"Meeting, you are large enough to take me impersonally" Read the full letter

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Maria Sharpe

Maria Sharpe (1853-1928) was the younger sister of Elisabeth Cobb, and she too was a member of the Men and Women’s Club, acting as its Secretary. She married Karl Pearson in 1890 and they had three children. Schreiner knew Maria Sharpe through her association with the Men and Women’s Club, and there are a small number of extant letters from her to Sharpe. Schreiner’s comment in a letter of 30 November 1886 that “We differ in our views but I admire your sincerity” seems to sum up her relationship with and feelings about Maria Sharpe. Like her letters to Elizabeth Cobb, these letters too are fairly formal and ‘proper’, although there is a sense of them being somewhat warmer and easier, probably because Schreiner admired Sharpe’s attempt to write about prostitution and other ‘difficult’ topics.

In her 23 March 1886 letter about Eleanor Marx and the Men and Women’s Club, Schreiner makes her position clear to Maria Sharpe (while also writing “excuse confusion”) - she loves Eleanor Marx, thinks she would make a valuable and important Club member, but also wants to protect her from disapproval from other people who might object to her decision to live with Edward Aveling, and therefore do not want her to join. There is a cluster of letters to Maria Sharpe towards the end of 1886, OS saying she will write a note for the Club but is not yet sure on what, followed by her illness or breakdown or possibly withdrawal from the morphia she was being medically prescribed, and then a short on the eve of her departure from London saying she is leaving. In 1887, there is a flurry around Sharpe’s paper on prostitution for the Men and Women’s Club, with Schreiner urging her to publish it and the importance of feeling responsibility towards other women, educating and helping them, and working together for impersonal ends. The final communication in July 1889 is decidedly frosty and conveys that Schreiner feels she has been encroached upon by the friend it refers to and perhaps by Maria Sharpe too: “I shall keep your friend in mind if ever I should meet her, but life is very short & one has so much to do. You understand I think?”
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collection icon University College London: Special Collections at UCL is one of the leading university collections of manuscripts, archives and rare books in the UK. It... Show/Hide Collection Letters
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collection icon Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin: The HRC, Austin, is one of the world leading locations for archival papers pertaining to literary life and manuscripts across... Show/Hide Collection Letters
collection icon University College London: Special Collections at UCL is one of the leading university collections of manuscripts, archives and rare books in the UK. It... Show/Hide Collection Letters
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