"Wonderful Dot Schreiner, tall thin woman who caused me no end of trouble" Read the full letter
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Letter ReferenceKarl Pearson 840/4/3/92-97
ArchiveUniversity College London Library, Special Collections, UCL, London
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter DateMonday 18 October 1886
Address From9 Blandford Square, Paddington, London
Address To2 Harcourt Buildings, Temple, London
Who ToKarl Pearson
Other VersionsRive 1987: 107-8
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
Legend
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 of this letter has been derived from the postmark on an attached envelope, while the name of the addressee and the address it was sent to are on its front. Schreiner was resident in Blandford Square from early October to late December 1886, when she left England for Europe.
1 Monday morning
2
3 I want to tell you what Ray Lankester said last night when he & his
4sister & I were driving home. He said he had dined next you at the
5Club the night before & added that he always wondered what you were
6going to do. I asked him what he meant thinking it was about leaving
7the Temple. He said that no one else he had ever met interested him
8the same way; that you had more power & that he expected more of you
9than of any any one else; the question was, would you have vigour to
10do all one expected of you. His sister asked who you were, & he said
11one of his colleagues at University College, a man with a most
12remarkable face, you "couldn’t call it anything but a beautiful face.
13" I never heard heard Ray speak so of any one, & he didn’t know you
14were a nearish friend of mine. It was quite by accident you were
15mentioned Fay said she thought there would have been more people there
16& & I said Mrs Philpot had meant to ask you but it had fallen through.
17I did not say anything ^in answer^ to what Ray said. I never You’ll
18wonder at my telling you all this, but you have to meet him often, &
19it seems to me that contact with people in daily life is made less
20painful where there are external roughnesses if one knows that beneath
21they understand one. There was something also tender in the way in
22which Ray spoke of you. ^It seems ridiculous!^ Have you & he been making
23great friends lately?
24
25Karl Pearson, there is something I want very much to ask of you, & yet
26I dare ^not.^ Long ago, almost when I first came to Blandford Sq I had a
27feeling
felt that there you had physical suffering in your life, &
28unreadable then when you told me of your health that night you only
29expressed what I had felt vaguely before. Since then the thought has
30always been with me that you suffered as you say your mother suffers.
31Is it true? I know I have no right to ask you but I have borne the
32thought of it alone now for so many months. Won’t you help me by
33telling me? I will never mention it again to you. It will be just as
34though you had never told me.
35
36 //I suffer a good deal physically but it is nothing that will prevent
37my living to be a hundred. I lose one week out of each four for mental
38work; three days before the period when I am high-tensioned &
39irritable, & the three days while it lasts I am stupid & want to lie
40down, & no one to be cross with me. Then if I live in a damp place my
41chest troubles me, but in a dry place I am always well, & strong as a
42lion.
43
44 //I went to Unwin this morning. He will not take the thing till I have
45got it out of Chapman’s hands through a lawyer. Can you not tell me
46of an honest man besides Cobb & Sharp Sharpe? I would rather go to any
47one else if I could. Of course in one way Cobb would be the best. I
48don’t think I like Unwin, but I don’t think I should like any one
49whom I had to bargain with. I felt to selfish when I got there I
50wished I had let let you take the trouble over an individual.
51
52 //The Hinton affair gets worse & worse. They are now trying to prove
53that the children are not his but another mans. Perhaps they are right.
54 Life seems to have been to me like a grim face with a smile of
55despair on it since I came to town.
56
57 If in this letter I have passed the bounds of what our friendship
58allows, please put me back by a letter however short a one.
59
60 Yours faithfully
61 Olive S.
62
63 You know sometimes I say to myself, "He hasn’t any real pain, he’s
64only over-working, his body can’t bear the pressure of his brain, &
65the tension caused by it." Ach, I don’t care.
66
67 Please lend me any life Mary Wollstonecraft you have & her Rights of
68Woman. I want to see if I can write that preface. You are so horrible
69you won’t help me write it. I’m glad I didn’t write that paper
70for the club when you asked me to! I’m glad!! I’ll never do
71anything when you ask me to.
72
73
74
Notation
The 'thing' that Unwin would not take until it was 'out of Chapman's hand' is The Story of An African Farm, which Unwin later published a new edition of. 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. Rive's (1987) version omits part of this letter and is also in a number of respects incorrect.