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Letter ReferenceKarl Pearson 840/4/3/65-68
ArchiveUniversity College London Library, Special Collections, UCL, London
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter DateSunday 19 September 1886
Address FromThe Convent, Harrow, London
Address To
Who ToKarl Pearson
Other Versions
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 Sunday afternoon
4 Thank you for your letter. It came just when I wanted it. I suppose today
5you are leaving Madernauer That to go down to your mother.
7 I can’t say all I want to about the woman book now. I want to
8justify myself to you by showing that the scheme is not such a
9ridiculously disproportionate thing compared to the capacities of any
10individual as at looks, if it were worked out in the way I mean.
12 Rhys has written to me again about the introduction to Mary
13Wollstonecraft. Will not you write it? I am not in the mood for any
14work now. It would be in the line of your work, wouldn’t it? I am
15sure Rhys would quite as soon have your ^name^ as mine, & it is quite as
16important that we should have the right view of her from a man as a
17woman. If you can’t of course I must. We can’t let it fall into
18the hand of the Philistine when it is the only edition of her works
19that may be published for the next ten or twenty years. If I have to
20write it I will send the rough draft to you & you can add in notes
21whatever more you think needs to be said & I will work it into the
22text. I want to see the birth love work. Are you going to send it me
23when you come back, or must I wait till it is in shape.
25 //Once when I was at Home I saw a bustle round the door of a hut & a
26woman told me it was about a new born baby. It seems, if I remember
, that they draw a stripe with the mother’s blood across the
28entrance of the door, they put the new-born baby on it, they cover it
29over with a vessel of some kind: then the child’s wife’s mother
30steps across it, & after that the father uncovers the child & takes
31possession of it. I wonder if the German’s had anything like that?
32Wasn’t it stupid of me not to go up & look. It was only that last
33year & a half I was at the Cape that I realized what a great fund of
34wisdom was to be found from studying those people.
36 //One tribe of Kaffirs I know of has a word for the external organs of
37sex in an ^unmarried^ girl signifying, "your-father’s-oxen" or
38"her-father’s-oxen". Now, if hundreds of years were to pass & the
39whole social condition to change, one would have the history of the
40present all summed up in that world; but how easily one might be
41misled! Y For instance the word father, means quite as much as ruler,
42chief, king; & there is only one word for all. Oxen means also all
43wealth, or property. A man of many oxen means simply a rich man. Now
44there is another Kaffir word, an older I think, ku, for the sex organs
45of woman, but this word is now continually used not only for the sex
46organ, but for woman. You can say to a man "How many kus have you?"
47meaning daughters or wives. Now, suppose the other word to be used in
48the same way & in process of time to come to be used as a name for
49woman; then we should have a word of which the two roots were ruler &
50property, signifying woman! It seems to me it would be very easy to be
51mislead. I feel so strongly the way in which the early history of the
52race is buried in words, but I feel also the great difficulty there is
53in digging them it out. Perhaps my ignorance makes it seem more
54delicate work than it is.
56 //Have you gone on with that book on the Elements of Physical Success
57for the International Series which you told me about last January? I
58find Harrow is too damp now the autumn is come. I am going in to look
59for rooms at the East End this week, unreadable ^I want to live with my
60people if I^ Perhaps I am going out the Cape next month. It all depends
61on the letters I get from my brother, & especially his wife.
62Everything is very unsettled now. I will let you know before I move
65 I’ve got a big fire in my room to day & am sitting as close as I can
66to it with my writing on a chair. Isn’t a fire lovely! It’s the
67next best thing to the sun. I haven’t done anything to my book
68that’s why I haven’t told you anything about it. I worked the
69first fortnight after you went away the first time, since then I’ve
70not done anything. But I’ve made little stores of the kind you hate!
71One can’t do big work unless one feels strong & "vital". I’ve put
72my ms away.
74 Please let me have a card within a few days after you return about
75Mary Wollstonecraft as I must write to Rhys. How bald London will look
76to you just at first.
78 Yours
79 O.S.
81 If I’ve left any letter sent for me here will be forwarded.
82 This isn’t a real letter. I’m very tired you know. I’ve got a
83list of questions on the man & woman question I want to ask you for unreadable
Schreiner agreed to write an 'Introduction' to a new edition of Mary Wollstonecraft's (1792, London: J. Johnson) A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, but which was never completed. A very early draft fragment of it appears in Carolyn Burdett (1994) History Workshop Journal 37: 189-93. A Pearson book entitled 'Elements of Physical Success' has not been traced.