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Letter ReferenceOlive Schreiner: S.C. Cronwright-Schreiner SMD/30/34/e
ArchiveNational English Literary Museum, Grahamstown
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter DateTuesday 11 May 1920
Address From9 Porchester Place, Edgware Road, Westminster, London
Address To
Who ToS.C. ('Cron') Cronwright-Schreiner
Other Versions
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 has been written on this letter in an unknown hand. Schreiner was resident at Porchester Place from early April 1917 until August 1920, when she left Britain for South Africa. The start of the letter is missing. The bottom half of the final sheet has been cut away, following the paragraph ending 'she has nothing to do.', with 'on earth' on the reverse of the letter, and Schreiner signing off along the margin.
1[page/s missing]
5 or as long as you want it you are sure of that small room, & lots of
6room to store your luggage but it would be too small to keep on in You
7don't know how difficult it is to get quarters now. I can't take rooms
8now as you might not be able to sail. But I must find out when the
9Saxon is expected & if necessary take your rooms a couple of days
10before you land rather than lose them.
12Tuesday evening
14 My own pal, there is something I want to say to you. I am very ill & I
15want to say it before I die. I couldn't die without having said it.
17 I have never thought that you loved Mrs Philpot or that she loved you.
18The things that made me feel it hard to meet her were not anything she
19had done - it was the things she said about me. Her kindness to you &
20her friendship for you have been the one thing that has drawn me to
21her. The first thing Sir Bryan Donkin said about her before he
22introduced me to her & Dr Philpot was that I must be careful with her:
23that she had caused a great deal of sorrow & pain by her talking. & I
24have always careful never to say anything to her she could repeat. I
25think some people cannot help dis-cussing other people's affairs. &
26they don't realize that you can stab another human life deeper by
27words, than by any steel weapon. Perhaps I have minded things too much
28- now as the end comes I only want to feel kindly to every one &
29remember what was good & beautiful in them - let all the rest go. If
30there were only one woman in the world & that woman Mrs Philpot I
31should never have dreamed you were in love with her. I have never
32thought she was a passionate or by any possibility an immoral woman,
33but what she can't help doing is dis-cussing other people & their
34affairs with which she has nothing to do.
36 [bottom half of page torn off]
38on earth may not understand. Can you understand, dear one.
40 I hope so much I will be better when you come. I am such a miserable
41old wreck I don't want to make you sad
43[bottom half of page torn off]
45 ^Own Pal Your Olive.^
This letter is a response to one from Cronwright-Schreiner, a copy of which, made by him, is also been archived in the NELM collections (SMD30 34 d (ii)) as follows:

Copy of a letter from Cape Town to Olive, dated 2nd April 1920. (Carbon to M. 5.1.21)

I had decided to write to you on one or two matters and meant to do so this week or next, but I am, in a way, glad my departure has been delayed somewhat, as that will give you time to answer this if you wish to.

I propose to take a modest room somewhere in London, at which I shall sleep & perhaps breakfast, after which I shall join you for the day. I shall take my other meals wherever I happen to find myself. This is what is in my mind, but I shall have to see how it works.

Before I left De Aar for Johannesburg I re-read the correspondence between us before you left for England. (I have your original letters and copies of mine to you.). I again grew so angry that I almost decided to cancel my trip to England, but although I was then on the point of breaking down by reason of my prolonged, unceasing & monotonous work and almost complete solitude, and although I was nearly as enraged as I had been when I received them your preposterous letter about Mrs Philpot, I refrained from so deciding, because I should not have altered a decision so come to, although it might have meant our severance for ever, & because I love & revere you and desire, as far as I can, to aid you. You may remember I then wrote that, if you ever sent me such a letter again about Mrs Philpot or any other woman, the result would be disastrous. I meant it then & I mean it now, and I wish to add that the result will be equally disastrous whether you so address me again whether in writing or verbally. Long ago, after I found that in all things, it was quite useless to try to explain ^put you right about myself,^ I told you I would never again explain or excuse or justify myself, no matter what you thought about me. As you know, I have not swerved from that decision, & I shall not do so. I am quite determined to suffer no more persecution at your hands, especially about women. You do not base your attitude reasonably on facts; you build up something fantastic from your inner consciousness, which may & often has no relationship whatever to essential facts; this then becomes real to you. Mrs Philpot is only one & perhaps the most innocent (if there be degrees of innocence) of the women about whom you have persecuted me. You may attack me once more; if so, I shall not 'explain' & I have never retaliated), but it will never occur again. I write this now, because I shall of course see the Philpots in London & possibly stay a few days with them, & because you may suddenly & unreasonably get some absurd obsession about some other woman whom I have never even met. But I warn you particularly about Mrs Philpot. I have told her (I did so long ago) that you had written me a letter about her & that, in my opinion, she should in consequence refuse to meet you, I have of course not shown her the mad letter nor given her details, but I should do her an injustice if I did not mention you had written me a letter of such a nature that, if she knew its contents, she would refuse to meet you. If you don't wish me to come over, please say so at once.


This draft letter is in SCCS's handwriting, and is a later version of another draft (archived as SMD 30 34 d (i)). Written on the back of its second sheet in ink is 'Very private (copy) To Olive 2nd April 1920'. Added in pencil and also on the back is 'Dear M., of course for you to read & Keep. I think you have it already, but am making sure. S.C.C.S.' On the back of the first sheet has been added in pencil 'I stayed with Olive during the time we were together in England (that is from my arrival till she sailed) at 9 Porchester Place, W.2. S.C.C.S.' The later draft in SMD 30 34 d (i) differs in a number of small ways from this version. Schreiner's letter to SCCS of 11 May 1920 is a response. Cronwright-Schreiner made the various drafts as part of a set of information he sent to his brother Morthland, a lawyer, on which he commented to him as follows (SMD 30 34 f):

(usual address)
London, 5.1.21
M.C. Cronwright, Esq.
P.O. Box 4615 Johannesburg, S. Africa

My dear Morthland,

I find I can post up to tomorrow evening. I am therefore sending you with this a carbon copy (made at the time (Cape Town, 2nd April 1920)) of a letter I wrote to Olive on that date - at least, of a portion of such letter, beginning p.3; the other two pages had no reference whatever to the matter, or to any other matter of importance, and were not copied. I am now making another copy to keep for myself. Please put this letter (the one I am now writing to you) & my letter to Olive (which I am enclosing) among my papers.

A little time after Olive received this letter she wrote to me a note which I received in Cape Town (Rosebank) & have there yet. (I don't think I brought it over but have no time to search now.). The purport of her letter was to this effect - She did not think she'd live long & she did not want to leave me under a wrong impression as to what she meant. She said that she did not mean there was anything between Mrs Philpot & myself; she had never thought Mrs Philpot had lovers or had been unfaithful to her husband. Mrs Philpot, she said, had talked about her, has 'said something' about her.

That was all. She did not say what she believed ^heard Mrs Philpot has said about her. I did not see much of the Philpots while Olive was here; I refrained from doing so. The first time I went to afternoon tea I told Olive I was going, when she said quite pleasantly 'If they ask you to dinner, stay & have a good meal.' I said I had no intention to going to dinner. The last 10 days or more I did not even see the Philpots, &, for the rest, I hardly ever met them or ever and was rarely at their house. I and ^did not have any meals there. I^ made no secret of any movements - why should I? Olive was very nice about it all & I was quite natural of course. ---- I have been at some pains to find out what it was that so hurt Olive. (I think her letter is open to another construction, but I may be wrong: it was written obviously under great stress, & Olive should not be taken quite literally, speaking or writing, when in that state. Alas, alas!) From what I can gather, Albert Cartwright, a silly fool who once edited the S. Africa News, told a Mrs Unwin here that Olive was an impossible woman & that neither I nor anyone else (I think he said) could live with her. Mrs Unwin repeated this cruel thing = to Mrs Philpot among others; but Mrs Philpot, who has an immense opinion of Olive & to whom, she says, Olive was for many years an inspiration, assures me solemnly that she never repeated it. I do not know what Olive had to go on & I express no opinion on Mrs Philpot's assertion, nor do I know who carried so cruel a thing back to Olive.

SC Cronwright-Schreiner