'Katherine Mansfield Today' Blog

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What was KM thinking and writing 90 years ago today? The ‘KM blog’ posts daily extracts of her letters and notebooks written almost 90 years ago...
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11 January 1922

Chalet des Sapins, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

What with them and my poor dear pussy - he who got out today & began to scratch, scratched away, kept at it, sat up, took a deep breath, scratched his ear, wiped his whiskers, scratched on, SCRATCHED - until finally only the tip of a quivering tail was to be seen & he was rescued by the gentle Ernestine. He wrung his little paws in despair. Poor lamb! To think he will not be able to scratch through until April. I suppose snow is beautiful. I hate it. It always seems to me a kind of humbug - a justification of mystery and I hate mystery. And then there is no movement. All is still - white - cold - deathly eternal. Every time I look out I feel inclined to say I refuse it. But perhaps if one goes about and skims over all is different.
   How are your Swarees? Is everybody just the same? I am working at such a long story that I still can only just see the end in my imagination - the longest by far Ive ever written. Its called The Doves Nest. Tell me what you are working at? Or are you resting? I hope I shall see Marie Loo in her garden of Eden one day - one's mind's eye isn't good enough. But winter is a bad black time for work I think. Ones brain gets congealed. It is v. hard. Goodnight my dear dear Brett. With tender love
                Tig [To Dorothy Brett, 9 January 1922.]

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10 January 1922

Chalet des Sapins, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

What with them and my poor dear pussy - he who got out today & began to scratch, scratched away, kept at it, sat up, took a deep breath, scratched his ear, wiped his whiskers, scratched on, SCRATCHED - until finally only the tip of a quivering tail was to be seen & he was rescued by the gentle Ernestine. He wrung his little paws in despair. Poor lamb! To think he will not be able to scratch through until April. I suppose snow is beautiful. I hate it. It always seems to me a kind of humbug - a justification of mystery and I hate mystery. And then there is no movement. All is still - white - cold - deathly eternal. Every time I look out I feel inclined to say I refuse it. But perhaps if one goes about and skims over all is different.
   How are your Swarees? Is everybody just the same? I am working at such a long story that I still can only just see the end in my imagination - the longest by far Ive ever written. Its called The Doves Nest. Tell me what you are working at? Or are you resting? I hope I shall see Marie Loo in her garden of Eden one day - one's mind's eye isn't good enough. But winter is a bad black time for work I think. Ones brain gets congealed. It is v. hard. Goodnight my dear dear Brett. With tender love
                Tig [To Dorothy Brett, 9 January 1922.]

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9 January 1922

Chalet des Sapins, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

   But this is all a bit beside the mark. . . You are right. I think of Manouhkin more than anyone can imagine. I have as much faith in him as Koteliansky has. I hardly dare think of him fully. No, I dare not. It is too much. But about money I have £100 saved for this Last Chance and as soon as I know he can help me I shall make more. Work is ease, joy, light to me if I am happy. I shall not borrow from anyone if I can possibly help it. My family would not give me a penny. But I shall manage. I am not frightened of money for some blessed reason. I know I can make it. Once I am well I can make all I want - I don't want much. In fact my plans go on and on, and when I go to sleep I dream the treatment is over and I am running, or walking swiftly and carelessly by and no one knows I have been ill - no one hands me a chair in a shop. Ah, it is too much!
   This awful writing is frozen writing, Brett. I am writing with two icicles for fingers. We have 6 foot of snow here - all is frozen over and over even the birds tails. Is not that hideous cruelty. I have a large table for these precious atoms daily - and the first coconut in Switzerland is the BigJoint. They cant yet believe in the coconut. It overwhelms them. A special issue of the Bird Times is being issued, the bird who discovered it is to be photographed, interviewd, & received at Pluckingham Palace and personally conducted tours are being arranged.  [To Dorothy Brett, 9 January 1922.]

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8 January 1922

Chalet des Sapins, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

Dearest Brett,
   This is to catch the post as you say. As far as I know I shall leave for Paris on Monday fortnight; that is to say Monday week when it reaches you. We shant stay for more than a few days & we shall be so busy & the weather so bad that I wouldn't advise you to come. Then in spring we return & if Manouhkin will treat me we'll try for a flat in Paris & spend some months there. Happily our lease of this house is up at the end of May. That will be the time to come to Paris. but its so cold now, we shant stay a moment longer than necessary. And think of that vile Channel in this month! Or rather don't think of it!
   I lapped up your letter. The party sounded one of the old kind. Fancy the Puma still biting. It seems impossible. She has bitten & wept for years. And why is there always someone on the floor like that doctor? Oh, I do hate such parties. But I like to read about them. They make my eyes roll.
   Garsington, too. Isn't Julian a problem? What will she do? I think the trouble with her and Ottoline is that there is absolutely no love between them. There is nearly hate - isn't there? Or is that too strong. Julian will go her way though, in her own time. There is something urgent in her which won't be resisted. She interests me. She did when I saw her in France. I felt - there goes youth - with all that it means. I think her real fight will be with Philippo. There I can smell a battle. [To Dorothy Brett, 9 January 1922.]

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7 January 1922

Chalet des Sapins, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

My dearest Violet
   I am so happy to know you like my story. It was the most delightful surprise to receive your letter at the end of rather a black day. I had thought At the Bay would pass quite unnoticed and your sympathetic note warms my heart. Thank you sincerely e very sincerely, dearest Violet. I shall not forget your letter. As a matter of fact all that I have written up till now seems to me to have been only. . . opening the windows, pulling back the shutters . . . Its only now I feel chez moi and in the work I am engaged in now. I have passed through a state of awful depression about work, lately. It had to be. But I see my way now, I think. What saved me finally was reading a book called Cosmic Anatomy, and reflecting on it. . . That sounds rather funny, doesn't it?
   Ah, I do hope we shall meet in the spring. I feel we shall & all will be better than before.
   Congestion is quite simple. The lung becomes full of blood, & that means the heart beats too fast & that means one has fever and pain and puts oneself to bed. But I am determined to make an end of all this very soon. I detest the idea of going to Paris at the end of this month but I shant stay - just see my man & arrange to return in the spring.
   Snow falls & falls. It is like living in the moon. I hate snow. I love the fertile, fertile earth!
   Goodnight, chere amie
   With my warm love to you both.
   I embrace you
                   Katherine. [To Violet Schiff, c. 8 January 1922.]

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6 January 1922

Chalet des Sapins, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

Dearest Brett,
   Do you mind shopping for me? If you do please tell me bang out. If you dont would you be a lamb and get me a pair of shoulder straps. Ill explain. Lying propped up so much I have got a bit round shouldered & I want to correct it by wearing straps off and on. Gamage is the place I think. And I heard, once, they had an American pattern very simple which was good. I dont want buckles and canvas and bones, please. But something light, flexible, with elastic, if possible and unobtrusive. The less of the contraption the better.
   Is this a fearful bore to you, my dear? But Id be so deeply grateful. I really pine for a pair and Switzerland of course is hopeless. Besides here is nothing but snow. We are living in the moon. Its all white, ghostly, silent, eternal, and snow still falls. I hate snow. I could kiss the fertile earth - all this whiteness has a kind of mock mystery about it that I dislike very much. This isn't a complaint. Its just the facts.
   By the way do you eat porridge? Do. It is good for you - fearfully. But it must be made with a good piece of butter added to it. Then it really does stick to your ribs and make a man of you. Butter I do really believe flies to the brain, also and creates a glow - so I wish you a very buttery New Year. I shall never forget how Ottoline, while talking abstractedly would pinch my little butter dish draw it towards her with her knife & devour it, whole.
   It is strange. I have no faith in you about food. I feel sure you give other people all the best bits & eat the heads and tails yourself. Dont do it; it is very bad. Always choose the fish with the fattest eye.
         Much love from
                  Tig   [To Dorothy Brett, 4 January 1922.]

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5 January 1922

Chalet des Sapins, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

  Your weather sounds too good to be true. We have 3 feet of snow here but at present it is pouring with rain. Just the moment for snow pies. It is horrible! But Christmas was fine. We had a tree, an exquisite little thing. There is enough German blood in the Swiss to make them have the most lovely small objects for hanging on trees - birds with glass tails and toad stools with candles in them and spiders webs of silver with liqueur chocolate spiders inside. These last are too realistic for me. Its horrifying to bite into the spider and taste what must be spiders BLOOD.
   My poor new book has been so boomed in the press before its born that when it does hatch out I know everyone will be disappointed to find its only a baby small; & will quarrel with its nose. It is terrifying to give birth to books. I wish one could do it in private.
Im still in bed. But I don't care. I defy Life. I shall win the battle after all and then you will be able to say all the cross things you want to without feeling that perhaps when your letter arrives I shall have taken a Bad Turn.
   Will you bite me as you used to, little dear? I shant bite back. I feel full of love.
   We are expecting our Elizabeth any day now. It will be a joy to have her. Write again. May I say without offence your hand-writing is exactly like a white kitten's.
                     Yours ever
                                   K.
[To Jeanne Beauchamp Renshaw, 2 January 1922.]

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4 January 1922

Chalet des Sapins, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

   Do you really expect old V. this month. How I should like a peep at you all. Fancy- it is eight years since I have seen her - I expect it will be eighteen before I do. Do tell me about your meeting! How long is V staying? We shall be in Paris in April but I expect she will be gone before then - Paris always seems to me a good centre to meet people - with such lots of places to sit down and talk. .
   Well dear, I envy you your primrose. My room is full of carnations & mimosa & violets at present, titbits left over from the New Year • but Id prefer the primrose.
   With much love, darling Marie
                Ever your fond
                                K.
Wingley kisses his paw to Kuri. [To Charlotte Beauchamp Perkins, 2 January 1922.]

Dearest J,
   I am so glad the boudoir cap goes with the robes de nuit. . . I hope your party was a success. My game always is Musical Chairs, but it is so terribly thrilling that perhaps its better left unplayed. I want to begin screaming Russia when the chairs are being arranged even. Very vivid recollections of being rather good at this game and last in with George Nathan! I should think you and Marie would give a lovely party. I wish you would ask me one year. Jack is extremely good at lying on the floor and letting people jump up and down on him, also at making faces. [To Jeanne Beauchamp Renshaw, 2 January 1922.]

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3 January 1922

Chalet des Sapins, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

Darling Marie,
   I am relieved you liked my humble little bag. I was afraid it looked like an offertory bag at the last moment. The handles were so intensely black they almost looked fit for sacred purposes. My mocassins still hang on the willow tree but I shall take them down and dance to the tabors and cymbals ere long. I don't know why I feel so old Testament today. A man came to see us yesterday who had been to church. The flavour must still cling.
   Fancy Annie & Jacks departing. I like all changes really when they come - I mean of that kind - don't you? I am all for clean sweeps occasionally! especially in the case of servants. One gets tired of the peculiarities of even treasures. No, they are scarce here and poor dumb cattle when you do get them. Mine is honest, good, faithful - sober - in fact she has all the virtues and her ankles are like this [drawing of fat ankles] Poor soul! It is dreadful to have virtuous ankles as well. But thats the worst of very good people. They don't know where to stop.
   You never told me who got the ring in the pudding after all. We had a pudding, too, in fact a whole Christmas dinner sent complete from England. And did you get nice presents. I was rich in presents this year - My most surprising however was a cable from Pa. Wasn't it awfully sweet of him. Its the first cable of the kind he has ever sent me. I felt indeed touched. . [To Charlotte Beauchamp Perkins, 2 January 1922.]

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2 January 1922

Chalet des Sapins, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

When you say you passed Christmas quietly - I see you positively gliding by. We had a real suet pudding, blaging [sic] in brandy and even a tree. Jack said he hated trees. But when it came he liked it fearfully. They are curiously beautiful things and this little one, with its burning candles, birds with glass tails, coloured stars, spiderwebs with liqueur chocolate spiders in ‘em and presents was a little gem. We are keeping all the decorations for another time, when I hope you will see them, too. After the tree we had snapdragon & then played Beat your Neighbour Out of Doors & Old Maid. It's a good thing this only happens once a year. . .
   I think I know that Flower Piece by Van Gogh. Yellow flowers, aren't they, full of life. I noted the Degas show was coming. I hope it's a good one. Tell us more about the pastels WHEN you are in the mood.
  I am in the middle of a long story & cant see the end. It will be a very little, small novel if it doesn't stop soon. It is called The Doves Nest. I have been in a black mood about my work lately but some furious reading has pulled me out of the hole, I think. Furious reading consisted of (1) Shakespeare (2) Cosmic Anatomy (3) The Bible.
   Its late, dear Richard. I must spare my candle, draw the curtains against the wolves, & go to sleep. Please give my love to Mother. May we meet again before this year is over!
               With warm love from
                      Katherine.  [To Richard Murry, 1 January 1922.]

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1 January 1922

Chalet des Sapins, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

Dear Richard,
   I suppose I am one of those optimists. If I sit down & think, even, it doesn't remove my conviction (yes, its as strong as that) that the New Year is a most promising infant. I don't know why. It seemed to smile on us. And although we have (please prepare to roll your eyes) seven feet of snow outside our front door, there is a feeling of warmth within - a New Year feeling.
   Yes, the snow is terrific. It is like living in the moon. Trees are crashing to earth today & lamp posts are falling & theres no electric light, no little mountain railway. Your brother went forth this afternoon on his immense skis & sped over the tops of fences and walls. I wish you could see him. He wears a blue helmet, you know the kind-airman's helmet, a leather jacket, huge fingerless gloves (the gloves he used to eat a sponge cake in his Go-cart) but of a larger size, breeks, three pairs of stockings, & ski boots. He would earn enormous sums on the pictures in this get up & all covered with snow. I can hear a deep ‘A-Ah' go round the dark theatre as he leapt on to the screen. Poor little Wingley is quite confused by this snow. Cant understand it, poor little chap. He went out the other day & began to scratch, scratched, scratched away, SCRATCHED, sat up, scratched his ear, took a deep breath, scratched on & was just rescued by the tip of his quivering tail in time. I suppose he won't come to earth again until next April.  [To Richard Murry, 1 January 1922.]

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