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Letter ReferenceKarl Pearson 840/4/2/79-80
ArchiveUniversity College London Library, Special Collections, UCL, London
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter DateSaturday 12 June 1886
Address FromThe Convent, Harrow, London
Address To
Who ToKarl Pearson
Other VersionsRive 1987: 82-3
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
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.
1 The Convent
2 Saturday night
4 Why did you never tell me about these lectures before? Have they been
5printed? I knew that you had dreamed of writing a history of German
6literature & civilization, but I thought it was only a dream;
7unreadable I did not know that a vast amount of labour had already
8been expended on it. You must & will carry it out. Why don’t you
9save as much as you can for the next four years, & then go & live very
10economically some where in Germany for nine or ten, & work. It can
11never be done in London in the snatches of time between your lectures
12& other duties. It is so delicious saving money for an end. It took me
13years to save the £60 that brought me to England, but it was so
14delicious. The great thing is that one wants always to keep giving
15away, but one must withstand that.
17 No, you must not marry. Who ever it was, she would drag you down. If
18she agreed to be married only for a year on trial, as to whether it
19was good for you both, you would find that your ^own^ moral feeling ^i.e.^
20your dread of inflicting suffering, would oblige you to stay with her
21even if she were suffocating you. It is that moral obligation that
22dependency of another soul upon you that is so terrible in marriage.
23To promise to be physically faithful to one person all one’s life
24would be easy enough. I wish some one could take your money away from
25you as soon as you’ve earned it, & save it up for you.
27 //You are entirely wrong about the suckling, &c. The reason why
28fashionable women do not suckle their children is because doing so
29entirely spoils the shape of the breast & nipple. After suckling even
30one child the breast droops, whereas a woman may have ten children
31without its affecting her breast if she does not suckle them. It is
32also supposed, (quite falsely I think) to make a woman wrinkled & grey;
33 it also spoils their dresses & they have to be always near their
34children. What evidence have you to show that a man cares less for a
35woman when she is suckling? I never heard it even suggested before.
36Among savage tribes, the Kaffirs, &c., it is considered almost a crime
37to impregnate a suckling woman, but that is because, as you mention,
38suitable food is so difficult to get for a child; & causing the woman
39to get a second child is perhaps killing the first. If a Kaffir ^of
40certain tribes at least,^ impregnates his wife while she is still
41suckling it is called "stealing his own child’s milk", & is
42considered very disgraceful. I do not I have not made any special
43inquiries, but I know that many men have as much intercourse with
44their wif wives then as at other times, some more. One of my friends
45told me that her husband liked her to suckle her children long,
46because then, owing to the absence of the period which rarely shows
47itself during suckling, they could more frequently have intercourse.
48It is strange how wrong you are in these small physiological matters.
49Medical men say that much intercourse during suckling is not good for
50the woman’s ^strength & milk^ but it is hardly likely that the savage
51man cared anything about that; & you speak as though a suckling woman
52could not be an object of desire to man!
54 Yes, you are changed; but hardly know how; you are quite different. It
55will be very glorious to get away for the three months. Will you not
56come & see me here before you go? I may be gone before you come back.
57I cannot have visitors ^in^ here; but ^just^ behind the Convent there is a
58quiet ^little^ lane where I can meet you, & we could go for a walk in
59the fields. I would like you to come when it was a fine day, so that I
60could show you how lovely it is, but but of course you won’t come
61unless you have an afternoon quite free & nothing better to do; not
62feel you must because I ask you. I should rather like to show you my
63walking up & down place, if I could only bring you into the grounds. I
64used to envy your little rooms in the Temple so, but I think I, am as
65well off here. It is so delightfully quiet.
67 I like your ?agnostic letters the best. The papers shall be sent back
68carefully. My feeling with your paper of Tuesday was that in the first
69part you gave us Backhofen &c, undigested; in the last part knowledge
70that had so long been digested that it had become a part of yourself.
72 Yours ever
73 Olive Schreiner
75 I’ve been looking at your Trinity play since I was here. It is
76wanting in the artistic "inspiration", & shows strongly the influence
77of Goethe, I think, but it has power. The dream of my life has been to
78create a life of Jesus (in verse I used to think, because that comes
79easiest to me). It is only within the last four years that it has
80become only a dream with me, before that it was a fixed intention. You
81have in Jesus a spring point for one of the mightiest works of art the
82world has ever seen. It is one of those works which should be begun in
83youth &
85^ended in old age, & an entire life must be sacrificed to it. It will
86be done by someone some day. ^
88 O.S.
Pearson's 'paper on Tuesday' refers to his 'A Sketch of the History of Sexual Relations in Germany', read at the Men and Women's Club in June 1886. The 'Trinity play' is his (1882) The Trinity: A Nineteenth Century Passion-Play Cambridge: E. Johnson. Rive's (1987) version omits part of this letter and is also in a number of respects incorrect.