Letters of Olive Shreiner

To Havelock Ellis

4th Nov., 1890

The pain in my stomach that I used to get when I had to eat before people was really asthma in the stomach, caused by the terrible excitement of my heart from nervousness and misery. I have an interesting letter from that Miss A. P. – I told you of who suffered even more than I did. She has described all I suffered. you know, also suffered in the same way, and Eleanor Marx I know, did. I am writing to ask her about it; I think she will speak frankly of it. But now here comes an interesting fact. A– P–'s sister is the most terrible sufferer from asthma that I ever saw in Europe, and Eleanor's sister, Jenny, suffered from her earliest childhood till the day of her death from asthma. I think I have often told you of the curious relation I found between that convulsive feeling in the stomach and the asthma. I will send you all the letters I get from women about it. I will write to Eleanor and if she takes it in the same spirit as the others she will give you her experience. Then you might use all our experiences to write a valuable article in some medical journal. I do not say opium [really morphia] absolutely cures, but for the first two months I was in this country I was very bad, though the weather was perfect. I then had the doctor who injected 1/4 grain, and for eight months I never had an attack. For the last month I have been bad. Three days after the last injection I climbed Signal Hill. Of course doctors often tried morphia, at least twice before I came to England, but it caused terrible vomiting, the 1/2 gr. makes me vomit for twenty-four hours after it is injected but not nearly so much. Will you try it if you have any asthma cases like mine? It doesn't make me sleep. I lie awake for hours after it, and then fall into a light natural doze. You must remember that when I lived in Africa before I went to England I had more attacks of asthma, pure and simple, than I ever had in England, though I was stronger generally....I'm doing such beautiful work. This life is so peaceful. I'm happy, like when I was living on those farms, writing An African Farm. I feel just the same. Life is so precious to me. You know I think in this book I will say what I want to say. I mean I've sometimes felt as if I couldn't make this book say everything I want to say as An African Farm said what I wanted to say then. But it will! All that is in that "Sunlight Lay " is in it, only simply in an objective form–the first, second, and third heaven. I send you an African rose. Dear Harry, I'm loving you so. I'm always keeping my eyes open and hoping I will see some good chance that will bring you here. I would like to show you Africa, my Africa. It's not a bit like Australia, so wonderful with its mixture of races and peoples, and its marvellous diversity of natural scenery. I'm glad I wasn't born in any other land on earth.