Letters of Olive Shreiner

To Havelock Ellis

De Aar,
Sunday morning, 1912

It is terribly painful to look through the English Review. All the failure of the English in the Boer War, all their decadence, is written here–it's terrible. I've just been re-reading Jane Austen's books–and then to turn to that! It's like turning from Homer and Plato and Aristotle and Euripides and the great Roman historians like Tacitus to the dying classical world. You know three-fourths of it isn't even sense! Words have ceased for these debilitated men and women to be the external form in which deep thoughts and intense feelings or clear calm perceptions were forced to clothe themselves that they might become tangible to other minds. They are an end in themselves so many words so much pay, so much inversion of language so much originality–where there is none in the writers mind. It makes one feel sick and faint.

The only thing they seem to like to write about much is madness. Now madness is easy to write about–because most people who read are sane, so that they cannot prove what is written about madness is false. The verse is too loathsome for any words. There's one tine little story, full of nature and strength, though the subject is repulsive– Second Best, by D. H. Lawrence.