"Shelley on genius, 'looking at things really'" Read the full letter
Collection Summary | View All |  Arrange By:
< Prev |
Viewing Item
of 1039 | Next >
Letter ReferenceLetters/459
Epistolary Type
Letter Date14 May 1904
Address FromCape Town, Western Cape
Address To
Who ToAdela Villiers Smith nee Villiers
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 245-7
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
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.
2Cape Town, 14th May.
4... The week after next Parliament ends, and we return to Hanover. It
5has been very very beautiful to be here with the grand old mountains
6and the sea for three months. I have three friends here, almost the
7only friends I have in South Africa, except some of the Boer generals
8and one of the public men in the Cape (and my feeling for them can
9hardly be called “friendship" because it is just the feeling which
10binds people who are devoted to one common impersonal end, and whose
11natures may not harmonise on any other point) and it has been very
12beautiful to see them too. I should say perhaps I have four friends
13here, because the husband of one of my friends is almost as much my
14friend as she is, in fact she and her husband are so much one that you
15can hardly think of them apart. He is a scientific man, a rather
16celebrated entomologist, and she has written some rather fine little
17poems on the war, but the beauty of them both is the purity and
18simplicity of their natures. I always hate visiting anyone, but in
19their house I always feel as perfectly restful as if I were at home.
20They live close to me here and their little boy runs in every day to
21see my two dogs and five mierkats which I had to bring with me from
22Hanover as I couldn't trust anyone else to take care of them. ... My
23other two friends are two splendid women who have lived together for
24about 17 years and who are so closely united that I can never think of
25them apart, but as parts of one whole. They are both so noble and
26beautiful, each in her own way.
28You say that children are “the only excuse for marriage," but I think
29quite otherwise. I think a close union with some human creature,
30permanent, bearing on all parts of the daily life and with the element
31of excitement and change eliminated from it as much as possible, is in
32itself a primary necessity in all fully developed human natures. This
33union may exist between a parent and child (as in the case of Buckle
34and his mother) or between a brother and sister or two friends of the
35same sex as in the case of my friends Miss Molteno and Miss Greene;
36the element of sex and above all the element of physical sexual union
37is not necessary to it; but I think it most naturally and fully tends
38to exist between a man and woman; and that, and not the mere bringing
39of children into the world, is the prime excuse for marriage in fully
40developed human creatures. Of course marriage originated for the
41purpose of producing children; just as friendship originated in
42animals, and afterwards man, being compelled to unite to hunt for food
43and to defend themselves against foes; but highly developed human
44beings have a necessity for each other's fellowship for very different
45purposes than these. Of course thousands of human creatures even
46to-day have not the need for this deep calm unchanging fellowship; but,
47 for those who feel, its satisfaction in marriage is the first
48condition of success in marriage. Children may make the emptiness less
49felt, where this fellowship does not exist, just a lesser friendship
50may do. But I believe there is, deep in human nature, a need for this
51close unending relationship with one above all who shall be as it were
52a part of oneself which it is the highest function of marriage to
53satisfy. But one can't explain well what one means in a few words. I
54think women have this need much more often fully developed than men;
55but among my men friends are many in whom I know it is as strongly
56developed as in any woman. Of course the tragedy of marriage comes in
57when one has the need of this fellowship and the other has not but
58only of continual change and excitement.