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Letter ReferenceKarl Pearson 840/4/3/125-133
ArchiveUniversity College London Library, Special Collections, UCL, London
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter DateFriday 5 November 1886
Address From9 Blandford Square, Paddington, London
Address To2 Harcourt Buildings, Temple, London
Who ToKarl Pearson
Other VersionsRive 1987: 113-14
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 Friday night
2
3 I should have to write so many sheets to answer your letter as I would
4like. I can’t now.
5
6 One thing. The ideal in the sense in which I use the term is
7attainable. The ideal is the highest conception of the most completely
8beautiful & satisfactory condition which the imagination is able to
9produce. Now generally the imagination can produce a picture
10surpassing the as yet see reality, you we feel dissatisfied with
11things because the image of them in our minds is better. But the
12absolutely ideal does exist. When I look at African sunshine at four
13in the afternoon, then I feel I have the ideal, that than which I can
14imagine nothing more perfect. Some of Beethoven’s music is (to my
15mind! of course it is all a question of the individual mind!) ideal.
16My imagination desires nothing more in music. On the other hand, I
17have never seen a picture that comes within a thousand degrees of my
18conception of what it might the ideal. I can always imagine something
19a thousand times more perfect. With regard to human character; there
20are certain phases of in many characters that perfectly ideal. In
21one’s own life there have often been relations with certain people
22that were absolutely ideal. I had a little sister, & from the moment
23of her birth to her death there was nothing in our relations that was
24not absolutely ideal, i.e. so sweet & perfect that I cannot imagine
25its being better. This happens very seldom in human life, but it is
26towards this possibility of attaining the highest good that we strive.
27We are not striving towards a shadow. "Yes, & you strive after an
28ideal & just as you think you have got it, it turns into nothing!!"
29-Yes, I know that but, especially with regard to the ideal which we
30which to strive reach with regard ^in^ our own natures to ^characters^ we
31need not be dis-couraged. We have failed - but there is success.
32
33 //I do not think your character is ideal in many ways. But I see a
34chance of your attaining to a more complete unflawed order of life
35than I or most people can attain to. I daresay you never may.
36
37 //Yes, it is the faults of those we care for that bind us most to them.
38 It makes us feel they need us possibly.
39
40 //I’m glad of what you tell me on the Hinton question. Don’t let
41us throw any stone that should be left to second or thirdrate people
42natures. It is so much easier to prove how wicked other people have
43been than to do any better: Nearly anybody can do it, & it takes so
44much energy. I have a faith that is never for one moment shaken that
45the world is made better by loving sympathy with it, not fighting with
46^though my conduct runs so often against it.^ "Thou shalt love if thou
47would’st help: & where thou canst not love thou canst not help."
48
49 //I met a blazing Hintonian, the other day. He says the only man like
50Hinton is Jesus Christ. We had a big fight. I beat him out of all his
51positions but he went away unconverted. I’ll tell you about him when
52we meet.
53
54 //I should like to sit talking all the morning but I have ten letters
55to write.
56
57 //Thank you for the books. Isn’t Mr Godwins Life splendid. I never
58read it before. I don’t much see what one needs more than that. I
59wish you would write the introduction for me. You tell me you are not
60doing work now, except your lectures. Presently you will begin doing
61about fifty things at once. That is what I am doing just now.
62
63^Yours, ^
64 O.S.
65
66^You will try to come this evening to see Carpenter won’t you. I
67think you will like each other. ^
68 OS.
69
70 ^I hadn’t time to copy out the allegory, sent it just as it was (not
71to be laughed at) you can keep it.^
72
73
74
Notation
The allegory Schreiner had sent to Pearson cannot be established as she was writing many at this time. The book referred to is: William Godwin (1798) Memoirs of the Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman London: J. Johnson. 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 this 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.