"Women & marriage, Boer guns saved South Africa, Jameson Raid, Rhodes is over" Read the full letter
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Letter ReferenceLetters/485
Archive
Epistolary Type
Letter Date19 April 1910
Address FromDe Aar, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToAdela Villiers Smith nee Villiers
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 293
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, 19th April.
3
4... A friend of mine in England has sent me a book called The Diary of
5a Lost One
, translated from the German. Have you read it? It has
6interested me a great deal. It's such a terribly true picture of the
7soul of a woman who is by nature lost, lost to all that is good and
8beautiful in life from birth. One meets such women among so called
9"respectable" women of fashion. They are just as much "lost" as if
10they were called prostitutes. I cannot understand that it awakens
11sympathy in them - in me it awakens only horror and terror. It's our
12absolute selfishness and hypocrisy that are so terrible. It's not what
13people do; it’s the why and how that matters. I do not believe that
14all prostitutes are so terrible as that woman. From my knowledge of
15prostitutes I should say that no clever intelligent woman ever becomes
16one unless she is inherently selfish and bad, but weak, stupid, very
17stupid, women may continually become prostitutes out of sheer
18stupidity. When I read that book there come to my mind so many fast
19fashionable women I have known who are so like her. They are only not
20prostitutes because life has never put any pressure upon [them]. Rather than
21a life of grim toil and dullness they would all be prostitutes. The
22terrible thing is that more than half the men in the world are
23prostitutes, and pay no price for being so. The real reason why I want
24the emancipation of women is that this hideous thing may end. I meant
25to do so much in my life to help. I have learnt so much, and now I
26shall never use it.
27