Olcott HS - Letter to Zhelikhovsky VP (1892-05-23)

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Letter data
Author(s): Olcott H.S.
Place: Gulistan, Ootacamund, India
Date: 1892-05-23
Language(s): English
Receiver(s): Zhelikhovsky V.P.
Person(s): Blavatsky H.P.; Betanelly M.C.; Fadeeva N.A.; Johnston V.V.; Solovyov V.S.; Wachtmeister C.; Watkins J.M.
Other: Buddhist Catechism; Russian letters to H.P.B.; H.P.B.'s testament
Summary and notes
Olcott writes about various matters related to publication projects and the estate of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. He seeks affirmation from Vera that she does not object to the publication of basic details about H.P.B.’s brief marriage to Michael Betanelly.
Location: GARF, items:
Ф. Р-5972. Оп. 1. Д. 79. Л. 17-18
Ф. Р-5972. Оп. 1. Д. 79. Л. 18об
Ф. Р-5972. Оп. 1. Д. 79. Л. 19-20
Ф. Р-5972. Оп. 1. Д. 79. Л. 20об
Olcott HS - Zhelikhovsky VP, 1892-05-23, 1.jpg Olcott HS - Zhelikhovsky VP, 1892-05-23, 2.jpg Olcott HS - Zhelikhovsky VP, 1892-05-23, 3.jpg Olcott HS - Zhelikhovsky VP, 1892-05-23, 4.jpg
Other languages


from: Olcott H.S.
to: Zhelikhovsky V.P.
date: 1892-05-23

Ootacamund, India
23 May 1892

My Dear Madame Jelihovsky,

I have your letter of 29 April from Paris and also the long-desired copy of the Russian Edition of my B[uddhi]st Catechism. By this same post the Business Manager of the Theosophist is sending Vera for you an Indian Currency Note of Rs 500 – the first half of the sum I set aside as a present to you from Helena Petrovna and myself. Just now I am too poor to send you all but should be able to do so before very long. Your sister has not appeared to me since her death, nor to anybody else, unless she may have to Nadyezhda Andreyevna or you, or your daughter, her namesake. I send you the money of my own motion, first, out of love, for her, my friend, and next out of the affection I long since acquired for her family – which almost seems to me like my own – so intimate were we two in family as in public matters.

As regards the mss of your Life of H.P.B. I advise you to propose to the Countess Wachtmeister to undertake the cost of translating and publishing it, giving you an agreed per-centage on sales as copyright. If she will not take it, then I would offer it to Reeves & Turner, or Chapman & Hall or some other London publisher. Let Vera consult Mr. Watkins of the T.P.S. office & he can arrange all for her &, I think, he would. Solovioff is, I must say, one of the worst blackguards I ever met, and how he with his social word can control the policy of the best Russian press passes my comprehension. However, through London you may come to circumvent him. It is most regrettable that Vera carelessly left an important letter of his at Adyar & only inquired after it 2 to 3 years later, when her room had been occupied by several different persons & her writing table used by a dozen. I sent her a parcel of all the Russian letters to H.P.B. that I found in the hope that among them she might find something important to you: if I find others I shall send them also.

I hope you will be pleased with the historical sketch of the T.S. and my relations with H.P.B. that I am now publishing monthly in the Th[eosophi]st. It is, in my opinion, always the wisest policy in writing about individuals and events to tell the truth, for it is sure to come out eventually and reacts terribly upon a biographer who has knowingly falsified the facts. My portrait of H.P.B. is one of her as I knew her – a frank, brotherly, and appreciative portrait not one done in gold color and rose like an icon, and making her a miracle of perfection which – on the plane of the physical self – she most certainly was not. At the same time I conceal details which are not essential to history and which do not reflect credit upon her. But fear not that I shall not write in the spirit of brotherly love and of appreciation of those splendid intellectual and spiritual qualities which, to those best knew her, dwarfed her faults and left only the memory of dear friendship. Even though you cannot find time to read anything else in the Th[eosophi]st, you must not fail to follow me through my “Old Diary Leaves”. I am just now writing about my Philadelphia visit to her when she was living with Betanelly and am greatly distressed in mind about giving out the truth of their relationship. It being a matter of public record and all the documents accessible to everybody for a trifling search-fee, and her enemies having attended to it from time to time, it really seems as if I would be doing her a real service by stating in so many words that they were married, by such a clergyman, at such a time and place, lived together, (non-maritally) so many months, and were divorced at such a date. I even cabled at my cost, to Mr. Judge (New York) for his opinion and a week ago rec[eive]d (also by cable) his advice to give the facts, yet I am sending my June Chapter to press without doing so for fear I might be acting injudiciously. Now, before my July chapter must be sent in, there will be time for you to cable me (at my own expense – I shall remit you the cost upon you writing me how much it is) the one word “Yes” or “No”; from which I shall know your wishes. Address your telegram simply with these two words “Olcott. Madras.” & it will reach me. You need not date or sign it: I shall know it is from you. With the one other word ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, that makes only 4[1] words to pay for. I have the original divorce papers in my keeping and the letters from Betanelly’s lawyer to myself. Before deciding upon your answer to me, think wide and seriously, for it is no light thing to suppress facts while at the same time before giving them out, one should ponder deeply. If I do not hear from you on or before the 20th June, I must decide for myself what to do as regards the July Chapter. As remarked above, I have not heard from nor seen H.P.B.: the voice that spoke to me was that of Mahatma Morya, and I have had his confirmation of the personal message through two others & distant sources. So probably I shall not live many years longer & while I am perfectly happy to remain and work on, I am quite indifferent about changing my body for another one, whether next week or next century.

You must not grieve about the trumpery candlestick & mugs H.P.B. left – the lot were not worth 20 roubles. As for the rings, she had given almost all away & the rest had promised to several people – just as she chose a dozen or so for her successor in the T.S.! For myself (although her testamentary heir) all I took at London were her shoe-horn (worth sixpence) and her reading glass. All else I have given to the T.S.

Ever affectionately yours,

H.S. Olcott

Editor's note

References to Vera in this text are to Vera Johnston, the daughter of Vera Jelihovsky, who was married to Charles Johnston.

See also Olcott’s letter of 20 June 1892. Olcott did subsequently publish the Betanelly notes in “Old Diary Leaves” in the July 1892 issue of The Theosophist.


  1. Here may be a mistype, since "Olcott" + "Madras" + "Yes" or "No" makes 3 words. – Ed.