw an African Farm stuck up in a window. I get to loath
29it when I think of how many people have read it. Do you think I could
30write Bertie's death scene, do you think I could show all the inmost
31working of Rebekah's heart if, I realized that anyone would ever read it.
33 If God were to put me alone on a star & say I & the star should be
34born up at last & nothing be left, I should make stories all the time
35just the same. Its not that I want my story to be worthy of the people,
36 but that I can't bear to desecrate the thing I love by showing it to
37them in a form they can't understand. I can't tell you how sorry I am
38I showed a Ruined Chapel to any one; it's so beautiful to me & no one
39understands it. ^I'm going to print a little allegory in next
40Fortnightly. But I don't want to hear what ^^any^^ one thinks of it. I
41know what I know.^
43 //I am wonderfully better since I have made up my mind to come to
44England. It was that, I feel now; that I was really wanting: & the
45strain of resisting it that made me so tired.
47 I go to the ?Valls every day. I'm quite "the oldest inhabitant". Nelly
is lovely. After Alice Corthorn she's the most "native to me"
49girl I know. She's very like Alice, only she's artistic instead of
50scientific. When I'm in England I'm going to write her to come & stay
51with me, & you'll see how nice she is. I've not quite made up my mind
52about hospital. ^I'll see when I come.^
54 //No, I'm not going to buy shoes & stockings. I've plenty with those
55two pairs & I've had mine my old boots resoled. There's not any hurry
56with the other money. A I've plenty now. It rains here every day. I've
57been once to the Louvre but not anywhere else.
59 Goodbye.
60 Olive
62 I've got a letter ^from Mrs Cobb^
64 ^Allice will send you Mrs Robert's letter. I'll leave this open till
65tomorrow so that I can put Mrs Rob Roberts's answer in, as to whether
66he has the rooms or not.^
The 'Prelude' that Schreiner refers to is in From Man to Man and Bertie and Rebekah are characters in this novel. The 'little allegory' was in fact not published in the Fortnightly Review because of its length. See "The sunlight lay across my bed: Part I - Hell" New Review Vol 1, no 11, April 1890, pp.300-309; and "The sunlight lay across my bed: Part II - Heaven", New Review Vol 1, no 12, May 1890, pp.423-431. "In a Ruined Chapel" was published in Dreams. Rive's version of this letter has been misdated, omits part of the letter, and is also in a number of respects incorrect. Cronwright-Schreiner's (1924) version is incorrect in various respects.