Mansfield, Katherine (1888–1923)

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Mansfield, Katherine (1888–1923)

New Zealand-born writer of short stories, poems, sketches, and reviews, who was also known for her letters, journals, and translations . Name variations: Kathleen Beauchamp; Kathleen Beauchamp Bowden; Kathleen Murry; Catherine, Katharina, Kathie Schonfeld; (nicknames) Kass, Kassie, Katie; (pseudonyms) Katherine Mansfield, K.M. Pronunciation: MANS-field. Born Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp on October 15, 1888, in Wellington, New Zealand; died on January 9, 1923, in Fontainebleu, France; third of five children of Harold Beauchamp (a prosperous self-made banker) and Annie Burnell (Dyer) Beauchamp; attended Karori state school, Wellington Girls' High School, Miss Swainson's private school in Wellington, and Queen's College in London, England; married George C. Bowden, on March 2, 1909 (divorced, April 29, 1918); married John Middleton Murry, on May 3, 1918; no children.

Spent childhood in Wellington except for five years on the outskirts at Karori; attended state schools in Wellington (1895–99) and private school (1899–1903); attended Queen's College in Harley Street, London (1903–06); returned to Wellington and published several pieces in the Native Companion ; returned to London (1908) to pursue a career in music or writing; renewed friendship with Ida Baker; married George Bowden (1909), and left him the same day; pregnant by another man, went to Bavaria and suffered a miscarriage; returned to London (1910); began writing as Katherine Mansfield in periodicals; published her first book of stories, In a German Pension (1911); met John Middleton Murry (1912) and began relationship that continued until her death; diagnosed as tubercular (1918); divorced from George Bowden (April) and married Murry (May 1918); published Prelude ; subsequently moved to Italy, France,and Switzerland, at times accompanied or visited by Murry, in search of a healthful climate; had a very productive period of writing (1920–22); began radium treatments (1922) and entered Gurdjieff Institute in Fontainebleu, France (October 1923), where she died.

Major writings:

In a German Pension (1911); Prelude (1918); Bliss and Other Stories (1921); The Garden Party and Other Stories (1922); The Dove's Nest and Other Stories (1923); Journal of Katherine Mansfield ("Definitive Edition," ed. by J.M. Murry, 1954).

Caught in several cross-currents of change that marked the transition from the Victorian period to the modern era, the life of Katherine Mansfield reflects the many conflicts felt by colonial subjects, women, and writers during the first decades of the 20th century. Born in Wellington, New Zealand, on October 15, 1888, into an upwardly mobile family committed to achieving economic and social rank that would place their children on an equal footing with those of well-established middle-class families in England, Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp was raised to assume a place in a world in which elegantly dressed women, as suitable ornaments of their husbands' success, ordered their households through directives to servants, pursued genteel leisure activities, supervised the arrangements of their gardens and conservatories, and participated in a social life marked by civic celebrations, teas, golf, tennis, and garden parties. The fierceness of her rebellion against this expected pattern brought her fame as a writer who helped to shape emerging themes and methods in modern fiction, as well as notoriety as a woman who casually dispensed with notions of traditional female roles and sexual behavior.

Kathleen's parents, born in Australia, carried their visions of mid-Victorian English culture with them to New Zealand, just as their own parents had carried fond images of "home" from England to Australia. Harold and Annie Beauchamp were among the fortunate colonials who found a better life in a place where their willingness to take risks gave them the fresh start that would lead to middle-class security, respectability, and eventually, prosperity and knighthood for Harold. The elements of rebellion, risk-taking, and willingness to recreate themselves that inspired her ancestors were the family characteristics that surfaced, much to her parents' consternation, in Kathleen, the third of their five children. Vera, Charlotte (Chaddie), and Kathleen (Kass), born respectively in 1885, 1887, and 1888, formed a close group, followed by a daughter who died in infancy in 1891, a fifth daughter, Jeanne , born in 1892, and finally, the much desired son, Leslie, in 1894.

In 1893, the family moved from Wellington to Karori, on the outskirts of town, where Harold believed his children would enjoy the benefits of a country childhood. Here, Kass and her older sisters attended the village school, where her writing ability was first recognized when she won a prize in a school competition. She later attended Wellington Girls' High School and began to publish her work in the school newspaper. Following the family's return to Wellington and her father's appointment as a director of the Bank of New Zealand, Vera, Chaddie, and Kathleen were sent to Miss Swainson's private school, where Kathleen took the initiative to start a school magazine.

Kathleen was early identified in both family and school life as rebellious, less eager to please than her sisters, detached from the family and from classmates with whom she did not feel a special bond, and inclined to dramatize her difference through stories she fabricated about herself. Throughout her life, those who met her remarked on her reserve and the impression she often gave of wearing a mask or playing a role. She was not especially close to her mother, who often left the children in the care of their maternal grandmother while she traveled with her husband. Kass probably felt closest to and most loved by this grandmother, Margaret Mansfield Dyer , who lived with the family.

She cultivated special relationships with a chosen few she labeled "my people," and her early friendships prefigure relationships she had with women and men later in her life. She developed a close friendship with Marion Ruddick , with whom she was "sworn chums," and had an adolescent crush on Maata Mahupuku , the exotically beautiful descendent of Maori chieftains and heiress to a fortune. At 13, Kathleen thought she was in love with Arnold Trowell, a gifted young cellist of 15, who was largely indifferent to her ardent admiration. Arnold and his twin brother Garnet, a violinist, were anticipating going to Europe to develop their musical talents. Inspired by Arnold's promise of an exciting future, Kass persuaded her father that she should have cello lessons and practiced diligently. Thereafter her music vied with her writing as a means through which she could achieve distinction and so transcend the provincial life she already found commonplace.

In January 1903, when Kathleen was 14, she and her two older sisters, along with her parents and Aunt Belle, sailed for England; Harold

Beauchamp had booked the entire passenger section for the family's exclusive use. The girls were to be left in London, with Belle as chaperon, to attend Queen's College in Harley Street, founded in 1848 as the first institution for higher education of women in England. Here Kathleen delighted in the larger world she had wished for. On the first day at school, she met Ida Constance Baker , another "Colonial," raised in Burma, with whom she would have a close and complex relationship for the rest of her life. At Queen's, Kathleen did not distinguish herself as a student, but learned German, practiced her cello, began writing in a notebook, the precursor of the journals she kept throughout her life, and wrote regularly for the college magazine, eventually becoming its editor in 1905. She discovered Oscar Wilde and the Decadents and was entranced by The Portrait of Dorian Gray. Taken with Wilde's insistence on the absolute freedom of the gifted individual, especially the artist, she began writing Wildean epigrams of her own. While at Queen's, she kept Arnold Trowell's photograph on her dresser and wrote to him in Frankfurt, where he and Garnet were studying music.

I feel always trembling on the brink of poetry. The almond tree, the birds, the little wood where you are, the flowers you do not see, the open window out of which I lean and dream…. But especially I want to write a kind of long elegy to you … perhaps not in poetry. Nor perhaps in prose. Almost entirely in a kind of special prose.

—Katherine Mansfield, Journal, January 22, 1916

Kathleen apparently visited the Trowell twins in Frankfurt in the fall of 1903. She also made a summer trip to Germany in 1904. Then for Easter in 1906, Aunt Belle took her three nieces to Brussels where the Trowells were now studying. Kass was attracted to the bohemian life of musicians and artists she saw on the Continent. When Harold and Annie Beauchamp arrived in England in April to take their daughters home in the fall, Kass found the prospect of returning to Wellington dismal. When the Trowells also came to London in April to give recitals for which Arnold won high praise, she became intensely emotional about the future of her relationship with him. She began the unfinished autobiographical piece "Juliet," in which she wrote, "If I do go back all will be over. It is stagnation, desolation that stares me in the face."

As the time to leave England approached, she spoke of taking a flat and staying in London; when her parents refused to entertain this notion, she resolved to make herself so objectionable that they would be glad to send her back to England. On the voyage back to New Zealand, just turned 18, she annoyed her father by flirting outrageously with a member of the English cricket team on the ship. Harold Beauchamp told his daughter he would not tolerate her "fooling around in dark corners with fellows"; he had serious misgivings about his wisdom in sending his daughters "home" to finish their education and resolved to keep his two youngest children in New Zealand.

Back in Wellington, Kathleen continued to rebel against what she regarded as the conventional and materialistic values of her parents and the dullness of colonial social life. Resolved to pursue her desire to achieve independence as an artist and sexual freedom as a "new woman," she renewed her intimate friendship with Maata Mahupuku, toward whom she had always felt a strong sexual attraction, and developed a passionate relationship with Edie Bendall , nine years older than herself, who had recently returned from art school in Sydney. Kass and Edie planned to write and illustrate a book about children and spent time together in the holiday cottage Harold had built for the family at Day's Bay. In her journal, which had already become an important outlet for her intimate feelings, Kathleen recorded both the sexual yearning and comfort she felt in Edie's presence: "I feel more powerfully all those so-termed sexual impulses with her than I have with any man." At the same time, she was certain that she would one day marry Arnold and share the artist's life with him. An invaluable experience of her time at home, and one which gave her a new perspective on New Zealand, was the month-long camping trip she took with a small party to the Maori-speaking Urewara country in the volcanic central region of the North Island, where she saw for the first time scenes of untamed beauty of her native land and experienced the harsh living conditions of many settlers and indigenous people living in these remote areas.

During her 18 months in New Zealand before persuading her father to provide the allowance that would enable her to live in London until she could make her own way either through her music or her writing, the young woman who was to become Katherine Mansfield was shaped by the unresolved conflicts that would haunt her short life and provide many themes for her fiction. Throughout her life she needed—and hated to need—the support and ministrations of a woman who would give her unconditional love. At the same time she needed—and repeatedly denigrated or fled from—the safety net of heterosexual marriage to maintain what she seemed to recognize as her precarious hold on a world of security and respectability. Out of such conflicts she was to create satirical stories like "Marriage a la Mode" and "The Man Without a Temperament" about superficially sophisticated characters acting out roles with nervous gaiety that masks the frightening emptiness of their social and marital relationships. In time, she also came to understand her intense loneliness and her love-hate relationship with her family—especially her father—and with her homeland as a source of deep and poignant memories she would draw upon again and again in her best stories: those about childhood experiences ("Prelude," "The Garden Party," and "A Doll's House"); about moments of intense awareness of connection to the external world ("The Wind Blows," "At the Bay," "Bliss"); and about lonely and isolated characters whose lives of imaginative fantasy offer fragile and temporary protection from the cruelty of an indifferent world ("The Tiredness of Rosabel" and "Miss Brill").

The practice of daily writing during this period in New Zealand—in journals, diaries, notebooks, and letters—made her aware of the power of language to produce finely wrought, consciously crafted prose that recreates and reveals experience with the economy and intensity of poetry. When several of her pieces were accepted by the Melbourne Native Companion under the pen name of K. Mansfield, she was able to convince her father that she might have a future as a writer, if not as a cellist.

Kathleen left for England in July 1908, hopeful of finding the longed-for freedom and the range of "experience" that she believed would fuel her creative production. The next four years were in fact a traumatic and brutal initiation into the bohemian life of the early part of the century. This period of her life—about which there is a great deal of speculation and surmise among her biographers because she destroyed almost all of her diaries of 1909–12, and about which people who knew her at this time provided often conflicting recollections after her death—is characterized by a reckless pursuit of personal freedom, confusion about her sexual identity, and deep emotional hurt masked by assumed sophisticated indifference to failed personal relationships. The single truth that one can extract from the web of deliberate and unintentional lies and the protective half-truths that have accumulated about this period, and from the fragmentary evidence upon which her story has been variously reconstructed, is that Kathleen, in her frantic pursuit of a life of intense and varied experience, followed a path that led, by a series of tragic mistakes and misfortunes, to a future marked by increasingly debilitating illnesses, emotional and financial dependency on others, and frustration of her two deepest desires: for a permanent home and family, and for the sustained stamina to realize her talent as a writer.

Met when her ship docked at the end August 1908 by Ida Baker, who had idolized her when they were both at Queen's, Kass spent a few days with Ida's family before taking up residence at Beauchamp Lodge, a hostel for single music students with few rules for its residents. The Trowell family was living in London at the time, and although Kass was telling friends that she was secretly engaged to Arnold, he seems to have regarded her as no more than a family friend. During her frequent visits to the Trowell home, where she was treated as a member of the family, she very soon transferred her affections to Arnold's twin brother Garnet, a violinist in a traveling opera company who was more receptive to her overtures and, while he was on tour, her passionate letters.

Throughout the fall, she led a chameleon-like existence, assuming different roles according to the company she kept. She made ends meet between the days when she could pick up her monthly allowance through the Bank of New Zealand by entertaining for pay at fashionable parties with her gifts for recitation, singing, and music. For her birthday, Garnet Trowell evidently sent her a ring, which she proudly showed his family and her Aunt Belle, who was now married and living in England. At the same time, she told a friend that she feared she was pregnant as a result of an incident that had occurred on her journey to England when she went ashore with a male passenger and was drugged. Neither this melodramatic story nor the pregnancy has been verified. She went off to Paris to attend a wedding and wrote Garnet cheerfully about the sights she had seen. During the fall, she wrote "The Education of Audrey," which was probably published in London before it was reprinted in the Wellington Evening Post, and possibly the first version of a story that showed the promise of her mature writing, "The Tiredness of Rosabel." Toward the end of November, she may have joined Garnet on his tour and taken a small part in the opera chorus; upon Garnet's return to London, she lived with the Trowells for part of December as a paying guest.

Early in January, there was a serious falling out with Mr. and Mrs. Trowell—perhaps because of her affair with Garnet—and Kass left their home, never to return. Terribly hurt, confused, and now quite possibly pregnant, although it is not clear that Garnet or his parents were aware of this, she returned to Beauchamp Lodge. She first turned to Ida Baker for consolation, and then in early February accepted a marriage proposal from George Bowden, a tenor singer 11 years her senior whom she had recently met. They were married on March 2, 1909. On the evening of the wedding when, according to Bowden, "she lay on the bed [of their hotel suite] like a log" and he suggested that she "go and ring up Ida Baker," Kass left and returned to Beauchamp Lodge, where she announced casually the next morning at the breakfast table that she was married, a condition that made her ineligible to live there any longer. She shortly joined Garnet, who was on tour in Glasgow, and went with him to Liverpool before returning to London. It is unclear whether or not he knew about her marriage. On their return to London, Kass went to stay with Ida and her father. She never saw Garnet again, but wrote to him from Germany later in the year.

Annie Beauchamp, having learned of her daughter's marriage through the bank clerk who dispensed her allowance, sailed for England in early April. By this time, Kass was certainly pregnant. When Garnet, whose parents may have seen her marriage notice to Bowden posted in the papers on March 17, did not respond to her letters, Kass, having settled with Ida's help in a cheap flat, began to take Veronal to get to sleep. On a sudden whim, she went briefly to Brussels, traveling as Mrs. K. Bendall, thus beginning a pattern of abrupt moves and assumed identities to escape painful situations. Her mother arrived in England at the end of May. It is unclear whether or not she knew of Kass' pregnancy, but she promptly arranged interviews with Mr. Bowden and Ida's father, Dr. Baker. Apparently aware of her daughter's attraction to women, Annie hoped to "cure" what George Bowden referred to ten years later as Kathleen's "sexual imbalance" by separation: she took Kathleen to Germany and advised Dr. Baker to send Ida away on a trip. Once Kathleen was installed in an expensive hotel at a Bavarian spa at Bad Worishofen, where a Catholic priest advocated a regimen of ice cold showers, baths, barefoot walks, and a vegetarian diet as "nature therapy," Annie Beauchamp returned to Wellington and promptly cut Kathleen out of her will.

Left alone in Worishofen, Kass, under the name of Kathe Bowden, moved from the hotel to a small pension, which was to provide the setting and title of her first book of stories, In a German Pension (1911). In late June or early July, after lifting her trunk to the top of a cupboard, she had a miscarriage. The loss of her baby left her desolate, and she wrote Ida of her longing for a child to love. Ida, ever eager to fulfill Kathleen's slightest wish, promptly arranged for a poor shopkeeper's son, recovering from pleurisy and in need of a change and some sunshine, to be sent to spend several weeks with her.

In Worishofen, Kathleen met a Polish writer named Floryan Sobienowski, and her brief affair with him was to haunt the remainder of her professional and personal life. During their time together, they had apparently read and discussed Chekhov's short stories, and Kathleen's first published work after her return to England late in 1909, "The Child-Who-Was-Tired," was a "free adaptation" of Chekhov's story "Sleepy-head," printed without acknowledgment of Chekhov as a source or influence. This may have been the basis of later otherwise inexplicable favors and payments she agreed to grant Sobienowski. Equally important is the fact that through Sobienowski she probably contracted gonorrhea, undiagnosed for years—as was often the case with women at this time—while it destroyed her health and undermined her immune system, making her vulnerable to tuberculosis, the cause of her death in 1923.

Returning to London in 1909 with the help of Ida Baker, Kass appealed to George Bowden for assistance, lived in his flat, and through him met A.R. Orage, editor of the New Age, an innovative publication devoted to new perspectives in politics, literature, and art. This meeting marked the start of her professional career in England. Orage printed "The Child-Who-Was-Tired" in February and "Germans at Meat" in March. Her association with Orage and the New Age introduced her to the milieu of emerging modernist writers and artists in London, among whom she was to become known personally as well as professionally as Katherine Mansfield. Her new career was interrupted in the spring—as it would be often from now on—by a bout of illness, first an operation for "peritonitis," and then an infection, which she called rheumatic fever, but which was apparently an effect of the undiagnosed venereal infection which would recur frequently and which she thereafter called her "rheumatiz." Ida Baker, whom she had begun to refer to in her journals and letters as L.M. (for Leslie Moore), took her to the seashore to recover her health. In 1910, Katherine published several more of her Bavarian stories in the New Age.

At the beginning of 1911, she took a three-room flat in Clovelly Mansions, where she lived until September 1912, the longest period of residence at one address during her adult life. In 1911, she and her brother Leslie, who was visiting England with his mother and sisters for the coronation of George V, reestablished the close, loving relationship they had shared in childhood. She continued to publish in the New Age, and her first book of stories, In a German Pension, was published in December. She seemed to have emerged from a period of almost surreal existence and multiple personalities as a beautiful and fashionable young woman with a promising literary career; she was, however, about to enter the semi-invalid condition in which she would spend the rest of her life.

The next phase of her life began at the end of 1911 when she met John Middleton Murry, a 22-year-old scholarship student at Oxford and editor of Rhythm. By April 1912, Murry, at Katherine's invitation, moved into her flat first as her lodger and soon as her lover. As their relationship developed, she became assistant editor of Rhythm. In the fall, their first attempt to establish a home in the country and, Katherine hoped, begin a family failed after two months when the financial difficulties of Rhythm and the unwelcome appearance of Sobienowski, who moved in with them, made a return to London advisable. After spending Christmas in Paris with friends, the couple now known as the Murrys returned to London and, in March, again took a cottage in the country, keeping their one-room London flat as an office for Rhythm, which was reorganized in May 1913 as The Blue Review, but failed after three issues. For the remaining ten years of her life, Murry's need to make London the center of his career as a journalist and Katherine's need to escape London for the sake of her health determined the itinerant life they led despite frequent resolves to settle into a permanent home.

From 1913 to 1923, Katherine's life and career would be shaped by several new literary friendships, as well as by her continuing complicated relationships with Murry and Ida Baker. These new friendships led to connections with the coteries of unconventional writers, artists, and intellectuals who congregated in Bloomsbury and at Garsington, the fashionable country estate where Lady Ottoline Morrell collected and entertained celebrities of the time.

In June 1913, D.H. Lawrence, who had by then published The White Peacock and The Trespasser, and had been in touch with Rhythm while in Italy about having his stories published, returned to England with Frieda Weekley (Lawrence) after their dramatic lovers' flight of the previous spring and called at the journal's office. He took to Murry and Katherine immediately, and because of his similar situation with Frieda, identified with their inability to marry while Katherine was still married to Bowden, who went to America in 1914 without following up on preliminary steps he had made to get a divorce. The two couples became close friends, and Murry and Katherine shared in the celebration of the Lawrences' wedding in July 1914, when Frieda gave Katherine her old wedding ring, which Katherine wore until her death.

Following the bankruptcy of the Blue Review, the Murrys stayed for a while in Paris and then in several flats in London, where they could live cheaply on Katherine's allowance while Murry worked on a novel and Katherine, who was not doing much writing, attempted to get work as an film extra. Meanwhile, Ida had gone to live with her father in Rhodesia. Following the outbreak of war in August, Katherine and Murry went for a brief holiday to Cornwall and then stayed with the Lawrences in Buckinghamshire before moving into Rose Tree Cottage, about three miles from the Lawrences.

Early in 1915, Katherine became discontented with Murry, returned to London, and planned to leave him to join Francis Carco, a friend Murry had introduced her to in Paris the previous year. She was detained by illness and by her brother Leslie's arrival in England to join a regiment and go to war. With money given her by Leslie, she went to Paris in February and managed to get into the war zone for a four-day affair with Carco. Within a week, she returned to England and reconciled with Murry, but in the next two months left him again twice to live in Carco's Paris flat to write, returning within weeks of each separation. In June, she and Murry moved together to a house in St. John's Wood after Murry was hired as a reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement. There, Leslie visited them for several weeks, and he and Katherine reminisced fondly about their childhood before he left for France on September 22. On October 7, Leslie was killed when a grenade blew up in his hand. Katherine was so devastated by the news and ill with the onset of winter that Murry took her to Bandol in the south of France in mid-November, hoping that there she would ease her grief and recover her health. She resolved to get well and pay tribute to her brother's memory by writing about their childhood in New Zealand. Murry left her there to return to England to spend Christmas at Garsington, to which he had been invited through Lawrence. At the new year, Murry returned to Bandol to write a book on Dostoevsky while Katherine rewrote "The Aloe," a story about her family and childhood, cast in a new mood of unsentimental reminiscence and written in a crisp, detached style. As it had for many of her fellow modernists, the war transformed Katherine's view of life and art.

In April 1916, the Murrys joined the Lawrences at Higher Tregerthen in Cornwall, possibly as a preliminary attempt to establish the utopian community of like-minded, free individuals Lawrence had been talking about for several years. By June, the violent arguments between Lawrence and Frieda and Lawrence's insistent urging of Murry to join him in a "blood-brother" relationship so distressed Katherine and Murry that they left to take a cottage some distance away, after which their relationship with the Lawrences cooled. Once more discontent, Katherine left Murry, but after spending a weekend at Garsington with Lady Ottoline and her guests, including Lytton Strachey and Dora Carrington , returned to him. Through their new Garsington friends, Murry got a job as a translator with the War Office as an alternative to military service, which provided a regular salary for the first time in his life.

In September, Murry and Katherine moved into J.M. Keynes' house in Bloomsbury, which they shared with Dorothy Brett and Carrington. They soon became entangled in the unconventional relationships and gossip that characterized Bloomsbury and Garsington at the time. They developed friendships with Clive Bell, T.S. Eliot, and Bertrand Russell; Lytton Strachey arranged a meeting between Katherine and Virginia Woolf , which took place the next year, after Katherine and Murry had moved to separate studio flats. Ida, back from Rhodesia, came to live with Katherine. Virginia and Leonard Woolf, who had just established the Hogarth Press, asked Katherine for a story they could publish, and she began reworking "The Aloe" as "Prelude," but became ill before she could finish typing it.

In December, a doctor, fearful that Katherine's persistent cough and chronic pleurisy indicated tuberculosis, advised her to go abroad, and in January 1918, Katherine left alone for Bandol. Ida, disturbed to hear of Katherine's poor health, joined her in February. On February 19, Katherine had her first lung hemorrhage. As her illness became worse, she and Ida tried to return to England by way of Paris, but were not permitted to leave Paris while it was under bombardment. On their return in April, Murry said that Katherine was barely recognizable. On April 29, her divorce from George Bowen became final, and on May 3, she and Murry were married. She spent two months in Cornwall in the hope of regaining her health, where Murry joined her after a while. When they returned to London in the summer, "Prelude" had been issued by the Hogarth Press, and in August, "Bliss" was published in the English Review. The Murrys moved to their own house in Hampstead, where Ida joined them as housekeeper, after Katherine, advised by specialists to enter a sanitorium, chose to undergo treatment at home under the care of a doctor who for the first time identified her "rheumatism" as a symptom of the gonorrheal infection she had contracted in 1911.

After Murry became editor of the Athenaeum in 1919, Katherine began reviewing novels for the journal and helped S.S. Koteliansky with his translation of Chekhov's letters. Too weak to go out much herself, Katherine was frequently visited by Virginia Woolf, who wrote in her Journal after Katherine's death "I was jealous of her writing—the only writing I have ever been jealous of…. Probably we had something in common which I shall never find in anyone else." In the fall, Lawrence visited and renewed their friendship. T.S. and Vivienne Eliot also visited her at Hampstead.

For the remaining years of her life, Katherine alternated between two beliefs: that she was on the brink of death, and that she would make a miraculous recovery, renewed in body and spirit, to live happily with Murry and the children they would have. Beginning in 1919, she spent long periods abroad seeking healthful climates in France, Italy, and Switzerland, usually accompanied by Ida and sometimes by Murry. She returned from time to time to their home at Hampstead. She continued to write reviews of novels for the Athenaeum as long as she was able to, and she wrote and published some of her best and most enduring stories during bursts of creative energy in 1920 ("The Daughters of the Late Colonel," "Miss Brill," "The Life of Ma Parker," and "The Lady's Maid") and 1921 ("At the Bay," "The Doll's House," "Her First Ball," "The Garden Party"). Two collections, Bliss and Other Stories (1921) and The Garden Party and Other Stories (1922), established her reputation as a major practitioner of the modern short story.

As her health continued to deteriorate, she sought desperate remedies, first in a series of radiation treatments she took in Paris in 1922, and finally through George Ivanovich Gurdjieff's Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man, organized as a commune in Fountainbleu, France, on the site of an old Carmelite monastery. There Gurdjieff preached that integrated mental, physical, and spiritual health could be achieved through exercise, diet, meditation, physical labor, music, dance, and painting. After a final visit to England, during which she saw her father and other members of her family, Katherine went to live at the Institute in Fountainbleu on October 16, 1922, and participated in the harsh regimen prescribed for her by Gurdjieff. In early January, she asked Murry to visit her there; he arrived on January 9 and spent the afternoon with her. As he walked her to her room that evening, she suffered a massive hemorrhage and died. She was buried in the communal cemetery in Avon, outside Fountainbleu.

As her widower and literary executor, John Middleton Murry became the guardian of Katherine Mansfield's reputation—personal and literary—a role many would say he performed with a mixture of shameless sentimentality and crass self-interest. At the time of her death, she was the author of some 88 stories and fragments and had published three books of collected stories, two in the last two years of her life. Although she earned a modest income in those years from the publication of individual stories in magazines and journals, she remained financially dependent on the allowance from her father throughout her life. After her death, Murry edited 11 books of her writings, including letters and various versions of her notebooks and journals. Jeffrey Meyers counts some 40 books, articles, poems, introductions, and letters to the press Murry wrote between 1923 and 1959 which contributed to the myths—indeed almost the cults—that grew around the idealized memory of Katherine Mansfield that Murry perpetuated. As manuscripts of letters, notebooks, journals, and unpublished works have become accessible in recent years, a much more complex portrait of Katherine Mansfield as woman and writer has begun to emerge. Continuing analysis of these new materials will undoubtedly lead to a fuller understanding of her life and a critical revaluation of her part in shaping the direction of modern fiction.


Alpers, Antony. The Life of Katherine Mansfield. NY: Viking, 1980.

Meyers, Jeffrey. Katherine Mansfield: A Biography. NY: New Directions, 1978.

Tomalin, Claire. Katherine Mansfield: A Secret Life. London: Viking, 1987.

suggested reading:

The Collected Letters of Katherine Mansfield. Ed. by Vincent O'Sullivan and Margaret Scott. 4 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1993–96.

The Journal of Katherine Mansfield. Definitive Edition. Ed. by J. Middleton Murry. London: Constable, 1954.

The Katherine Mansfield Notebooks. Ed. by Margaret Scott. 2 vols. Canterbury, N.Z.: Lincoln University Press, 1997.

The Letters of Katherine Mansfield. Ed. by J. Middleton Murry. 2 vols. London: Constable, 1928.

Stories by Katherine Mansfield. NY: Knopf, 1930.

Patricia B. Heaman , Professor of English, Wilkes University, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

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Mansfield, Katherine (1888–1923)

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