'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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9 February 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

Advise me - will you? I am looking for a tiny flat - very small - a mouse's hole just big enough to nibble a pen in. If I find anything suitable I shall take it until the end of May and Ida will look after it to save money on servants and so on. But (this is where I want your advice) to whom can I apply for a reference? They are sure to ask me for at least two - can you think of anybody? I wish you would answer this as soon as possible, Bogey. A card will suffice, as they say. Its rather urgent. Flats are so scarce here and I want to be settled as soon as possible once something is found. Of course it may all be a wild goose's chase. Ida has gone off to an agent this afternoon. But there it is!
   I have started a new Shakespeare notebook. I hope you will let me see yours one day. I expect they will be legion by that time. And reading with the point of view of taking notes I begin to see those marvellous short stories asleep in an image as it were. For instance
             . . . 'Like to a vagabond flag upon the stream
             Goes to and back, lackeying the varying tide
              To rot itself with motion.'
That is terrible, and it contains such a terribly deep psychological truth. That ‘rots itself ' . . .And the idea of ‘it' returning and returning, never swept out to sea finally. You may think you have done with it for ever but comes a change of tide and there is that dark streak reappeared, more sickeningly rotten still. I understand that better than I care to. I mean - alas! - I have proof of it in my own being.  [To John Middleton Murry, 7 February 1922.]

No, I dare not look out of prison at these delights. They are too much. And yet I do nothing else in bed at night when the light is out. I range the world over. It is just what prisoners must do when their time is getting short. I must write a story one day about a man in prison. Murry has answered my letter.He does not want to come to Paris. He feels it would do his work harm. So he is staying in Switzerland. But he says he will come and "fetch" me in May. By that "fetch" I know he hasn't the slightest faith in Manouhkin. Indeed, after saying "what terrific news" he never mentions it. I might have picked up a shilling. Men are odd creatures. But he is very happy and well looked after. In fact he sounds perfectly blissful. So there it is.
   This isn't a letter dearest, just a word to answer yours. I dreamed last night Ottoline had taken to painting & gave an exhibition out of doors - at Garsington. One immense canvas was a portrait of Philip called "Little Pipsie head-in-air". I can see it now. What fools our dreams make of us! But Ottoline was delighted with her work. She kept wandering about saying "such lovely reds, dont you think so? S0 warm!" I must get up. I have a whole story to finish. Ive got a job on the Nation to write a story a month for them & Cassells want some more and The Sketch. What places to let ones poor little children go wandering in. It cant be helped. They are like waifs singing for pennies outside rich houses which I snatch away & hand to Manouhkin.
 [To Dorothy Brett, 6 February 1922.]

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8 February 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

But all this human interest (ah! how it draws one!) apart there is Goethe talking, and he did say marvellous things. He was great enough to be simple enough to say what we all feel and dont say. And his attitude to Art was noble. It does me good to go to church in the breasts of great men. Shakespeare is my Cathedral but Im glad to have discovered this other. In fact, isn't it a joy - there is hardly a greater one - to find a new book, a living book, and to know that it will remain with you while life lasts!
   How is your novel? Does it go easily? I write slowly here because it takes time to abstract oneself. I feel I have a terrible amount to do, though. I hardly dare look out of this story because of all the others. They are in rows in the waiting room. But one would not have it otherwise.
   Ive read Anthony & Cleopatra again last week and upon my word it is appaling to find how much one misses each time in Shakespeare - how much is still new. Wonderful play! But Bogey you remember " ‘Tis one of those odd tricks which sorrow shoots out of the mind ". That is familiar enough but it still leaves me gasping. There is something over and above the words - the meaning - all that I can see. It is that other language we have spoken of before. I feel that as I am - I am not great enough to bear it. The image that for some reason comes into my mind is of an old woman in a cathedral who bows down, folds herself up in her shawl, mournfully closes herself against the sudden stirring of the organ. You know when the organ begins & it seems to ruminate, to wander about the arches & dark altars as though seeking some place where it may abide . . .
   I must get up. I hope you have my letters, and that, Wingley is a good little pussy-wee.
                Your loving
                       Wig.  [To John Middleton Murry, 6 February 1922.]

Dearest Brett,
   Your letter about the little still life has come. I cannot express to you what I feel at the beauty of your letter. IT is indeed such a still life that I shall keep it in my breast forever and never never forget that it was you who gave it to me. My dearest Brett you are very very rich that you have such gifts to give away, such treasure to unclose. Do not let us ever be less to each other than we are now. Let us always be more. I shall repay you one day with all that is in my power. In the meantime put this letter down & just feel for one moment that I love you. No more - no less.
   Now I want to fly off at a tangent at once and say that we must spend the summer (part of it) together. Is it agreed? If - if - if I get better let us go off alone to Perpignan and lie on the beach & walk in the vineyards. I am serious. You can paint, I shall write. We shall both wear very large hats and eat at a table under a tree with leaves dancing on the cloth. [To Dorothy Brett, 6 February 1922.]

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7 February 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

Darling Bogey,
   I have just received your Friday-Saturday letter - full of snow. The whole of Switzerland according to the papers is snowing. It must be horrid! I hope it is over. No, its not been really bad weather here and April-mild until yesterday when it froze. But today the sun is in-and-out again.
   Will you send me the Lit. Sup? And the Dial? Id be very glad of both if its not too much bother.
   Ida is arranging to return on Friday, leaves here Friday night, that is. Don't feel any doubt about not coming here. Id far rather you didn't come. Theres no point in it and it would unsettle us both. Hotels are odious places for two. If one is alone one can work and forget but thats not so easy á deux. No, let the red peg and the white peg meet in May - not before. . .
Have you read that Goethe - Eckermann? I shall give it to Ida to return to you. But I mean to order a whole one for myself. That taste has given me such an appetite. Its a mystery to me that so fascinating a book should be so little talked of In fact its one of those books that once discovered abides for ever. Its such a whole (even in part as I have it). These two men live, and one is carried with them. The slight absurdity and the sentimental bias of Eckermann I wouldn't have not there! Delightfully human - one smiles but one cant help smiling always tenderly. And then outside sounds come in - the bells of Weimar ringing in the evening, the whisper of the wheat as the friends walk together, the neighbours little children calling like birds.  [To John Middleton Murry, 6 February 1922.]

You know darling I really do expect you in the SPRING. I feel the winter is over already and I read in the Daily Mail yesterday that the Dog's Mercury is out. But what is the Dogs Mercury? And does the Dog know? I hope hes very pleased but I expect he just looks at it and bolts it and goes on with a kind of "so that's that" air. Sad for the Dog's Mercury - don't you think?
   Well dearest, I feel a bit weak in the pen this morning & inclined to laugh at rien - you know the feeling? Do send me a little note here when you are not too busy. Its a fool of a day here - sunny & windy. Fat old men lose their hats & cry houp-la as they stagger after them.
   Heaven bless you.
         Your devoted
                   Katherine
[PS.] A kiss for David on the pussy's little derriere. [To Anne Drey, 4 February 1922.]

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6 February 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

It seems to me there is no more to say about it all. You see when Ida comes back she can settle everything and then when you come down in May she can go up again (its like a see-saw, isn't it?) and finish up the Chalet des Sapins. By the way coconut II is under the house. Ida saw it fall. Near the bathroom. . .I am so glad E. [Ernestine] is improved. I thought she would be all right on her own. Shes an honest creature and Wingley makes it proper there being 2 gentlemen in the house instead of one. What wretched posts are arriving. I am glad about Pinker and Massingham. I must get Alice Jones to find me an English typist. She sent me the Lancet today with Manoukhine's article in it. Shall I send it to you?
   The only thing I don't quite understand in your letter is your "breaking the back of your years work" and so on. Its all right - isn't it? Youre not working in secret at something I know nothing about? It sounds so very appalling.
   Well, I shall end this letter here for I want Ida to send it at once. Its Saturday night. Im afraid it may not reach you until Tuesday. Please reply at once about the Brett idea. And thanks most awfully for sending the letters - Will you go on sending them? I long to see the Tchekhov books, too when you have finished with them.
           Your loving Wig.  [To John Middleton Murry, 4 February 1922.]Darling Anne,

Darling Anne, Just a mot to say how grateful I am for the address of this hotel. Its just what I wanted and it simply flows with hot baths. I have a heaven-kissing room au 6ième with a piece of sky outside and a view into the windows opposite - which I love. Its so nice to watch la belle dame opposite bring her canary in when it rains and put her hyacinth out. I have decided to stay in Paris and not go back to that Switzerland. There is a man here - did I tell you about him? (It sounds rather an ambiguous beginning, by the way) But enfin there is a man here who treats my maladie with the X rays and I am going to him for this treatment. I had the first yesterday & I feel at this moment full of des rayons bleus - rather like a deep sea fish. But he promises to cure me by the summer. Its hard to believe it. But if it is true I shall take a puffi to your very door and come and have tea with David out of a very little small teapot. . .The only fly in the ointment is the terrific expense. Its 300 francs a time. However, I have been fortunate with my work lately and Ill just have to do a double dose of it until this is paid off. Money is a bore but I never take it dead seriously, and I don't care if I havent a sou as long as I can leap and fly alone. [To Anne Drey, 4 February 1922.]

Dear Mrs Jones,
   Thank you very much. The Lancet turned up in record time. And now I am going to ask you if you would kindly forward any letters that arrive at the office for me to the above address. I am staying in Paris for the course of treatment and shall not return to Switzerland. Will this be troubling you too much? It would be simpler if you entered the postage expenses etc. To J M M s account and I will settle (or try to get out of settling) with him.
He is staying up in the mountains with his beloved little black and white cat to bear him company.
          Yours very sincerely 
         Katherine Mansfield Murry. [To Alice Jones, 5 February 1922.]

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5 February 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

I want to ask you something. Do you really believe all this? There is something that pulls me back the whole time and which wont let me believe. I hear, I see. I feel a great confidence in Manoukhine - very great - and yet - - I am absolutely divided. You know how, to do anything well, even to make a little jump, one must gather oneself together. Well, I am not gathered together. A dark secret unbelief holds me back. I see myself after 15 goes apologising to them for being not cured, so to speak. This is very bad. You realise I am in the mood now when I confess to you because I want to tell you my bad self But it may be its not me. For what is bad in me (i.e. to doubt) is not bad in you. Its your nature - If you do feel it - please tell me - please try and change. Try and believe. I know Manoukhine believes. I was sitting in the waiting room reading Eckermann when he came in, quickly, simply and took my hand and said "vous avez decide de commencer. C'est tres bien. Bonne sante!" But this was said beautifully, gently (Oh, Bogey I do love gentleness.) Now I have told you this I will get over it. It has been a marvellous day here, very soft, sunny and windy, with women selling les violettes de Parme in the street. But I could not live in a city ever again. That's done - that's finished with. I read Shakespeare (I am with you as I read) and I am half way through a new story. I long for your letter which follows mine. Oh, those precious birds at the coconut. How I see and hear them! And E's fig pudding.  [To John Middleton Murry, 3 February 1922.]

My darling Bogey
   Your letter came as a surprise to me but I absolutely agree with every word of it! It is far and away the best plan. I understand perfectly your feeling about your work and here is an opportunity. I, too, shall put in a great deal of work. I feel this year must float our ships if we are going to bring any cargo home. Goethe has filled me with renewed longing to be a better writer. No, I have no other idea to offer at all. Except - wouldn't it be far less unsettling if instead of you coming down for that week I got Brett over while Ida went up there. Shed come like a shot. In fact she begged me to let her come for a weekend. You know what energy a journey takes. We have nothing to talk over, darling that can't be done by letters. And then when you come in May all will be so different. I think wed better leave the Oiseau Bleu in the air - in flight - until we are certain we shall want to go there - But I hope you will agree with the Brett suggestion. Nothing is gained by you coming here for a week and you would lose a great deal by the geographical change. I don't think anyone can realise how different a city is until they come right into it. It makes a most extraordinary impression. I have a definite aim and hope in being here so I can ignore the effect - but for you at present in the middle of your novel it would be bad. [To J.M. Murry, 4 February 1922.]

Darling Marie,
   Do send me a line and say how you are. As you see I have left my mountains. I came here to see a specialist and I shall stay here until the second week in May taking a course of X ray treatment. A Russian doctor here has discovered a method of treatment of consumption by X raying the spleen (which lives next door to your heart my dear & in the same street with your liver.) It sounds very wonderful. It is terribly expensive. Each treatment costs 300 francs. But I was doing no good in Montana really and I have been ill nearly 5 years now. Anything rather than go on with a sofa life. Besides which it is my only chance, which makes a great difference towards what one can try to afford. By the way (a strictly family question, my dear) do you know a good depilatory. I wish you would tell me. I foresee the day is not far distant when I shall have to start using one.
   But above all do let me hear from you. Its like spring in Paris - so mild. Always your devoted sister
                 K. [To Charlotte Beauchamp Perkins, 5 February 1922.]

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4 February 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

I want to ask you something. Do you really believe all this? There is something that pulls me back the whole time and which wont let me believe. I hear, I see. I feel a great confidence in Manoukhine - very great - and yet - - I am absolutely divided. You know how, to do anything well, even to make a little jump, one must gather oneself together. Well, I am not gathered together. A dark secret unbelief holds me back. I see myself after 15 goes apologising to them for being not cured, so to speak. This is very bad. You realise I am in the mood now when I confess to you because I want to tell you my bad self But it may be its not me. For what is bad in me (i.e. to doubt) is not bad in you. Its your nature - If you do feel it - please tell me - please try and change. Try and believe. I know Manoukhine believes. I was sitting in the waiting room reading Eckermann when he came in, quickly, simply and took my hand and said "vous avez decide de commencer. C'est tres bien. Bonne sante!" But this was said beautifully, gently (Oh, Bogey I do love gentleness.) Now I have told you this I will get over it. It has been a marvellous day here, very soft, sunny and windy, with women selling les violettes de Parme in the street. But I could not live in a city ever again. That's done - that's finished with. I read Shakespeare (I am with you as I read) and I am half way through a new story. I long for your letter which follows mine. Oh, those precious birds at the coconut. How I see and hear them! And E's fig pudding.  [To John Middleton Murry, 3 February 1922.]

Koteliansky
   There is no answer to this letter. But I wanted to tell you something very good that happened today. Yesterday I decided that I must take this treatment and I telephoned M. I was sitting alone in the waiting room of the clinique reading Goethes conversations with Eckermann when M. came in. He came quickly over to me, took my hand and said simply "Vous avez decide de commencer avec la traitment. C'est tres bien. Bonne sante", and then he went as quickly out of the room saying "tout de suite" (pronounced ‘toot sweet' for he speaks very little French). But this coming in so quickly and gently was a beautiful act, never to be forgotten, the act of someone very good.
  Oh, how I love gentleness, Koteliansky, dear friend. All these people everywhere are like creatures at a railway station - shouting, calling, rushing, with ugly looks and ways. And the women's eyes - like false stones - hard, stupid - there is only one word corrupt. I look at them and I think of the words of Christ "Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father in Heaven is perfect". But what do they care? How shall they listen? It is terribly sad. Of course, darling Koteliansky, I don't want them to be all solemn or Sundayfied. God forbid. But it seems there is so little of the spirit of love and gaiety and warmth in the world just now. Why all this pretence? But it is true - it is not easy to be simple, it is not just (as A.T.' s [Anton Tchekhov's] friend used to say) a sheep sneezing.
   It is raining. There is a little hyacinth 0n my table - a very naive one.
   Heaven bless you. May we meet soon.
                              Katherine. [To S.S. Koteliansky, 3 February 1922.]

Dear Mr Gerhardi,
   Wont you let me know what has happened about your novel. I have so often wondered. I hope you will write and tell me when it is going to be published.
   Another thing. Do you know Lady Ottoline Morrell who lives at Garsington? Would you care to? She is a personality and her house is exquisite and one meets there people who might ‘interest' you. Im thinking of the literary point of view as well as the other.
   I have come down from my mountains and am living in Paris until May. Oh, the flower shops after nothing but snow and pine trees! It is devilish not to be rich enough to go inside them. I stand and stare like a little boy in front of a pastry cooks.
           Yours very sincerely,
              Katherine Mansfield. [To William Gerhardi, 4 February 1922.]

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3 February 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

My precious Bogey
   Your telegram came yesterday as a complete surprise - a very very marvellous one - a kind of miracle. I shall never forget it.l I read it, scrunched it up, then carefully unscrunched it and put it away "for keeps". It was a very wonderful thing to receive. I agree absolutely it is best that I start now & I telephoned the same moment to M. whose sole reply was "deux heures". (But before I speak of my time there I want to say your two letters my dear one are simply such perfect letters that one feeds on them. I don't know. You have become such a wonderful person - well, you always were - but the beams are so awfully plain now - on se chauffe at every word you write. And there is a kind of calmness which I feel, too. Indeed I feel we are both so changed since the days before Montana - different people. I do feel that I belong to you, that we live in our own world. This world simply passes by - it says nothing. I do not like it but thats no matter. It is not for long. Do you realise that IF the miracle happens we May Go to England This Summer Together? Thats just an idear of what the future holds. May it make you a hundredth part as happy as it makes me!)
   I went to the clinique today and there the French doctor with Manoukhine went over the battlefield. Really it was the first time I have ever been ‘examined'. They agreed absolutely after a very prolonged examination that I had no cavities. Absolument pas de cavernes. They tested & tested my lungs & always said the same. This means I am absolutely curable. My heart, rheumatism, everything was gone into and noted & finally I passed into another room & had a séance.
 [To John Middleton Murry, 3 February 1922.]

Dearest
   Your letter has come. Now I have worried you after all. Stop! All is over. I wired you yesterday that I had decided to stay. I should not have written then - I should have waited. For, as so often happens, after waiting I saw daylight. And I knew that whatever might happen I must take this chance. Now I have written to my agent about money. I shall manage it. Dont ever send me money, Brett! I mean that. Please don't. I am that kind of man!! I haven't yet heard from Murry but I wrote to him fully. You mustn't say that about thrashing him for it makes me sorry I told you. I understand Murry awfully well, its only I cant bear to make him unhappy or to make him feel he is having to make sacrifices.
   As soon as I decided about the treatment I phoned Manoukhin and had my first treatment today. And its only now this minute, in bed, with a warm spring like wind at the window that Im beginning to feel perhaps it may come true.
   But now all goes smoothly, dearest. Ill stay at this hotel which suits me in every way. The Mountain will go back to Montana and settle everything there. I expect Murry will join me here a bit later. All goes well - awfully well. Dont come for a few weeks. Wait until about the 5th week when I shall be able to walk a bit and laugh without coughing. Then come for a weekend. We'll be merry - really merry - two small crickets chirruping away - and there will be buds on the trees.
   So
   From now
   Don't lets talk any more about Tig for the present. She is done with - settled in Paris and so full of blue rays at this moment that she feels like a deep sea fishchik. [To Dorothy Brett, 3 February 1922.]

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2 February 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

The whole thing is new. That I realised keenly. It is the latest thing in science. That was what one felt. At the same time, there was a very good responsible atmosphere at this place. One felt in the presence of real scientists - not doctors. And Donat never says a fantastic word. He is dead straight. One does feel that. Its what I always imagined a Pasteur institute to be. Donat agreed I could be cured. He has healed an englishman in the 3rd degree who after I2 applications has no more bacillus at all in his sputum. . . He asked me about Montana. He & Manoukhine said that if I had been anywhere really healthy & led a quiet life free from worries I would have had the same amount of benefit. But in their united opinion Montana was too high for my heart in its present state. If I stayed absolutely still in bed there - bien - but to make a continual effort of that kind is not and cannot be good. One is living on l'energie nerveuse. He ended by saying "It is easy to see you are not a little ill. You have been ill for a long time. One has not an endless supply of force. You ought to get well. L'air de Paris et les rayons de Doctor Manoukhine will make you well. Of that I am confident." I then came away.
   I am glad l saw this man as well as the other. But isn't it strange. Now all this is held out to me - now all is at last hope real hope there is not one single throb of gladness in my heart. I can think of nothing but how it will affect 'us'. [To John Middleton Murry, 1 February 1922.]

Begin treatment tomorrow. Tig. [To Dorothy Brett, 2 February 1922.]

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1 February 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

My precious
   I rested all today, but after sending your letter I wrote one to Manoukhine, saying that before I decided anything I would like to know all there was to know about this treatment, whether one ran any risks, what its effects were on the heart, and so on. I told him that I was very much in the dark, that I could not afford an experiment, and in a word that I would be obliged if he would let me see his french partner & talk it all over. His reply was to ask me to meet them both at 5 oclock at their cabinet medicale. So we took a taxi and I went. The general impression was good, all in the highest degree simple, scientific, professional, unlike anything I have seen before. Manoukhine came & took me in to Donat. He (D) is an elderly man, rather like Anatole France in style, wearing a white coat and skull cap. Quite unaffected, and very clever, I should imagine. I told them my difficulties. It was a little bit awkward, especially as Donat has evidently a great regard and admiration for M. But there you were. This matter is serious & past pretending. And they were awfully kind. Donat delivered an absolute lecture; they drew diagrams, described the process, told me of its effects and so on. There is no risk. It is, as you know the application of X rays to the spleen. It produces a change of blood. It is a kind of immensely concentrated sun action. What the sun does vaguely and in a dissipated way this gently forces. He discovered it while working at typhus & cholera and applied it to tuberculosis. Donat spoke of it always as my colleagues discovery. "Dr M. has taught us". "Dr M. then experimented on so many animals and so on and found such and such results".  [To John Middleton Murry, 1 February 1922.]

Koteliansky
   I have seen Manoukhine. Yes, one has every confidence in such a man. He wishes me to begin the treatment at once. I am taking steps to try to do so, but it is not quite easy to arrange. It will cost me much money. I have £100 saved but I must make not only another £100 but enough to live on here and for special food and so on. Also I have Ida Baker to keep as well until I am strong enough to walk about and so on. It is all difficult, and for some reason I find it hard to accept all its difficulties, as one must. Perhaps for one thing it is not nice in a city. I had forgotten how women parade about, idle and unworthy, and how ignoble are the faces of men. It shocks me to see these faces. I want more than anything simply to cry! Does that sound absurd? But the lack of life in all these faces is terribly sad.
   Forgive me, my dear friend. Let me speak of something else for a moment. While I was waiting at the clinique tonight the doors were all open & in the doctor's cabinet people were talking russian. They talked all together. Doctor M's voice was above the other voices, but there was a continual chorus - all speaking. I cannot tell you how I love Russian. When I hear it spoken it makes me think of course always of Tchekhov. I love this speech. I thought also of you, and I wished you were with me.
   Send me a note here. Not a letter. I don't expect you to write. If I get well you will let me help you with the people you help, won't you? Now a bell is striking as though it turned over in its sleep to strike. Its very late. [To S.S. Koteliansky, 1 February 1922.]

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