Mansfield and Woolf’s a Transformative Friendship

“Stories of friendships between artists are often told as love stories: the chance meeting, the electric first encounter, the mysterious mutual recognition that would change everything,” Megan O’Grady writes in a feature about creative partnerships for The New York Times. Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf’s colourful relationship is one such story discussed.

“Lightning doesn’t always strike on initial acquaintance,” O’Grady writes. “In a 1917 diary entry, a 35-year-old Woolf didn’t mince words in her impression of the New Zealand-born Modernist writer Mansfield at a dinner party: ‘She stinks like a … civet cat that had taken to streetwalking.’ Despite Mansfield’s shocking ‘commonness’, Woolf went on, ‘when this diminishes, she is so intelligent and inscrutable that she repays friendship.’

“Woolf couldn’t have known then how quickly that seed of admiration for Mansfield, who was younger and, at the time, a more established writer, would grow, and how much she would cherish their conversations and letters, passionately intellectual exchanges in which they hashed out their literary ideals. In 1918, Woolf’s own Hogarth Press published “Prelude”, Mansfield’s masterpiece about an uprooted New Zealand family.”

Original article by Megan O’Grady, The New York Times, April 12, 2021.

Tags: Katherine Mansfield  New York Times (The)  Virginia Woolf  

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