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questions. She told me with the slow precision which marks all educated foreigners: "My husband is also a writer. When we first came from Russia in 1919 he rented this house from Miss Mansfield and her husband John Middleton Murry."
"Do tell me how she looked."
Madame took another sip before she continued: "She had a lithe and graceful figure. Her dark hair was bobbed with a straight bang which emphasized the whiteness of her skin and darkness of her eyes. She was bewitchingly lovely."
"And her eyes?" I interrupted.
"Black ones, lustrous with wisdom. Oh, she had an exquisite personality. And it is singular how you felt her divine flair or psychic quality, which is perhaps a better name."
She dropped another lump of sugar into the deep glass and went on:
"Everyone loved her, from celebrities to the post boy. She was fond of this house and expected to make it a permanent home, but London climate was too cruel for her - she had one cold after another, and was finally compelled to seek the kinder climate of southern France."
On my way out I glimpsed the bathroom at the end of the hall. A tin tub! A granite wash bowl balanced on a three legged stool! I wished to visualize her with sunken marble baths and sunshine filtering through flowering patios. Of course, England is England but I was sorry I had seen that wash basin.
At the time of her passing Katherine Mansfield had been married to John Middleton Murry, a famed English critic, for ten years. Mr. Murry is now editor of "The Adelphi" in London, in which he has printed some of her stories. From Mr. Murry I learned that...
Her ancestors, the Beauchamps, had
been in Australia and New Zealand for three generations. Katherine Beauchamp, the third daughter in a family of five children, was born in Wellington, New Zealand, October 14, 1888. Her childhood was passed in Karori, a small place about ten miles from Wellington, where the village school was the only one, and where she shared what education there was with the milk boy and the washwoman's daughter (see "The Doll's House"). When only nine years old, she won the first prize for composition at the school, the subject being "A Sea Voyage".
Her father sent her, at the age of thirteen, to Queens College, Harley Street, London, where she studied for five years. There she edited the school magazine. Like other young people of her generation, she found the beginnings of intellectual freedom through the admiration of Oscar Wilde and the English "decadents". At this time her affection shifted from literature to music. She became a devotee of the violoncello and a fine executant.
Her father now insisted that she return home, which she finally did much against her wishes. The following two years she passed in constant rebellion against what she then considered the narrowness and provincialism of a remote colonial city. London, to her mind, was the living centre of all artistic and intellectual life. Το add to her tragedy, a family of musicians whom she knew intimately in Wellington, and who had been an oasis in a desert of intellectual sterility, left New Zealand for London. After their departure she was in despair. She went on a rough camping expedition through the New Zealand bush and on her return succeeded in persuading her father to allow her to return to London, on a small allowance.
Back in the city, she abandoned the
'cello and again directed all her energy toward writing. She submitted manuscripts to editors in vain; and, to add to her allowance, she had varied and exacting experiences in traveling opera companies. But all the time, out of the theatre and in her little dressing room between curtains, she studied and wrote.
In 1909 the quality of her writing was recognized by the editor of "The New Age" and for two years she was a constant contributor to that paper. Though she received no money for this work, she was content with having found a place to publish. A series of stories she wrote for this magazine, based upon her experiences while convalescent after an illness in Germany, was collected and published in 1911, under the title "In a German Pension". This book was instantly recognized and passed quickly into three editions, when its sales were interrupted by the sudden bankruptcy of her publisher. For this book she received fifteen pounds in advance of royalties, of which, of course, there were none. (Last summer I cruised around for hours in various parts of New York looking for "In a German Pension". I finally located one in the lower part of town, but I am still without a copy, for the Pirate demanded forty dollars for it.)
In December, 1911, she met Mr. Murry at the home of W. L. George. He, who two years later became her husband, was then an Oxford undergraduate, and in conjunction with Michael Sadleir was editing a monthly literary magazine, "Rhythm". Katherine Mansfield began to write stories regularly for this. Her first one, "The Woman at the Store", caused a minor sensation. When Sadleir exited from the magazine she became coeditor. After this magazine died at the end of 1913, she had nowhere to place her
work. Her beautiful tale, "Something Childish but Very Natural", which she wrote in Paris in December, 1913, was refused by every editor to whom she submitted it. No home could be found for her stories until the winter of 1915, when she, D. H. Lawrence, and Mr. Murry ran for three numbers a little magazine, "The Signature". Upon its expiration she was again without a home for her writing.
In 1917 Mr. Murry and his brother had her "Prelude" and "Je ne parle pas Français" published as a little blue paper book for private circulation. During the next year "Bliss" was published in "The English Review", also "Pictures" and "The Man without a Temperament" in "Art and Letters".
"Prelude" marks the beginning of a final phase in her development. The war had come as a profound spiritual shock to her, as indeed to many less gifted writers of her generation. For a long period the chaos into which her thoughts, ideals, and purposes had been flung, remained unsolved. Then slowly her mind began to turn back toward her early childhood as a life which had existed apart from, and uncontaminated by, the mechanical civilization which had produced the war.
The critical moment came at the end of 1915 when her dearly loved younger brother arrived in England to serve as an officer. Her meeting with him formed a point around which her changed attitude could crystallize. For hours they reminisced over their childhood. She definitely resolved to dedicate herself to recreating life as she had lived and felt it in New Zealand. Her brother's death, a month later, confirmed her purpose and she left England for Bandol, in the south of France, where she began to work on
a lengthy story "The Aloe", which was published in a shorter and different form as "Prelude".
On its appearance as a blue paper volume, "Prelude" was barely recognized. Most of the newspapers would not criticize it at all: those which did saw nothing particular in it. But Katherine Mansfield had her moment when she heard that the local printer had exclaimed, on reading the manuscript: "Why these kids are real!" It was characteristic of her that she preferred the praise of simple, "unliterary" folks to that of critics. This trait became more marked when, after the publication of "Bliss and Other Stories", she received many letters from all manner of persons who loved her work and the child Kezia who appeared in it. She felt she had a responsibility to these friends. To them she must tell nothing but the truth. This preoccupation with truth, both in what she wrote and in herself that she might be worthy to tell it, became the devouring passion of her last years. She turned from modern literature: so little of contemporary work seemed to be true. "The writers are not humble", she used to say; "they are not serving the great purpose which literature exists to serve."
"Prelude" was scarcely more than a succès d'estime, if indeed it was that. It was not until its appearance as the first story in "Bliss" that its unique and profoundly original quality was truly appreciated.
Just after she had finished preparing the "Prelude" manuscript for the printer, in December, 1917, she suffered a serious attack of pleurisy. She left England, confident that she had only to visit her beloved Bandol to regain her health. The conditions of traveling in France during the last year of the war were so bad that the hardships she
suffered on this journey, which she was forced to take alone, made her illness worse. To add to the horror, Bandol itself was utterly changed by the war. No sooner had she reached this place, ill and alone, than she passionately desired to return to London. But tragic misfortune made her efforts impossible. The authorities delayed for weeks before granting her permission, so that she arrived in Paris dangerously ill, on the very day the long range bombardment of Paris began and all civilian traffic between England and France was suspended. The hardships of her enforced stay in Paris caused her pleurisy to develop into tuberculosis.
She went to Looe in Cornwall for the summer of 1918 and returned to London that winter. In the spring of 1919 Mr. Murry became editor of "The Athenæum" and she began to write weekly reviews of novels over the initials K. M. These were instantly recognized as brilliant criticisms. Later, she wrote a story each month for the paper. Then for the first time publishers began to ask for a collection of her stories. And at the beginning of 1920, "Bliss", for which she received forty pounds in advance, appeared.
Once more she was driven from England's unfit climate. She passed the winter in Ospedaletti and Mentone, where she learned of the success of her book. She came to London again for the summer months but in September went back to Mentone. In the autumn of 1921 she completed "The Garden Party". It was published in the spring of 1922 while she was in Paris for a special medical treatment.
After the appearance of that book she was established and heralded as the most famous short story writer of her generation.
However, writing had become for her an almost impossible struggle, not so much against disease as toward conviction that some work of an inward purification had to be accomplished before she could advance, before she could be worthy to express the complete truth which in her imagination she apprehended.
"The Canary", her last complete story, was done in July, 1922.
That autumn she abandoned writing and went into retirement at the Gurdjieff Institute ("Seekers After Truth"), Fontainebleau, where she was taken
with a sudden hemorrhage on the night of January 9, 1923. In the communal cemetery of Avon, near Fontainebleau, Katherine Mansfield's burial place may be located by a tomb inscribed with her favorite lines from Shakespeare, which were spoken by Hotspur in "King Henry IV"-"But I tell you my lord fool, out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety."
The four books published in the States since her passing are: "Bliss", "The Garden Party", "The Doves' Nest", and "The Little Girl".
THE HOUND IN LEASH
By Lawrence Lee
HOUND'S a hound despite all chains That leash his limbs from speed; And the smell of fox, like growing pains, Troubles the yearlings of his breed.
The free hound goes where keen winds run; The hound in leash lies still.
One hunts a course that's sometimes done,
But one speeds past the farthest hill.
The free hound gets the raw, rich meat,
A leashed hound knows that hungry feet
When free hounds take the fox of red
Their souls are satisfied;
But leashed hounds hunt a fox far sped Through fields where huntsmen never ride.
The leashed hound runs till morning grey
He trails the last red scent of day,
THE BOOKMAN'S GUIDE TO FICTION
THE BOOKMAN will present each month tabloid reviews of a selected list of recent fiction. This section will include also the books most in demand according to the current reports in "Books of the Month", complied by the R. R. Bowker Company, The Baker and Taylor Company's "Retail Bookseller", and THE BOOKMAN'S Monthly Score". Such books as the editor specially recommends are marked with a star.
THE POLYGLOTS William Gerhardi Duffield. A worthy successor to "Futility". Good writing here. (See page 694.)
* SOUNDINGS - A. Hamilton Gibbs Little, Brown. A girl finds love stronger than mind a fictional observation of passion that is arresting.
THE RECKLESS LADY - Philip Gibbs Doran. A mother and daughter work out their highly interesting problem from Monte Carlo to Grand Rapids.
* BARREN GROUND- Ellen Glasgow Doubleday, Page. Surrounding the life story of a woman with beautiful description and detailed characterizations, Miss Glasgow has achieved something like a masterpiece.
DAY OF ATONEMENT - Louis Golding Knopf. As a novel this is interesting and often thrilling but as a tract it does not ring true.