'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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1 March 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

Dearest Marie
   ln case you should think I am rather a little pig of a sneak not to send you a copy of my new book - its because I can't get copies over here for the moment - I mean extra copies. All I have had I have been obliged to send to journalists. Thats why.
   Would you pass this first review on to Pa? It sounds very powerful, doesn't it. But it is rather my eye. I thought people would say I was rather sentimental!
   What is the weather like in England. Here it is Spring - really Spring, sunny, absolutely warm and the kind of weather that makes one long to put out new leaves at any rate one new leaf in the shape of a hat. Don't you know that mood when you keep on imaging spring hats - curled and crisp and light after these substantial winter ones?
   Forgive writing. I am in bed & my back has no backbone. I feel so much better - its almost frightening. Tell J. not to forget me. 
   Ever your devoted
                         K. [To Charlotte Beauchamp Perkins, late February 1922.]

But for the last four-five years I have been ill and have lived either in the S. of France or in a remote little chalet in Switzerland - always remote, always cut off, seeing hardly anybody, for months seeing really nobody except my husband and our servant and the cat and "the people who come to the back door". Its only in those years Ive really been able to work and always my thoughts and feelings go back to New Zealand - rediscovering it, finding beauty in it, re-living it. Its about my Aunt Fan who lived up the road I really want to write, and the man who sold goldfinches, and about a wet night on the wharf, and Tarana Street in the Spring. Really, I am sure it does a writer no good to be transplanted - it does harm. One reaps the glittering top of the field but there are no sheaves to bind. And there's something, disintegrating, false, agitating in that literary life. Its petty and stupid like a fashion. I think the only way to live as a writer is to draw upon one's real familiar life - to find the treasure in that as Olive Schreiner did. Our secret life, the life we return to over and over again, the "do you remember" life is always the past. And the curious thing is that if we describe this which seems to us so intensely personal, other people take it to themselves and understand it as if it were their own. [To Sarah Gertrude Millin, early March 1922.]

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1 March 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

Does this sound as though Im dogmatising? I don't mean to be. But if you knew the numbers of writers who have begun full of promise and who have succumbed to London! My husband and I are determined never to live in cities, always to live ‘remote' - to have our own life - where making jam and discovering a new bird and sitting on the stairs and growing the flowers we like best is - are - just as important as a new book. If one lives in literary society (I dont know why it is so but it is) it means giving up one's peace of mind, one's leisure - the best of life.
But Im writing as if to beg you to unpack your trunk, as if you were on the very point of leaving South Africa tomorrow. And that's absurd. But I am so awfully glad you have Africa to draw upon.
I am writing this letter in Paris where we are staying at [i.e.till] May. I am trying a new Xray treatment which is supposed to be very good for lungs. Its early spring, weather very lovely and gentle, the chestnut trees in bud, the hawthorn coming into flower in the Luxembourg Gardens. I can't go out, except to the clinic once a week but my husband is a very faithful messenger, He reports on it all for me, and goes to the Luxembourg Gardens every afternoon. We work hard - we are both very busy - and read a great deal. And both of us are longing to be back in the country. If this treatment succeeds at all we'll be gone in May. But its hard to write in a hotel. I can only do short things and think out long stories. Do you have anemones in South Africa. I have a big bowl of such beauties in this room. I should like to put them into my letter, especially the blue ones and a very lovely pearly white kind -  [To Sarah Gertrude Millin, early March 1922.]

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