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Letter ReferenceEdward Carpenter 359/73
ArchiveSheffield Archives, Archives & Local Studies, Sheffield
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date8 October 1894
Address FromThe Homestead, Kimberley, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToEdward Carpenter
Other VersionsRive 1987: 241-3
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
Legend
The Project is grateful to the Sheffield Archives, Sheffield Libraries, Archives and Information Services, for kindly allowing us to transcribe this Olive Schreiner letter, which is part of its Archive Collections.
1 The Homestead
2 Kimberley
3 South Africa
4 Oct 8 / 94
5
6 Dear old E. C.
7
8 The marriage pamphlet has come. I think it splendid! You don’t
9perhaps dwell quite enough on the monetary independence of woman as
10the first condition necessary to the putting of things on the right
11footing: but you do mention it.
12
13 You see the monetary question between man & woman is not the same as
14the monetary question between two close friends of the same sex. Were
15a man to live with a closely loved friend on whom he was dependent,
16there would be no antecedents & traditions implying inferiority on one
17side & superiority on the other to back-up the mor be fought against
18as well as the monetary inequality, before the true equality of true
19friendship can be reached.
20
21 A man & a woman stand in the same relation to each other as a white
22man & a black man, supposing the two to have struck up a deathless
23friendship & to have determined to live together. It would not do for
24the black man to be dependent on the white because at least in this
25country there are such centuries of traditions of the inferiority of
26the black on one side & & the superiority of the white; of submission
27on one side & masterhood on the other; & these tradition & the force
28of education would so deeply, ^if unconsciously^ have affected both,
29that if the monetary power were on one side, I believe a friendship
30true equality would be impossible between the two. Even if this was a
31perfect monetary equality, even if the black man were supporting the
32white, & even if in his heart the white man believed the black man to
33be much his superior & deeply honoured him, yet even then there would
34difficulty in the small things of life; there would be an unconscious
35tendency on the part of the white man to expect, & of the black man a
36subservience which culture would expect or give to those born their
37equals. It would be rather desirable than otherwise that the black man
38should have money & the white not; it would tend to put things in a
39truer & more beautiful relation to eachother. Just so with a man & a
40woman; with two thousand years of slavish submission on one side &
41animal dominance on the other as the tradition of their race, they can
42neither of them afford anything which tends to keep up those
43traditions. I can believe the most ideally happy fellowship might
44exist between a man & woman where the woman had material wealth & the
45man none. I think it would tend to make them both happier in the
46deepest sense but I can’t picture the opposite. The newly freed
47slave has to stand a little on his dignity!!
48
49 With regard to my own marriage, dear, I will not only say it is an
50ideally happy one, but I will say much more; I believe it is
51satisfactory & for us both not in the narrow but in the highest sense
52the best thing that ever happened to either of us. The most
53satisfactory thing is, that it becomes increasingly satisfactory; not
54less so. We understand each other much better than when we first
55married, & I believe our respect for each other increases as we know
56each other better - & that’s the main thing. He has a very strong
57nature, very simple, very direct; but with a very clear reason, & the
58power of organizing every thing he knows. He is intensely passionate &
59intense, but with immense powers of controlling himself. He has not my
60complex intuitive nature, always flashing out side-lights upon
61every-thing; but the light ahead that he sees he sees clearly, & he
62has the strength to follow after it.
63
64 I do not think you would wonder, if you knew him that I had chosen him
65for my life’s companion: I think you would love him as much as I do.
66He’s a man; & that’s a great things. He is away from home now;
67will have been gone a week tomorrow. He has been to Cradock, & then to
68see his mother. He will be back sometime this week. I like him to go &
69see her often: there is nothing so terrible as the way in which people
70often allow marriage to shut them off from their old affections &
71relations, & really narrow the world for them instead of widening.
72There is something very beautiful to me, almost touching, in the way
73in which Cron’s heart wants to stretch out & take in all my friends
74& families. It draws us much nearer to eachother than anything else
75could. We had our difficulties of course at first; he couldn’t quite
76grasp my funny nature without an epidermis as God made it; & I
77didn’t realize the depth of feeling & keen thought that underlay his
78"silence" - but we understand now. He is very very tender to me. As to
79money matters; we pay half & half every month when we make up accounts
80& as we have bought this little cottage with its three acres, we can
81live on very little. We have two little studies; one for him & one for
82me, & a bedroom & dining room & a little kitchen separate from the
83house. It’s very pretty "& very neat"!!! You would like it.
84
85 We only have a girl come in for a couple hours in the morning, & all
86the rest of the day we are alone, & the house so quiet you can hear
87the cat walk across the floor. Cron loves quiet, if possible more than
88I do; I don’t know what he will do with the baby’s noise when it
89comes, but he’s very anxious to have it.
90
91 No I don’t make tragedies out of things. I take life very
92comfortably. Women are, as they always will be something of an agony
93to me; but I’m getting to see you can’t make them different from
94what they are you must leave them to "gang their ain gate." The rarest
95& most heroic souls I have ever met have been women, & you can’t
96expect all to be alike.
97
98 We don’t know any folk here except the milkman & the cabdriver &c.
99Of course some of the carriage folk came to call on us when we came
100but we haven’t returned any visits. Cron is as uncivilized as I am;
101it’s really curious how we fit in to eachother in little ways.
102
103 I’m telling you all this because I know you want really to know.
104 Good bye, dear. Love to all the friends at Millthorpe.
105
106 Olive
107
108 ^Give my love to dear Kate Salt. I think her loving heart would be
109satisfied that all goes very well with me if she saw me. NB It’s
110wonderful & terrible to watch the sudden growth of capitalism in this
111country. It’s wonderful to see a tree spring up in a night & cover
112the whole land^
113
114
115
Notation
The pamphlet referred to is: Edward Carpenter (1894) Marriage in Free Society Manchester: Labour Press Society. Rive's (1987) version omits part of this letter and is also in a number of respects incorrect.