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|Letter Reference||T120 (M722): W.T. Stead Papers/21- pages 111-16 & pages 253-4
|Archive||National Archives Depot, Pretoria
|Letter Date||10 January 1896
|Address From||Middelburg, Eastern Cape
|Who To||William Thomas Stead
|Other Versions||Cronwright-Schreiner 1924: 217: Rive 1987: 261-2
The manuscript of this letter by Olive Schreiner belongs to the Archive referenced above; its ownership of the original should be acknowledged by referencing the letter as indicated: Copyright transcription: © Olive Schreiner Letters Project. This transcription can be freely used as long as copyright is acknowledged and it is referenced using the following citation: ‘Olive Schreiner to William Thomas Stead, 10 January 1896, National Archives Depot, Pretoria, Olive Schreiner Letters Project transcription’. Please also supply letter line numbers for specific quotations.
The Project is grateful to the National Archives Repository, Pretoria, for kindly allowing us to transcribe this Olive Schreiner letter, which is part of its Micofilm Collections. Schreiner has mistakenly dated this letter as January 1895, a slip of the pen as she was in Middelburg in January 1896 and this was also when ‘the guns of the Boers’ ended the Jameson Raid.
2: Jan 10 / 95
4: Thank you, dear friend, for Blastus. It opens up so many interesting
5: questions that I cannot enter upon it now. It is very much more
6: interesting than anything of the kind you have yet done. I don't see
7: how the relations of married life can be well & nobly, in any way
8: idealy arranged, where there is not perfect & profound union of aim
9: between the man & the
where that is not that as in the
10: case of intellectual & mentally active people, I should say, the
11: marriage was a failure. Where there is such complete unity there never
12: arises the least difficulty with regard to friendships with third
13: persons of opposite sex. I In my own case my marriage has not touched
14: one of my friendships; ^there is^ & there is something almost comical
15: in the idea that it might. Where a man & woman marry feeling that life,
16: with its highest personal & impersonal duties can be best carried out
17: in each others company, where this lies firm at the base of their
18: union: all the complexities, & difficulties you mention cannot arise.
19: Where men & women marry without this as the ground work of their union
20: all is & must be wrong, & in many cases the sooner they part from
21: each other for ever the better. Marriage perfect & her marriage
22: of mind & body, is such a lovely & whol holy thing, that rather
23: an imperfect travesty of it, I should say none was better. If I have a
24: lovely & beautiful photog picture of one I love or some noble work of
25: art, I wou if you cut off the nose & daubed over the ears, I would
26: rather not have it at all. It would be an agony to keep it on my wall.
27: The thing must be perfect beauty & joy, or it would be damnable
28: uglyn ugliness. To me it appears that in the case of a highly
29: developed & intellectual people, the mental & spiritual union is more
30: important, more truly the marriage than the physical. I should feel it,
31: (& I think every man & woman who has reached a certain stage of
32: growth should feel it) a much more val right & important reason
33: to terminating a union, that the person to whom were were united had a
34: fuller deeper & more useful mental union with another, than that they
35: should a physical relation. You will think it is just rather an
36: imaginative view to take of marriage; but it is just that mental union
37: “for the begetting of great works” that to me does constitute marriage.
38: And mere physical union even with absolute fidelity, is to me a
39: repulsive & degrading thing, in men & women capable of the higher form
40: of union. Of course there are thousands & millions even in the most
41: civilized communities to whom the higher form of marriage, & for whom
42: physical attraction, affection & fidelity must constitute marriage.
43: But for natures more highly developed I believe such a union to be wrong.
44: Of course when a man or woman has formed a union of the lower kind, &
45: the question is it right to continue it; I should say that there is no
46: univers-al answer, every circumstance must be taken into consideration.
47: But continuance of the physical relation when the highest mental
48: relation is not possible, ^& where that affection is given elsewhere,^
49: seems to me a more terrible because a more permanent prostitution than
50: that of the streets. You in your book don't to me seem to go to the
51: root of the matter quite.
53: As to South African politics you will by this time know that the guns
54: of the Boers have saved South Africa. The power of the monopolist in
55: our political & social life is I believe broken forever. It seems as
56: if South Africa, were heaving one great sigh of relief. This is how
57: the nations of Europe must have felt after Waterloo! We seem to see
58: the blue sky over us again.
60: For Rhodes himself one feels intense pity as one did ^does^ for the
61: little Corsican, when one thinks of him eating his supper alone in the
62: little inn the night after the Battle.
64: Rhodes will never rise again in South Africa. His career here is ended;
65: & the terrible thing to us who have admired his talent & personality,
66: is to have to say, “It is well so!” It will be twenty years before our
67: public ^life^ is as pure as before Rhodes entered it: but the clouds
68: have broken.
70: Yours ever
71: Olive Schreiner
73: ^I am writing in haste to catch English mail.^
The book referred to is: W. T. Stead (1896) Blastus: The King’s Chamberlain. A Political Novel
London: Review of Reviews; a short pulicity puff for it had appeared earlier in the September 1895 issue of the Review of Reviews
. Rive’s (1987) version omits part of this letter and is incorrect in minor respects. Cronwright-Schreiner’s (1924) extract is incorrect in various ways.