Katherine Mansfield: Letters and Journals

I once tried to keep a journal. What I found was that more often than not I was embellishing and embroidering. I wasn’t being particularly honest. It was like I was correcting my experiences rather than recounting them.

Often I had the sense KM was doing much the same in both her journal and letters. There aren’t that many entries when you feel she’s not wearing a mask of some kind and reading her words is a bit like playing hide and seek with her. She’s a chameleon, has a different mask for each of her correspondents. Some of these individuals, like Virginia Woolf, inspire her; others seem to bring out a sentimental fakery in her. You can’t help wishing she and Woolf had exchanged a whole volume of letters.  There are beautiful inspired passages and there are rather boring passages too. I first read this when I was very young and ravenous to know more about her. As much as anything it showed me how much I’ve changed in the intervening years: my former wild hearted adulation has hardened into sober respect. The last fifty pages or so when she knows she is going to die are heartbreaking. I remain convinced she would have rivalled Virginia Woolf had she lived another ten years.katherine_mansfield_2-a

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