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Katherine Mansfield (October 14, 1888 – January 9, 1923), best known for her short stories, was born in Wellington, New Zealand as Katherine Mansfield Beauchamp. She enjoyed a happy childhood as part of a well-to-do family.
She moved to London in 1903 to attend Queens College along with her sisters, and there began writing in earnest, though she was a serious student of the cello (and believed that would be her career).
New Zealand felt alienating to her upon returning from her studies, but it was then, in 1908, that she began writing short stories. Her stories depicted ordinary lives in a bold and powerful way. Some didn’t have neat endings; others were left open-ended for the reader to puzzle out. Her first collection of stories was published in 1911, titled In a German Pension.
Friend and rival of Virginia Woolf
An odd rivalry percolated between her and Virginia Woolf, who once said of the work Mansfield had produced, “I was jealous of her writing. The only writing I have ever been jealous of.” On the other hand Woolf wrote, “The more she is praised, the more I am convinced she is bad.” However, though Mansfield and Woolf have long been painted as bitter rivals, they were actually quite close as friends and as writing colleagues.
In her brief life, Mansfield had a great many lovers, both male and female; her bisexuality was known to her from adolescence. Her most tumultuous relationship was with the man with whom she had a long love affair and then married, John Middleton Murry, whom she met in his capacity as an editor of a magazine to which she submitted work.
Mansfield had a rather tormented friendship with fellow author D.H. Lawrence, sho used her as the model for Gudrun in Women in Love. She also had a disastrous one-day marriage to George Bowden.
An untimely death
Katherine Mansfield was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1917, but continued to write on a daily basis. Doing whatever she could to combat her illness, she entered the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man in France.
She died there three months later, in 1923, at the age of 34. Before her tragic death from tuberculosis in 1923. Toward the end of her life, she searched for truth in the teachings of the Russian mystic G. I. Gurdjieff.
Even though her career was cut short at this young age, it’s widely accepted that she revolutionized the English short story.
More about Katherine Mansfield on this site
- In a German Pension
- Something Childish But Very Natural
- The Garden Party & Other Stories
- Mansfield Notebooks: Complete Edition
- The Collected Stories
Biographies about Katherine Mansfield
- Katherine Mansfield: A Darker View by Jeffrey Myers
- Katherine Mansfield: A Secret Life by Claire Tomalin
- Katherine Mansfield: The Story-teller by Kathleen Jones
- Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf by Angela Smith
- Katherine Mansfield House and Garden – Wellington, New Zealand
- Inventory of the Mansfield Papers 1903-1942 –
The Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois
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