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|Letter Reference||Lytton 01229/10
|Archive||Lytton Family Papers, Knebworth
|Letter Date||3 February 1895
|Address From||The Homestead, Kimberley, Northern Cape
|Who To||Constance Lytton
|Other Versions||Rive 1987: 246-7
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 Constance Lytton, 3 February 1895, Lytton Family Papers, Knebworth, Olive Schreiner Letters Project transcription’. Please also supply letter line numbers for specific quotations.
The Project is grateful to the Knebworth House Archive (www.knebworthhouse.com) for kindly allowing us to transcribe this Olive Schreiner letter to Lady Constance Lytton, which is part of the Knebworth collections.
1: The Homestead
2: Nr Kimberley
3: Feb 3 / 95
5: Dear Con
7: I could not help a great feeling of joy for you when I saw in the
8: paper that your friend had gone home. When any one is going to marry a
9: person whom all their friends are very anxious they should marry & to
10: whom all external & material circumstances point as the person they
11: should marry, I always feel a little doubtful & fearful lest it should
12: be circumstances & not natural fitness which is drawing them together;
13: though they themselves may not know it. I feel you are on the right
14: path just because there isn’t this external pressure. Nothing should
15: guide one in such a matter but that deep internal instinct, “This is
16: right!” Every day when one is married one realizes that only some
17: subtle relationship between the two natures causing each to call forth
18: what is best in the other makes the married relation right. Its not a
19: question of what the world calls happiness or pleasure – it’s
20: something much deeper.
22: What you say in your letter is so profoundly true. It isn’t only a
23: question of the virtues of the other nature; its quite as important
24: how their weaknesses effect you, & if they also bind you together. I
25: hope you will be able to marry before very long. The sad thing which
26: one has to face in the world is this that if people are separated for
27: great lengths of time both go on developing on different lines, &
28: therefore in the end may not be suited to each other as once they were.
29: I cannot however say I have found this from my own experience; where
30: the friendship was one founded on natural affinity & not on
33: It’s very beautiful sometimes after ten or twelve years to meet again
34: the men or woman who were bound to you by a subtle sympathy, & to find
35: that though externally you are both changed, the same subtle bond
36: makes you belong to each other still. I always feel with regard to my
37: husband that if we were put into separate worlds for ten years & all
38: remembrance of the past blotted out in both our minds, when we met we
39: should “find each other” just as we did the first time.
41: I am expecting my little baby in April, & am very glad about it, but
42: its a very solemn sort of gladness. I find that even before it’s born
43: all one’s self seems to have slipped away, & the child taken its place.
44: You have such a curious anxiety for its future.
46: I have got ‘The God in the Car’ but I can’t read it, anymore than I
47: could “The Heavenly Twins” or “The Yellow Aster”. I don’t know why I
48: can’t read the ordinary novel, it’s a simple impossibility. I have
49: tried to analyze just why it is, & I can’t. It isn’t a ?singn of
50: intellectual superiority, because Darwin & Huxley both loved the
51: ordinary novel, & many of the finest minds find refreshment in
52: skimming through them, while it is agony to me. To read th one of
53: Haggard’s novels would be as agonizing to me as to sit in a room &
54: hear Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ai played over & over. They are not art to me.
55: That awful necessity which hovers over the true artist, & which makes
56: you feel of his work “He could no other-wise; God help him! Amen!” is
57: wanting in them to me. They may be written with the highest & noblest
58: motives; but they were not necessities; they were made up! I think one
59: feels that necessity in even such a simple little thing as George
60: Sand’s La Petite Fadette, but I can’t feel it in many of the most
61: successful works of to-day.
63: Please write to me & tell me if there is any immediate opening out of
64: your plans & future. I some how have a feeling that your friend’s
65: going home may tend to this.
67: I have not seen the Lochs since they came out, & shall not be going
68: down to Cape Town till September.
70: Adela will have told you that Seymour Fort has gone home. I wonder if
71: they will meet. I think it would be well if her father were willing:
72: but I would be very very very sorry, if the old romance woke up in
73: Adela’s heart again. I don’t think it would.
75: Good bye. Please send me some news of yourself when you are able.
78: Are you still sometimes writing for “The Saturday”. Two of my friends
79: are on the Staff now; but I never see it
81: Yes, two people who love each other can be so perfectly happy on so
82: very little, & with so little. The grand Kimberley Daiamond folk are
83: very much amused with our establishment when they come out here: but
84: its really a lovely little house with a big verandah all round & blue
85: sky showing through ^all the big glass doors^
88: Thanks so very much for telling me about that asthma cure. I have sent
89: for it to America, & will let you know how it works
The books referred to are: Anthony Hope (1894) The God in the Car
London: Methuen; Mrs Mannington Caffyn (1894) A Yellow Aster
London: Hutchinson & Co; Sarah Grand (1893) The Heavenly Twins
London: Heineman; and George Sand ( 1893) Fadette
(La Petite Fadette
; trans J.M. Sedgewick) New York: Richmond & Co. Books by H. Rider Haggard, a prolific author of popular adventure stories mainly set in South Africa, include Allan Quartermain
(1887) and Allan’s Wife
(1889). The possible article that Constance Lytton was writing did not appear in any of the issues of the Saturday Review
around the date this letter was written. Rive’s (1987) version omits part of this letter and is incorrect in minor ways.