The Schreiner sex book mystery continued

The Schreiner sex book mystery continued

The mystery of the preface and dedication in Ellis’s handwriting in his copy of Olive Schreiner’s Woman & Labour, the subject of last week’s blog, is a little closer to being solved. This is thanks to excellent detective work on the part of Paul Walters of the former Rhodes University, Grahamstown. Identifying brief hints here, and even briefer hints there, and piecing these together with passing comments in letters and diaries, what seems to have occurred is this.

In the month of April 1901, when the inserted preface and dedication are dated, Cronwright-Schreiner was busy at work, having joined Olive Schreiner in the upcountry village of Hanover. For some time dissatisfied with her rate of literary production, he set to work typing manuscripts and has left brief record (titles) of those in question. In addition to the dated mysterious preface and dedication, there is a date only nine days apart from this provided in the dedication at the start of the first edition of Schreiner’s Thoughts on South Africa, which he also typed at that time. What we conclude is likely to have happened is that Cronwright-Schreiner typed what he found, with very little of the ‘sex book’ remaining. And eventually, during the later period of their editorial collaboration after Olive Schreiner’s death in working to prepare almost everything they found for publication, he gave Ellis, or more likely Ellis copied by hand, the few sheets that existed: the preface and the dedication.

Excited scholarly work of a very interesting kind. It has coexisted at its UK end with a vast increase in covid-19 infections, with much time being spent helping students experiencing much illness and turmoil. Such nonsense that the young do not get it badly.

Last updated: 9 October 2020


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