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Letter ReferenceT120 (M722): W.T. Stead Papers/21- pages 111-16 & pages 253-4
ArchiveNational Archives Depot, Pretoria
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date10 January 1896
Address FromMiddelburg, Eastern Cape
Address To
Who ToWilliam Thomas Stead
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 217: Rive 1987: 261-2
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
Legend
The Project is grateful to the National Archives Repository, Pretoria, for kindly allowing us to transcribe this Olive Schreiner letter, which is part of its Micofilm Collections. Schreiner has mistakenly dated this letter as January 1895, a slip of the pen as she was in Middelburg in January 1896 and this was also when ‘the guns of the Boers’ ended the Jameson Raid.
1Middelburg
2Jan 10 / 95
3
4Thank you, dear friend, for Blastus. It opens up so many interesting
5questions that I cannot enter upon it now. It is very much more
6interesting than anything of the kind you have yet done. I don't see
7how the relations of married life can be well & nobly, in any way
8idealy arranged, where there is not perfect & profound union of aim
9between the man & the [wordmissing] where that is not that as in the
10case of intellectual & mentally active people, I should say, the
11marriage was a failure. Where there is such complete unity there never
12arises the least difficulty with regard to friendships with third
13persons of opposite sex. I In my own case my marriage has not touched
14one of my friendships; ^there is^ & there is something almost comical
15in the idea that it might
. Where a man & woman marry feeling that life,
16 with its highest personal & impersonal duties can be best carried out
17in each others company, where this lies firm at the base of their
18union: all the complexities, & difficulties you mention cannot arise.
19Where men & women marry without this as the ground work of their union
20all is & must be wrong, & in many cases the sooner they part from
21each other for ever the better. Marriage perfect & her marriage
22of mind & body, is such a lovely & whol holy thing, that rather
23an imperfect travesty of it, I should say none was better. If I have a
24lovely & beautiful photog picture of one I love or some noble work of
25art, I wou if you cut off the nose & daubed over the ears, I would
26rather not have it at all. It would be an agony to keep it on my wall.
27The thing must be perfect beauty & joy, or it would be damnable
28uglyn ugliness. To me it appears that in the case of a highly
29developed & intellectual people, the mental & spiritual union is more
30important, more truly the marriage than the physical. I should feel it,
31 (& I think every man & woman who has reached a certain stage of
32growth should feel it) a much more val right & important reason
33to terminating a union, that the person to whom were were united had a
34fuller deeper & more useful mental union with another, than that they
35should a physical relation. You will think it is just rather an
36imaginative view to take of marriage; but it is just that mental union
37“for the begetting of great works” that to me does constitute marriage.
38 And mere physical union even with absolute fidelity, is to me a
39repulsive & degrading thing, in men & women capable of the higher form
40of union. Of course there are thousands & millions even in the most
41civilized
communities to whom the higher form of marriage, & for whom
42physical attraction, affection & fidelity must constitute marriage.
43But for natures more highly developed I believe such a union to be wrong.
44 Of course when a man or woman has formed a union of the lower kind, &
45the question is it right to continue it; I should say that there is no
46univers-al answer, every circumstance must be taken into consideration.
47 But continuance of the physical relation when the highest mental
48relation is not possible, ^& where that affection is given elsewhere,^
49seems to me a more terrible because a more permanent prostitution than
50that of the streets. You in your book don't to me seem to go to the
51root of the matter quite.
52
53As to South African politics you will by this time know that the guns
54of the Boers have saved South Africa. The power of the monopolist in
55our political & social life is I believe broken forever. It seems as
56if South Africa, were heaving one great sigh of relief. This is how
57the nations of Europe must have felt after Waterloo! We seem to see
58the blue sky over us again.
59
60For Rhodes himself one feels intense pity as one did ^does^ for the
61little Corsican, when one thinks of him eating his supper alone in the
62little inn the night after the Battle.
63
64Rhodes will never rise again in South Africa. His career here is ended;
65 & the terrible thing to us who have admired his talent & personality,
66is to have to say, “It is well so!” It will be twenty years before our
67public ^life^ is as pure as before Rhodes entered it: but the clouds
68have broken.
69
70Yours ever
71Olive Schreiner
72
73^I am writing in haste to catch English mail.^
74
Notation
The book referred to is: W. T. Stead (1896) Blastus: The King’s Chamberlain. A Political Novel London: Review of Reviews; a short pulicity puff for it had appeared earlier in the September 1895 issue of the Review of Reviews. Rive’s (1987) version omits part of this letter and is incorrect in minor respects. Cronwright-Schreiner’s (1924) extract is incorrect in various ways.