Thursday, October 14, 2010

Remembering... Katherine Mansfield

Out of a lonely childhood springs many a writer, and Katherine Mansfield was no exception...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketBorn into a well-to-do family in Wellington, New Zealand, on this day in 1888, Mansfield's first short stories - the form at which she excelled - appeared in a school magazine when she was only 10. At 14 she went to London for school; then her passions were more musical than literary. In any event, she returned to New Zealand when she was 18.

Two years later she returned to London, where she threw herself into the Imperial capital's bohemian lifestyle. She married a man named George Bowden almost on a whim, but became pregnant by another man named Garnet Trowell, later suffering a miscarriage at a sanitorium in Bavaria where she'd been sent by her mother.  It was during this time that Mansfield also cultivated a friendship with D.H. Lawrence.

In 1911 she published her first collection of short stories, entitled In a German Pension, whose lack of success dismayed her. She also contracted gonorrhea which, in addition to being a terrible stigma in those days, caused her painful bouts of arthritis for the rest of her short life.

The relatively happy event of falling in love and marrying John Middleton Murry was marred by her brother's death on the battlefields of World War I, and so it went; each happiness seemingly marred by a successive tragedy. Although her ill-health and private income gave her plenty of time to write - she wrote her most famous works while recovering from a bout with tuberculosis in 1918-19 - she was also plagued by depression.

Katherine Mansfield died in France in January 1923; she was 35. In the years following her death, much of her work was published by her widower, and in the years since it has accrued much acclaim for the delicacy of its prose and the sensitivity of its insights into the timeless struggles of its characters.
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