'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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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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