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Letter ReferenceOlive Schreiner BC16/Box3/Fold1/1902/34
ArchiveUniversity of Cape Town, Manuscripts & Archives, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date24 December 1902
Address FromHanover, Northern Cape
Address ToThe Highlands, Gardens, Cape Town, Western Cape
Who ToHenrietta ('Ettie') Schreiner m. Stakesby Lewis (1891)
Other Versions
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
Legend
The Project is grateful to Manuscripts and Archives, University of Cape Town, for kindly allowing us to transcribe this Olive Schreiner letter, which is part of its Manuscripts and Archives Collections. The address this letter was sent to is provided by an attached envelope.
1 Hanover
2 Dec 24th 1902
3
4 My own darling
5
6 I am so glad Effie has got that house so near to you. Not only for her
7sweet little sake but for yours. You would always have been going over
8to the other side of the town to see her & it would have tired you so
9much, & the dear old body has as much as it can bear now.
10
11 // Do you know, dear, something so beautiful has happened to me. For
12the last five or six years my heart has been all drying up. Not
13getting hard & bitter not quite that, but withering In stead of the
14bitterness & darkness making it expand & grow, it has shrivelled till
15I hadn’t life enough for myself & none for anyone else. Lately it
16has seemed to me that either help must come to me from somewhere or
17death must come, that I couldn’t bear any more.
18
19 Well the other week I don’t know what made me do it, but I felt I
20must write & order a certain book for myself. I never order books I
21haven’t bought one for myself for over fifteen years, because it
22seems one must spend money on oneself. I had heard it was an
23interesting book about Burma & the people there, & so I sent for it.
24It came four days ago & I have read it. Oh Ettie, it is so sweet, so
25beautiful! It has been to me like rain falling on a dry parched soil,
26breaking it up that the seeds in it can live again. Nothing I have
27ever read has been so beautiful to me, nothing has come into my life
28ever before that has been to me what this book is.
29
30 Perhaps you would wonder if you read it, each soul has its own needs &
31the things that come near to it & cannot touch others. It brings me
32nothing new; nothing I could not have written myself almost; but it
33brings me back myself! It is as though another hand went to your own
34well & drew water from it & put it to your lips & said "here, drink it,
35" & it saved you from dying.
36
37 ^My darling,^ I am sending you a copy of the book – not because I
38think it will help you or that you will even like it, perhaps you will
39not even be able to read it. But I send it that you will love it
40because it has helped me so when I was in such terrible need, just as
41I might love a copy of Parkers Sermons or a book of hymns that were
42very precious to you though they were nothing to me
43
44 The beautiful & lovely speaks to each soul in the language it
45understands. To a Salvation lass it may speak through that terrible
46?drone & the hymns ^tunes^ that seem so ?beautiful to others; to one man
47through the little child he loves, to one through philosophy, to
48another through science – it can only be to each one in the language
49he understands.
50
51 But oh Ettie it has been so sweet to me. I have cried so for some
52human thing to come & love me & help me, besides my little animals; &
53now the help has come, though it is n’t a human being but only a
54book.
55
56 Good bye, my darling.
57 Your Olive
58
59 Oh Ettie I have longed so to die during the last years, & now it seems
60to me I am quite willing to go on living a little longer if it must be.
61
62 ^Tomorrow will be Xmas Day, the last Xmas with your little Effie at
63home, but she will be near you next year dear still dear one.^
64
Notation
Books of sermons were published by Edward, Henry, Joseph and Theodore Parker, all of them likely to attract Ettie Stakesby-Lewis's attention, so which particular Parker Schreiner is referring to cannot be established. The book Schreiner sent to Ettie was Harold Fielding Hall (1898) The Soul of a People London: R. Bentley & Son.