Letters of Olive Shreiner

To Havelock Ellis

16th July, 1884.

Speaking of the effects sexual feeling has on the mind, it is very clearly proved in the case of women. I must make more inquiries among other women, my friends, who will have noticed and been able to analyse their feelings. With myself, while I am unwell every month my feelings are particularly sensitive and strong. A little word that would not pain me at another time causes me acute agony I can't help feeling, and a little word of tenderness is so precious to me (especially the man who loves you ought to be tender with you then). The time of greatest and most wonderful mental activity is just after, and perhaps the last two days of the time too. I was unwell last week, and now, though my chest is so troublesome, I can lie on the sofa half asleep and the thoughts are continually crowding in on me. Last night it suddenly flashed into me, the solution of all my difficulties with From Man to Man. It has been brooding in the background of my mind these many days, and now it has suddenly come. I shall have no more difficulty with it, it is as clear as daylight. I have got what I wanted. It is so splendid, I mean the feeling is, I get so excited I don't know what to do.

But to go back to the sexual feeling. Of course one may very easily exaggerate what I have been talking about, but there is no doubt there is some truth in it. Eleanor Marx, the only woman I have spoken to on the subject, feels much the same. My acquisitive power, my power of learning, is not at all weak just at the time, but my feelings are so strong. I am going to write and ask Mrs. Walters and some of my intimate friends. This subject is interesting because as far as the power of the purely physical-sexual extends, so far must the power of the mental-sexual extend. If the physical feelings extend their power over a certain portion of the soul, then the relationship between man and woman will be able to work upon the same portion. Do you carefully observe (I mean unconsciously, I always look at myself unconsciously, don't you?) the interaction of your manly upon your mental stature. I should like to know the man's side of the question. I should think the relationship must be almost as close. Look at the effect of celibacy on monks and hermits, etc.

Yes, you never look anyone in the face, eh? I couldn't understand it at first. I think what I called that glorious look in your eyes was just the once or twice when you looked really into mine. They were godlike. What is rather funny is that some years ago I never looked at anyone in the eyes. I couldn't. I had a cousin who used to hate me and she used to say that that was why she couldn't bear me. I wonder if you will change like I have and look people full in the face like I do now. And I used to be reserved and secretive without any reason for it; I'm not like that now: I'm glad you too turn away your face and look down. I don't think you will always.