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Letter ReferenceLytton 01229/10
ArchiveLytton Family Papers, Knebworth
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date3 February 1895
Address FromThe Homestead, Kimberley, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToConstance Lytton
Other VersionsRive 1987: 246-7
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
Legend
The Project is grateful to the Knebworth House Archive (www.knebworthhouse.com) for kindly allowing us to transcribe this Olive Schreiner letter to Lady Constance Lytton, which is part of the Knebworth collections.
1The Homestead
2Nr Kimberley
3Feb 3 / 95
4
5Dear Con
6
7I could not help a great feeling of joy for you when I saw in the
8paper that your friend had gone home. When any one is going to marry a
9person whom all their friends are very anxious they should marry & to
10whom all external & material circumstances point as the person they
11should marry, I always feel a little doubtful & fearful lest it should
12be circumstances & not natural fitness which is drawing them together;
13though they themselves may not know it. I feel you are on the right
14path just because there isn’t this external pressure. Nothing should
15guide one in such a matter but that deep internal instinct, “This is
16right!” Every day when one is married one realizes that only some
17subtle relationship between the two natures causing each to call forth
18what is best in the other
makes the married relation right. Its not a
19question of what the world calls happiness or pleasure – it’s
20something much deeper.
21
22What you say in your letter is so profoundly true. It isn’t only a
23question of the virtues of the other nature; its quite as important
24how their weaknesses effect you, & if they also bind you together. I
25hope you will be able to marry before very long. The sad thing which
26one has to face in the world is this that if people are separated for
27great lengths of time both go on developing on different lines, &
28therefore in the end may not be suited to each other as once they were.
29 I cannot however say I have found this from my own experience; where
30the friendship was one founded on natural affinity & not on
31circumstances.
32
33It’s very beautiful sometimes after ten or twelve years to meet again
34the men or woman who were bound to you by a subtle sympathy, & to find
35that though externally you are both changed, the same subtle bond
36makes you belong to each other still. I always feel with regard to my
37husband that if we were put into separate worlds for ten years & all
38remembrance of the past blotted out in both our minds, when we met we
39should “find each other” just as we did the first time.
40
41I am expecting my little baby in April, & am very glad about it, but
42its a very solemn sort of gladness. I find that even before it’s born
43all one’s self seems to have slipped away, & the child taken its place.
44 You have such a curious anxiety for its future.
45
46I have got ‘The God in the Car’ but I can’t read it, anymore than I
47could “The Heavenly Twins” or “The Yellow Aster”. I don’t know why I
48can’t read the ordinary novel, it’s a simple impossibility. I have
49tried to analyze just why it is, & I can’t. It isn’t a ?singn of
50intellectual superiority, because Darwin & Huxley both loved the
51ordinary novel, & many of the finest minds find refreshment in
52skimming through them, while it is agony to me. To read th one of
53Haggard’s novels would be as agonizing to me as to sit in a room &
54hear Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ai played over & over. They are not art to me.
55That awful necessity which hovers over the true artist, & which makes
56you feel of his work “He could no other-wise; God help him! Amen!” is
57wanting in them to me. They may be written with the highest & noblest
58motives; but they were not necessities; they were made up! I think one
59feels that necessity in even such a simple little thing as George
60Sand’s La Petite Fadette, but I can’t feel it in many of the most
61successful works of to-day.
62
63Please write to me & tell me if there is any immediate opening out of
64your plans & future. I some how have a feeling that your friend’s
65going home may tend to this.
66
67I have not seen the Lochs since they came out, & shall not be going
68down to Cape Town till September.
69
70Adela will have told you that Seymour Fort has gone home. I wonder if
71they will meet. I think it would be well if her father were willing:
72but I would be very very very sorry, if the old romance woke up in
73Adela’s heart again. I don’t think it would.
74
75Good bye. Please send me some news of yourself when you are able.
76Olive
77
78Are you still sometimes writing for “The Saturday”. Two of my friends
79are on the Staff now; but I never see it
80
81Yes, two people who love each other can be so perfectly happy on so
82very little, & with so little. The grand Kimberley Daiamond folk are
83very much amused with our establishment when they come out here: but
84its really a lovely little house with a big verandah all round & blue
85sky showing through ^all the big glass doors^
86
87P.P.S
88Thanks so very much for telling me about that asthma cure. I have sent
89for it to America, & will let you know how it works
90
Notation
The books referred to are: Anthony Hope (1894) The God in the Car London: Methuen; Mrs Mannington Caffyn (1894) A Yellow Aster London: Hutchinson & Co; Sarah Grand (1893) The Heavenly Twins London: Heineman; and George Sand ([1849] 1893) Fadette (La Petite Fadette; trans J.M. Sedgewick) New York: Richmond & Co. Books by H. Rider Haggard, a prolific author of popular adventure stories mainly set in South Africa, include Allan Quartermain (1887) and Allan’s Wife (1889). The possible article that Constance Lytton was writing did not appear in any of the issues of the Saturday Review around the date this letter was written. Rive’s (1987) version omits part of this letter and is incorrect in minor ways.