My Other Self: The Letters of Olive Schreiner and Havelock Ellis, 1884-1920

My Other Self: The Letters of Olive Schreiner and Havelock Ellis, 1884-1920

My Other Self: The Letters of Olive Schreiner and Havelock Ellis, 1884-1920

My Other Self: The Letters of Olive Schreiner and Havelock Ellis, 1884-1920

Excerpt

The genesis and evolution of every completed publishing project are apt to be somewhat convoluted, even more so for an academic work that has taken decades rather than years to complete. Yet every stage in the evolution appears, in retrospect, both necessary and inevitable, involving countless persons whose contributions at the time proved crucial to the final outcome. This Olive Schreiner/Havelock Ellis (OS/HE) letter- edition is a classic case in point.

My first encounter with the OS/HE correspondence, housed in the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (HRHRC) at the University of Texas in Austin, began before my academic career did. In 1979, having received an American Association of University Women's nonacademic R&P grant (to older women interested in career enhancement), I indulged an early interest in the feminist Olive Schreiner with thoughts of expanding my languishing freelance writing career into mainline nonfiction, by traveling to the Texas archives to research a biography. There I became absorbed in original manuscript research for the first time and became enamored with Olive Schreiner. For help in this early research period, I wish to acknowledge the extensive assistance I received from Betty McGinnis Fradkin (now Tetlow), who shared with me much of her original research, accumulated on trips to England and South Africa, for a Schreiner biography she herself had contemplated. I also want to thank Prof. D. Ridley Beeton, of the University of South Africa at Pretoria, one of the early Schreiner scholars and an appreciator of her substantial influence in South Africa; our correspondence and personal exchanges gave me an enlightened perspective on this remarkable woman. My thanks also to Margaret Cartwright, librarian at the South African Library at Cape Town and herself a descendant of Olive Schreiner, for her careful attention to my many inquiries and for chronological information that was most useful. And finally, I wish to acknowledge the diligent work of my research assistant, Neva Hoofnagle, who delved into the many obscure areas I simply had no time to research.

Work in the HRHRC archives aroused in me a thirst for academic study I must long have secretly harbored. My archival research resulted, not in a popular Schreiner biography, but in my return to academia, in 1981, as a graduate student in British Victorian History at the University of Southern California.

When next I visited the library in 1983 to consult the collection for an early version of my doctoral dissertation, I became aware, more than on my previous visit, of the formidable problems the letters presented: handwriting difficult to read, letter fragments . . .

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