Katherine Mansfield

Katherine Mansfield (1888–1923), pseudonym of Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp, New Zealand-born short-story writer. After studying music in her native country, Mansfield moved to London in 1908, married George Bowden, a music teacher, whom she left after a few days, the marriage unconsummated. She was at the time pregnant from a previous affair. Her experiences in Bavaria, where the child was stillborn, became the background for her first collection of stories, In a German Pension (1911), most of which had been previously published in A.R. Orage’s journal, The New Age. In 1911 she met J. Middleton Murry, who fell quickly under her spell and with whom she was to be associated until the end of her life, though they frequently lived independently and married only in 1918. Her health had long been fragile, and in 1918 she was diagnosed with the tuberculosis which eventually killed her. BR met her in 1916 when she was living in Gower Street, near BR’s brother’s house in Gordon Square. For a short time they had an intimate friendship, but not an affair. BR found her talk, especially about what she planned to write, “marvellous, much better than her writing”. But “when she spoke about people she was envious, dark and full of alarming penetration in discovering what they least wished known.” She spoke in this vein of Ottoline Morrell. BR listened but in the end “believed very little of it” and, after that, saw Mansfield no more (Auto. 2: 27). Main biography: Antony Alpers, The Life of Katherine Mansfield (New York: Viking, 1980).

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