'Katherine Mansfield Today' Blog

The KM Today Blog has only been made possible thanks to the very generous funding of the Southern Trust, to whom the Katherine Mansfield Society extends its grateful thanks.

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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21 May 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

Dear Ida
   You are waiting to hear from me about the various arrangements, are you? I will try & reply. But if I leave anything unsaid you must just use your discretion. I am so busy.
   Yes, leave E. the revolver - unloaded! No, we don't want the fur rug. It would be a good thing to have the rug case up there at the hotel. Yes, please leave the iron there. The address for the boxes is Pope's Furniture.
   I think that is all. How soon are you coming? Have you heard from Mrs M? We heard this from her yesterday. It doesn't sound v. satisfactory. I mean I am afraid she is taking her time.
   So sorry to write at such haste. Many thanks for your letter. Jack who is reading off this cant understand a word. I suppose you can't either. Stand on your head & try it through a looking glass . . . I think that is all. I can't think.
   Goodbye for now. The little house must be v. spick & span. I expect it will be horrid to leave it.
                         Yours ever
                               K.M. [To Ida Baker, 18 May 1922.]

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20 May 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

Dont be sad, my dear! Your house has tired you. Moving is dreadful. One moves everything - one's whole being is taken up & shaken & put down again with a hammer & nails. A little holiday will make you feel different. And try not to mind your people. How tremendously you do mind them! Too much, dearest Brettushka, far too much. For if you can't change them all your unhappy thoughts of them do no good & they exhaust you like all useless thinking does. I know what its like. But try & shake them off. Its because you find it a bit hard to work just now that you feel as you do - isn't it? When I cant get on I want to (and I find my self doing it) almost torture myself.
   Oh, I wish you could hear this man playing the piano, practising below me. But so beautifully! He is listening to every tone, working quietly and carefully & now and again giving himself a treat by breaking off his exercises & bursting into ‘something rich and strange'.
   [...] When you come lets go really into the question of your deafness, too. Don't think I ignore it. I think of it often and often. I feel sure that there is a way out - not with X-rays though. Have I ever told you Ive been deaf in my right car for nearly 2 years now with noises in my head always going on - sometimes less and sometimes more. What a warrior! [To Dorothy Brett, 13 May 1922.]

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19 May 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

Dearest Brett,
   I can't write a long letter as I would like to for I am infernally busy with work. But read inbetween the lines, dearest, & forgive me. About your coming. This hotel is absolutely full up. Not even a room for 1/2 an hour! And they don't know when there will be one. So you'll go to your Big Men? Paris looks absolutely marvellous just now - it has never been more beautiful and so light, so airy-fairy. I hope you'll come. If you do - would you bring me 2 tablets Cuticura soap? The only soap for the complexshun! Here it is so dear that one can't afford to wash one's face at all. You know the stuff done up in a horrid black & yellow packet, gooseberry green soap. But it is pure as a lily.
   I went to the clinic for the last time yesterday. Manoukhin says I am not I yet ‘out of the wood'. My right lung is still a bad one. After 2 months of repose I have to go back for 12 more séances. However . . . I am infinitely better - as long as the sun shines. Why does the sun ever go in? Ask this question one of your Thursdays & tell me what your philosophers answer! [To Dorothy Brett, 13 May 1922.]

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18 May 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

Yes, I think your idea of a Swiss hotel is the best. But there is another thing. If the cat is ill would not the doctoress put it out of pain painlessly? Its terrible cruelty to carry about a sick cat. I am absolutely certain Jack's mother wouldn't take it. But I can't judge at this distance. This letter is scribbled in great haste. I wish to Heaven you did not so throw one into confusion. Now you must run after Susie de P! And all else is nothing to you. "Youll manage somehow" about the house & leave Ernestine to go through the inventory. That you really cant do. What a relief when the whole business is over and there are no more waving strands like this. It would kill me to live like you.
   You do understand, do you? This £I0 is for your journey and your personal expenses. Its no good my writing any more. I can only repeat that I do think in this matter Susie de P. ought to consider you. Surely she knew why you were at the chalet? Extraordinary!
                        K.M.
Why muddle? Why rush? Why fuss? Why kill yourself? Its your own fault. I didn't ask you to go at 60 miles an hour. But I see plainly you're the milling slave of the new ‘person'. It really is humiliating. [To Ida Baker, 11 May 1922.]

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17 May 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

My dear Ida
   I hasten to reply to your letter. Jack is writing Mrs M. today and asking her to reply to you direct. Ida, I don't see how you can leave until you get that reply! You were up there, I thought, to settle up the "leaving all in order". You can't leave it half done, surely? Why this rush now with Susie de P. S0 like you! Shes the one bright star. But how maddening! I do beg you to stay there & see all is arranged. We shall tell Mrs M. about Ernestine going in once a week. I have already wired about the boxes. Of course it would be folly to have lids at that price if the others are strong. I beg you - its so utterly absurd! - now that you have been up there for nearly 3 months to see to settling up the house not to rush off before its done. I send you a cheque for £I0 for yourself If you want more, tell me. That is for your own personal expenditure. Send us the bills for the boxes. But I have faithfully believed I could leave this matter of the chalet to you. If you are going to let me down - wire at once. It is absolutely distracting. You must go through the inventory with Mrs M 's representative & get him to sign that all is in order and that the house is in order. I have no reply whatever, otherwise, to what Mrs M may say.
 [To Ida Baker, 11 May 1922.]

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16 May 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

My dear Elizabeth,
   How glad I was to hear from you! I had been thinking of you - feeling how you must love this weather. It is simply so perfect that I seem to spend the day in telling myself how exquisite it is. What else can one do? And one's self never grows impatient, which is such a relief but agrees enthusiastically every time . . . And then it's so adorable of you to ask me how I am - to care about knowing. If you knew how I appreciate that! As far as I can see this treatment has been wonderfully successful. I have hardly any cough, I've gained pounds and pounds, and the only thing that remains is a tired heart. Which will of course recover now that it does not get such a never-ending shaking. I can't say that I am cured for certain until after the second series, but I feel cured, Elizabeth, quite absolutely different! Of course I can only crawl like a snail, but a [ ] snail - a rejoicing one. In fact it is so marvellous that it's still a dream. . .
   Will you feel we are haunting you in your glades and groves when I say we are going to the Hotel d'Angleterre in June. We both have so much work to do that we don't dare to look for a new place or to make holiday. But I long for that air, those mountains, the shining peace of June. There is no place more beautiful! Don't mind us! We won't intrude! But it would be heavenly to come to the Chalet in August. [To Elizabeth, Countess Russell, c.10 May 1922.]

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15 May 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

Dear Ida
   Just a line to say - Jack and I both have so much work to do this summer that we have decided when we leave here (end of this month) to go to the Hotel d'Angleterre, Randogne. Does that make you open your eyes! But in the summer June and July that place was so lov ely & I know it. It would only take a day to settle and a look at the mountains before one could work. All other arrangements are too difficult - Germany & so on. We have not, literally, the time to discover a new place and take our bearings. Then we shall be near Elizabeth, too. The winter we are going to spend in Bandol at the Beau Rivage. I am going to get a maid now at once. I can't do without one. I simply have not the time to attend to everything and I can't bear as you know ‘untidiness'. I shall advertise in the Daily Mail. Jack may be going to lecture in England this autumn too, so I should like to have a really trustworthy person to post letters and so on and be with me. By the way it may interest you Jack is really very successful now. His reputation is at least double what it was. He has a new job with The Times too which is being enormously successful. Don't speak of our plans, by chance, will you?
   There is a really superb professional pianist here. He plays nearly all day & one writes to his music.
                               Au revoir
                           K.M. [To Ida BakerDraft 10 May 1922.]

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14 May 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

But what nonsense I am writing. I must get up & go have my wool washed. The shutters are 1/2 shut & through them gleams a red azalea that Jack bought at Poitiers. It looked a poor thing then but it has turned into a superb creature in this blessed oh how blessed heat and light!
   Ida - can you take a parcel for me?? If not you & I will tie up one here & nip out to the post with it. I must get rid of these old skins. Short of digging a hole in the carpet I cant with Jack about. Jack has accepted more or less a lecture tour in England this autumn. I go to Bandol when my time is up here - to the Beau Rivage. I hope to get a maid before I leave here. But I haven't done anything about it yet. Someone I must have. But really as long as the sun shines nothing is urgent. It is as hot as San Remo. I have slashed the sleeves off my blue charmeuse. Sleeves are intolerable. At 10.30 last night I paddled in the bath. But they still feed me on puree de lentilles and soissons. I had strawbug tartlets with the Schifls yesterday. Can you make them? Forgive a very silly letter. [To Ida Baker, 10 May 1922.]

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13 May 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

Jack told you - didn't he - we are coming to the Angleterre. If you have time would you run down & SEE a couple of rooms? It would be very nice if you could as you are so near. I look forward beyond words to the early summer there for working. Any other place would take up too much time. We can settle in there in a day and start off. Both of us are behindhand. And its harder & harder to work here. The weather is really divine. I spent yesterday in the Bois at a marvellous place with the Schiffs. I think I should begin to dance if I stayed here long. You can't imagine how beautifully these women dance in the open under flowering chestnut trees to a delicious band. All the very height of luxury. I do like luxury - just for a dip in and out of. Especially in Paris because its made into such an Art. Money buys such really delightful things. And then all is managed so perfectly. One has tea out of doors but its so exquisite. One's cup & saucer gleams & the lemon is a new born lemon and nobody fusses. Thats the chief point of money. One can buy that complete freedom from fuss.  [To Ida Baker, 10 May 1922.]

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12 May 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

Confidential.
Dear Ida
   As far as I can tell this treatment has been (I hesitate to use this big word) completely successful. I hardly ever cough. I have gained 8 pounds. I have no rheumatism whatever. My lungs have not been re-examined yet nor has the sputum. Ill let you know about these things. But so far - it seems I am getting quite well. My voice has changed back. I take no medecines. The only thing that remains is that my heart is tired and weak. That means I get breathless and cannot walk yet except at a snail's pace with many halts. But I have no palpitation or anything like that. And of course now that I don't cough or have fever my heart will gradually recover. Manoukhin says I ought to be able to walk for an hour in June, even. I put confidential to this letter because I don't feel its fair to tell anyone who may ask you until I have the facts like X ray & analysis. Should anyone ask - just say I am infinitely better & that Ive gained 8 lbs. I mean Hudson or Woodifield. [To Ida Baker, 10 May 1922.]

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11 May 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

About coming over. That is for you to say. We shall be here until the end of this month, and really all times are the same, now. But do I catch just the faintest hesitation - about leaving your house and so on just as you have got in? If its there darling lets put off meeting again until later. Please tell me bang out. Oh, before I forget. If you have not bought that linen please don't buy it. It suddenly horrifies me - the idea of anyone buying me all that awful white linen. How gruesome! How terrible! If you have bought it - Ill pay gladly - and ask you to keep it. But dont buy it for me! There would be a coffin worm in its folds. This is just a note written as usual on the flat of my back. Can you read such awful writing.
   Love - love - a special summer line of love.
The Mountain passes through Paris on the 10th on her way to London. I am going to ask her to take a parcel to you. It will consist of among other things 3 frocks of mine (I love exchanging things like this !) which I thought you might like to have for gardening in. So simple to throw off & on & when finished throw over the wall. They are quite good as people say. There is no snag. If you hate them or feel insulted give em away to the next lady who wants to sell you a fern. [To Dorothy Brett, 8 May 1922.]

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10 May 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

Dearest, I wouldn't if I were you make rules about not showing your work for so and so long. Let us talk it all out when you come over. The great thing is to go on quietly, steadily, your own way. Thats the secret. I think myself you have worked too much without someone near you to discuss what you are doing as you go along - to think it out, talk it over and so on. You have not had enough attention. Some people need a tremendous great deal in order to develop their own powers. Its as though you were a kind of plant, my lamb, that needs a ‘frame' as well as the sun, for a bit. You need cherishing. You need the feeling that you are carried in the breast of another. I don't need that. There is something hard in me which even refuses it absolutely where work is concerned. But I know, quite simply I can give that to another. I can help others - for some reason (Im not ‘proud' of it you know, any more than a water diviner is proud of his queer flair). There it just is. I wish you could make use of it. [To Dorothy Brett, 8 May 1922.]

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9 May 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

Dearest Brett
   Do you mean the true original Eva? I always felt she was a wonderful creature! I feel inclined to steal her immediately. No, only in jest. But what amazing luck! I do hope she looks after you really well.
   Do you regret Thurlow Road? One always regrets that skin. One always leaves something precious like a little hoard of treasure buried somewhere and back one goes to it like a ghost, seeking and tapping. How I feel that about Isola Bella! But next Winter M. and I are going to spend in the South! Oh God, what a joy! Brett, as soon as I have the money the little house will be bought in the woods above Bandol. But now I have flown off, darling and I meant to say I feel this house of yours is going to be a happy one. Don't you? I•haven't you taken it to your heart?
   I am going to get up today & attack solid food again. It sounds a joke but my last five days Ive had a fearful tummy upset - like poisoning - with pains & high fever. Isn't it extraordinary! I suppose these are the final rages of the devils The weather has been perfect & Ive been in my horrid old bed, useless as ever. But I think its on the wane again.
   But the warmth! The sun! The air - so soft. The bells so gentle! It is impossible not to feel happy and thankful for Life - beautiful Life. [To Dorothy Brett, 8 May 1922.]

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8 May 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

My dear W.J.D.
   I have been trying to arrive at this moment ever since your letter came about J.M.Ms book. But the cares of my dilapitated little house take up nearly all my time. Last month I really began to breathe again, as they say, but in stalked the influenza and he is a persistent fellow; he's not gone yet. This is very annoying. But please do not hate me for it. . .
   I did not expect you to write to me about my Garden Party. But I wanted you to have a copy. A strange thing - the night of the day when I last wrote to you, just before I fell asleep I saw, in the air, the envelope of my letter to you about Miss M. I had addressed it 14 Annesley Road. But it seems to me impossible you should not know how much I loved Miss M. She is part of my world. I wish you were here; I wish we could talk about her for a long time - no less than walk through whole chapters. But these are bold words.
   Your Fanny seems to me so much the one and only Fanny that I feel I must apologise for using her name in vain in The Nation. Florence (whom I feel understands Fanny best) I expected to challenge me to a duel. Speaking of Florence, there is a Florence Dela Mare in this hotel. We keep no end of an admiring eye on her. Sometimes she is late for lunch and we pine. Then she comes down to dinner in a frock to take the breath. We met her first in the lift - flew up in the air with her. And J.M.M. said ‘Florence De la Mare' and I said ‘of course'. [To Walter J. de la Mare, 6 May 1922.]

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7 May 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

Dear Ida,
   You will send me the bills in good time, won't you? So that all can be settled up there.
   With regard to Jacks possessions. Will you please pack his breeks, his cricket shirts, all socks or stockings, his summer underclothes, and in fact anything he may need this summer - in his large suitcase & bring it with you? Is that possible? Fur rug & striped tick blanket & so on must go into another box. Blue serge suit please throw away. He'd like his white trousers please. And will you bring his camera?
   [...] Yes I am terribly terribly busy. Its worse every day. And the letters. Oh - these letters. They stream in & have to be answered. I ousted my flu finally with 1/2 bottle of champagne. I felt really awful [the] first few days & then one day ordered champagne for lunch & it did the trick. Its worth knowing. Its not an extravagance. It saves hundreds of bipalatonoids & their kind. [To Ida Baker, 5 May 1922.]

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6 May 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

My dear little Hugh,
   First I must beg your pardon for not having thanked you for that lovely postcard you painted for me. But I wanted to run out and buy you a little present to pop in the letter and I have not been able to yet, for I have been ill, too. But I won't forget. The very first time I go out I will drive to a shop that sells presents.
   How very nicely you painted that bee-hive. I have always wanted to live in a bee hive, so long as the bees were not there. With a little window and a chimney it would make a dear little house. I once read a story about a little girl who lived in one with her Grandma, and her Grandma's name was old Mrs. Gooseberry. What a funny name!
   Mr. Murry thinks you write very well. He liked the "R" best. He said it looked as if it was going for a walk. Which letter do you like making best? "Q' is nice because of its curly tail.
   I have pinned the postcard on the wall so that everybody can see it. I hope you are nearly well again.
                   With much love from
                          "Mrs. Murry" [To Hugh Jones, 5 May 1922.]

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5 May 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

Dear Mr Pinker,
   Very many thanks for your letter. About In a German Pension. I think it would be very unwise to republish it. Not only because its a most inferior book (which it is) but I have, with my last book, begun to persuade the reviewers that I don't like ugliness for ugliness sake. The intelligenzsia might be kind enough to forgive youthful extravagance of expression and youthful disgust. But I don't want to write for them. And I really cant say to every ordinary reader "Please excuse these horrid stories. I was only 20 at the time!"
   But perhaps these reasons have too much sentiment in them. As a business proposition it would I am sure be bad. It would, quite rightly provoke all those critics who have been good enough to let byegones be byegones in judging the Garden Party.
[To Eric Pinker, 3 May 1922.]

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4 May 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

My dear Lamb
   If I sound cold and horrid - unloving - sometimes, forgive me. I try to help it but I don't succeed very well. What I ought to say is "I am writing about Bolshevism and so on for two reasons. (1) Because it is interesting in a superficial way but (2) because I want to tide over a difficult moment." (2) is the most important thing. Its rather like the nonsense people talk in doctors' waiting rooms. You know? Not being able to keep quiet or to show what I feel I hand you the copy of Punch or whatever it is . . . Forgive me, my little Brettushka. And do understand once and for always its not for lack of love.
[...]Its rather an important day for me. I am beginning my long serial half of which has to be finished in a month from now! And I have also signed away all the rest of my book to be ready sans faute by the end of the summer. The serial is very exciting. Its 24.000 words, a short novel in fact. I want it to end with a simply scrumptious wedding - rose pink tulle frocks for the bridesmaids, favours on the horses heads, that marvellous moment at the church when everyone is waiting - the servants in a pew to themselves. The cook's hat. But all all divinely beautiful if I can do it - gay, but with that feeling that "beauty vanishes beauty passes. Though rare, rare it be . . . "
[To Dorothy Brett, 3 May 1922.]

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3 May 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

   Im sick to death of this hotel. Ive eaten hundreds of wings of hotel chickens & God knows how many gritty little trays have whisked in and out of my room. But its a marvellous spot to know of I can never be grateful enough. Its so simple, as they say, and all the servants are pleasant. But I want to be off where I can work more - I can't work in cities. And Ive already sold every story of my new book in advance - and have 12 to deliver in July. Im afraid I am absolutely ‘booked up' for this year with work for here and America. But if we could meet next spring, Anne, & do a book then. I mean - make a small spring Tour & write a book on it. I think that would be a perfectly adorable idea.
   Weve seen nobody in Paris - Joyce came one day for a talk but thats all. Im a bit too old, or I feel too old for cafes, even if I were well enough to go to them. I don't like that crowd - Nina Hamnet and Co. Can't get on with it. Life is too short. Or perhaps this is old age.
   J.M. who is an excellent nose flattener has bought two lovely old apothecary jars decorated in green and pink and yellow. I wish you could see them as they are now full of anemones.  [To Anne Drey, 1 May 1922.]

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2 May 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

   I was horrified to realise David is old enough to make jokes. Heavens! Do keep him a nice small little boy for a little bit longer. Does he know about the ‘Three Little Kittens who Lost their Mittens' and rhymes like that? I think there is nothing to beat those very silly but awfully funny nonsense rhymes and when you are small they have a meaning that we forget later. Oh, Anne I saw such perfect lambs of little boys in the Bois the other day. They made me wish wish wish that you and David were there too. The Bois is simply too beautiful just now. Jack Murry haunts the Luxembourg Gardens however and is to be seen creeping into the back row of the 2d guignol. No one else is there over four. But he says when the VOLEUR appears with a most terrific eye - you know the kind - he cant help letting out a yell himself. If only it would stop raining - large spots of rain as big as mushrooms fall every day - Paris would be perfect just now. I dont see much of it for I have still two weeks of my X ray ‘cure' to go. But after that I shall really begin to prowl. I can't say much about the cure till its over. I dare not. But I feel very different already.  [To Anne Drey, 1 May 1922.]

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1 May 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

Dearest Anne,
   I have just been through that déchirante experience - two lovely young creatures from the Chemiserie with little frocks "pour essayer seule-ment Madame". Im sitting, fringe straight again at last writing to you in the one they forced on me - a kind of plum grey - tout droit, with buttings on the hips and no trimming at all except a large embroidered lobster bien pose sur la ventre!!! Shall I ever wear it again? Its beginning to look [more] extraordinary every moment. The little creatures twittering chic-chic-chic would have made me buy a casserole for a chapeau with two poireaux in the front. That is the worst of living as I do far from the female kind. These moments come and Im lost.
   Yes, darling Ill be here first week in June for sure. Do come then. Otherwise I don't know where I shall be off to. Ive got a wandering fit on. Anywhere, anywhere but England! The idea would be to have a small permanent niche in Paris and another in the South and then a small car, and so on, ma chere. Very nice - only one thing is missing to make it complete. However, I never care much about money. I always feel sooner or later it will turn up - one will find it somewhere, in the crown of ones hat or in the jam pot.  [To Anne Drey, 1 May 1922.]

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