'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...
Read more about this Blog   Original poem by Julie Kennedy

We encourage interactive use – please post your comments at the end of each daily entry and follow our guidelines for posting comments.

 

30 June 1922

Hotel d'Angleterre, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

Dear Mr Arnold Gibbons,
I feel I have kept your stories a long time. Forgive me if it seems too long. The days pass so quickly here and although I have been on the pen-point of writing to you several times it is only now that Ive got down to it.
Very many thanks for your letter & for letting me see the five stories. I'd like immensely to talk about them a little. But you'll take what I say as workshop talk, will you? - As from one writer to another. Otherwise one feels embarrassed.
I think the idea in all the five stories is awfully good. And you start each story at just the right moment and finish it at the right moment, too. Each is a whole, complete in itself. But I don't feel any of them quite come off. Why? Its as though you used more words than were necessary. 'There's a kind of diffuseness of expression which isn't natural to the English way of thinking. I imagine your great admiration for Tchekhov has liberated you but you have absorbed more of him than you are aware of and he's got in the way of your individual expression for the time being. Its very queer; passages read like a translation! Its as though you were in his shadow and the result is you are a little bit blurred, a bit vague. Your real inmost self (forgive the big words but one does mean them) doesn't seem to be speaking except occasionally. Its almost as though you were hiding and hadn't the - shall I call it courage? - of your own fine sensitiveness. When you do get free of Tchekhov plus all you have learnt from him you ought to write awfully good stories.  [To Arnold Gibbons, 24 June 1922.]

Comments: 0 | Read and Post Comments

29 June 1922

Hotel d'Angleterre, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

Oh my story wont go fast enough. Its got stuck. I must have it finished and done with in 10 days time. Never shall I commit myself again to a stated time. Its hellish.
   Your Port Said hat is all faded. What will you say? Its an absolute lamb of a hat for out of doors - perfect. That stuffy tea cosy I bought on my way back from the dentist will stay on the shelf until I get back to civilisation. But don't be afraid. You shall have it back the day you come. If I sent you the dibs could you bring me a woolly jacket a kind of cardigan, the simple sort - as simple as possible with buttons down the front, you know - in hyacinth or blue bell or crocus or pastel blue? If you can't do it - say the word. You will always say the word wont you darling? And if you think I am a callous creature to ask you - say that, too. Its so much more restful. I am thankful you are feeling better. This place will do you a great deal of good, I hope. One eats the air in slices with big bits of sun spread on them. I do hope Gertler is nice. I feel sorry for poor little Carrington and for Partridge, too. Take care of yourself Be happy. [To Dorothy Brett, 22 June 1922.]

Comments: 0 | Read and Post Comments

28 June 1922

Hotel d'Angleterre, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

Im awfully keen to see your new paintings. Last evening as I sat on a stump watching the herds pass I felt you may take furiously to cows & paint nothing but cows on green lawns with long shadows like triangles from this shaped tree and end with a very grave cow complex. I have one. Up till now I have always more than resisted the charm of cows but now its swep` over me all of a heap, Miss. Insects, too, even though my legs are both bitten off at the knee by large and solemn flies. Do you mind turning brown, too? Or peeling? I had better warn you. These things are bound to happen. And I am hatefully unsociable. Don't forget that. Its on the cards you may turn frightfully against me here and brain me with your Toby [ear-trumpet]. You see every day I work till 12.30 and again from 4.30 until supper - every blessed day Sundays included. Can you bear that? In the mornings we may even meet as I go abroad & sit under the trees. But I shall regard you as invisible & you will haughtily cut me. In this way, when we are free we feel free & not guilty. We can play & look at beetles in peace. I must get the ancient sisters to simplify their ideas of picnics, though. Today they brought M. boiled beef & trimmings in a saucepan. Its awful to open such a vessel under the very Eye of ones Maker. I like eggs, butter, bread and milk at picnics. But M. disagrees. He regards such tastes as female flippancy. [To Dorothy Brett, 22 June 1922.]

Comments: 0 | Read and Post Comments

27 June 1922

Hotel d'Angleterre, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

              In the Forest.
Dearest
   All the same you will be met by one of us, so be sure to let us know the exact day.
    Im sitting writing to you in a glade under a pine tree. There are quantities of little squat yellow bushes of a kind of broom everywhere that give a sweet scent & are the humming homes of bees. M. & I have been here all day. Now he is climbing up to Montana to buy a large bottle of castor oil! Its sad to feel so completely a creature of air as one does in this forest and yet to find ones insides have ordered a general strike. Such is our awful condition. Its divinely lovely out here, and warm again, with just a light breeze swinging in the trees. A little blue sky with puffs of white cloud over the mountains.
   You know darling I must say I think that ‘set' in London including Mrs D. [Dobree] and Co is simply detestable. They seem to be always on the lookout for unpleasantness. I shouldn't feel savage personally (though I understand it is your nature so to do). I should simply retire with a door between us. They are pleased when you do lash out. They feel they have drawm blood - the horrid creatures. Mrs D. sounds a perfect pig of the largest kind and Carrington ought to have pulled her nose. But its such a waste of time - waste of life - waste of energy. One might as well live in the bosom of a large family as among those people: there's no difference that I can see. [To Dorothy Brett, 22 June 1922.]

Comments: 0 | Read and Post Comments

26 June 1922

Hotel d'Angleterre, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

I am in the middle of a very long story written in the same style - horrible expression! - as The Daughters of the Late Colonel. I enjoy writing it so much that even after I am asleep - I go on. The scene is the South of France in early Spring. There is a real love story in it, too, and rain, buds, frogs, a thunderstorm, pink spotted chinese dragons. There is no happiness greater than this leading a double life. But its mysterious, too. How is it possible to be here in this remote, deserted hotel and at the same time to be leaning out of the window of the Villa Martin listening to the rain thrumming so gently on the leaves and smelling the night-scented stocks with Milly? (I shall be awfully disappointed if you don't like Milly.)
   Have you read Bunin's stories. They are published in English by the Hogarth Press. The Gentleman from San Fransisco is good, but I dont care much for the others. He tries too hard. He's too determined you shall not miss the cucumbers and the dyed whiskers. And the last story called Son I can't for the life of me understand. I met Bunin in Paris and because he ad known Tchekhov I wanted to talk of him. But alas! Bunin said "Tchekhov? Ah - Ah - oui, j'ai connu Tchekhov. Mais il y a longtemps, longtemps." And then a pause. And then, graciously, "ll a écrit des belles choses." And that was the end of Tchekhov. [To William Gerhardi, 14 June 1922.]

Comments: 0 | Read and Post Comments

25 June 1922

Hotel d'Angleterre, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

Ah, Mr Gerhardi, I love the country! To lie on the grass again and smell the clover! Even to feel a little ant creep up one's sleeve was a kind of comfort. . . after one had shaken it down again. . .
   I have been thinking about your book today. I see it is announced in the Nation. I do feel little Cobden-Sanderson is the right man for a first novel. He has not too many people; hes very keen; and he advertises well. Also he has a very good reputation and people are curious about his books. They look out for them. I am very anxious to see a copy and you may be sure I shall tell my friends not to miss it. What are you writing now? Have you begun another novel? Is it possible to write at Oxford. You always sound so gay - and I feel the little telegraph boy you mention in your letter was the last of a long line of little telegraph boys. And shall you go to Garsington, I wonder? I don't mind Lady Ottoline's dresses. If you know her you accept them; you wouldn't have them different. They are all part of her. But they do offend your sense of the trés chic, I feel. . . It is a pity. Julian, the daughter, is very attractive. And she's so fresh, so unspoilt, young in a way your Nina is young. [To William Gerhardi, 14 June 1922.]

Comments: 0 | Read and Post Comments

24 June 1922

Hotel d'Angleterre, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

The truth is I have been on the pen point of writing to you for weeks and weeks but always Paris - horrid Paris - snatched my pen away. And during the latter part of the time I spent nearly every afternoon in a tight, bony dentist's chair while a dreadfully callous American gentleman with an electric light on his forehead explored the root canals or angled with devilish patience for the lurking nerves. Sometimes, at black moments, I think that when I die I shall go to the DENTISTS . . .
   I am glad you did not come to Paris after all; we should not have been able to talk. Its too distracting. It is like your "twelve complete teas ices and all" all the time. One is either eating them or watching other people eat them, or seeing them swept away or hearing the jingle of their approach, or waiting for them, or paying for them, or trying to get out of them (hardest of all). Here, its ever so much better. If on your walk today you pass one of those signs with a blameless hand pointing to the Hotel d'Angleterre, please follow. The cherries are just ripe; they are cutting the hay. But there are English delights, too. Our speciality is the forest a deux pas, threaded with little green paths and hoarse quick little streams. [To William Gerhardi, 14 June 1922.]

Comments: 0 | Read and Post Comments

23 June 1922

Hotel d'Angleterre, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

I long to see you. You will tell me how you would like us to arrange it. Would England be the more satisfactory rendez-vous? There is a through train from here to Calais. And by the end of July, even, I shall not think anything of the journey. Perhaps Chaddie will tell you I have attached Ida B. to me as a kind of body-guard. It's not possible to get on without some one and "she is faithful, she is kind", as no one else could be.
   Jack and I are very busy working. I am hard at a short novel which is to appear serially in the Sphere this Autumn. I am rather behind-hand and am making up for lost time in these favourable circumstances. After that I am bound by contract to hand over a new book this (late) Autumn. Thank God for work, say I!
   We were very interested to read in the New Zealand papers the news of your retirement from the Bank. I cannot imagine how they will get on without you; I feel that your reports were the cornerstone of the entire business.  [To Harold Beauchamp, 21 June 1922.]

Comments: 0 | Read and Post Comments

22 June 1922

Hotel d'Angleterre, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

Then, before my second course of treatment in Paris, I had the idea of coming over to England for a week or ten days to see you (Jack is going to spend this Autumn in England). But, of course, dearest, these plans are subject to yours. I could strike camp here at an earlier date and meet you wherever you proposed. I feel very strongly it would be a mistake for you and the girls to come here. Of course, you may have no thought of doing so, but I write this just "in case". Montana is depressing for those who are not ill. There are too many signs of illness; too many sanatoria. And there is no escaping them. It is different in the Winter. Then there is a "floating population", which arrives for the sports and the whole place changes its appearance. But Summer is the time for les malades to show themselves; one is rather conscious of them here.
   While I am on this doleful and none too cheery subject, darling, may I be allowed a personal detail. I am myself no longer actively consumptive, i.e. no longer infectious in any way. My present condition is merely the result of 4 1/2 years severe illness, but active disease there is absolutely none. The Paris doctors assure me that after the second course of treatment the healing process will be very advanced. Indeed, they go so far as to say I shall be as good a man as I ever was. But experience teaches me to put a large pinch of salt on the tail of these fly-away words. I wanted to tell you this to put your mind at rest, however, as I know what one feels about such matters. [To Harold Beauchamp, 21 June 1922.]

Comments: 0 | Read and Post Comments

21 June 1922

Hotel d'Angleterre, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

My dearest Father,
   I cannot tell you how much you are in my thoughts to-day. I keep picturing your arrival at Southampton, your meeting the girls, and the arrival in chief at Wood Hay! How I wish I were with you all. I cannot imagine a more happy little reunion. Welcome once more to England, darling. I hope with all my heart that your stay will be a very happy one.
   We were so delighted to hear from you at San Francisco. Since then much seems to have happened. I will try and give you my news in brief. The treatment I underwent in Paris was successful on the whole - not quite as miraculous as depicted by the doctor. But that was to be expected. Just as I was feeling the benefits of it, however, (this sounds so like my dear Aunt Ag the heat wave descended on Paris and laid me low with an attack of pleurisy. It was rather a fierce attack while it lasted. But we got away from that gridiron of a city at the earliest possible moment and migrated here - to a very simple hotel about 700 feet below Montana proper. Here, as my Papa might say, we seemed to fall on our feet. For the hotel is kept by two excellent elderly sisters, who look after me splendidly. I am well round the corner again, pulling up the hill in fact at a great rate and able to get out and stay out all day under the pines. We intend to stay here until the end of August.  [To Harold Beauchamp, 21 June 1922.]

Comments: 0 | Read and Post Comments

20 June 1922

Hotel d'Angleterre, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

I send you back £l note. Would you buy me a pot of face cream - a food for the skin - you know what this climate does. With the rest buy your Mrs S. a little something for herself from of course yourself I expect you won't feel you have the money for presents. Do this, please.
        Yours
             K.M.
I hope Henley is not too dreadful. It always sounded to me a very very `Swiss' idea. Dont you think it rather a mistake to take so many peoples advice - to listen to so many people AND to discuss your private affairs with everybody? I mean why must the whole of Montana have known what you intended to do - servants and all? That seems to me very dreadful. If ever you discuss my future plans, Miss, I shall deny them absolutely and at once. But please dont do it. Refrain from telling all & sundry what WE intend to do. I cant bear it! To hear Ernestine discussing you and your `thee raom' & her fear it would be trop cherl . . .I know you long for intimacy with people but intimacy isn't giving them the right to interfere. These are only my personal views, of course. I don't mean them to sound arbitrary. Im afraid they do - Im sorry.  [To Ida Baker, 16 June 1922.]

Comments: 0 | Read and Post Comments

19 June 1922

Hotel d'Angleterre, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

Dear Ida,
   After your detailed letters I quite understand the situation as between you and Susie. I hope you will not be too distressed at the thought you ‘cannot' help her. Was she quite within her moral rights (legal rights don't count) in fixing up a place without you having seen it? That seems to me a trifle queer as between partners but then I don't know.
   I hope you will be able to come to me fairly soon. I need someone very much for many reasons.
   But whatever happens please don't think of bringing Wing. It would be absolutely impossible. I shall not stay here for any length of time; I shall be in Paris in the autumn (I expect) and then I rather think of going to Italy instead of the S. of France for the winter. Jack goes over to England at the end of August for the autumn - perhaps until the spring. But the cat we cant have. Imagine my temper if you had that poor creature in a train. I should get out of the train. Besides no decent hotel will take a cat & the cruelty is really abominable to drag about a helpless animal. Wing would be happy with anyone who gave him food and a warm corner. If you can't find anyone what about your writing to Jeanne? The trouble is she has her beloved dog Kuri. But is it impossible to keep a cat & a dog? [To Ida Baker, 16 June 1922.]

Comments: 0 | Read and Post Comments

18 June 1922

Hotel d'Angleterre, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

It is very nice here, remote, peaceful, but not remote enough. It is difficult to manage one's external life as one would wish. I have been working towards one thing for years now. But it is still on the horizon. Because I cannot yet attain to it without "misunderstanding" it cant be mine yet. But it comes nearer - much nearer. But I do not like to talk ‘prudently'. In fact it is detestable.
   To change the subject. I saw something awfully nice the day after I got here. Behind this hotel there is a big stretch of turf before one comes to the forest. And in the late afternoon as the herds were driven home when they came to this turf they went wild with delight. Staid, black cows began to dance and leap and cut capers, lowing softly. Meek, refined-looking little sheep who looked as though buttercups would not melt in their mouths could not resist it; they began to jump, to spin round, to bound forward like rocking horses. As for the goats they were extremely brilliant dancers of the highest order - the Russian Ballet was nothing compared to them. But best of all were the cows. Cows do not look very good dancers, do they? Mine were as light as feathers and really gay, joyful. It made one laugh to see them. But it was so beautiful too. It was like the first chapter in Genesis over again. "Fourfooted creatures created He them." One wanted to weep as well.  [To S.S. Koteliansky, 17 June 1922.]

Comments: 0 | Read and Post Comments

17 June 1922

Hotel d'Angleterre, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

Koteliansky
   Would you care for a cat? I have a cat who is at present in England and I cannot have him with me. It is too cruel to make cats travel. He is a beautiful animal, except for a scratch on his nose, one ear badly bitten and a small hole in his head. From the back view however he is lovely for he has a superb tail. In all his ways he can be trusted to behave like a gentleman. He is extremely independent and, of course, understands everything that is said to him. Perhaps Mademoisel Guita would like him?
   But this is not urgent. At present he is with Ida Baker. She would hand him over to anyone in a basket. But I dont want you to have him. I mean I am not for one moment asking you to have him. Of course not. Simply, it occurred to me that you might find it a not unpleasant idea. . . I must confess he will not catch mice. But mice do not know that and so the sight of him keeps them away. He has a fair knowledge of French. [To S.S. Koteliansky, 17 June 1922.]

Comments: 0 | Read and Post Comments

16 June 1922

Hotel d'Angleterre, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

What is Waterlow saying about your Thursdays. He is a bit of a mischief maker. It is because of his Marge. I feel he is absolutely under her thumb and her mental plumbing is so very awful. I expect you will get all the latest gossip from G. I do not like those London people, dearest. Koteliansky is the only company I really want to see, ever again. There is something - a kind of superciliousness & silly suspicion mixed in the others which makes me turn from them. They are no worse than other city people. But that is not saying much is it? The truth is I don't want to discuss literature or art, as they do. I want to get on with it, and in leisure hours, live and love and enjoy the people I am with. Play, in fact. Play is a very necessary part of life.
   I must post this unsatisfactory letter. Its written as usual on my knee & so my writing has no backbone but is all wobbly like the handwriting of a fish. Forgive it. I still cough like billy-oh, and am short of puff and so on. The old story, in fact, just as it was when I was here before. But it don't signify, Miss Dombey.
   This all rushes along. But it's the surface. Underneath there is something steady, deep, and yours - my love for you. I too, feel we are only at the beginning. But already I have such memories of you to think over - moments, glances, words spoken and left unsaid. [To Dorothy Brett, 14 June 1922.]

Comments: 0 | Read and Post Comments

15 June 1922

Hotel d'Angleterre, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

Paris feels remote at last. The pianos have died down. The lift no longer goes up & down in ones head. That cursed restaurant has faded. Little creepy things have crept back and clover and the sky and a feeling as though one would in a moment give thanks to the Lord. The cherries are just beginning to flash into ripeness. There are still masses of flowers. But why do the peasants work so hard. It wrings ones heart to see them! The women can just stagger under gigantic loads and they are all bent, all hardened, like trees by a cruel wind.
   What will you paint here - I wonder? Herd girls, goats, trees? That is interesting about the white of Paris houses. What I love, too, is white with just a tinge of pink as one sees in the South - or just a tinge of yellow. Do you like to pat houses? Pat their walls? I used to go outside my little Isola Bella & pat it as if it was a cat. I hope you find your little boy again. I hope you never see that horrid Richborough again. Vile man! How dare he say such things. I am v. sorry to hear about Eva. Of course I suspect J. [J. W. N. Sullivan] and Mrs D. [Dobree] for frightening her. Servants are simple creatures; they don't like surprises. They expect to be looked after (alas) and the best of them are stern moralists.
[To Dorothy Brett, 14 June 1922.]

Comments: 0 | Read and Post Comments

14 June 1922

Hotel d'Angleterre, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

My dearest Brett
   You sent me such a lovely letter. I wanted to answer it at once. But I am working at such pressure. It sounds absurd. But it is really difficult to find time for letters, even. First, about your health. Do you feel better? Is the pain in your lung? Is there anyone who would paint you with iodine - in French tincture d'iode. Or if not won't you buy a packet of Thermogène and clamp it on the spot & keep it there until the pain is gone. Do, look after yourself Eat! Rest! Don't carry your paint box. I shall be thankful when you are here in really good air with the old girls looking after you and feeding you properly. And remember to put on warm clothes for the journey here - woolies. Its fresh in the mountains; its sometimes cold. You can always shed them in the train & then wind yourself up when you reach Sierre.
   Now about the journey. The night train is best. The one we took from the Gare de Lyon - 9-something. You have to change at Lausanne next morning at about 9. But I looked on your account for Cook's men & I saw two in full view. Even without them the change is perfectly simple & there is no rush. Plenty of time. At Sierre M. will meet you. I hope to be there, too. Then there is only a gentle ride 1/2 way up the mountains and then there is a cup of tea.  [To Dorothy Brett, 14 June 1922.]

Comments: 0 | Read and Post Comments

13 June 1922

Hotel d'Angleterre, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

Dear Ida,
   Your ‘letter' came and had precisely the effect it was intended to have. Thank you. I believed in it myself as I read it. It sounded so real. I have had your telegrams. I understand about Susie. Do as you think best. Dont tire yourself by rushing. I don't think the little lady needs too much consideration, though, after the very casual way she has treated you. Miss Franklin is the person I like & your Mrs Scriven. They both sound delightful women.
   About plans. . . Do you want any money? I will send you a cheque for £7 to buy yourself any odd clothes you may need. I mean - stockings and so on. England is the only place for them, and to pay for your journey. I don't know what it costs. About the cat. Where can you leave him? Do you know of anywhere? Would Mrs S. have him if he was doctored? That wld mean hed be a quiet cat & not a fighter. Its impossible to have him here. For my plans are so vague.
   At the moment, too, I cant write letters. I haven't the time. Im late now for the Sphere & its a difficult job to keep all these things going. I write to nobody. Please forgive this, understand it & don't get anxious & don't telegraph unless you have to! I have such a horror of telegrams that ask me how I am!! I always want to reply dead. Its the only reply. What, in Heaven's name, can one answer?  [To Ida Baker, 14 June 1922.]

Comments: 0 | Read and Post Comments

12 June 1922

Hotel d'Angleterre, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

My dear Ida
   I sent you a wire yesterday c/o Dolly in case you were with her and en train to fix up any negotiations. I wish I knew how firmly you and Susie were united. I deserve that you should have just found the ideal spot & that you answer me in immense haste with one eye on your first baking. But I am a little bit tired of getting my deserts & so I shall hope still that my plan is possible. Its not bad here. The place is too high for me. But then I always knew that. There was nothing else to be done, however. Make a strange journey & arrive at a strange place alone with Jack was out of the question. But I can not move about at all so far, and my heart thuds in my ear just as it did and bangs twice as fast all day. It is hateful to again have to give up baths, to again have to dress sitting down & sipping water and so on . . . But what the devil can one do? If you were here we would go to Lake Maggiore. There's no point in writing however until I get an answer to my letter. Re Wing. Don't you think he had better be doctored? He fights too much. Im glad you have bought one or two ‘bits of things'. No, I don't want anything in that line.
            Yours ever
               K.M. [To Ida Baker, 12 June 1922.]

Comments: 0 | Read and Post Comments

11 June 1922

Hotel d'Angleterre, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

Elizabeth has such a character staying with her. I wonder if you happen to know her - Lady Mary Mallett - one time private secretary to the Dear Queen. She is the spit of all those people - large hat with lace veil caught on her shoulder with a diamond brooch, figure, gloves, shoes, rolled umbrella and hair. M. has had tremendous conversations about the D.Q's dislike of seeing anyone without her cap and so on. But I can't get off the subject of Venice with her. She will describe Venice to me and all its beauties. When she says the word beauties she shuts her eyes. She is painting a series of water colours of wild flowers in her spare time. I think Elizabeth is suffering tortures at having her so very much on the spot, though.
   I must get up and start work. There's a huge beetle creeping over my floor, so cautiously, so intently. He has thought it all out. One gets fond of insects here; they seem to be in their place and its pleasant to know they are there. M. was saying the other night how necessary snakes are in creation. Without snakes there would be a tremendous gap, a poverty. Snakes complete the picture. Why? I wonder. I feel it, too. I read an account of unpacking large deadly poisonous vipers at the Zoo the other day. They were lifted out of their boxes with large wooden tongs. Can't you see those tongs? Like giant asparagus tongs & think of one's feelings if they suddenly crossed like sugar tongs too. Brrr! [To Dorothy Brett, 11 June 1922.]

Comments: 0 | Read and Post Comments

10 June 1922

Hotel d'Angleterre, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

Dearest Brett
   Summer has deserted us, too. Its cold and we are up [in] the clouds all day. Huge, white woolly fellows lie in the valley. There is nothing to be seen from the windows but a thick, soft whiteness. Its beautiful in its way. The sound of water is beautiful flowing through it and the shake of the cows bells.
   Yes, I know Utrillo's work from reproductions; M. has seen it. Its very sensitive and delicate. Id like to see some originals. What a horrible fate that he should be mad. Tragedy treads on the heels of those young French painters. Look at young Modigliani? - he had only just begun to find himself when he committed suicide. I think its partly that café life; its a curse as well as a blessing. I sat opposite a youthful poet in the filthy atmosphere of the L'Univers and he was hawking and spitting the whole evening. Finally after a glance at his mouchoir he said "Encore du sang. Il me faut 24 mouchoirs par jour. C'est le desespoir de ma femme!" Another young poet Jean Pillerinii (awfully good) died (but not during the evening !) making much the same kind of joke. Talking about ‘illness', my dear, I feel rather grim when I read of your wish to bustle me and make me run! Did it really seem to you people were always telling me to sit down? To me that was the fiercest running and the most tremendous bustling and I couldn't keep it up for any length of time. In fact as soon as I got here I wrote to the Mountain and asked her to come back and look after things as otherwise I'd never be able to get any work done. All my energy went in ‘bustling'. [To Dorothy Brett, 11 June 1922.]

Comments: 0 | Read and Post Comments

9 June 1922

Hotel d'Angleterre, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

This is short hand & the result of weeks of thinking.
Ida
   If you are not finally fixed up for the summer - listen to me. Its no go. I am almost as ill as ever I was, in every way. I want you if you can come to me. But like this. We should have to deceive Jack. J. can never realise what I have to do. He helps me all he can but he can't help me really & the result is I spend all my energy - every bit - in keeping going. I have none left for work. All my work is behind hand & I cant do it. I simply stare at the sky. I am too tired even to think. What makes me tired? Getting up, seeing about everything, arranging everything, sparing him, and so on. That journey nearly killed me literally. He had no idea I suffered at all, and could not understand why I looked ‘so awful' & why everybody seemed to think I was terribly ill. Jack can never understand. That is obvious. Therefore if I can possibly possibly ask you to help me we should have to do it like this. It would have to come entirely from you. Ill draft a letter & send it on the chance. If you agree, write it to me. Its not wrong to do this. It is right. I have been wanting to for a long time. I feel I cannot live without you. But of course we'll have to try & live differently. Dear Ida, I can't promise - or rather I can only promise. If you cannot ‘honourably' accept what I say - let it be. I must make the suggestion; I must make a try for it.
Yours ever
K.M.
[To Ida Baker, 7June 1922.]

Comments: 0 | Read and Post Comments

8 June 1922

Hotel d'Angleterre, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

But enough of this. I want to tell you what a perfect glimpse we had of the Chalet Soleil as we bumped here in the cold mountain rain. It was raining but the sun shone too, and all your lovely house is hidden in white blossom. Only heavenly blue shutters showed through. The little ‘working' chalet is in an absolute nest of green. It looked awfully fairy; one felt there ought to have been a star on top of the slender chimney. But from the very first glimpse of your own road everything breathed of you. It was like enchantment.
   We are alone in this big, very airy, silent hotel. The two ancient dames look after us and pursue me with ‘tisanes'. They are very anxious for me to try a poultice of mashed potatoes on my chest pour changer avec une feuille de moutarde. But so far I have managed to wave the pommes de terre away. Its peaceful beyond words after that odious, grilling Paris. John goes out for walks and comes back with marvellous flowers. He says there are whole fields of wood violets still, and carpets of anemones. We are both working but I feel dull and stupid as though I have been living on a diet of chimney pots. I never want to see a city again. [To Elizabeth, Countess Russell, 5 June 1922.]

Comments: 0 | Read and Post Comments

7 June 1922

Hotel d'Angleterre, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

Dearest Elizabeth
   I have been waiting until we got here before I answered your last letter. Rather a disappointing thing has happened. I suppose my enthusiasm was too much for the Furies. At any rate I wish now I had waited before praising so loudly. For they have turned about their chariots and are here in full force again. It was ‘silly' to be so happy and to say so much about it; I feel ashamed of my last letter. But I felt every word of it at the time and more - much more. However, perhaps the truth is some peoplc live in cages and some are free. One had better accept one's cage and say no more about it. I can - I will. And I do think its simply unpardonable to bore one's friends with ‘I can't get out'. Your precious sympathy, most dear Elizabeth I shall never forget. It made that glimpse of the open air twice as marvellous. But here I am with dry pleurisy, coughing away, and so on and so on. Please don't think I feel tragic or despairing. I don't. Ainsi soit-il. What one cannot understand one must accept.
   My only trouble is John. He ought to divorce me, marry a really gay young healthy creature, have children and ask me to be godmother. He needs a wife beyond everything. I shall never be a wife and I feel such a fraud when he still believes that one day I shall turn into one. Poor John! Its hellish to live with a femme malade. But its also awfully hard to say to him ‘you know darling I shall never be any good'. To Elizabeth, Countess Russell, 5 June 1922.]

Comments: 0 | Read and Post Comments

6 June 1922

Hotel d'Angleterre, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

Then at Randogne, after shinning up a hill to reach the little cart, a big black cloud saw us far off tore across and we'd scarcely started when down came the cold mountain rain. Big drops that clashed on one like pennies. It poured in sheets and torrents. We hadn't even a rug. The road which has only just been dug out & is like a river bed became a river, and for the most of the time we seemed to drive on two wheels. But it was heavenly, it didn't matter. It was so marvellously fresh and cool after Paris. A huge dog plunged after our cart & leapt into all the streams - a dog as big as - a big sofa. Its name was Lulu. When we arrived, sleek as cats with the wet, a little old grey woman ran out to meet us. There wasn't another soul to be seen. All was empty, chill and strange. She took us into two very bare plain rooms, smelling of pitch pine with big bunches of wild flowers on the tables, with no mirrors, little washbasins like tea basins, no armchairs, no nuffin. And she explained she had no servant even. There was only herself & her old sister who would look after us. I had such fever by this time that it all seemed like a dream. When the old 'un had gone Jack looked very sad. Oh, how I pitied him! I saw he had the awful foreboding that we must move on again. But I had the feeling that perhaps we had been living too soft lately. It was perhaps time to shed all those hot water taps and horrid false luxuries. So I said it reminded me of the kind of place Tchekhov would stay at in the country in Russia!
To Dorothy Brett, 5 June 1922.]

Comments: 0 | Read and Post Comments

5 June 1922

Hotel d'Angleterre, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

My dearest Lamb,
   I must write to you before I begin work. I think of you so often and at this moment sitting on the balcony in THE sweater, which isn't a jot too warm but is perfect - so snug and soft - I feel as though my song of praise must reach you wherever you are.
   Aren't last moments of any kind awful? Those last feverish ones at the hotel - how detestable they were. And I kept thinking afterwards that perhaps, darling, you felt I shouted at you in the hall. I hope to Heaven you didn't. It is on my mind. I wasn't as careful as I should have been. Forgive me! And throw away those odious great parcels if they worry you. You can't think - you can't imagine how you helped me. How can I repay you? But Ill try and find out a way some day.
   We had an awful journey. The station was crammed with a seething mob. No porters - people carrying their own luggage. No couchettes after all - only a packed lst class carriage, coated in grime. It was Whitsun of course - Ive never taken Whitsun seriously before but now I know better. Poor dear M. left things in the rack, gave a 500 note instead of a 50, lost the registered luggage tickets...When we reached Sierre and that lovely clean hotel, smelling of roses and lime blossom we both fell fast asleep on a garden bench while waiting for lunch.[To Dorothy Brett, 5 June 1922.]

Comments: 0 | Read and Post Comments

4 June 1922

Hotel d'Angleterre, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

However, wild horses wont drag me away from here for the next two months. I think we shall be able to get decent food. At any rate they have excellent eggs & good butter milk & their own vegetables. I felt inclined to cry when I saw how hard they had tried to impress us last night at supper with their cooking - even to a poor little boiled custard that floated airy fairy with little white threads in it.
   But at last it is peaceful. This balcony is perfect. And the air - after Paris - the peace, the outlook instead of that grimy wall. Cities are too detestable. I should never write anything if I lived in them. I feel base, and distracted. And all those dreadful parties. Oh how odious they are. How I hate the word ‘chic'. C'est plus chic, moins chic, pas chic, tres chic. French women haven't another note to sing on. And the heat! It was frightful. And the stale food. I had to give up my dentist at last until a more propitious moment. I couldn't stand it.
   Well, thats enough of Paris. I shant mention it again. Write to me when you get this. All my underclothes are in rags. Shall I ever have time to mend them. All the tops of my knickers are frayed & the seams of my ‘tops' are burst & my nightgowns are unsewn. What a fate! But it really doesn't matter when one looks at the sky & the grass shaking in the light. .
   What are you doing? What are your plans? How is Wing? How is ‘everybody'?
             Yours ever
                           K.M.
[To Ida Baker, 4 June 1922.]

Comments: 0 | Read and Post Comments

3 June 1922

Hotel d'Angleterre, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

After a very powerful wash and an immaculate lunch - why do the glasses & spoons shine so? - I lay down & went to sleep & Jack went out. The next thing was: "La voiture est là Madame." Heavens! Nothing was packed. Jack had not come back. The bill was not paid and so on. I am quite out of the habit of these rushes. Finally we found Jack at the post office & just got to the station in time. Then at Randogne there was no room for our luggage in the cart. So we went off without it. (Last bulletin de bagage lost Jack simply prostrate) and we'd scarcely left the station when it began to pour with rain. Sheets, spouts of cold mountain rain. My mole coat & skirt was like a mole skin. We got soaked and the road which hasn't been remade yet after the winter was exactly like the bed of a river. But the comble was to get here & see these small pokey little rooms waiting us. We took the ground floors three as you said they were so BIG and so NICE. Good God! Whatever made you tell such bangers. They are small single rooms & really they looked quite dreadful. Also the woman told us she had no servants. She & her sister were alone to do everything. I thought at first we'd have to drive off again. But that was impossible. So I decided to accept it as a kind of picnic. "The kind of place R.L. Stevenson might have stayed at" or "some little hotel in Russia".
[To Ida Baker, 4 June 1922.]

Comments: 0 | Read and Post Comments

2 June 1922

Hotel d'Angleterre, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

My dear Ida,
   I am at last on the balcony overlooking the same mountains. Its hot with a small wind: grasshoppers are playing their tambourines & the church bells of old Montana are ringing. How we got here I shall never know! Every single thing went wrong. The laundry didn't come back in time. We were off late. Brett was laden with large parcels which we could not pack & which she promised to store for us - until when? And only when we got to the Gare de Lyons we remembered it was Whitsun. No porters. People wheeling their own luggage. Swarms & thousands of people. Fifteen thousand young gymnasts de Provence arriving & pouring through one. Poor Jack who had my money gave away a 500 note instead of a 50. And at last arrived at the Couchettes we found ordinary lst class carriage with 3 persons a side. No washing arrangements - nothing. It was the cursed Féte de Narcisse at Montreux yesterday so conducted parties crammed the train. What a night! And the grime! At Lausanne we both looked like negroes. Then came a further rush for the Sierre train (registered luggage tickets lost) & finally two hours late we arrived at the Belle Vue, starving, as we had no food with us & there was no food on the train. But that enchanted hotel was more exquisite than ever. The people so kind and gentle, the wavy branches outside the windows, a smell of roses and lime blossom. [To Ida Baker, 4 June 1922.]

Comments: 0 | Read and Post Comments

1 June 1922

Victoria Palace Hotel, Paris

Do you imagine I shall forget you in Switzerland, my dear precious friend?. . .When I come back here in August, after my next 10 séances I have decided to come to London for a week to see my doctor there & let him examine my lungs and so on for an "advertisement" for Manoukhin. It is the least I can do. Brett says I may have a room in her little house for this week. Let us meet then! But what I would like most of all would be if you would ask me to come to Acacia Road to that top room that used to be mine. To sit there and talk a little and smoke. How happy I should be!
   Its getting dark. How I love to watch the dark coming. Even a city is beautiful then. But I must get away from all this and work. I have a terrible amount to do. Do you dislike my work? I wonder very often. I wanted to send you The Garden Party and yet I felt it would seem arrogant of me. For there is so little in it which is worth reading. When I write a book as well as I possibly can I should send you a copy.
   However - it is foolishness to talk about my "work". One must simply go on quietly and hope to do better.
   It has been strange to see Brett. There is something very real and true in her. Her secret self is too deeply buried, though. I wish I could make her happier. I feel she has been ignored, passed by. No one has ever cherished her. This is sad.
   Goodnight.
   I press your hands
              Katherine.[To S. S. Koteliansky, 31 May 1922.]

Comments: 0 | Read and Post Comments

1 2 3