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|Letter Reference||Karl Pearson 840/4/2/45-49
|Archive||University College London Library, Special Collections, UCL, London
|Letter Date||Sunday 4 April 1886
|Address From||St Dominic?s Convent, Mutrix Road, Kilburn, London
|Who To||Karl Pearson
|Other Versions||Rive 1987: 74-6
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 Karl Pearson, 4 April 1886, University College London Library, Special Collections, UCL, London, Olive Schreiner Letters Project transcription’. Please also supply letter line numbers for specific quotations.
The Project is grateful to University College London (UCL) and its Library Services for kindly allowing us to transcribe this Olive Schreiner letter, which is part of its Special Collections. The date has been written on this letter in an unknown hand. The name of the addressee is indicated by content and archival location.
I have just come back from a ^solitary^ walk into the country to a place
7: called Hendon.
I sent you that poem of Miss Jones not to bother you about Hinton, but
10: because I felt sorry for her when I read it; poor little soul! shut up
11: in a body that doesn’t adequately express it. Has it ever struck you
12: what a terrible thing it must be to have an external individuality
13: which repells people from you instead of drawing them next to you?
14: She’s wanted my love & friendship so, & I’ve been so selfish not
15: caring to "give myself out" to meet her - I feel so sorry for her but
16: I don’t know what to do for her exactly. She writes unreadable sadly
17: that I won’t help her & I could if I liked.
//Have you ever read Montaigne’s essay on friendship? I sometimes
20: feel that he is my favourite writer, & that ^that is^ my favourite of
21: his essays. Yes, friendship between men & women is a possibility, &
22: our only escape from the suffering unreadable which sexual
23: relationships now inflict. I was going to say, why it are poss it is a
24: possible thing only when both ^man & woman^ unreadable have reached a
25: certain height of ^in^ intellectual development not reached yet by the
26: many - but when I remember such beautiful things as my friendship now
27: ten years old with my old diamond digger who can hardly write a decent
28: letter & reads nothing but his bible & paper, then I feel that even
29: that is not true. But is there not always a possibility ^of^ for the
30: consciousness of sex difference & the desires which spring from it
31: creeping in, & spoiling the beautiful free frank friendship? - No, not
32: when the friendship is true. unreadable For, suppose that friendship
33: exists between a man & a woman, (friendship I take it, is that
34: con-dition in which through the influence of sympathy one stretches
35: out, & takes in^to oneself^ as it were, another personality, desires its
36: health, its growth, its happiness, as an end in itself just as one
37: does one’s own:) & suppose in addition to this general sense of
38: oneness & sympathy, - no, I won’t go on with this, I’ll put it
The most ideally perfect friendship between a man & a woman that I
42: know of is one where the man in addition to unreadable sympathy with
43: the woman’s whole understanding ^intellectual nature,^ feels that she
44: is to him also sexually perfect; unreadable without friendship such a
45: feeling would disturb & bring intense bitterness & sorrow; with that
46: friendship the fact that such a feeling exists on one side only adds
47: to the quiet beauty of the relationship. If I ^so^ loved a man
48: unreadable that I felt he were the only human being it would have been
49: possible for me to unreadable love wifehood under; yet it would never
50: touch my friendship ^for him^ I should never even feel a wish that he
51: should know it. "And if I love thee, what is that to thee?" that is
52: the passion that grows out of friendship; not the old cruel sensual,
53: "You must be mine! I will win your love though you die for it. I will
54: tear you to pieces but I must have you."
This passion you may say is a new thing. Yes, & so are the electric
57: telegraph & the steam-ship; but they are not less real for that. There
58: is nothing in which the race develops so much as in its forms of
59: affection. But is it not possible that though a feeling of sex-love
60: may not interfere with the most perfect, cold & reasonable friendship
61: when felt on only one side, that, if it were mutually felt it would
62: grow so strong as to kill out the more complex intellectual passion? -
63: I cannot say from experience, but I can see no argument in right
64: reason why it should do so. That friendships are possible between men
65: & women ^unreadable^ without the least sex feeling on either side I have
66: proved over and over again - the only question I have ever asked
67: myself has been does "sex attraction" kill friendship? I think not.
This letter is muddled, I am so tired after my long walk - that
70: delightful kind of tiredness when one has got muddled by the fresh air.
It will be so splendid for you on your holiday. I hope your mother^’s
73: illness^ will not make you carry a certain anxiety with you.
Don’t trouble to reply to this. When one is getting one’s holiday
76: feeling on one, even the must of a letter to a friend is unrestful.
I wrote you a very nasty letter the other day but tore it up again.
79: You must have hurt me very much by that letter you wrote me ^at Portsea Place^
80: because I can’t forget it. It comes back to me again when I thought
81: I’d forgotten all about it.
I can’t come to the Club because I’m not "allowed out" after nine
84: at night: the house is locked & the nuns go to bed then. It isn’t
85: like London this quiet house with the nuns in their white & black
86: dresses walking so silently about. I haven’t spoken to a soul today.
87: I have my meals alone in the little sittingroom. How peaceful & dead
88: these women’s faces are, only one has still got strife in it. She
89: has only been here five years. It is after nine or ten ^years^ that they
90: get that look.
92: ^I am sending you a little bit of a story of mine: you are not to read
93: it just because I send it. I wouldn’t read anything of yours if I
94: didn’t feel inclined. It’s the last chapter of a large novel I
95: wrote long ago. I haven’t looked at it since I finished it some
96: eight^^nine^^ years ago! I couldn’t look at it now. A friend was looking
97: over some of my MS. the other day, & said they liked this. unreadable
98: The novel is the story of a woman who begins life a wild passionate
99: nature full of longings for love & knowledge & sympathy; & slowly she
100: learns to renounce, & renounce, & renounce. I think In the part I send
101: you she is at the Diamond Fields at the Cape; she has given up all her
102: money, & is earning her living by ironing. By chance she finds that
103: the man she once loved, & for whom she thought all feeling had died
104: forever, is in Kimberley & has died of fever; she goes to lie with his
105: dead body, & takes fever also, & then comes the bit I send. I can’t
106: bear even to look at the outside of the old yellow MS. I don’t know
107: what I drag them about with me for. I often try to burn them, & it
108: gives me such pain. It seems as if I were burning the people in them.
109: And yet I am afraid they will publish them after I am dead.^
The 'little bit of story of mine' sent to Pearson is from Undine
. The poem mentioned is called 'Heresay', about a man wronged and so crushed by it he died, which is enclosed. Schreiner has written on it 'This is by poor Miss Jones.' It was published in 'Papers For the Times'. The book referred to is: Michel de Montaigne (1685) Essays of Michel de Montaigne
London: T. Bassett. Rive's (1987) version omits part of the letter and is also in a number of respects incorrect.