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Letter ReferenceOlive Schreiner: Havelock Ellis 2006.29/7
ArchiveNational English Literary Museum, Grahamstown
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter DateFriday 19 July 1884
Address FromBolehill, Wirksworth, Derbyshire
Address To24 Thornsett Road, South Penge Park, London
Who ToHavelock Ellis
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 33; Rive 1987: 47
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 its front. Schreiner stayed at Bolehill near Wirksworth from early to late July 1885, moved to Buxton for about ten days, and then returned to Bole Hill from mid August to early September 1884.
1 Friday
3 I thought I shouldn't to write to you today, but I find a kind of need.
5 Did you ever read that passage in Shelly's letters where he talks
6about genius (I think he repeats it from another book.) that Genius
7does not invent, it perceives
. I think that ^this^ is so won-derfully
8true & more true the more one looks at it. It agrees with the true
9fact that you noticed the other day, that men of genius are always
10childlike. A child sees everything, looks straight at it, examines it
11without any preconceived idea; most people after they are about eleven
12or twelve quiet lose this power, they see everything through a few
13pre-conceived ideas which hang like a veil between them & the outer
16 By the bye (this doesn't bear directly on that) did you ever do what I
17was fond of doing when I was a child, I used to call it "Looking at
18things really"? Look at your hand, for instance, make an effort of
19mind, & dis-associate from it every preconceived idea, for instance
20that it is your hand, that it is part of a human body, &c &c. Look at
21it simply as an object which strikes the eye; you will be surprised
22who how new, & strange, & funny it looks, as though you had never seen
23it before. It requires some effort of mind of course, & one can't do
24it if one is hurried & talking, it takes some time. I used to do it
25often in church to pass away the time. It can be done with the other
26senses too, of course. I have often done it with speaking. Listen to
27people talking as though you didn't understand what the words meant, &
or that the sound came from human voices. Listen to it just as
29a noise striking the ear. It is utterly different from what one
30fancies. This isn't very interesting though.
32 I have been reading my Emerson just now. You will do me great service
33if you help me to read French, it will open a whole new field of books
34to me.
36 Tomorrow at twelve I must walk down to Wirksworth to meet Mrs Walter
37at 1.We shall talk a great deal about Hinton. I mean to try & explain
38Hinton to her & make her ^understand him^. I don't think she sees him
39rightly. I will tell you what she says & ^what^ I say about it. How
40beautiful about your visit to Shields.
For Shelley's letters, see Percy Bysshe Shelley (1840) Essays, Letters From Abroad, Translations and Fragments London: Edward Moxon. 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 a range of respects.