MANSFIELD, Katherine

(1888 - 1923)
“This is not a letter but my arms about you for a brief moment.” 

Katherine Mansfield Murry (nee Beauchamp) was born in Wellington, New Zealand and, although she lived for much of her short life in France and England, her roots are firmly set in her native land.  She used her memories of her home and the experiences of her later life to great effect in her stories - she expressed this most eloquently in a letter of 1922 when she wrote 'I think the only way to live as a writer is to draw upon one's real familiar life – to find the treasure in that.…And the curious thing is that if we describe this which seems to us so intensely personal, other people take it to themselves and understand it as if it were their own.’

Her personal life was often complicated, although her affection for her eventual husband, John Murry, was sincere and enduring.  The couple developed strong ties with the brilliant group of writers who made London the hub of Modernist literature and were frequent guests at Garsington Manor, the home of Lady Ottiline Morrell, where they met with members and friends of the Bloomsbury group.

She is generally considered to be one of the best short story writers of her day - her work often earning the admiration of her fellow Modernists, including Virginia Woolf, who confessed to being jealous of her writing.  Yet despite her current standing as a modern English literary figure, most of her work was published posthumously.  Two short stories were published by the Hogarth Press (Prelude 1918) and the Heron Press (Je ne Parle pas Francais 1920) but of the eleven collections of her short stories, only three, In a German Pension, Bliss and The Garden Party appeared in her lifetime. In 1917 she was diagnosed with the tuberculosis that was to kill her, and although this time saw an outpouring of story-writing,  the writing itself seemed enough and publication was left until after her death when Murry took on the task of editing and publishing the material.  In 1931 Murry wrote of her “She did what Keats said all must do who would achieve a true self for themselves: she made her heart the Bible of her Mind”.

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