Chatting up Katharine Mansfield

“I like the New Zealand writer Katherine Mansfield, who according to Virginia Woolf smelt like a civet cat and had a hard, cheap face, and who was the only contemporary writer of whom she was remotely jealous,” the Spectator’s Jeremy Clarke writes.

“I like her writing and I like what I read about her short life … my imagination finds her writing voice oddly congenial. It strikes it as supremely impersonal, poker-faced and tart, with a quietly powerful undertow of sexual recklessness.

“My favourite short story of hers, and I honestly couldn’t say why, is an odd little thing never mentioned by critics called ‘The Young Girl’.

“Going back never works. Nothing lingers. When they’re gone, they’re gone. Even with a commemorative plaque on the wall, one is left only with a sense of vertigo at how easily all vestiges of even the recent past are obliterated and we move on. The small marble plaque on the wall of the Villa Pauline reads: ‘Ici Katherine Mansfield ecrivit “Prélude”. Janvier–Avril 1916.’

“Last week, I succumbed to my foolishness once again and visited another of her temporary homes, this one at atmospheric Zennor in Cornwall. She and [John Middleton] Murry came here after Bandol. In the granite cottage next door were D.H. Lawrence and Frieda.

“And then I experienced the usual disappointment when I stood and looked and realised that Mansfield and Lawrence are so completely absent from that place that they might as well have never existed in the first place. Lawrence’s cottage, I learnt from the lady at the B&B, is now occupied by the director of Tate St Ives.”

Original article by Jeremy Clarke, The Spectator, October 4, 2014.


Tags: D.H. Lawrence  Frieda Lawrence  John Middleton Murry  Katherine Mansfield  Spectator (The)  Tate St Ives  Villa Pauline  Virginia Woolf