'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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11 December 1922

La Prieuré, Fontainebleau, Avon

My dear Ida
   Many thanks for your two letters. The postman has told me this morning that my 6 colis are awaiting me at the post office. I'll send you a line when I have ‘examined' them. I am sure they will be very nice. I will also send you a cheque for 300 francs for the coat & skirt in the course of a day or two. If that suits you. I hope you like your farm. Jean S. is a very good youngish writer, I believe. You ought to try & get hold of his books in your library. Thank you for telling me about jack. He sounds happy. I dont think I can talk ‘fuIly' about my suggestion that you should join him in a farm. It seemed to me for many reasons a very good idea and I suppose I had deep reasons. But such explanations are futile. He wrote as though he liked the idea but you were not very keen, & mentioned the fact that beautiful hand weaving is done at Ditchling which might interest you to learn. [To Ida Baker, 12 December 1922.]

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10 December 1922

La Prieuré, Fontainebleau, Avon

My dear Lady Rothermere.
   I was so glad to hear from you, so sorry to know you are not coming to Fontainebleau until January. I have been hoping, for days, to hear of your arrival. We miss you here awfully.
[letter incomplete, 10 December 1922.]

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9 December 1922

La Prieuré, Fontainebleau, Avon

   Yesterday when I was in the stable Mr Salzmann came up. He had just returned from his work - sawing logs in the far wood. And we began to talk about poverty. He was talking of the absolute need for us today to be poor again, but poor in the real sense. To be poor in ideas, in imagination, in impulses, in wishes, to be simple, in fact. To get rid of the immense collection with which our minds are crammed and to get back to our real needs. But I shall not try to transcribe what he said. It sounds banal; it was not. I hope you will meet this man one day. He looks a very surly, angry and even fierce workman. He is haggard, drawn, old looking with grey hair cut in a fringe on his forehead. He dresses like a very shabby forester and carries a large knife in his belt. I like him almost as much as I like his wife. Together they seem to me as near an ideal couple as I could imagine.
   Bogey are you having fine weather? Today is perfectly glorious. There was a heavy frost last night but its marvellously clear and fine. No, I don't want any money just now, thank you, darling heart. What nonsense to say those WS. [War Savings] certificates are mine. Why? They are yours! And don't go building a 7 roomed house. 7 rooms for 2 people! I will write again in a day or two. Goodbye for now, dearest darling Bogey.
                   Ever your own
                                       Wig.
Don't forget the photograph! [To J. M. Murry, 9 December 1922.]

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8 December 1922

La Prieuré, Fontainebleau, Avon

What do you read? Has Dunning any unfamiliar books? You have rather a horror of anything at all. . . Eastern - haven't you? I read Ouspensky's Tertium Organum the other day. For some reason it didn't carry me away. I think it is extremely interesting but - perhaps I was not in the mood for books. I am not at present, though I know that in the future I shall want to write them more than anything else in the world. But different books. There is Mr Hartmann here with whom I have great talks nearly every evening about how and why and when. I confess present day literature simply nauseates me, excepting always Hardy and the other few whose names I cant remember. . .But the general trend of it seems to me quite without any value whatever.
[To J. M. Murry, 9 December 1922.]

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7 December 1922

La Prieuré, Fontainebleau, Avon

My darling Bogey
   I have never had a letter from you that I so ‘understood' as your last about your house & how you are living & the wages you gave to John & Nicholas. I can't say what a joy it is to know you are there. It seems to me very mysterious how so many of us nowadays refuse to be cave dwellers any longer but in our several ways are trying to learn to escape. The old London life, whatever it was, but even the life we have led recently wherever we have been is no longer even possible to me. It is so far from me that it seems to exist in another world. This of course is a wrong feeling. For, after all, there are the seeds of what we long after in everybody and if one remembers that any surroundings are possible . . . at least. [To J. M. Murry, 9 December 1922.]

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6 December 1922

La Prieuré, Fontainebleau, Avon

   I don't know how you feel. But I still find it fearfully hard to cope with people I do not like or who are not sympathetic. With the others all goes well. But living here with all kinds I am simply appaled at my helplessness when I want to get rid of someone or to extricate myself from a conversation, even. But I have learnt how to do it, here. I have learnt that the only way is to court it, not to avoid it, to face it. Terribly difficult for me, in practice. But until I really do master this I cannot get anywhere. There always comes the moment when I am uncovered, so zu sagen, and the other man gets in his knockout blow.
   Oh, darling, I am always meaning to ask you this. I came away this time without a single photograph of you. This is intolerable. I really must have one, Bogey. Not only because I want it fearfully for myself but people keep on asking me. And I am proud of you. I want to show them what you look like. Do please send me one for Xmas. This is very important.
   Goodbye for now, my own Bogey. I am ever your loving
                                 Wig.[To J. M. Murry, 6 December 1922.]

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5 December 1922

La Prieuré, Fontainebleau, Avon

There is a small steep staircase to a little railed off gallery above the cows. On the little gallery are divans covered with persian carpets (only two divans). But the whitewashed walls and ceiling have been decorated most exquisitely in what looks like a persian pattern of yellow, red and blue by Mr Salzmann. Flowers, little birds, butterflies, and a spreading tree with animals on the branches, even a hippopotamus. But Bogey all done with the most real art - a little masterpiece. And all so gay, so simple, reminding me of summer grasses and the kind of flowers that smell like milk. There I go every day to lie and later I am going to sleep there. Its very warm. One has the most happy feelings listening to the beasts & looking. I know that one day I shall write a long long story about it. At about 5.30 the door opens and Mr Ivanov comes in, lights the lantern and begins milking. I had quite forgotten the singing wiry silvery sound of milk falling into an empty pail & then heavier plonk-plonk! ‘Mr' Ivanov is a very young man, he looks as though he had just finished his studies, rather shy, with a childlike beaming smile. [To J. M. Murry, 6 December 1922.]

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4 December 1922

La Prieuré, Fontainebleau, Avon

My darling Bogey
   Your Sunday letter arrived today. Until I have your answer to mine suggesting that we do not meet until the spring I will not refer to the subject again. . .I think that's best.
   Your little house and way of life sounds so nice. I am very very glad that you feel Dunning is your friend. Do you have something of your Lawrence feeling for him? I imagine it is a little bit the same. And Mrs Dunning - you like her? And do you play with the little boys? There are nine children here. They live in the childrens house and have a different mother every week to look after them. But I remember now I have told you all that before. Ill tell you instead about that couch Mr Gurdjieff has had built in the cowhouse. Its simply too lovely.  [To J. M. Murry, 6 December 1922.]

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3 December 1922

La Prieuré, Fontainebleau, Avon

Dear Ida
   In case this letter reaches you in time & you have the money, please buy me the warmest skirt and jumper & knitted coat you can find in a darkish colour - the coat a large size. Its against the cold.
                   Yours ever,
                             K.M. [To Ida Baker, 2 December 1922.]

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2 December 1922

La Prieuré, Fontainebleau, Avon

Then when I first came here I had a most sumptuous luxurious room and so on. Now I rough it in a little, simple, but very warm room. But its tiny. We couldn't sit in it. Deeper still is the most sincere feeling I am capable of that I do not want to see you until I am better physically. I cannot see you until the old Wig has disappeared. Associations, recollections would be too much for me just now. I must get better alone. This will mean that we do not meet until the spring. If this sounds selfish it must sound selfish. I know it is not and I know it is necessary. If you do not understand it please tell me, darling.
   I don't feel the cold as much as I have in other winters. Its often sunny, too & I have just bought for 23 francs very good boots lined with felt with felt uppers. But Ill say no more just now. I hope you will understand & not be hurt by my letter, dearest heart.
                 Ever your
                            Wig. [To J. M. Murry, 1 December 1922.]

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1 December 1922

La Prieuré, Fontainebleau, Avon

No, let me be very careful. I have not asked Mr Gurdjieff if you could come. He might say ‘yes' but I can't [see] what on earth an outsider could do here just now. Its winter. One can't be out of doors. One can't just stay in one's room. Meals are at all hours. Sometimes lunch is at 4 p.m. & dinner at 10 p.m. And so on. But the chief reason that matters is this. Physically there is very little outward change in my condition so far. I am still breathless, I still cough, still walk upstairs slowly, still have to stop and so on. The difference is that here I make ‘efforts' of a certain kind all day & live an entirely different life. But I have absolutely no life to share at present. You can't sit in the cow house with me at present or in the kitchen with seven or eight people. We are not ready for that yet. It would simply be a false position. [To J. M. Murry, 1 December 1922.]

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