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Mansfield, Katherine
KatherineMansfield

Name

Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp Murry

born

14 October 1888; Wellington

died

9 January 1923 (aged 34); Fontainebleau, France

role

Colonialist and Modernist Short Story writer

spouse

George Bowden; John Middleton Murry

partner

Ida Constance Baker

relatives

Arthur Beauchamp (grandfather), Harold Beauchamp (father), Elizabeth von Arnim (cousin)

influences

Oscar Wilde, Anton Chekhov

influenced

Virginia Woolf

Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp Murry (14 October 1888 – 9 January 1923) was a prominent modernist writer of short fiction who was born and brought up in colonial New Zealand and wrote under the pen name of Katherine Mansfield. Mansfield left for Great Britain when she was 19 where she encountered Modernist writers such as D.H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf with whom she became close friends.

Her stories often focus on moments of disruption and frequently open rather abruptly. Among her best-known stories are "The Garden Party", "The Daughters of the Late Colonel" and "The Fly". During the First World War Mansfield contracted extrapulmonary tuberculosis, which rendered any return or visit to New Zealand impossible and led to her death at the age of 34.

BiographyEdit

"The pleasure of reading is doubled when one lives with another who shares the same books."
- Katherine Mansfield
781px-Katherine Mansfield Birthplace, New Zealand

Mansfield's birthplace in Thorndon, Wellington

Early lifeEdit

Mansfield was born Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp in 1888 into a socially prominent family in Wellington, New Zealand. The daughter of a banker in a middle-class colonial family, she was a cousin of author Countess Elizabeth von Arnim. Mansfield had two older sisters and a younger brother, born in 1894.[1] Her father, Harold Beauchamp, became the chairman of the Bank of New Zealand and was knighted.[2][3] Her grandfather was Arthur Beauchamp, who briefly represented the Picton electorate in New Zealand Parliament.[3][4] The Mansfield family moved from Thorndon to Karori in 1893, where Mansfield spent the happiest years of her childhood; she used her memories of this time as an inspiration for the short story "Prelude".[2]

Her first published stories appeared in the High School Reporter and the Wellington Girls' High School magazine (the family returned to Wellington proper in 1898),[2] in 1898 and 1899.[5] She became enamoured with a cellist, Arnold Trowell (Mansfield was an accomplished cellist, having received lessons from Trowell's father),[2] in 1902, although the feelings were largely unreciprocated.[6] Mansfield wrote in her journals of feeling alienated to some extent in New Zealand, and, in general terms, of how she became disillusioned due to the repression of the Māori people, who were often portrayed in a sympathetic or positive light in her later stories, such as "How Pearl Button Was Kidnapped".[1]

She moved to London in 1903, where she attended Queen's College along with her two sisters. Mansfield recommenced playing the cello, an occupation that she believed when at Queen's that she would take up professionally,[6] but she also began contributing to the school newspaper with such dedication that she eventually became editor during this period.[1][5] She was particularly interested in the works of the French Symbolists and Oscar Wilde,[1] and she was appreciated amongst her peers for her vivacious and charismatic approach to life and work.[5] She met fellow writer Ida Baker (also known as Lesley Moore),[1] a South African, at the college, and the pair became lifelong friends.[2] Mansfield did not become involved in much political activity when she lived in London; for example, she did not actively support the suffragette movement in the UK (women in New Zealand had gained the right to vote in 1893).[1]

Mansfield began journeying into continental Europe in 1903–1906, mainly to Belgium and Germany. After finishing her schooling in England, Mansfield returned to her New Zealand home in 1906, only then beginning to write short stories. She had several works published in the Native Companion (Australia), which was her first paid writing work, and by this time she had her mind set on becoming a professional writer.[5] It was also the first occasion on which she used the pseudonym 'K. Mansfield'.[6] During this time she rapidly wearied of the provincial New Zealand lifestyle and of her family, and two years later headed again for London.[1] Her father sent her an annual allowance of £100 for the rest of her life.[2] In later years she expressed both admiration and disdain for New Zealand in her journals, and she was never able to return there, partly due to her tuberculosis.[1]

Mansfield had two lesbian relationships during this period, notable for their preeminence in her journal entries. Mansfield biographer Angela Smith has said that this is evidence of her "transgressive impetus", although Mansfield continued to have male lovers, and attempted to repress her feelings at certain times.[1] Her first relationship was with Maata Mahupuku, a young Māori woman whom Mansfield had first met in Wellington, and then again in London. In June 1907 she wrote: "I want Maata—I want her as I have had her—terribly. This is unclean I know but true." The second relationship, with Edith Kathleen Bendall, took place from 1906 to 1908, and Mansfield also professed her adoration for her in her journals.[7]

Return to LondonEdit

Back in London in 1908, Mansfield quickly fell into the bohemian way of life lived by many artists and writers of that era, although she published only one story and one poem during her first 15 months there.[5] Mansfield sought out the Trowell family for companionship, and whilst Arnold was involved with another woman, Mansfield embarked on a passionate affair with his brother, Garnet.[6] By early 1909 she had become pregnant with his child, but Trowell's parents disapproved of the relationship, and the two broke up. She hastily entered into a marriage with a singing teacher 11 years older,[8] George Bowden, on 2 March, but left him the same evening, having failed to consummate the marriage.[6] After a brief reunion with Garnet, Mansfield's mother, Annie Beauchamp, arrived in 1909. She blamed the breakdown of the marriage on a lesbian relationship between Mansfield and Baker, and she quickly had her daughter dispatched to the spa town of Bad Wörishofen in Bavaria, Germany. Mansfield miscarried after attempting to lift a suitcase on top of a cupboard. It is not known whether her mother knew of this miscarriage when she left shortly after arriving in Germany, but she cut Mansfield out of her will.[6]

Mansfield's time in Bavaria was to have a significant effect on her literary outlook. She was introduced to the works of Anton Chekhov, a writer who proved to have greater influence upon her writing in the short term than Wilde, on whom she had been fixated. She returned to London in January 1910, and had over a dozen works published in A.R. Orage's The New Age, a socialist magazine and highly-regarded intellectual publication. She became a friend and lover of Beatrice Hastings, who lived with Orage.[9] Her experiences of Germany formed the foundation of her first published collection, In a German Pension,[6] in 1911, a work that was lauded by a number of critics (and enjoyed for its unfavourable portrayal of Germans) but which she later described as "immature".[5] The most successful story from this work was "Frau Brechenmacher Attends a Wedding".[6]

Meeting MurryEdit

Although discouraged by the volume's relative lack of success, Mansfield submitted a lightweight story to a new avant-garde magazine called Rhythm. The piece was rejected by the magazine's editor, John Middleton Murry, who requested something darker. Mansfield responded with "The Woman at the Store", a tale of murder and mental illness.[1] Mansfield was inspired in her writing by Fauvism, a contemporary art movement of the period, as well as Chekhov, although neither literary style had a profound effect on her writing in the long term (Fauvist literature has been described as 'savage').[1][6]

In 1911 Mansfield and Murry began a relationship that culminated in their marriage in 1918. They led a troubled life during this time - Mansfield left Murry twice in 1911–13.[10] In October 1912, the publisher of Rhythm, Stephen Swift, absconded to Europe, and left Murry responsible for the debts the magazine had accumulated. Mansfield pledged her father's allowance towards the magazine, but it was discontinued, being reorganized as The Blue Review in 1913 and folding after three issues.[6] Mansfield and Murry were persuaded by their friend Gilbert Cannan to rent a cottage next to his windmill in Cholesbury, Buckinghamshire in 1913, in an attempt to alleviate Mansfield of her ill health.[11] It has been suggested that she was suffering from gonorrhoea amongst other things, but there is no real evidence for this. In January 1914 they moved to Paris, with the hope that the change of setting would make writing for both of them easier. However, Mansfield wrote only one story during her time there ("Something Childish But Very Natural") before Murry was recalled to London to declare bankruptcy.[6] Mansfield had a brief affair in 1914 with French writer Francis Carco; her visiting him in Paris in February 1915[6] was retold in one of her short stories, "An Indiscreet Journey".[1]

Mansfield's life and work were changed forever by the 1915 death of her brother, Leslie Heron "Chummie" Beauchamp,[12] as a New Zealand soldier in France in World War I. She was shocked and traumatized by the experience, so much so that her work began to take refuge in the nostalgic reminiscences of their childhood in New Zealand.[13] In a poem describing a dream she had shortly after his death, she wrote

By the remembered stream my brother stands
Waiting for me with berries in his hands...
'These are my body. Sister, take and eat.'
[1]

Despite this turbulence in Mansfield's life, she entered into her most productive period of writing in early 1916, and her relationship with Murry also improved.[1] The couple had befriended D. H. Lawrence and his wife, Frieda von Richthofen, in 1913, and maintained a strong relationship with them until falling out in 1916. Mansfield began to broaden her literary acquaintances for the remainder of the year, encountering Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, Lytton Strachey and Bertrand Russell through social gatherings and introductions from others.[1]

At the beginning of 1917 Mansfield and Murry separated,[1] although he continued to visit her at her new apartment.[6] Baker, whom Mansfield often called, with mixture of affection and disdain, her "wife", moved in with her shortly afterwards.[8] Mansfield entered into her most prolific period of writing post-1916, which began with several stories, including "Mr Reginald Peacock's Day" and "A Dill Pickle", being published in The New Age. Woolf and her husband, Leonard, who had recently set up Hogarth Press, approached her for a story, and Mansfield presented "Prelude", which she had begun writing in 1915 as "The Aloe". The story is centred around a family of New Zealanders moving home, with little external plot. Although it failed to reach a wider audience and was little noticed and criticized on its publication in 1918, it later became one of Mansfield's most celebrated works.[6]

In December 1917 Mansfield became ill, and was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Rejecting the idea of a sanatorium on the basis that it would cut her off from writing,[5] she took the only available option, to move abroad during the English winter.[6] She moved to Bandol, France, and stayed at a half-deserted and cold hotel, where she became depressed. However, she continued to produce stories, including "Je ne parle pas français", one of her darker works (believed to have been inspired by Fyodor Dostoevsky's Notes from the Underground, it is a deeply personal work that casts Murry in negative light). "Bliss", the story that lent its name to her second collection of stories in 1920, was also published in 1918. Her health continued to deteriorate, and she had her first lung haemorrhage in March.[6]

By April, Mansfield's divorce from Bowden was finalized and she and Murry married, although they parted two weeks later.[6] They rejoined, and in March 1919 Murry became editor of Athenaeum, a prestigious weekly journal. Mansfield wrote over 100 reviews for the magazine, and they were published as a collection, posthumously, in Novels and Novelists by Murry. For the winter of 1918–19 she and Baker stayed in a villa in San Remo, Italy. Their relationship came under strain during this period, and after writing to Murry to express her feelings of depression, he stayed over Christmas.[6] Although her relationship with Murry became increasingly distant after 1918[6] and the two often lived apart[10] this intervention of his spurred her on, and she wrote "The Man Without a Temperament", the story of an ill wife and her long-suffering husband. Biographer Joanna Woods has said that this work signalled a turning point for Mansfield, when she was able to display a "new objectivity that gives the story a universal dimension".[6]

"Miss Brill", the bittersweet story of a fragile woman living an ephemeral life of observation and simple pleasures in Paris, established Mansfield as one of the preeminent writers of the Modernist period on its publication in the 1920s Bliss. The title story from that collection, "Bliss", which involved a similar character facing her husband's infidelity, also found critical acclaim. She followed with the equally praised collection The Garden Party, published in 1922.

Final yearsEdit

Mansfield spent her last years seeking increasingly unorthodox cures for her tuberculosis. In February 1922, she consulted the Russian physician Ivan Manoukhin. His "revolutionary" treatment, which consisted of bombarding her spleen with X-rays, caused Mansfield to develop heat flashes and numbness in her legs.

The Dictionary of National Biography reports that she now came to feel that her attitude to life had been unduly rebellious, and she sought, during the days that remained to her, to renew and compose her spiritual life. In October 1922, Mansfield moved to Georges Gurdjieff's Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man in Fontainebleau, France, where she was under the care of Olgivanna Lazovitch Hinzenburg] (later Mrs Frank Lloyd Wright). Mansfield suffered a fatal pulmonary haemorrhage in January 1923, after running up a flight of stairs to show Murry how well she was.[14] She died on 9 January and was buried in a cemetery in the Fontainebleau district in the town of Avon.

Mansfield proved to be a prolific writer in the final years of her life, and much of her prose and poetry remained unpublished at her death. Murry took on the task of editing and publishing her works.

His efforts resulted in publication of two additional volumes of short stories, (The Dove's Nest in 1923 and Something Childish in 1924), her poems, "The Aloe", a collection of critical writings (Novels and Novelists) and a number of editions of her letters and journals.

LegacyEdit

Mansfield is widely considered one of the best short story writers of her period. A number of her works, including "Miss Brill", "Prelude", "The Garden Party", "The Doll's House" and "The Fly", are frequently collected in international short story anthologies. Mansfield also proved ahead of her time in her adoration of Russian playwright and short story writer Anton Chekhov, and incorporated some of his themes and techniques into her writing.

The following high schools in New Zealand have a house named after her: Mount Roskill Grammar School, Westlake Girls' High School, Macleans College and Rangitoto College in Auckland; Rangiora High School in North Canterbury, Tauranga Girls' College in Tauranga, Wellington Girls' College in Wellington and Southland Girls' High School in Invercargill. She has been honoured at Karori Normal School in Wellington which has a stone monument dedicated to her with a plaque commemorating her work and her time at the school.

A street in Menton, France, where she lived and wrote, is named after her and a Fellowship is offered annually to enable a New Zealand writer to work at her former home, the Villa Isola Bella. New Zealand's preeminent short story competition is also named in her honour.

She was the subject of the 1973 BBC miniseries A Picture of Katherine Mansfield starring Vanessa Redgrave. The six-part series included adaptations of Mansfield's life and of her short stories.

Seventeen of her early short stories were adapted in the 2012 collection Mansfield with Monsters published by New Zealand publisher Steam Press. The adaptations include the insertion of supernatural and alien entities into Mansfield's work.

WorksEdit

CollectionsEdit

394px-Katherine Mansfield Selected stories

Short storiesEdit

Katherine Mansfield's works in filmEdit

Films about Katherine MansfieldEdit

Adaptations of Katherine Mansfield's WorkEdit

  • Mansfield with Monsters (Steam Press, 2012) Katherine Mansfield with Matt Cowens and Debbie Cowens [17]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. Katherine Mansfield (2002). Selected Stories. Oxford World's Classics. ISBN 978-0-19-283986-2.
  2. Katherine Mansfield:1888–1923 – A Biography, accessed on 12 October 2008
  3. Nicholls, Roberta. "Beauchamp, Harold - Biography". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  4. Scholefield, Guy Hardy (1950) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand parliamentary record, 1840-1949. Wellington: Govt. Printer. p. 95.
  5. "[http://www.katherinemansfield.com/mansfield/her_write.asp Mansfield: Her Writing". Katharinemansfield.com. Retrieved 2008-10-12.
  6. Joanna Woods (2007). "Katherine Mansfield, 1888–1923". Kōtare 2007, Special Issue – Essays in New Zealand Literary Biography – Series One: ‘Women Prose Writers to World War I’. Victoria University of Wellington. Retrieved 2008-10-13.
  7. Alison J. Laurie. "Queering Katherine" (PDF). Victoria University of Wellington. Retrieved 2008-10-23.
  8. Ali Smith (7 April 2007). "So many afterlives from one short life". The Telegraph. Retrieved 13 October 2008.
  9. "As mad and bad as it gets", Frank Witford, The Sunday Times, 30 July 2006
  10. Kathleen Jones. "Katherine’s relationship with John Middleton Murry". Retrieved 22 October 2008.
  11. Farr, Diana (1978). Gilbert Cannan A Georgian Prodigy. London: Chatto & Windus. ISBN 0-7011-2245-5.
  12. Elizabeth Bowen, Introduction, in Stories by Katherine Mansfield, New York: Vintage Books, an imprint of Random House, 1956
  13. "Katherine Mansfield". Britishempire.co.uk. Retrieved 25 May 2007
  14. Susan Kavaler-Adler (1996). The Creative Mystique: From Red Shoes Frenzy to Love and Creativity. pp. 113. ISBN 0-415-91412-4.
  15. NZ on Screen Rudall Hayward filmography, retrieved 17 June 2011
  16. NZ on Air Press Release "Bliss For Platinum Fund", retrieved 28 August 2011
  17. "Mansfield with Monsters" Steam Press, NZ, 2012

External linksEdit


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