"Marriage, women's financial independence" Read the full letter
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Letter ReferenceLetters/472
Archive
Epistolary Type
Letter Date2 June 1908
Address FromDe Aar, Nothern Cape
Address To
Who ToAdela Villiers Smith nee Villiers
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 279-80
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
Legend
When Cronwright-Schreiner prepared The Letters of Olive Schreiner, with few exceptions he then destroyed her originals. However, some people gave him copies and kept the originals or demanded the return of these; and when actual Schreiner letters can be compared with his versions, his have omissions, distortions and bowdlerisations. Where Schreiner originals have survived, these will be found in the relevant collections across the OSLO website. There is however a residue of some 587 items in The Letters for which no originals are extant. They are included here for sake of completeness. However, their relationship to Schreiners actual letters cannot now be gauged, and so they should be read with caution for the reasons given.
1To Mrs. Francis Smith.
2De Aar, 2nd June.
3
4... It often has seemed to me that there is a form of danger for
5delicate women. I can't enter fully into the matter because from the
6impersonal standpoint there's so much I have to say about it I could
7write a book about the matter in all its aspects. I mean that when a
8woman is delicate, suffers horribly and continually, so that to most
9of those about her it is an understood thing she should always be
10suffering, and the mightiest love takes it as part of the thing that
11has to be, then the one person, who has always to interest themselves
12actively in that physical condition and try to relieve it, may become
13a danger. They alone seem to enter the life of suffering, they alone
14seem to understand, and the woman is apt to forget that the man has
15had hundreds of other patients in just that relation to themselves,
16that many of them make their fortunes and reputations (as many priests
17and parsons do) by the influence they get over women in their times of
18weakness and suffering. This may be well and kindly used - or it may
19be hell. And more especially in those cases where a woman is operated
20on and put under drugs - no one seems adequately to realise what the
21effect of those drugs in many cases in weakening the will and
22loosening all forms of self-restraint - but, not only so, altering the
23character also. I think you would be astonished if I could tell you
24the number of tragic and terrible instances of this kind I've come
25across in the course of my life. The influence of a Doctor over a
26woman is often of just the same nature as that quite devilish
27influence which nurses so often get over the men they nurse, whom they
28draw into marrying them, and into the most terrible and compromising
29relations. One very curious thing about this relation between doctors
30and patients, and nurses and the men they nurse, is this - the extreme
31shortlivedness of the attraction if they recover full robust health.
32The doctor who has so filled the life of some delicate suffering woman,
33 the nurse to whom some unhappy man has offered marriage, six months
34after they have been in full health (i.e. themselves again!) becomes
35to them a commonplace uninteresting or even repulsive person!
36