Table of Contents

Correspondence on 'The Anti-Marriage League'

Contributed by Joan Richardson

Margaret Oliphant's article 'The Anti-Marriage League' was published in the January 1896 issue of Blackwood's Magazine. In it she lambasts the anti-marriage attitude of a new generation of writers, and discusses in detail Grant Allen's The Woman Who Did and Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure. The two letters transcribed below were written by Mrs Oliphant, almost certainly to Grant Allen, as the second letter refers to Hindhead where he lived. These letters came up for auction separately on Ebay in July 2005. The auctioneer conducted each as a private auction, and did not reply to a request to be put in touch with the winning bidders. Therefore at this time there is no access to the original letters. These letters are dated January 7th, presumably 1896, just after the Blackwood's article was published. The 'Dear Sir' seems somewhat surprising, rather than the more polite 'Dear Mr Allen' - perhaps the letter she received began 'Dear Madam,' and she is replying in kind? It is unknown whether the letter from Grant Allen, to which she replies, still exists. The writing paper is headed by Mrs Oliphant's emblem: a dragon impaled by a large cross bearing the banner 'Margaret'. The paper is black-bordered, with reference to the death of Mrs Oliphant's last child a year earlier.

First letter (2 pages)

3 Windsor Place Dundee 7th January

Dear Sir

I am much touched by your letter, and trust I have never wronged you personally in any way. I know that you did not carry out your principles into practice which (pardon me!) every freethinker is expected to do - I live at Windsor when I am at home, and in about a month I shall in all probability be there - and if then you care to come and see me, it will give me pleasure to receive you. At the same time I doubt if it will be of much use. I am an old woman, a woman of my day not of this, and the mother of men (though God has taken them from me) - therefore there are very few of the experiences of life with which I am not practically acquainted - judge then whether theories are likely to have much weight with me. I am quite willing to believe, since you say so, that you mean well when you attempt the overthrow of what seems to me the most sacred foundation of life, but it is evident we see this matter from the most absolutely different points of view and are not in the least likely to move each other from these.

Truly yours

M.O.W. Oliphant

Second letter (1 page)

3 Windsor Place Dundee 7th January

Dear Sir

I am sorry to have addressed my answer to your letter to Hindhead, not remembering that you had given me another address - but probably it will be forwarded to you. It was to say that I live in Windsor and will be there in about a month, when if you care to come see me, I am always to be found: but that I did not think any such interview would be of much use -

Truly yours

M.O.W. Oliphant