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Letter ReferenceKarl Pearson 840/4/2/45-49
ArchiveUniversity College London Library, Special Collections, UCL, London
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter DateSunday 4 April 1886
Address FromSt Dominic?s Convent, Mutrix Road, Kilburn, London
Address To
Who ToKarl Pearson
Other VersionsRive 1987: 74-6
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 has been written on this letter in an unknown hand. The name of the addressee is indicated by content and archival location.
1 St Dominic’s.
2 Mutrix Rd.
3 Kilburn N.W.
4 Sunday afternoon
5
6 I have just come back from a ^solitary^ walk into the country to a place
7called Hendon.
8
9 I sent you that poem of Miss Jones not to bother you about Hinton, but
10because I felt sorry for her when I read it; poor little soul! shut up
11in a body that doesn’t adequately express it. Has it ever struck you
12what a terrible thing it must be to have an external individuality
13which repells people from you instead of drawing them next to you?
14She’s wanted my love & friendship so, & I’ve been so selfish not
15caring to "give myself out" to meet her - I feel so sorry for her but
16I don’t know what to do for her exactly. She writes unreadable sadly
17that I won’t help her & I could if I liked.
18
19 //Have you ever read Montaigne’s essay on friendship? I sometimes
20feel that he is my favourite writer, & that ^that is^ my favourite of
21his essays. Yes, friendship between men & women is a possibility, &
22our only escape from the suffering unreadable which sexual
23relationships now inflict. I was going to say, why it are poss it is a
24possible thing only when both ^man & woman^ unreadable have reached a
25certain height of ^in^ intellectual development not reached yet by the
26many - but when I remember such beautiful things as my friendship now
27ten years old with my old diamond digger who can hardly write a decent
28letter & reads nothing but his bible & paper, then I feel that even
29that is not true. But is there not always a possibility ^of^ for the
30consciousness of sex difference & the desires which spring from it
31creeping in, & spoiling the beautiful free frank friendship? - No, not
32when the friendship is true. unreadable For, suppose that friendship
33exists between a man & a woman, (friendship I take it, is that
34con-dition in which through the influence of sympathy one stretches
35out, & takes in^to oneself^ as it were, another personality, desires its
36health, its growth, its happiness, as an end in itself just as one
37does one’s own:) & suppose in addition to this general sense of
38oneness & sympathy, - no, I won’t go on with this, I’ll put it
39short.
40
41 The most ideally perfect friendship between a man & a woman that I
42know of is one where the man in addition to unreadable sympathy with
43the woman’s whole understanding ^intellectual nature,^ feels that she
44is to him also sexually perfect; unreadable without friendship such a
45feeling would disturb & bring intense bitterness & sorrow; with that
46friendship the fact that such a feeling exists on one side only adds
47to the quiet beauty of the relationship. If I ^so^ loved a man
48unreadable that I felt he were the only human being it would have been
49possible for me to unreadable love wifehood under; yet it would never
50touch my friendship ^for him^ I should never even feel a wish that he
51should know it. "And if I love thee, what is that to thee?" that is
52the passion that grows out of friendship; not the old cruel sensual,
53"You must be mine! I will win your love though you die for it. I will
54tear you to pieces but I must have you."
55
56 This passion you may say is a new thing. Yes, & so are the electric
57telegraph & the steam-ship; but they are not less real for that. There
58is nothing in which the race develops so much as in its forms of
59affection. But is it not possible that though a feeling of sex-love
60may not interfere with the most perfect, cold & reasonable friendship
61when felt on only one side, that, if it were mutually felt it would
62grow so strong as to kill out the more complex intellectual passion? -
63I cannot say from experience, but I can see no argument in right
64reason why it should do so. That friendships are possible between men
65& women ^unreadable^ without the least sex feeling on either side I have
66proved over and over again - the only question I have ever asked
67myself has been does "sex attraction" kill friendship? I think not.
68
69 This letter is muddled, I am so tired after my long walk - that
70delightful kind of tiredness when one has got muddled by the fresh air.
71
72 It will be so splendid for you on your holiday. I hope your mother^’s
73illness^ will not make you carry a certain anxiety with you.
74
75 Don’t trouble to reply to this. When one is getting one’s holiday
76feeling on one, even the must of a letter to a friend is unrestful.
77
78 I wrote you a very nasty letter the other day but tore it up again.
79You must have hurt me very much by that letter you wrote me ^at Portsea Place^
80because I can’t forget it. It comes back to me again when I thought
81I’d forgotten all about it.
82
83 I can’t come to the Club because I’m not "allowed out" after nine
84at night: the house is locked & the nuns go to bed then. It isn’t
85like London this quiet house with the nuns in their white & black
86dresses walking so silently about. I haven’t spoken to a soul today.
87I have my meals alone in the little sittingroom. How peaceful & dead
88these women’s faces are, only one has still got strife in it. She
89has only been here five years. It is after nine or ten ^years^ that they
90get that look.
91
92^I am sending you a little bit of a story of mine: you are not to read
93it just because I send it. I wouldn’t read anything of yours if I
94didn’t feel inclined. It’s the last chapter of a large novel I
95wrote long ago. I haven’t looked at it since I finished it some
96eight^^nine^^ years ago! I couldn’t look at it now. A friend was looking
97over some of my MS. the other day, & said they liked this. unreadable
98The novel is the story of a woman who begins life a wild passionate
99nature full of longings for love & knowledge & sympathy; & slowly she
100learns to renounce, & renounce, & renounce. I think In the part I send
101you she is at the Diamond Fields at the Cape; she has given up all her
102money, & is earning her living by ironing. By chance she finds that
103the man she once loved, & for whom she thought all feeling had died
104forever, is in Kimberley & has died of fever; she goes to lie with his
105dead body, & takes fever also, & then comes the bit I send. I can’t
106bear even to look at the outside of the old yellow MS. I don’t know
107what I drag them about with me for. I often try to burn them, & it
108gives me such pain. It seems as if I were burning the people in them.
109And yet I am afraid they will publish them after I am dead.^
110
111O.S.
112
Notation
The 'little bit of story of mine' sent to Pearson is from Undine. The poem mentioned is called 'Heresay', about a man wronged and so crushed by it he died, which is enclosed. Schreiner has written on it 'This is by poor Miss Jones.' It was published in 'Papers For the Times'. The book referred to is: Michel de Montaigne (1685) Essays of Michel de Montaigne London: T. Bassett. Rive's (1987) version omits part of the letter and is also in a number of respects incorrect.