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Letter ReferenceOlive Schreiner: J.T. Lloyd MSC 26/2.5.2
ArchiveNational Library of South Africa, Special Collections, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date After Start: 1892 ; Before End: 1899
Address Fromna
Address To
Who ToJohn T. Lloyd
Other VersionsRive 1987: 259-60
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
The Project is grateful to the National Library of South Africa (NLSA), Cape Town, for kindly allowing us to transcribe this Olive Schreiner letter, which is part of its Special Collections. This letter has been approximately dated by reference to the period over which Schreiner and Lloyd were in communication. The beginning and end of the letter are missing. The first paragraph starting ‘One point he & I...’, the second paragraph starting ‘Then if such an awful...’, and the final paragraph starting ‘mistake, & nobly refused to marry...’, are not in Schreiner’s hand-writing but copied out by Lloyd as part of a set of notes he sent to Cronwright-Schreiner. The paragraphs starting ‘All these social matters…’ until ‘…make right her terrible’ are in Schreiner’s own hand.
1 [page/s missing]
3One point he & I are always having great arguments about: he, like
4Grant Allen & others, thinks it a matter all-important that there
5should be no legal ceremony connected with marriage, I consider it a
6mere bagatelle. If the world requires a legal ceremony go through it,
7just as you walk on the pavement instead of in the middle of the
8street, if your fellow men demand it. What does matter is that both
9persons should be sure that they love each other with a deathless love
10which no other human being shall be able to undo, & that the woman be
11absolutely & entirely monetarily independent of the man. That is the
12great thing; let love bind you, not a common account in the bank. I
13believe the whole secret of happy & healthy & deathless unions is that
14marriages should be formed entirely independent of monetary
17 Then if such an awful thing should happen as that a man or woman
18should find they had made a mistake, there would be no difficulty in
19their separating forever, as they ought, the moment they feel they do
20not love each other, or love anyone else better.
22 All these social matters are very complex, therefore it is difficult
23to give advice; & so wrong to believe that what is the right path for
24you must be the right path for other people.
26 One thing I always find it difficult to understand is how people
27gather from any of my writings that I think lightly of marriage. I
28think it to be the most holy, the most organic, the most important
29sacrament in life, & how men & women can enter into with the
30lighthearted indifference they do, has n always been, & is, a matter
31of endless wonder to me.
33 Because poor little Lyndall who died when she was a child of seventeen,
34 found out she had made a mistake in her relation to with that man, &
35saved herself from turning it into a life-long fornication, &
36prostitution - therefore people seem to suppose I am opposed to
37life-long & deathless marriage between the man & woman!!
39 Because that poor little child of seventeen tried make right her
42mistake, & nobly refused to marry a man she did not absolutely love, I
43have had women of six & twenty write to me as if I could feel it right
44they should form temporary unions!!! It was because Lyndall, small
45child though she was, felt what a sacred & deathless thing true
46marriage should be that she refused to save her reputation by binding
47herself for ever to that man.
49[page/s missing]
Lloyd’s covering letter to Cronwright-Schreiner is as follows:

82A Portsdown Road, London, W.9, May 28 1921
From J.T. Lloyd

My introduction to Olive Schreiner occurred during the Kimberley exhibition in the year 1892, & soon thereafter we became very close friends. I had been invited to deliver a lecture at the Exhibition on “Literary Life in South Africa”, in which, of course, the chief figure was Olive Schreiner. A verbatim report of the lecture appeared in the Diamond Fields Advertiser, a copy of which I forwarded to her. At that time I was experiencing great intellectual difficulties which ?rendered my work as a clergyman. In a letter handed to her I fully described those difficulties & asked for her assistance in dealing with them. That explains the following great & important epistle.

That was the first of over a thousand letters I was privileged to receive from her. Her fame as a great genius was then fully established, but many South Africans condemned in no measured terms her sceptical views on religion. Of course, there were a few who realized & publically acknowledged her greatness, but the majority deliberately misrepresented her teaching. This was specially the case in regard to Lyndall’s refusal to marry a man she did not love, as related in the African Farm. The false inference was drawn that the authoress was an opponent of marriage. In a letter to me she confessed that she agreed on the whole with the views expressed by Edward Carpenter in his little pamphlet on the subject. She said: -

Next to the final paragraph Lloyd has written: ‘That ought to dispose of the wholly groundless notion that Olive Schreiner did not believe in marriage.’

Rive’s (1987) version of Schreiner's letter is in a number of respects incorrect.