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English Pages  Year 2017
Examines the 'Russian influence' on both Mansfield’s craft as a short story writer and her life choices Kathe
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This special issue of Katherine Mansfield Studies is in remembrance of the centenary of one of the most significant even
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Argument, delivered at Katherine Mansfield Society Symposium, Menton, 2009, that Katherine Mansfield was moving away fro
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Includes a literary reflection on Mansfield's work by award-winning novelist Ali Smith. Katherine Mansfield: New Di
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'I love to think of you, Virginia, as my friend ... pray consider how rare it is to find someone with the same pass
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Focusing on the first 20 years of Katherine Mansfield's life, from her birth in 1888 to her final departure from Ne
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'I was jealous of her writing - the only writing I have been jealous of.' -Virginia Woolf Widely acknowledged
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The New Zealand-born writer Katherine Mansfield associated intimately with many members of the Bloomsbury group, but her
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'I love to think of you, Virginia, as my friend ... pray consider how rare it is to find someone with the same pass
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Katherine Mansfield and Russia
Edited by Galya Diment, Gerri Kimber and Todd Martin
Katherine Mansfield and Russia
KATHERINE MANSFIELD STUDIES
Katherine Mansfield Studies is the peer-reviewed, annual publication of the Katherine Mansfield Society. It offers opportunities for collaborations among the significant numbers of researchers with interests in modernism in literature and the arts, as well as those in postcolonial studies. Because Mansfield is a writer who has inspired successors from Elizabeth Bowen to Ali Smith, as well as numerous artists in other media, Katherine Mansfield Studies encourages interdisciplinary scholarship and also allows for a proportion of creative submissions.
Dr Delia da Sousa Correa, The Open University, UK
Dr Gerri Kimber, University of Northampton, UK Professor Todd Martin, Huntington University, USA
Dr Kathryn Simpson, Cardiff Metropolitan University, UK Dr Melinda Harvey, Monash University, Australia
Aimee Gasston, Birkbeck, University of London, UK
International Advisory Board
Elleke Boehmer, University of Oxford, UK Peter Brooker, University of Sussex, UK Stuart N. Clarke, Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, UK Robert Fraser, Open University, UK Kirsty Gunn, University of Dundee, UK Clare Hanson, University of Southampton, UK Andrew Harrison, University of Nottingham, UK Anna Jackson, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand Kathleen Jones, Royal Literary Fund Fellow, UK Sydney Janet Kaplan, University of Washington, USA Anne Mounic, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris 3, France Vincent O’Sullivan, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand Josiane Paccaud-Huguet, Université Lumière-Lyon 2, France Sarah Sandley, Honorary Chair, Katherine Mansfield Society, New Zealand Ali Smith, author Angela Smith, University of Stirling, UK C. K. Stead, University of Auckland, New Zealand Janet Wilson, University of Northampton, UK
KATHERINE MANSFIELD SOCIETY
Patron Dame Jacqueline Wilson Honorary President Emeritus Professor Vincent O’Sullivan, DCNZM Honorary Vice-Presidents Emeritus Professor Angela Smith Emeritus Professor C. K. Stead, ONZ, CBE, FRSL Honorary Advisory Chair Dr Sarah Sandley
Chair Dr Gerri Kimber Vice-Chair Professor Janet Wilson Membership Secretary Professor Todd Martin Treasurer Ralph Kimber New Zealand Treasurer Kevin Ireland Secretary Dr Sarah Ailwood Assistant Secretary Helen Rydstrand Chair of Katherine Mansfield Studies Advisory Board Dr Delia Da Sousa Correa Newsletter Editor Dr Martin Griffiths Marketing Secretary Dr Jessica Gildersleeve Conference Committee Chair Professor Gina Wisker Postgraduate Representative Joe Williams
Katherine Mansfield and Russia Edited by Galya Diment, Gerri Kimber and Todd Martin Editorial Assistant Aimee Gasston
Edinburgh University Press is one of the leading university presses in the UK. We publish academic books and journals in our selected subject areas across the humanities and social sciences, combining cutting-edge scholarship with high editorial and production values to produce academic works of lasting importance. For more information visit our website: edinburghuniversitypress.com © editorial matter and organisation Galya Diment, Gerri Kimber and Todd Martin, 2017 © the chapters their several authors, 2017 Edinburgh University Press Ltd The Tun – Holyrood Road 12(2f) Jackson’s Entry Edinburgh EH8 8PJ Typeset in 10.5/12.5 New Baskerville by Servis Filmsetting Ltd, Stockport, Cheshire, and printed and bound in Great Britain by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon CR0 4YY A CIP record for this book is available from the British Library ISBN 978 1 4744 2613 8 (hardback) ISBN 978 1 4744 2615 2 (webready PDF) ISBN 978 1 4744 2614 5 (paperback) ISBN 978 1 4744 2616 9 (epub)
The right of Galya Diment, Gerri Kimber and Todd Martin to be identified as the editors of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, and the Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003 (SI No. 2498).
List of Illustrations vii Acknowledgements ix Abbreviationsx Introduction1 Galya Diment CRITICISM ‘Je ne parle pas français’: Reading Mansfield’s Underground Man11 David Rampton Post Diagnosis: Bashkirtseff, Chekhov and Gorky through Mansfield’s Prism of Tuberculosis Galya Diment
‘A child of the sun’: Katherine Mansfield, Orientalism and Gurdjieff41 Gerri Kimber Near Misses: From Gerhardi to Mansfield (and back), via Anton Chekhov66 Claire Davison Mansfield, Movement and the Ballets Russes Ira Nadel
At Home Among the Russians: The Short Stories of Olive Garnett and Katherine Mansfield Frances Reading
‘The only truth I really care about.’ Katherine Mansfield at the Gurdjieff Institute: A Biographical Reflection Pierce Butler
Katherine Mansfield and Russia CREATIVE WRITING Short Story Owen Marshall: ‘The English Visitor’
Poetry Fleur Adcock: ‘Tinakori Road’
Jessica Whyte: ‘Remedy’162 Creative Non-fiction Roger Lipsey: ‘Chez Monsieur Gurdjieff’
CRITICAL MISCELLANY The Tree of Knowledge: New Insights on Mansfield, Oscar Wilde and ‘A Woman’ Giles Whiteley
A Note on Some Unidentified Sources in Mansfield’s Reading from 1907 Giles Whiteley
Addicted to Mansfield: A Glimpse at the Ruth Elvish Mantz Collection in Texas Gerri Kimber
REVIEW ESSAY Katherine Mansfield in a Global Context Rishona Zimring
Notes on Contributors 214 Index217
List of Illustrations
Frontispiece. B. M. Kustodiev, Frosty Day, 1913, oil on canvas (70 x 98). © Saratov Radishchev State Art Museum, Russia.xii Figure 1. G. I. Gurdjieff arriving in New York, January 1924. Photo: The Gurdjieff Foundation of New York. All rights reserved.140 Figure 2. A. R. Orage, New York, 1930. Photo: Collection of Martha Welch de Llosa. All rights reserved.
Figure 3. G. I. Gurdjieff with A. R. Orage, Katherine Mansfield’s most significant mentor, likely late 1920s; detail from the only known photograph of the two men together. Photo: The Gurdjieff Foundation of New York. All rights reserved.
Figure 4. An animated departure (or arrival?), Prieuré, likely 1924, G. I. Gurdjieff at the wheel. Photo: The Gurdjieff Foundation of New York. All rights reserved.
Figure 5. Booklet cover and multi-purpose graphic announcing The Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man, likely 1923; the work of Alexandre de Salzmann. Photo: The Gurdjieff Foundation of New York. All rights reserved.
Figure 6. An early stage of construction of the Study House, 1923, described by Katherine Mansfield as a ‘theatre’; Gurdjieff at left, Alexandre de Salzmann in foreground. Photo: The Gurdjieff Foundation of New York. All rights reserved.
Figure 7. A corner of the Study House as completed, 1923–4, for the study and performance of the Sacred Dances. Residents sat in the inner ring, guests in the outer ring. The decoration includes a wealth of Oriental carpets and inscriptions in the specially devised Prieuré script. Photo: The Gurdjieff Foundation of New York. All rights reserved. 146 vii
Katherine Mansfield and Russia Figure 8. Prieuré des Basses Loges, Fontainebleau-Avon, rear view, overlooking the gardens c. 1910. Bernard Bosque Collection.146 Figure 9. The ‘French garden’, Prieuré des Basses Loges, Fontainebleau-Avon, showing ornamental pond and fountain, c. 1910. Bernard Bosque Collection.
Figure 10. The gardens, with ornamental pond, Prieuré des Basses Loges, Fontainebleau-Avon, c. 1910. Bernard Bosque Collection.147 Figure 11. First-floor corridor in the Prieuré des Basses Loges, Fontainebleau-Avon, c. 1910. Bernard Bosque Collection.
Figure 12. Principal gates of the Prieuré (on left), showing the tramway linking the station of Fontainebleau-Avon with Vulaines-sur-Seine, c. 1910. Bernard Bosque Collection.
Figure 13. The cemetery, Fontainebleau-Avon, showing Katherine Mansfield’s grave, front left, and G. I. Gurdjieff’s, back right (two standing stones). Bernard Bosque Collection. 149
The editors would like to extend particular thanks to the judging panel for this year’s Katherine Mansfield Society essay prize: Dr Rebecca Beasley, University of Oxford, UK, Dr Joanna Woods, author of Katerina: The Russian World of Katherine Mansfield, and Professor Claire Davison, Sorbonne Nouvelle, France. The winning essay by Professor David Rampton is featured in this volume. The editors would also like to thank the following organisations and individuals: the Saratov Radishchev State Art Museum, Russia, for permission to reproduce B. M. Kustodiev’s Frosty Day (1913), on our front cover; Oxford University Press, for permission to reproduce material from vol. 5 of the Collected Letters of Katherine Mansfield, ed. Vincent O’Sullivan and Margaret Scott; Roger Lipsey, for facilitating our use of the rare images of G. I. Gurdjieff and his Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man at Fontainebleau-Avon belonging to the Gurdjieff Foundation in New York who kindly gave permission for their use in this volume, as well as the image of A. R. Orage, from the collection of Martha Welch de Llosa; Bernard Bosque, for allowing us to reproduce images of the Prieuré from his extensive Katherine Mansfield archive; the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin for permission to use material from the Ruth Elvish Mantz archive; the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington, New Zealand, for permission to use manuscript material in their archives; Fiona Oliver and the Turnbull Library Record, for permission to reproduce a part of Gerri Kimber’s essay; Caroline White, for permission to quote from Olive Garnett’s unpublished diaries.
Unless otherwise indicated, all references to Katherine Mansfield’s works are to the following editions and abbreviated thus: CW1 and CW2 The Edinburgh Edition of the Collected Works of Katherine Mansfield: Vols 1 and 2 – The Collected Fiction, ed. Gerri Kimber and Vincent O’Sullivan (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012) CW3 The Edinburgh Edition of the Collected Works of Katherine Mansfield: Vol. 3 – The Poetry and Critical Writings, ed. Gerri Kimber and Angela Smith (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014) CW4 The Edinburgh Edition of the Collected Works of Katherine Mansfield: Vol. 4 – The Diaries of Katherine Mansfield, including Miscellaneous Works, ed. Gerri Kimber and Claire Davison (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016) Letters, 1–5 The Collected Letters of Katherine Mansfield, 5 vols, ed. Vincent O’Sullivan and Margaret Scott (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984–2008) Notebooks, 1 or 2 The Katherine Mansfield Notebooks, 2 vols, ed. Margaret Scott (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002)
Also available in the series: Katherine Mansfield and Continental Europe Edited by Delia da Sousa Correa and Gerri Kimber Katherine Mansfield Studies, Volume 1 Katherine Mansfield and Modernism Edited by Delia da Sousa Correa, Gerri Kimber and Susan Reid Katherine Mansfield Studies, Volume 2 Katherine Mansfield and the Arts Edited by Delia da Sousa Correa, Gerri Kimber and Susan Reid Katherine Mansfield Studies, Volume 3 Katherine Mansfield and the Fantastic Edited by Delia da Sousa Correa, Gerri Kimber, Susan Reid and Gina Wisker Katherine Mansfield Studies, Volume 4 Katherine Mansfield and the (Post)colonial Edited by Janet Wilson, Gerri Kimber and Delia da Sousa Correa Katherine Mansfield Studies, Volume 5 Katherine Mansfield and World War One Edited by Gerri Kimber, Todd Martin and Delia da Sousa Correa Katherine Mansfield Studies, Volume 6 Katherine Mansfield and Translation Edited by Claire Davison, Gerri Kimber and Todd Martin Katherine Mansfield Studies, Volume 7 Katherine Mansfield and Psychology Edited by Gerri Kimber, Todd Martin and Clare Hanson Katherine Mansfield Studies, Volume 8 Katherine Mansfield and Russia Edited by Galya Diment, Gerri Kimber and Todd Martin Katherine Mansfield Studies, Volume 9
Frontispiece. B. M. Kustodiev, Frosty Day, 1913, oil on canvas (70 × 98). © Saratov Radishchev State Art Museum, Russia.
Introduction Galya Diment
With all due respect to France, it is safe to say that, after New Zealand and England, Russia became by far the most important country in Katherine Mansfield’s evolution as a writer. The powerful fascination with Russian literature and culture was largely shared by Mansfield’s entire generation at the time. As Donald Davie astutely pointed out in Slavic Excursions: Essays on Russian and Polish Literature, ‘the awakening of the Anglo-Saxon people to Russian literature – something which happened to all intents and purposes between 1885 and 1920 – should rank as a turning-point no less momentous than the discovery of Italian literature by the generations of the English Renaissance’.1 Such a reaction is even more startling if one bears in mind that Russia was a true latecomer to the world of European literature. The country was, after all, not even Christianised until late in the tenth century; and the first, rather rudimentary, secular works did not appear till the sixteenth century, by which point Russia’s Western European counterparts were fully enjoying the fruits of the Renaissance. The first Russian ‘Shakespeare’, the multifaceted national genius Alexander Pushkin (1799–1837), did not come onto the scene until the first quarter of the nineteenth century. After that, however, Russian literature started developing at a ferocious pace, not only catching up with the rest of Europe in the ensuing one hundred years, but in certain respects even surpassing it. Russia’s Golden Age of literature, in the second half of the nineteenth century, which produced writers such as Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and Chekhov, was seemingly further augmented abroad because it was still relatively unusual and even exotic to be in the company of Russian authors. Matthew Arnold firmly acknowledged that effect in the 1880s when he wrote about the influence of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky in England: 1
Katherine Mansfield and Russia It is not the English novel [. . .] which has inherited the vogue lost by the French novel. It is the novel of a country new to literature, or at any rate unregarded, till lately, by the general public of readers: it is the novel of Russia. The Russian novel has now the vogue, and deserves to have it. If fresh literary productions maintain this vogue and enhance it, we shall all be learning Russian.2
While Mansfield – who actually did try to learn Russian – was not alone in how deeply the Russian culture and literature affected her, she was certainly among the most profoundly transformed by her contact: her mind, she postulated in 1907, was ‘like a Russian novel’,3 and her pet names for herself were slightly misspelled Russian: ‘Kissienka’ (‘Kisson’ka’, or ‘little kitten’),4 ‘Katerina’,5 and ‘Katoushka’ (‘Katiushka’).6 Mansfield was undoubtedly shaped as a writer by the English translations – in some of which she actively assisted her close Russian friend, Samuel Koteliansky7 – of the Russian literary titans. ‘How did Dostoievsky know about that extraordinary vindictiveness,’ she wondered in 1916, ‘that relish for bitter laughter that comes over women in pain? Its a very secret thing but its profound, profound.’8 ‘I cant be grateful enough to Tolstoi,’ she wrote in 1920. ‘By grateful I mean full of praise to him for his works.’9 Ottoline Morrell gives us a precious glimpse of just how powerful Tolstoy’s effect was on Mansfield: [W]e used to lose ourselves in scene after scene of War and Peace – especially [Katherine] loved the chapters where the young girls washed and dressed themselves with excitement for a ball, or went on masquerading expeditions in sledges, and then the scene where Natasha slipped off the slippers from her little feet and jumped into her mother’s bed while her mother was reciting her evening prayer, ‘Can it be that this couch is my bier’. Natasha snuggling under the bedclothes, giggling to herself and then peeping out to look at her mother until she made her smile. Then she too got into bed and they began their evening talk. Recollecting these things with Katherine was like living them again with her.10
Interestingly, in her great admiration for both Tolstoy and Dostoevsky Mansfield seems to have largely escaped the ‘Dostoevsky or Tolstoy’ controversy so familiar to the two writers’ countrymen, where a strongly held belief has long had it that one cannot be a fan of both since they were so different in their art, as well as their ethical and moral beliefs.11 But her most beloved Russian writer was, of course, Chekhov, who became not only her literary mentor but also her imaginary soulmate as a fellow TB sufferer. Mansfield’s omnivorous Russian cultural tastes also included Russian ballet (Ballets Russes) and, in her youth at least, some Russian composers, among them Pyotr Tchaikovsky, whose Sérénade 2
Introduction Mélancholique she reportedly played on her cello to much applause at a school concert.12 Mansfield’s trust of everything Russian was so overwhelming that when, at the age of thirty-four, she was attempting for the very last time to beat her hopeless disease, she put her fate in the hands of first a Russian medical specialist, Ivan Manoukhin, and then a spiritual guru, George Gurdjieff, who also hailed from Russia. In addition, Gurdjieff’s entire colony at Le Prieuré, near Fontainebleau, was full of Russian disciples, one even bearing a name (‘Tchekhovitch’) similar to that of her favorite writer.13 While there, she was further tutored by some of the Russians in their language.14 By then, it should be noted, the fascination with Russia for Mansfield’s generation was already not just literary and cultural but political as well: the period from 1905, two years after she came to England to attend school, up until 1923, the year she died, was, for Russia, a series of never-ending political earthquakes that featured three revolutions and two wars, including a civil war following the Bolsheviks’ seizure of power in October 1917. When she was in Paris for her last treatment with Manoukhin, she avidly followed the political news from Soviet Russia and made observations on how Russian émigrés she mingled with were coping with their exile: ‘By the way I have discovered something interesting about the Russian colony in Paris, I mean Manoukhin and his friends,’ she informed Dorothy Brett in April 1922. ‘They are intensely religious. Before the revolution they were all sceptics – as far from religion as the English intelligenzsia. But now that is changed. They go to church perpetually, kneel on the cold stones, pray, believe, really, in religion.’15 She was almost right. Manoukhin indeed considered himself an agnostic prior to 1918, when he was still in Russia and his wife almost died of Spanish flu. It was then that he first started praying.16 And while Mansfield herself remained largely an agnostic in a strict Christian sense throughout her entire life, Russophilia was, perhaps, the closest she ever came to any long-lasting and staunch spiritual faith. Critical literature on Mansfield’s engagement with all aspects of Russian literary, cultural and political life is growing. The first pioneer was Joanna Woods, who published her Katerina: The Russian World of Katherine Mansfield in 2001. Ten years later, I devoted much space to Mansfield’s friendship and collaboration with Samuel Koteliansky in A Russian Jew of Bloomsbury: The Life and Times of Samuel Koteliansky. The same year, Mansfield was featured prominently in A People Passing Rude: British Responses to Russian Culture, edited by Anthony Cross. It included an article by Rachel Polonsky entitled ‘Chekhov and the Buried Life of Katherine Mansfield’. In 2014 Claire Davison, one of the contribu3
Katherine Mansfield and Russia tors to this volume, published Translation as Collaboration: Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield and S. S. Koteliansky. A year later Caroline Maclean highlighted the Russian passions of Mansfield, among others, in The Vogue for Russia: Modernism and the Unseen in Britain 1900–1930 (reviewed in this volume). There have also been several articles devoted to this theme, among them one by Gerri Kimber, another contributor to this volume as well as one of the editors. Her ‘Circles of Influence: Katherine Mansfield, S. S. Koteliansky and Russia’ appeared in 2015 in Katherine Mansfield and Literary Influence, edited by Sarah Ailwood and Melinda Harvey. My article, ‘Katherine Mansfield’s Russian Healers’ – on Ivan Manoukhin and George Gurdjieff – appeared in 2016 in Katherine Mansfield’s French Lives, edited by Claire Davison and Gerri Kimber (and also reviewed here). The essays in this issue of Katherine Mansfield Studies successfully further the fast-developing research in this area and cover some of the most important aspects of Mansfield’s Russophilia: her indebtedness to Dostoevsky and Chekhov (Rampton, Davison); the influence Russian political émigrés in London may have had on Mansfield’s contemporaries and her own development as a writer (Reading); her response to the Ballets Russes (Nadel); how her disease coloured her views of Russian writers who also had it (Diment); and, finally, the stimuli for her attraction to Gurdjieff’s philosophy and her actual experience in his Institute (Kimber, Butler). The authors, who hail from England, France, Canada and the United States, also reveal a variety of reasons as to why Mansfield and some of her contemporaries like William Gerhardi and Olive Garnett (a sister-in-law of the significant British Russian translator, Constance Garnett), were so drawn to Russian writers and so eager to be moulded by them. David Rampton’s prize-winning essay ‘“Je ne parle pas français”: Reading Mansfield’s Underground Man’, focuses on Mansfield’s affinity with Dostoevsky and the critical reception of one of Mansfield’s most controversial narrators, Raoul Duquette, which has included, among other things, a belief that in his unpleasantness Raoul represents Mansfield’s tuberculosis. Rampton argues that ‘Mansfield’s skills at imagining and representing transgression were honed by reading Dostoevsky’ – in this particular case his ‘Underground Man’ – and, furthermore, that ‘putting the two writers together is reciprocally illuminating’ (p. 20). What Dostoevsky’s and Mansfield’s narrators share, according to Rampton, is ‘some version of male self-hatred’, based on their simultaneous attraction and aversion to what Mansfield in her review of Dostoevsky called ‘“the tragic candour of love”’ (p. 21). In addition to this nuanced analysis of the true roots of self-loathing in 4
Introduction Mansfield’s rare first-person narrator, Rampton also gifts us with a fascinating insight into what Puccini’s Madame Butterfly may be doing in ‘Je ne parle pas français’. While Raoul Duquette is most likely not the representation of Mansfield’s unfortunate medical condition, tuberculosis does play a major role in my essay, which follows Rampton’s and examines Mansfield’s attitude towards three tubercular Russian writers – Marie Bashkirtseff, Anton Chekhov and Maxim Gorky – before and after she herself was diagnosed with the disease. The case with Chekhov was of course most dramatic since her bond with him, most powerful and intimate even prior to her diagnosis, became even closer but also more frustrating as she was reading through his letters and notebooks in search of any wise advice he could give her, both as a writer and a professional physician; frequently, though, she became acutely angry with Chekhov for his seeming resignation and lack of hope. I also discuss the difference in the English and Russian words then in use for the disease – ‘consumption’ versus ‘chakhotka’ – and how that may have affected the different cultural perceptions of tuberculosis in England and Russia. Gerri Kimber’s essay in this volume, ‘“A child of the sun”: Katherine Mansfield, Orientalism and Gurdjieff’, follows Mansfield’s spiritual quest for a system of beliefs outside of traditional Christianity. Mansfield’s strong interest in Oriental cultural rituals, including tea serving and drinking, Zen, and in general her overall ‘Japonisme’, never quite approached the intensity of her fascination with Russia but, as Kimber points out, it did eventually bridge these two cultural universes by climaxing in Mansfield’s openness towards Gurdjieff’s mystical philosophy. Mansfield came to the Gurdjieff Institute having also already read some literature on Eastern spiritual thought, including the 1921 volume Cosmic Anatomy and the Structure of the Ego. According to Kimber, the Russian background of Gurdjieff – and many of his followers – coupled with his Zen-like teachings, proved an irresistible combination for someone seeking to take her treatment to a much higher spiritual plane. The essay also further highlights A. R. Orage’s crucial role in Mansfield’s last quest for life meaning and, perhaps, physical survival. Claire Davison’s essay begins with a letter, kept in the Alexander Turnbull Library archives, that William Gerhardi (sometimes spelt Gerhardie), then a student at Oxford, sent to Mansfield in 1921. In it he suggested that only Chekhov and she were ‘“so intolerably real”’ (p. 67). Gerhardi, of course, went on to become a writer in his own right who was often labelled as ‘the English Chekhov’. He also published the first critical work on Chekhov in England. Davison makes 5
Katherine Mansfield and Russia public, for the first time, rich materials in Gerhardi’s archive that detail Mansfield’s and Gerhardi’s exchange of opinions on Chekhov, her advice to Gerhardi about his own publications, and friendly banter that, as Davison points out, is ‘likewise steeped in Chekhovian resonance’ (p. 72). After Mansfield’s death, Gerhardi corresponded with Murry, and some of their letters are also included here for the first time. The final part of the essay is a superb analysis of Gerhardi’s oeuvre through the prism of his indebtedness to both Chekhov and Mansfield. It also includes Mansfield’s direct commentary on Gerhardi’s work. Ira Nadel’s essay, ‘Mansfield, Movement and the Ballets Russes’, deals with Mansfield’s reaction to Ballets Russes and the influence it had on the language and form of her writing. Nadel credits the Diaghilev troupe’s ‘unorthodox movements, stage design and costumes’ with expanding Mansfield’s horizon as to how a truly avant-garde artistic movement deals with ‘characters and settings’ (p. 89). Mansfield herself acknowledged in a 1914 essay, quoted by Nadel, that the art of most of her contemporaries ‘“danced to the strains of the Russian Ballet’” (p. 91). Nadel is on solid ground when he traces her newly gained awareness of the possibilities such artistic audaciousness created through her subsequent writings, including her stories ‘Psychology’, ‘The Garden Party’, ‘Miss Brill’ and ‘Marriage à la Mode’. He also discusses how Mansfield’s contemporaries, including Compton Mackenzie, D. H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf, reacted to the Ballets Russes through their writings. The last part of the analysis is devoted to Mansfield’s and Murry’s co-editing of the little magazine Rhythm, which featured influential articles on – and reviews of – Diaghilev’s ballet. Focusing not just on Mansfield but also Olive Garnett, Frances Reading discusses how several influential Russian émigrés in London, including Felix Volkhovsky, Prince Peter Kropotkin, Sergey Stepniak and his wife Fanny – all political radicals, socialists or anarchists – may have introduced their British friends and pupils (several of them taught the Garnett sisters Russian) to the work of Nikolai Chernyshevsky, the nineteenth-century author of the highly acclaimed (as well as banned) Russian utopian novel What Is to be Done? Reading analyses at length the strong traces of Chernyshevsky found throughout Olive Garnett’s stories. She also admits that although she sees the possible influence of Chernyshevsky on Mansfield’s art as well, here evidence ‘remains limited’ (p. 120). But Mansfield, of course, knew – through Koteliansky – Fanny Stepniak (Sergey Stepniak had died in 1895) and had her own trustful Russian mentor in Koteliansky himself, so it is not inconceivable that either one could have introduced her to Chernyshevsky’s novel and to his famous female protagonist, Vera. 6
Introduction The final essay in the Criticism section of this volume is by Pierce Butler, who offers ‘a biographical reflection’, describing Mansfield’s last days at the Gurdjieff Institute as ‘an examination, or perhaps an experience, of conscience’ (p. 125) and retraces the steps and circumstances that had brought her there. He discusses how painful it was for Mansfield that Murry did not understand her decision as he attributed it primarily to her desire to deceive herself about her prospects of survival. Based on Mansfield’s 1922 letter to Dorothy Brett, Butler believes, however, that at this point it was all about her spiritual – as well as artistic – re-birth while she had ‘given up all hope for the cure of her disease’ (p. 128). Butler recounts the details of relationships Mansfield formed at the Prieuré and her impressions as she described them in letters to Murry, whom she still wanted to share in the experience because it meant so much to her that he should understand why it all really mattered. The rest of the volume is devoted to creative writing, a ‘non-Russian’ critical miscellany section, and a review article by Rishona Zimring of seven monographs and edited volumes that are within – or related to – Mansfield studies and have appeared since 2014. Among them are Caroline Maclean’s The Vogue for Russia and Davison and Kimber’s Katherine Mansfield’s French Lives, mentioned in the earlier part of this Introduction. Owen Marshall, the author of the short story ‘The English Visitor,’ is one of New Zealand’s most renowned writers. The story was commissioned especially for this volume. Fleur Adcock is, in the opinion of many, New Zealand’s greatest living female poet, and the editors consider it a distinct honour to be able to publish ‘Tinakori Road’ here for the very first time. Jessica Whyte’s poem ‘Remedy’ has not been published before either, while Roger Lipsey’s non-fiction piece on Mansfield’s description of Gurdjieff and his Institute, based on her letters to Murry, nicely complements the other two articles on Mansfield and Gurdjieff featured in this volume. Giles Whiteley’s notes and insights in the Critical Miscellany offer welcome new discoveries in the field of Mansfield studies and the editors are very grateful that he chose our yearbook to publish them in. Gerri Kimber’s note on the Ruth Elvish Mantz Collection in Texas likewise offers new information which should be of interest to all Mansfield scholars, as well as the wider community. Finally, this volume offers a collection of images of the Prieuré, many from Mansfield’s time, including the only known photo of Orage and Gurdjieff together. These are extremely rare and appear here for the first time; it is a great privilege indeed to be able to share them with you. 7
Katherine Mansfield and Russia We hope you truly enjoy all parts of this volume and it further enriches your understanding of many aspects of Katherine Mansfield’s life and work. Notes 1. Donald Davie, Slavic Excursions: Essays on Russian and Polish Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), p. 276. 2. Matthew Arnold, ‘Count Leo Tolstoi’, in Essays in Criticism. Second Series (Leipzig: Bernhard Tauchnitz, 1892), p. 206. 3. 29 June 1907, CW4, p. 52. 4. Letters, 4, p. 183 (to S. S. Koteliansky, 19 February 1921). 5. See Joanna Woods, Katerina: The Russian World of Katherine Mansfield (Auckland: Penguin, 2001), p. 84, where she says that Mansfield even signed her lease in 1911 as ‘Katerina Mansfield’. 6. See Woods, Katerina, p. 99. ‘Katoushka’ means a spool of thread. 7. For more on her friendship and collaboration with Koteliansky, see Claire Davison, Translation as Collaboration: Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield and S. S. Koteliansky (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014), and Galya Diment, A Russian Jew of Bloomsbury: The Life and Times of Samuel Koteliansky (Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 2011). 8. Probably 1916, CW4, p. 186. 9. Letters, 4, p. 131 (to Sydney Schiff, 1 December 1920). 10. Ottoline Morrell, Ottoline at Garsington: Memoirs of Lady Ottoline Morrell 1915–1918, ed. Robert Gathome Hardy (London: Faber and Faber, 1974), p. 186. 11. For the summary of these views, see George Steiner, Tolstoy or Dostoevsky: An Essay in Contrast (New York: Faber, 1980). Vladimir Nabokov, who preferred Tolstoy over Dostoevsky and who even refused to teach the latter to his students at Cornell, is one of the more famous examples of this commonly spread phenomenon among Russians. Another is Joseph Brodsky (who preferred Dostoevsky), who in his article ‘Catastrophes in the Air’ suggested that Russian prose, in general, ‘went with Tolstoy only too glad to spare itself climbing the heights of Dostoevsky’s spiritual pitch’ (in Less than One: Selected Essays [New York: Farrar, 1986], p. 277). 12. See Woods, Katerina, p. 38. There is, however, a question about exactly which Tchaikovsky piece it was; some suggest it was ‘Chanson Triste’. 13. See Galya Diment, ‘Katherine Mansfield’s Russian Healers’, in Claire Davison and Gerri Kimber (ed.), Katherine Mansfield’s French Lives (Leiden: Brill Rodopi, 2016), pp. 40–57. 14. See her Russian transliteration lists, CW4, pp. 447–52. 15. Letters, 5, p. 151 (to Dorothy Brett, 17 April 1922; her italics). 16. For more, see Ульянкина (Ul’iankina), T. И.,“Этот неизвестный известный Иван Манухин,” in Научное Зарубежье России, Vol. 3 (Moscow: ВИЕТ, 1993), p. 58.
‘Je ne parle pas français’: Reading Mansfield’s Underground Man David Rampton
‘I do not see how we are to come by knowledge & Love except through pain.’ Katherine Mansfield, 13 July 19221
Exiled to the south of France at the start of 1918 in an attempt to recover from tuberculosis, Katherine Mansfield sent her partner John Middleton Murry a copy of a story that she was working on called ‘Je ne parle pas français’. He was very impressed: reading it, he said, made him feel that her writing was ‘dangerous’ in an exciting, unprecedented and difficult to define way.2 In search of a comparison that could do justice to Mansfield’s startling achievement, Murry hit upon Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground. She was delighted by such an enthusiastic and insightful response to her story, but also frightened by having written something so different, something that she too saw as an important advance in her writing. As she put it, ‘I have gone for it, bitten deeper & deeper & deeper than ever I have before.’3 Murry’s invocation of Dostoevsky was for both of them high praise indeed. He had just published a study of the Russian writer in which he praised Dostoevsky extravagantly, hailing him as sui generis, someone whose work transcended all our ordinary notions of what constitutes important fiction. ‘Dostoevsky’s novels are not novels at all,’ Murry notes in his introduction, in that they have little to do with verisimilitude or conventional ideas of representation.4 He argues that, in Dostoevsky’s fiction, a sort of anti-realism rules: ‘Causes are monstrously inadequate to their effects, and the smallest actions of every day take on the character of portents.’5 The same is true of the ostensibly human beings Dostoevsky represents: his characters ‘pass beyond human comparison, and are no longer to be judged by human laws’.6 The bitterness of his 11
Katherine Mansfield and Russia struggle with the everyday made Dostoevsky a revolutionary and, according to Murry, he ‘carried this spirit of conscious rebellion against life to its last extremity’.7 For these reasons his heroes are never free from what Murry describes as ‘the gnawing terror of the timeless world’.8 Murry’s large claims are of a piece with the rapturous case for Dostoevsky’s work that he goes on to make in his book, but such an approach entails certain risks. If one sees Dostoevsky’s fiction as essentially otherworldly, populated in large measure by a gang of hyperobsessed misfits, would-be parricides and solipsistic plotters, all engaged in various enterprises of a vaguely tawdry kind, then the noise level created by all that drama might well drown out the subtle and brilliantly reported quotidian exchanges in Dostoevsky’s fiction – in The Devils, a group of conspirators debate at length whether it is appropriate to trim one’s fingernails during a political meeting – and threaten to make the interactions it does chronicle seem less consequential than they in fact are. Not only that: such claims can make Dostoevsky’s fiction seem sui generis and the idea of comparing it to Mansfield farfetched. Nuances of everyday exchanges, meditations on frustrated passion, quests for meaning in a surprisingly deceptive world, and blurred epiphanies – these have their counterpart in Dostoevsky’s work, but Murry is not the critic to help us find them. Mansfield’s interest in Dostoevsky has been duly noted. In her letters and journals she records at considerable length a range of reactions to his work, and she laboured assiduously with her Russian friend, S. S. Koteliansky, on the translation of Dostoevsky’s letters. In a torturous series of ‘How is one to live now?’ sessions, Murry and Mansfield discussed Dostoevsky with D. H. Lawrence and his wife Frieda. It was during these years that Constance Garnett’s widely circulated translations made Russian authors even more popular with a rapidly expanding reading public. Dostoevsky was in the air, and was destined to remain so. Mansfield’s most Dostoevskian story, ‘Je ne parle pas français’ turns around a curious triangular relationship involving a woman named Mouse, her lover Dick Harmon, who has eloped with her to Paris, and his friend Raoul Duquette, who arranges everything and meets them to escort them to their lodgings. Yet that very night Raoul finds himself alone with a tearful Mouse. She has been abandoned by Dick, who has gone back to England. Raoul promises to come by the next day to find out how she is getting on, but he never sees her again. Like most of Mansfield’s best stories, ‘Je ne parle pas français’ is the product of the last years of her life and constitutes an important creative response to the solitude imposed upon her by her illness. She mostly lived apart from Murry during these years, despite their getting married in April 12
Criticism 1918. Much of this time, in her letters to him, she was writing the most intimate romantic story imaginable; in her fiction she was telling stories about betrayal and loss. Mansfield characterised the subject of the story as ‘a cry against corruption’ (author italics), and her critics have taken up the subject in earnest.9 Dick’s cowardly betrayal of his lover is something for which he stands condemned in the eyes of many, but it is Raoul Duquette, the narrator, who has had by far the worst press. In fact, the enthusiastic quasi-unanimity with which he has been condemned is the single most striking feature of the story’s reception. Dick can be judged on the basis of one letter, the one he writes for Mouse, and a pathetic, self-serving, sentimentalised account it is; Raoul’s submission to this discussion is the story as we have it. That artefact is a complex entity that turns on a series of important ambiguities, yet in the eyes of practically everyone, one thing is clear: Raoul is a fake artist, playing a false role, and an eminently unlikeable human being to boot.10 Sydney Janet Kaplan describes him as an example of Mansfield’s desire to satirise ‘the parasitical features of the world of the artistic avant-garde’.11 Kate Fullbrook strikes a similar note when she says that Raoul represents Mansfield’s attack on ‘a familiar view of the artist as an impresario of the emotions, and condemns it in her delineation of his moral bankruptcy’.12 Miroslawa Kubasiewicz says Mansfield demonstrates that ‘realizing and accepting the nature of human existence requires a great deal of courage’, something Raoul with his love of masks and role-playing will never have. Ultimately, says Kubasiewicz, he is ‘cynical and self-centered’, internalises society’s values and relinquishes the chance to find out ‘who he really is’.13 Joanna Kokot includes ‘Je ne parle pas français’ among the Mansfield stories that ‘communicate the ephemerality and elusiveness of the world and a person, while being themselves elusive, constituting objective correlatives of the model of reality they create’. According to Kokot, these ambiguities explain why Raoul ‘avoids speaking in plain words, whereas the title phrase might refer to his own utterance’.14 Presumably, Raoul does not ‘speak French’ in the sense that his lack of narrative skills or blinkered view makes him incapable of explaining the mores of which he is a product. Elleke Boehmer reads ‘Je ne parle pas français’ as a study in the ‘accommodation of the signs of the other’. She adds that ‘though the story is an experience marked by sensations of scorn and revulsion, [it] becomes for the colonial-and-modernist Mansfield an expression of inner difference, if not of perversity’. She also notes that the story shows the narrator to be ‘overweening’, ‘pretentious’ and ‘degraded’.15 Sarah Sandley claims that Raoul ‘is knowing enough to frame his story in 13
Katherine Mansfield and Russia metafictional and meta-filmic terms, consciously referring to the influence of “American cinema acting upon a weak mind”’, but is ‘unwilling to confront and overcome his failings’.16 In her analysis of the story’s structure, Janna Stotz argues that ‘Mansfield opens and closes this narrative with instances of metacommunicative and metalinguistic communication hinting at both play and a doubled narrative frame’. She claims that this occasions ‘histrionics, deceit and spectatorship’ in Raoul’s attempt to tell his story.17 Anna Smith describes the story as ‘a brittle, self-reflexive piece of writing that explores precisely the opposition between authenticity and lies, between superficiality and depth, and between stealing and ownership’. Smith points out, for example, that the story’s title, given its ubiquity in the text, ‘sharpens the reader’s receptiveness to the feints and interchanges between truth and lies, playing relentlessly on their capacity to be both apart from, yet always implicated in, plagiarism, the latter being what one might term the stealing of sad little phrases. According to this economy of Mansfield’s, Raoul then becomes the false narrator who speaks truly; Mansfield herself, the true narrator who plays false.’18 Pamela Duncan suggests that ‘Raoul’s narcissism, his place as social outcast – made clear in several minor incidents – his voyeurism and readiness to exploit others, his unhealthy obsession with intense feelings: all mark him out as a parody of the Romantic artist.’ Even the titles of his books ‘confirm his third-rateness’.19 William New notes that Raoul ‘uses words for their effect more than their meaning’ and chastises him for his self-contempt and ‘his inadequate grasp of masculinity’. New concludes that Raoul ‘prefers contrivance over substance’.20 Anne Besnault-Levita takes perhaps the harshest stance vis-à-vis the narrator, but she insists on the importance of satire for understanding how Mansfield wants us to see the character: ‘The treacherous monologue of the detestable Raoul Duquette whose self-centeredness and self- indulgence point to a form of play-acting, achieves its satirical point.’21 One of the story’s most original critics, Mary Burgan, contends that Raoul is Mansfield’s tuberculosis, the actual voice of the disease. This sounds intriguing, but in the end, even with such a demanding symbolic role to play, he collapses with a solipsistic fervour. Burgan concludes that ‘the speaker’s sense of himself as diagnostician reverberates back into a verdict about his own essential disease. [. . .] The voice of the degenerate thus speaks his disease in isolation.’22 These are representative samples from a formidable collection of clearly argued, provocative, perspicuous readings. They constitute a vivid reflection of how responsive and wide-ranging critics have been in commenting on ‘Je ne parle pas français’. They raise questions that 14
Criticism speak to important issues in the story. They firmly establish Mansfield as a potent force in modernism and as our contemporary. They deal extensively with ethical issues that are central to a proper understanding of the text. The intense interest in the status of a single character in one of her stories confirms how central psychological concerns still are for Mansfield’s readers. Since Dostoevsky casts such a large shadow in these areas, his fiction can help us better understand what Mansfield has accomplished in this story, what her cry against corruption has wrought. To begin, then, it might help to look at how Murry, someone intimately involved with every aspect of the story, chooses to read it. Here is part of the letter he writes to Mansfield: Raoul Duquette isn’t what he would be if it were either Dostoevsky (or me) writing for then he would be Dostoevsky thinking aloud. But instead of this, you’ve got this strange person who’s strange, not, as D’s man would be, because he has thought every thing to a standstill, but because he is conscious of a piece out of him. I don’t quite know what words to put it in. Yes, he’s conscious of having no roots. He sees a person like Dick who has roots and he realises the difference. But what it is he hasn’t got, he doesn’t know. Nor do I.23
That first sentence is odd in that the second element required by the ‘either’ construction is somewhat unusually relegated to a parenthesis. The effect is to assign ‘me’ a distinctly secondary status, one which nonetheless Murry uses to establish himself as a legitimate player in this author game. His claim about Raoul’s protean and mystifying nature can be read in a number of different ways: (1) Raoul is not a Dostoevskian character per se: i.e. there are other ways of representing him; (2) Dostoevsky would be unable to recast Raoul as his character and would simply make him his mouthpiece as a result; (3) Unlike you, if I created such a character, he would simply voice my thoughts and have no existence except as I bestowed it on him; (4) Unlike Dostoevsky, you often eschew seemingly random, extemporised observation. Some might insist on a fifth possibility, namely that Dostoevsky is the sort of writer who uses characters to ventriloquise because he cares more about the explicit exchange of ideas than about the atmospherics of verisimilitude, whereas you are differently committed. Things do not get any easier in the second sentence. How convincing, for example, is the claim that Dostoevsky’s Underground Man is the type who would ‘think every thing to a standstill’? He certainly does a lot of thinking, and forces his utilitarian enemies to do some too, for example, making them wonder whether the happiness of an individual can 15
Katherine Mansfield and Russia be quantified. He acknowledges that, perverse creatures that we are, we often seek out something other than self-gratification, that pain and humiliation can be pleasures in and of themselves, and that the attempt to achieve the greatest good for society by leaping from individual satisfactions to the social or universal kind is fraught with difficulty. But this argument is a work in progress: no one is at a standstill. Mansfield’s Raoul is not as smart or informed or experienced as his Dostoevskian counterpart, but he too has immersed himself in solitude, pondered whether the will is free, tried to decide if nature or nurture has made him who he is, and mused about the problem of love, which it seems is fated to do battle with egotism in perpetuity. In other words, their lookin-the-mirror approach to resolving the large questions suggests that these two Underground Men have a good deal in common, including their refusal to sit still so that we can judge them properly. We note that Murry is in the end unsure just what Raoul is lacking. No doubt tempted to say that it is compassion, Murry perhaps avoids doing so because he does not want to broach this subject. After all, Dick’s abandonment of Mouse is a recapitulation of what Murry actually once did with a girl named Marguéritte when he first came to Paris, and he discussed this affair with Mansfield. If Dick has roots that Raoul does not, as Murry claims in the letter, it would be interesting to know more about just how strong these roots are, where they go, and how they help explain his behaviour. Dostoevsky is thought of as the father of existentialism for a number of reasons: his concern that philosophy concentrate on the concrete reality of human experience as opposed to linguistic niceties, his conviction that we make assertions of freedom by choosing, his equation of being human with the idea that man is as a meaning-making entity, his belief in the necessity of accepting the fear and anxiety involved in the human condition – you see the range. Notes from Underground is the essential Dostoevsky text for understanding the advantages of reading him as a writer who anticipates Sartre and Camus. Readers of Mansfield might well see La Nausée and La Chute as essentially philosophical treatises that speak to Raoul’s condition, and their ‘heroes’, Roquentin and Clamence, as his spiritual descendants. Existentialist formulas – pre-rational freedom, authenticity, truthtelling, good faith, a refusal to live by the mores of others – have often been invoked in discussions of Mansfield’s central character, mostly to register how unimpressive his existentialist credentials are. Kubasiewicz, for example, points out how easily his condition matches certain criteria – alienation, dread of death – associated with existential literature, but she reads Mansfield’s story as an account of inauthenticity. She even 16
Criticism cites Joseph Catalano, a Sartre specialist, to the effect that ‘in bad faith, we attempt to see ourselves both as the product of our environment and heredity and as “cursed” by not being able to be what we would wish to be’.24 Raoul stands accused of precisely this sort of bad faith. Anna Smith calls him ‘the most inauthentic of writers’ and insists that ‘everything that happens to him confirms a view of life where genuine and spontaneous emotions and perceptions have no place’.25 Yet Raoul himself seems to have stumbled unwittingly on an existentialist truth dramatised by his own life. He looks in the mirror and asks: ‘How can one look the part and not be the part? Or be the part and not look it? Isn’t looking – being? Or being – looking? At any rate who is to say that it is not?’26 The answers to these questions involve a lot of ‘It depends . . .’. To impress someone in a bar – Dick, for example – looking the part is being the part, since appearance is everything in such a context. But one can instantly come up with dozens of counterexamples, instances in which ‘being the part’ has nothing to do with external appearance. What does a great violinist look like? A polymath? A brain surgeon? And if other characters in Mansfield’s stories can have many selves, can insist on the right to have them, why cannot Raoul? One could even claim that his refusal to help the abandoned woman in the end is simply an example of keeping faith by refusing to feign philanthropy. Even if Raoul is an existentialist in this limited sense, that is unlikely to win him much of a reprieve from the critics cited above. For look again at their indictment. What his critics have practically all picked up on is his flinching away from affection, from relations in which some kind of emotional give-and-take occurs. This just happens to be what the second half of Notes from Underground is all about, as Dostoevsky explores an idea diametrically opposed to the existentialist idea that animates his hero in the first part, namely the confusions created by desire and its complex effects. If the most sublime act is to put another before you, you are going to have a hard time being true to yourself. Raoul’s reluctance to involve himself with others, seen in this light, is one of the reasons he is so resolutely condemned in the end. This is the only story in which Mansfield uses a first-person narrator to tell his own story (‘The Married Man’s Story’ is the other exception, but it is unfinished). The device enables her to dramatise the gap between what Raoul says and what we are to infer about him. As an important part of the story’s self-reflexiveness, it also enables her to chronicle the effects of self-consciousness on the storyteller himself. Rereading Mansfield’s text, one is struck by how self-consciously the narrator has constructed his story. When his attempt at thumbnail biographical 17
Katherine Mansfield and Russia sketches founders, he registers their inadequacy and moves on. When the story needs to pause so that he can convey his reactions to us – ‘Flash! Went my mind. Dick has shot himself. And then a succession of flashes while I rushed in, saw the body, head unharmed, small blue hole over temple, roused hotel, arranged funeral, attended funeral, closed cab, new morning coat’ (371) – he pauses and takes a leisurely tour of his fantasy. The patrons of the restaurant, the waitress, his landlady, all are swept up in this exercise in atmospheric character creation, inserted into predictive sequences that are never realised. The conclusion seems inevitable: Raoul tells the story of Mouse’s abandonment and simultaneously annotates that story both to convey her predicament to us and to distance himself from the history that he has just lived and relived. Another self-reflexive device in ‘Je ne parle pas français’ is Raoul’s allusion to Madame Butterfly. Puccini’s opera, which Mansfield probably saw in London (it premiered there on 10 July 1905), is based on a story by John Luther Long (1898). It tells the story of an American naval officer, Captain Pinkerton, who goes to Japan and falls in love with a young Japanese geisha whom he pretends to marry, only to abandon her and return to America. For years she waits for him patiently with their child. Captain Pinkerton does eventually come back, but his reason for coming is to take his little boy back to America. To avoid the shame of abandonment, Cio-cio-san commits suicide. The allusion works at many levels. When he hears that Dick is coming back to Paris, Raoul sees himself, dressed in a kimono, as the passive, feminised, vaguely exotic lover whose patience has paid off. The gender reversal – Raoul’s suggestion that he will play Cio-cio-san to Dick’s Pinkerton – is the most striking point. Sexual ambiguity and its cross-cultural effects is, after all, one of Mansfield’s great subjects. Like the geisha, Raoul’s task is to be a facilitator in the world of men, a means by which they can be surrounded by the elegance, beauty and regal demeanour that enthrals them. With this idea, boundary lines in general start to shimmer and disappear. Raoul has been called ‘bisexual’, ‘homosexual’, a ‘gigolo’ and a ‘sexual procurer’, yet the inadequacy of the terms is patent. Mansfield evidently thinks that human desire is more complicated than these handy labels suggest. There is another, equally suggestive reference to a Madame Butterfly in the text. Raoul compares seeing Mouse to ‘the same kind of shock that you feel when you have been drinking tea out of a thin innocent cup and suddenly, at the bottom, you see a tiny creature, half butterfly, half woman, bowing to you with her hands in her sleeves’ (368). In Puccini’s opera, some of the first words Pinkerton says are that he knows Cio-cio-san already, even before he has laid eyes on her. He has 18
Criticism seen her on a teacup – tiny, unchanging, perfect. In this way, casually, adroitly, compellingly, Mansfield hints at the existence of another Madame Butterfly: Mouse is fated to disappear from Raoul’s world, just as she disappears from the narrative at the end, her fate unknown too. This story-telling engenders a self-consciousness that brings with it certain risks, including a narcissistic strain that shows itself at crucial points in the text. A. D. Nuttall has written an insightful account of how this sort of self-absorption functions in the mind of Dostoevsky’s Underground Man and, by implication, the rest of us: Such introspection is a strenuous business and leaves little leisure for ordinary personal relationships. Ultimately, if the mind becomes engrossed in introspection, there is nothing left to introspect but one’s own effort to introspect. One looking glass faces another and each minutely reflects the other’s vacuity. But until that point is reached a certain alienation is needed; a separation of the mind which analyses and exhorts from that which so capriciously desires and reacts. Hence every degree of selfunderstanding is a degree of schizophrenia.27
One can see how important such a caution is in relation to intimate exchanges. Nuttall admits that ‘One can fill in an income tax form and at the same time “listen in” to one’s own mental processes while doing it, and no-one is any the worse. But conversation with a beloved person cannot be “bugged” by the subject in the same way.’28 Raoul plays the mirror game too. He looks at himself in both of his mirrors and likes what he sees there because he knows that he is physically attractive, has figured out how to live well on nothing a year (neither mirror has been paid for) and has immersed himself in a world of evocative images. In a discussion of Lacan’s mirror stage, Barbara Johnson points out that it does not matter to the subject whether the mirror image is ‘real’; what matters is the image it conveys of the self. In its fixity and persistence, it resembles a statue, and indeed Lacan refers to the ‘statue in which man projects himself’, while Narcissus sits fascinated by his image ‘like a statue carved from Parian marble’.29
For Lacan this stage is the sine qua non of existence, in the sense that one cannot become human without attaining it. This moment in which art takes the transitory and solidifies it for the observer is familiar to us from sculpture, and literature about sculpture. Think of the figures on Keats’s urn, frozen in a moment, caught between time and eternity. Their unfulfilled status might be construed as the ultimate frustration – remember Keats’s ‘bold lover’, fated to remain on the brink of kissing the girl – when seen from the o utside. From the 19
Katherine Mansfield and Russia inside, everything is about to happen, anticipation is all. Besides, the acrid aftertaste of disappointment will never be a problem either. Time and mutability make the successful exchange of powerful feelings that much harder. People do get old and sick and wrinkled, which in turn can make their lovers keep a certain distance. The other way of holding onto time passing is to impose one’s will on the situation by trying to stop the possibility of change altogether – we think of Browning’s Duke and Porphyria’s lover. The only access to the timeless world, besides death of course, is to turn oneself into a work of art. This reluctance to watch the beloved decline over time constitutes part of the crucial back story to ‘Je ne parle pas français’. Such a decline was Murry’s most profound anxiety and Mansfield’s greatest fear, another reason why her critics have so often criticised the narrator in this story of seemingly whimsical male irresponsibility. I have been arguing that Mansfield’s skills at imagining and representing transgression were honed by reading Dostoevsky, and that putting the two writers together is reciprocally illuminating. Let me conclude with a rather different example that shows just how subtle but significant this reciprocity is. Bertrand Russell, a close friend of Mansfield in the years before she wrote ‘Je ne parle pas français’, describes Kant’s Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime (1764) this way: ‘Like everybody else at that time, he wrote a treatise on the sublime and the beautiful. Night is sublime, day is beautiful; the sea is sublime, the land is beautiful; man is sublime, woman is beautiful, and so on.’30 What is the point, Russell is saying, of these gushy exercises that attempt to do justice to the feelings? Such vapidity can no doubt be tedious, but I am not sure that Kant’s observations should be so easily dismissed here. One of the witnesses whom the defence might call is Dostoevsky’s Underground Man. He repeatedly cites Kant’s essay, particularly the phrase ‘the beautiful and sublime’ (at one point four times in a single paragraph). Yet every time he comes near something that seems to him a manifestation of Kant’s gorgeous abstractions, the Underground Man confesses that he feels an alarming tendency to malign, undermine or ridicule them. This is true of philanthropy, compassion, friendship, what you will. In this regard his particular concern is the power of desire to exalt humanity, even as it threatens to turn into something depraved. Sex is another good example. Almost every instance of sexual attraction in Dostoevsky’s work turns into some version of male self-hatred. The downward spiral is inexorable, the consequences momentous. Although Raoul is not philosophically minded, he has his own dis20
Criticism tinct contribution to make to this debate. In the penultimate paragraph he imagines himself acting as a go-between for a man who likes ‘little girl[s]’ (p. 377). In the ultimate one, he thinks about sleeping with the owner of the restaurant in which he recalls the events he has narrated, but decides not to because her skin is covered with moles that look like mushrooms and make her repulsive. Selling sex for money and the repellent qualities of false intimacy are on Raoul’s mind as he concludes. The ultimate gesture of self-abasement in Mansfield’s story retains its power to shock. His voice, his preoccupations, his attempt to accommodate himself to the encroaching darkness – these all echo in our minds as we finish his account, listening to the silence as it envelopes him in earnest. Kant is convinced that every man has a conscience that says to him what it says to his neighbour, which becomes Kant’s rationale for being kind to others and respecting their integrity as absolute. The capacity to love and to feel self-esteem derives from these convictions. He writes that there is ‘a consciousness of a feeling (Gefühl) that lives (lebt) in every human breast and stretches itself much further than over the particular grounds of sympathy and complaisance. I believe that I hold it all together (fasse alles zusammen), if I say that it is the feeling for the beauty and the dignity of human nature’.31 Because of such pronouncements, Kant is certainly a candidate for the list of those figures mocked by the Underground Man. On the evidence of ‘Je ne parle pas français’, Mansfield is going to side with her Russian forebear in this debate.32 Not that she is unaware of the importance of such beauty and dignity. It is rather her investment in what she calls, in a review of some Dostoevsky stories, ‘the tragic candour of love’33 that makes her so interested in Raoul’s story, so intrigued by how to convey it and so keen to tell the truth. Notes 1. Letters, 5, p. 223 (to Arnold Gibbons, 13 July 1922). 2. C. A. Hankin, ed., The Letters of John Middleton Murry to Katherine Mansfield (London: Constable), p. 115. 3. Letters, 2, p. 56 (to John Middleton Murry, 3/4 February 1918). 4. John Middleton Murry, Fyodor Dostoevsky: A Critical Study (New York: Russell & Russell, 1923), p. 28. One of Mansfield’s biographers, Antony Alpers, cites Dostoevsky as a ‘visible influence: in the story’s tone, and in the self-revelation of its seedy narrator, there is probably more than a trace of the Notes from Underground, which she probably had read at the Villa Pauline [in Bandol on the Côte d’Azur] when Murry was writing his Dostoevsky book’ (The Life of Katherine Mansfield [New York: Viking, 1980], p. 270). 5. Murry, Fyodor Dostoevsky, pp. 30–1. 6. Ibid. p. 31. 7. Ibid. p. 41.
Katherine Mansfield and Russia 8. Ibid. p. 47. 9. Letters, 2, p. 54 (to John Middleton Murry, 3 February 1918). 10. Sarah Henstra is a notable exception to the consensus. She responds to some of the ethical issues raised by the story’s critics by arguing that Djuna Barnes in Nightwood and Mansfield in this story have created ‘narrative voices that expose and challenge the social and discursive limits on the construction of the self’. She admits, for example, that Raoul is a liar, but reminds us that ‘The repeated use of false statements challenges the authority of those we generally take to be true by showing how all statements constitute rather than merely describe social reality. Lying thus becomes the derelict subject’s access to signification, an access which, in its recognition of the volatility of meaning, and the reversibility of categories, is paradoxically more honest than discourse founded on the authority of “nature” or “truth”’ (‘Looking the Part: Performative Narration in Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood and Katherine Mansfield’s “Je Ne Parle Pas Français”’, Twentieth Century Literature, 46: 2 [Summer 2000], pp. 125–49 [pp. 125, 138].) 11. Sydney Janet Kaplan, Katherine Mansfield and the Origins of Modernist Fiction (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1991), p. 42. 12. Kate Fullbrook, Katherine Mansfield (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986), p. 91. 13. Miroslawa Kubasiewicz, ‘Authentic Existence and the Characters of Katherine Mansfield’, in Janet Wilson, Gerri Kimber and Susan Reid (eds), Katherine Mansfield and Literary Modernism (London and New York: Continuum, 2011), pp. 53–63 (p. 57). 14. Joanna Kokot, ‘Elusiveness of Reality: Limits of Cognition in Katherine Mansfield’s Short Stories’, in Wilson et al., Katherine Mansfield and Literary Modernism, pp. 67–77 (p. 75). 15. Elleke Boehmer, ‘Mansfield as Colonial Modernist: Difference Within’, in Gerri Kimber and Janet Wilson (eds), Celebrating Katherine Mansfield: A Centenary Volume of Essays (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), pp. 57–71 (p. 68). 16. Sarah Sandley, ‘Leaping into the Eyes: Mansfield as a Cinematic Writer’, in Kimber and Wilson, Celebrating Katherine Mansfield, pp. 72–83 (p. 81). 17. Janna Stotz, ‘“Is this Play?” Katherine Mansfield’s Play Frames’, in Kimber and Wilson, pp. 99–112 (p. 104). 18. Anna Smith, ‘Cold Brains and Birthday Cake: The Art of “Je ne parle pas français”’, in Kimber and Wilson, Celebrating Katherine Mansfield, pp. 158–71 (pp. 160, 167). 19. Pamela Duncan, ‘Exile and its metaphors: a reading of Katherine Mansfield’s “Je ne parle pas français”’, Journal of the Short Story in English, 29 (Autumn 1997), http://jsse. revues.org/136 (accessed 14 February 2017). 20. William New, Reading Mansfield and Metaphors of Form (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1999), pp. 94–5. 21. Anne Besnault-Levita, ‘“– Ah, what is it? – that I heard”: Voice and Affect in Katherine Mansfield’s Short Fictions’, in Wilson et al., Katherine Mansfield and Literary Modernism, pp. 89–100 (p. 94). 22. Mary Burgan, Illness, Gender, and Writing: The Case of Katherine Mansfield (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press), p. 134. The most comprehensive and illuminating account of Mansfield’s relations with Francis Carco, the person on whom Raoul Duquette is based, can be found in Gerri Kimber, Katherine Mansfield: The View from France (Bern: Peter Lang, 2008). 23. Hankin, Letters, p. 62 (to Katherine Mansfield, 8 February 1918). 24. Quoted in Kubasiewicz, ‘Authentic Existence’, pp. 54–5.
Criticism 25. It is difficult in a short space to do justice to how complex and suggestive Smith’s argument is. Kubasiewicz suggests that ‘From an existential point of view, what seems to be most important in Mansfield’s life is her search for the truth about herself and her desire for authenticity of existence . . . [S]he fought for a life on her own terms and did not hesitate to act against the expectations of the society in which she lived and worked’ (p. 53). 26. The Short Stories of Katherine Mansfield (New York: Alfred A. Knopf), p. 364. Hereafter references are placed parenthetically in the text. Henstra remarks: ‘We might read this epiphany as ironic proof that Duquette is trapped in a narcissistic rehearsal preventing him from perceiving his true self under all his role-playing. But a more interesting reading arises when we instead take it seriously as a thematic challenge whereby the story troubles the polarity between performing an artificial role and expressing a natural identity’ (p. 133). 27. A. D. Nuttall, Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment: Murder as Philosophic Experiment (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press for Sussex University Press, 1978), p. 35. 28. Ibid. p. 36. 29. Barbara Johnson, Persons and Things (Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 2008), p. 57. 30. Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1945), p. 706. 31. Patrick Frierson and Paul Guyer (eds), Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime and Other Writings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), http://users. clas.ufl.edu/burt/touchyfeelingsmaliciousobjects/KantObservationsontheFeeling oftheBeautifulandSublimeandOtherWritingsCambridge.pdf (accessed 14 February 2017). 32. Readers interested in Kant’s treatment of these issues should consult Susan Shell, ‘Kant’s Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime’, Political Science Reviewer, 30: 1 (Fall 2001), https://home.isi.org/kants-iobservations-feelingbeautiful-and-sublimei (accessed 14 February 2017). At every stage Kant’s interests interpenetrate with those of Dostoevsky and Mansfield. Here is part of Shell’s summary: ‘Section three is riven by a central ambiguity concerning the relation between sexual impulse and all finer feeling between the sexes. On the one hand, we are told that sexual impulse is the source of such finer feeling. On the other, we are told that finer feeling and sexual impulse mustn’t come “too near” each other. This irresolution troubles the otherwise beguiling tone of the section – which seems to aim especially at lady readers. Throughout, the theme of spectatorship (Kant at one point cites the Spectator) is very much in play: men and women serve as objects – and, as we later learn, the principle objects – of each other’s feelings for the sublime and the beautiful, respectively. Whether, however, these feelings reflect the truth or are rooted in illusion and deceit are matters difficult to fathom. The relation between the sexes is grounded in secrecy and veils, terms Kant uses half a dozen times; and yet that relation at its best requires that each sex esteem the other at his or her true value.’ 33. Clare Hanson, ed., The Critical Writings of Katherine Mansfield (New York: St. Martin’s, 1987), p. 79.
Post Diagnosis: Bashkirtseff, Chekhov and Gorky through Mansfield’s Prism of Tuberculosis Galya Diment
If I do die perhaps there will be a small private heaven for consumptives only. In that case I shall see Tchehov.1
When Katherine Mansfield was young, first living in New Zealand and then during her early years in England, Marie Bashkirtseff, Anton Chekhov and Maxim Gorky were among the Russian writers firmly in her field of vision as she herself was becoming a writer.2 She admired Bashkirtseff’s independence and perseverance to make it as a woman artist in a male-dominated world; she worshipped Chekhov, and she believed, as we will see, that she could already successfully compete with Gorky. All three writers suffered from tuberculosis, but this was of little importance until 1917 when Mansfield herself was diagnosed with the disease; at this point her attitude inevitably changed, in some ways that were predictable and some that were not. This article is an attempt to explore her post-diagnosis perspective on the three tubercular Russian writers whom she had discovered in her youth. Between them, Bashkirtseff, Chekhov and Gorky delineate an interesting trajectory not only of evolution in Mansfield’s love for Russian literature but also in her struggles with a deadly disease.
Marie Bashkirtseff The word ‘tuberculosis’ made its way into the medical lexicon across the world at the end of the nineteenth century. Up until that point the disease was called ‘consumption’ in English; and in Russian ‘chakhotka’ (чахотка), from the verb ‘chakhnut’, which means to wither or to wilt. So while Mansfield was already diagnosed with tuberculosis, as opposed to consumption, Chekhov and Gorky were probably still d iagnosed with 24
Criticism ‘chakhotka’ (although by then Robert Koch had already discovered the tubercle bacillus), while Bashkirtseff – who was diagnosed in France and who identified herself much more with French culture than Russian (as for many members of her aristocratic class, French, not Russian, was also her first language) – suffered from ‘consomption’. The perception of the disease in the West and in Russia was also quite different. As Susan Sontag – whose own father died of tuberculosis when she was five – points out in Illness as Metaphor, tuberculosis/consumption in Western culture was ‘spectacularly [. . .] encumbered by the trappings of metaphor’.3 Unlike the case with other very common diseases – cancer, for example – the metaphor was of a decisively romantic kind: ‘A disease of the lungs is, metaphorically, a disease of the soul [. . . and] a disease of time [which] speeds up life, highlights it, spiritualizes it.’4 More recently Clark Lawlor, in his 2007 Consumption and Literature: The Making of the Romantic Disease, describes tuberculosis as ‘the glamorous Romantic disease’, which, in the West, was consistently ‘aestheticised in a positive manner as a sign of passion, spirituality and genius’.5 The very word ‘consumption’ seems to have lent itself to this romanticisation. Although in Latin ‘consumere’ can mean ‘to waste away’, in English ‘consumption’ is, as Lawlor puts it, ‘a slippery concept’.6 After all, one can be indeed ‘consumed’ with inspiration and passion, not just a disease. The word in Russian, on the other hand, is unambiguous; it is not just unromantic, but also anti-romantic, inasmuch as it hits one with the unvarnished truth: to have this disease means that one will first wither and then die. Outside of some obvious Western borrowings in the early nineteenth century, in Russian literature there was plenty of melancholy and melodrama associated with ‘chakhotka’ (see Katerina Ivanovna, for instance, in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, or Levin’s brother Nicholas in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina), but very little romance. The idealisation of tuberculosis in the West continued unabated until the disease became curable and preventable soon after World War Two. Even as late as 1940, Lewis J. Moorman, a practising physician and Professor of Medicine in Oklahoma, published Tuberculosis and Genius, in which he still touted tuberculosis’s seemingly magical powers: In many individuals suffering from tuberculosis there seems to be a strange psychological flair – a phenomenon not fully accounted for, not of established scientific lineage, yet quite evident to the student of clinical tuberculosis [. . .]. It is well known that tuberculosis may give rise to two distinct manifestations: the depletion of physical energy and, directly or indirectly, the stimulation of mental activity.7
He also generously quoted other contemporaries who still more or less shared his opinion: 25
Katherine Mansfield and Russia Erich Ebstein [. . .] does not admit that the disease causes genius but agrees that it may fan into flame an otherwise dormant spark. [. . .] Eric Stern is inclined to attribute the manifestation of genius to the toxic action of the tubercle bacilli. [. . .] D. G. Macleod Munro calls attention to the stimulation of the mental faculties with an unusual desire for accomplishment.8
Moorman illustrated his point that tuberculosis and genius often go hand in hand by actually discussing Marie Bashkirtseff and Katherine Mansfield among the ten TB-afflicted artists and personalities he featured in the book. He also seamlessly linked them: ‘Among the books which challenged [Mansfield’s] genius was Marie Bashkirtseff’s Journal. It is reasonable to conjecture that Katherine Mansfield’s compelling search for truth and her untiring industry may have found inspiration in the fascinating record of this inspiring young life.’9 But while this connection appeared obvious to Moorman on the basis of not just Bashkirtseff’s early influence on Mansfield but also their shared medical destiny, Bashkirtseff is, in fact, never mentioned in Mansfield’s published notebooks and letters after her diagnosis. This would appear to be counterintuitive and therefore calls for an explanation, especially in light of Mansfield’s strengthened bond with her other Russian idol, Chekhov, after she discovered she had tuberculosis. At least one critic, Patricia Moran, sees this omission as both conspicuous and revelatory, evidencing Mansfield’s increasingly negative attitude towards not just women writers (and women friends) but also her own ‘womanhood’ at this point of her life: Paradoxically [. . .] tuberculosis – a disease specifically associated with women – provides an escape from the materiality of the female body. Mansfield emphasized this latter aspect by comparing herself to male writers who died of tuberculosis. Thus, although her early letters and journals frequently mention the tubercular artist and diarist Marie Bashkirtseff, references to her all but disappear after 1915; instead, Mansfield sees herself in relation to male writers – Lawrence, Chekhov, Keats. Mansfield’s relationship to canonical literary figures parallels her personal relationships; she can accept nurture from men but not from women.10
Ironically, by endowing the disease with the powers that transcend ‘materiality’, Moran, in effect, still turns Mansfield’s tuberculosis into the kind of a romantic metaphor that Sontag and Lawlor described and Moorman employed. The real reasons for the omission are probably much less ominous and more ordinary. When the youthful Mansfield fell in love with the diaries of the young Russian woman artist living in France, it was because of Bashkirtseff’s 26
Criticism defiance and will to fully live and succeed in a male-dominated world. The 1890 edition of Bashkirtseff’s journal that Mansfield most likely read in New Zealand was – largely – translated by Mathilde Blind, herself a tireless advocate for women’s education and professional careers. Blind’s fiery Introduction, which honoured Bashkirtseff as a shining example of the new generation of professional-minded women, would have influenced Mansfield almost as much as the journal itself. That is what Mansfield wanted to be: a strong, talented and independent artist. She also wanted to be as honest with herself as Bashkirtseff was, recording every thought and feeling. But the passages about consumption, towards the end of Bashkirtseff’s journals, most likely did not interest her then quite as much, other than engendering sympathy for the untimely death of her heroine. Moran’s statement that Mansfield’s early letters and journals frequently mention Bashkirtseff is actually wrong. The references in the journals that are available are very few.11 Mansfield first quoted her (in the original French)12 in a notebook from 1907 when she was nineteen and when, like Bashkirtseff, she was seeking glory rather than the traditional female route of marrying well and having children: ‘Me marier avoir des enfants! Mais quelle blanchisseuse – je veux la gloire. Marie Bashkirtseff. Russian.’13 Later that year she recorded that on one particular day she did ‘not wish to write but to read Marie Bashkirtseff’.14 Bashkirtseff’s remaining influence on Mansfield is usually surmised by Mansfield’s biographers and critics through analysing the changes in her writings – and stated opinions – after she read the Journal. I believe that by the time Mansfield was diagnosed with t uberculosis, she was probably no longer under the influence of Bashkirtseff – not because, as Moran suggests, Bashkirtseff was a female diarist, but because Mansfield was no longer nineteen. In 1922, at the peak of her agonising decision-making about her treatment, Mansfield was thirty-four, therefore halfway between Bashkirtseff’s age at the time of her death (twenty-four15) and Chekhov’s (forty-four). By the time people reach their thirties, it is arguably much more natural for them to identify with people in their forties than those still in their twenties. Most likely she had simply outgrown Bashkirtseff by then. It is also fair to note that Bashkirtseff, because of her early death, never fully matured as a writer or a thinker, which becomes particularly clear when we read the passages in which she deals with her grim diagnosis. ‘I cough very much,’ she wrote in 1880, when she was twenty,16 ‘but, for a wonder, far from diminishing my good looks, it gives me a languid air which suits me.’17 The following year she would imagine herself a true heroine of a–d efinitely French, not Russian – novel: ‘Can you think of me as weak, 27
Katherine Mansfield and Russia thin, pale, dying, dead? [. . .] But at least by dying young you inspire pity in all the world. I am touched myself when I think of my end.’18 It is hard to say here where her youthful naïveté ends and the acquired Western romanticism of ‘consumption’ begins, but it was most likely a potent combination of both. Writing of her final days, Mathilde Blind described Bashkirtseff’s struggles in the Introduction in even more decisively romantic terms: ‘The dark shadow [. . .] threw the high lights of life into sharper relief. [. . . H]er life burned with a clearer more concentrated flame than ever before. She herself is taken by surprise at the increasing acuteness of her sensations.’19 As Bashkirtseff was withering and wilting she was still strong-minded and independent, continuing to paint, participating in shows and competitions, and trying hard to conceal her physical weakness and fevers from her mother. But when she allowed herself to think about dying she often sounded like a scared child. Her Journal is heartbreaking to read but could hardly offer much guidance to Mansfield at the time of her own diagnosis, when she was seeking a wise and more mature co-sufferer and soul mate who could guide her through the disease. That person – and that writer – was of course not Bashkirtseff, but Anton Chekhov.
Anton Chekhov I have already written elsewhere about how Mansfield’s love for Chekhov influenced her choice of Ivan Manoukhin and George Gurdjieff as her final healers. In the same article, I also touched upon how intimate her ‘conversations’ with Chekhov became in her diaries at the time of her decision-making.20 I would like to flesh out the latter point more fully here by reconstructing and analysing Mansfield’s very personal relationship with the dead Russian writer – who was also a medical doctor – before and after her diagnosis. Chekhov’s letters (translated by Constance Garnett) and notebooks (translated by S. S. Koteliansky and Leonard Woolf) came out within a year of each other, in 1920 and 1921 respectively. Koteliansky, at the time, was also in the middle of translating, with Mansfield’s help, many of the same letters that appeared in Garnett’s edition. In 1919 alone, thirteen instalments of his and Mansfield’s translations were published in the Athenaeum, a literary journal edited by Mansfield’s husband, John Middleton Murry. ‘In Heavens name’, Mansfield appealed to Koteliansky in the summer of 1919, ‘why do we not prepare the book immediately & race Mrs G?’21 But that was not to be: Koteliansky’s completed edition of Chekhov’s letters would appear two years after 28
Criticism Mansfield’s death, while she had to read Chekhov’s remaining letters in Garnett’s translation. As was the case with Mathilde Blind in her Introduction to Bashkirtseff’s journal, Garnett’s ‘Biographical Sketch’, which prefaced her translation and focused heavily on Chekhov’s struggles with tuberculosis, must have made a major impression on Mansfield. In 1919, after she read Garnett’s translation of Chekhov’s stories, Mansfield complained to Koteliansky that Garnett ‘seems to take the nerve out of Tchekhov before she starts working on him, like the dentist takes the nerve from a tooth’.22 But in the ‘Sketch’ Garnett displayed a definite ‘nerve’ of her own, virtually blaming Chekhov for causing his own premature death by being a bad patient and refusing to stay put in a warm climate like Yalta or Nice. ‘Like all invalids’, Garnett declared, ‘he ought to have gone on living in the same place [. . .] until he was better but he lived exactly as though he had been in good health. [. . .] The nearer Chekhov was to the end, the less he seemed to realize it. [. . .] He was dying although he wrote to everyone that he had almost recovered.’23 But Chekhov of course knew he was dying; he also vehemently hated melodramas and did not want to be treated as a tragic hero. In his letters to family and friends, he was not fooling himself, as Garnett suggests; he was simply trying not to upset them and also to keep their pity at bay. Chekhov was fiercely private and reserved. Unlike the diaries of Mansfield and Bashkirtseff, his are never confessional. As Mansfield herself would suggest, one has to ‘read [. . .] between the lines’ to get closer to Chekhov’s inner core.24 He had a reputation for being ‘wise’, yet he sometimes wondered whether it was such a blessing. ‘Solomon made a great mistake when he asked for wisdom’, he wrote in his notebooks.25 Yet it was perhaps Chekhov’s wisdom, the opposite of what Garnett suggests, and also his strong Russian cultural moorings in unsentimental realism, that made him deal with his illness the way he did. In one of very few personal descriptions of his state of health which made its way into Koteliansky’s translation of his notebooks, Chekhov recorded in 1896, a year before he would be officially diagnosed with tuberculosis: ‘From March 25 til [sic] April 10 I was laid up in Ostroumov’s clinic. Hæmorrhage. Creaking, moisture in the apices of both my lungs; congestion in the apex of the right. On March 28 L. N. Tolstoi came to see me. We spoke of immortality.’26 By the 1890s, Tolstoy, with his immense fear of death, spoke of immortality all the time; it was not a topic Chekhov usually engaged in or a concept he much believed in. And yet this recorded transition from the clear-eyed, ruthlessly clinical details of a dangerous condition to a soaring philosophical discussion with Tolstoy, whom he dearly loved as a person and 29
Katherine Mansfield and Russia venerated as a writer,27 sums up Chekhov’s very essence: down-to-earth and yet – unpretentiously and unromantically – lofty. This combination of ‘earthly’ and ‘dreamy’ came to him naturally since fact and fiction were tightly interwoven in Chekhov’s careers. ‘Medicine is my lawful wife and literature is my mistress,’ he wrote to a friend in 1888.28 Trying to come up with a short autobiography for a publication, he first recoiled: ‘I have a disease – Autobiographobia’. But then he chose to focus on the role his medical training played in his literary works: ‘I have no doubt that the study of medicine has had an important influence on my literary work; it [. . .] has enriched me with knowledge the true value of which for me as a writer can only be understood by one who is himself a doctor.’29 It was probably that knowledge that made him philosophical about dying. ‘Death is terrible’, he stated in his notebooks, ‘but still more terrible is the feeling that you might live for ever and never die.’ ‘I hope that in the next world’, he wrote a little later, ‘I shall be able to look back at this life and say: “Those were beautiful dreams [. . .]”.’30 Dreams and literature were what sustained him; medicine was what made him feel socially useful and also firmly anchored. He knew all about death and dying as a doctor dealing with his patients – many of whom were poor peasants whom he treated for free – and as a witness to the horrors of a penal colony during his voluntary trip to the Far East Sakhalin Island in 1890. He also watched his own brother, Nikolai, die of tuberculosis in 1889, followed by his aunt two years later (‘our aunt is dying of consumption. Her days are numbered. She was a splendid woman, a saint’).31 He was deeply pained by losing patients and loved ones but was never demonstratively ‘poetic’ about it; that would have been against his very nature and the modality of the culture he inhabited. The withering ‘chakhotka’ is everywhere in his letters, even if it is not always his own. ‘Poor Yezhov has been to see me,’ he wrote to his most frequent correspondent, his publisher Aleksei Suvorin, in 1890. ‘[H]e sat near the table crying: his young wife is in consumption. He must take her at once to the south. To my question whether he had money he answered that he had. [. . .] Yezhov upset me with his tears. He reminded me of something, and I was sorry for him too.’32 What Yezhov reminded Chekhov of was of course the writer’s own condition and the recent death of his brother. A year later he wrote to Suvorin about a devastating death in their friends’ family: ‘the son died of consumption, a medical student in his fourth year, an excellent fellow, a perfect Hercules, the hope of the family’.33 He could also be honest about his condition without ever overly dramatising it with people other than his family, whom he was under30
Criticism standably trying to protect, as when he described his month-long bout with an inflammation of his lungs to another friend in 1891: ‘Lung complications kept me ill for a whole month, confined to the house and unable to do anything. [. . .] I still cough and am thin.’34 In fact, contrary to Garnett’s ‘Biographical Sketch’, Chekhov’s letters in her edition consistently show that what Chekhov was trying to do was far from self-denial of his illness; he just wanted to live his life to the fullest despite the grim prognosis. Stagnant existence might have been medically safer but, for Chekhov, it was in many ways deadlier. He made his choice and was resigned to live with its consequences. ‘Life is short’, he declared to Suvorin in 1892, while talking of himself in the third person, ‘and Chekhov [. . .] would like it to flash by brilliantly and with dash. He would go to Prince’s Island, to Constantinople, and again to India and Sahalin.’35 On hearing the verdict from his physicians in 1897, twenty years before Mansfield would hear hers, he wrote to Suvorin: ‘The doctors [. . .] have ordered me to change my manner of life. I understand their diagnosis but I don’t understand their prescription [. . .] I am forbidden to talk much, to swim, and so on, and so on.’36 He did eventually settle in Yalta, on the Black Sea, but complained to Suvorin that while it could be ‘curing me of tuberculosis [. . .] it’s making me ten years older’.37 His most common lament from Yalta was, indeed, that he was ‘dreadfully bored [. . .] My life does not run or flow, but crawls along.’38 The doctors also recommended that he should not overly exhaust himself by writing, but it was precisely writing his plays in the last years of his life that sustained him intellectually and emotionally. When The Cherry Orchard was staged in Moscow in January of 1904, there was no question in his mind that he should be there. He clearly knew it could be dangerous for his rapidly deteriorating health to travel from Yalta to Moscow and be surrounded by crowds, even if adoring, but that, again, was the choice he made. He died seven months later, assuring his family until the very end that he was on his way to recovery. This was an act of love, not self-delusion. These were the notebooks and letters Mansfield read after learning she had tuberculosis. When she was helping Koteliansky ‘Englishise’ his translation of Chekhov’s letters, she was always impatient to get the next batch.39 Her attitude towards Chekhov had undergone a significant transformation after her diagnosis. Previously, she had treated him as a student learning a craft would treat her best teacher. She copied passages from his stories into her notes,40 she promised herself to follow his ‘lead’41 and she used him as the ultimate literary authority (using phrasing such as ‘That is what Tchekhov aimed at’ and ‘Tchekhov 31
Katherine Mansfield and Russia said so’).42 After she was diagnosed with the same disease as Chekhov, she still expressed awe for his craft: Tchekhov has said the last word that has been said, so far, and more than that he has given us a sign of the way we should go.43 I would give every single word de Maupassant and Tumpany ever wrote for one short story by Anton Tchekhov.44
However, her bond with the author was rapidly mutating from professional into personal: ‘Ach, Tchekhov!’ she wrote in her diary in 1918, ‘Why are you dead! Why can’t I talk to you – in a big, darkish room – at late evening – where the light is green from the waving trees outside. I’d like to write a series of Heavens; that would be one.’45 At this point in her life she in fact often seemed to be more intimate in her relationship with the dead Russian writer than with either Murry or Koteliansky. She had had a more than year-long falling-out with the latter, which actually had to do with Chekhov’s letters: at some point early in 1920 Mansfield lost one of the batches he had sent her, which meant he had to start again from scratch. (They did not renew their contact till late in 1921.) Several months before she died she wrote to Murry that Chekhov was ‘much nearer to me than he used to be’,46 but that was an understatement. In 1920 she in fact listed ‘Tchekhov – dead’ as one of ‘[t]he two people left’ for her; the other one being her London doctor Victor Sorapure. ‘They are the two good men I have known,’ she declared, putting a man whom she personally knew and a writer whom she never met and who died when she was a teenager in New Zealand in the same category.47 She did it again when she described people who were part of her life as ‘Tchekhov, Koteliansky [. . .] and Orage’.48 Chekhov was the ‘precious friend’ who comforted her in her bouts with depression: ‘Oh darling Tchehov! I was in misery to-night – ill, unhappy, despondent, and you made me laugh . . . and forget.’49 She fantasised about having a baby and calling him ‘Anton’, with Chekhov’s widow, Olga Knipper, serving as a godmother.50 And yet he was still a deity as well. Having playfully written in 1917 on the title page of a book of Chekhov’s stories that belonged to Murry, ‘This book is bound to belong to me | Besides I am sure that you agree | I am the English Anton T’, in 1920 she added a much more humble note: ‘God forgive me, Tchehov, for my impertinence’.51 Mansfield was not particularly impressed with Koteliansky’s edition of Chekhov’s notebooks, which he rushed into print so as not to again be beaten to publication by Garnett. Since he and Mansfield were not on speaking terms, Koteliansky asked Leonard Woolf to collaborate with him, and Mansfield’s resentment definitely coloured her reaction to the 32
Criticism volume: ‘I thought the notebooks were in a way almost funny’, she wrote to Ottoline Morrell in May of 1921, ‘but its cruel to laugh. Its not fair to glean a man’s buttons & pins & hawk them after his death. But the lack of humour on the part of the translators! Poor Leonard Woolf typing out all those Russian names. How absurd it is!’52 Her reaction to Chekhov’s letters, both the ones she co-translated and Garnett’s, was much more emotional and personal, particularly in regards to those letters where he talked about his illness. In her notebooks she often recorded passages from his letters: ‘My cough is considerably better, I am sunburnt, they tell me I am fatter, but the other day I almost fell down and fancied for a minute that I was dying. . .’ (21 April 1894); or: ‘I am in the condition of a transplanted tree which is hesitating whether to take root or begin to wither’ (10 February 1900), and adding: ‘So am I exactly.’53 It soon becomes clear from her entries that, after her diagnosis, she was eager to learn from Chekhov and be guided by him, not just as an authority on writing, but also as a fellow sufferer. She wanted him to teach her how to deal with their common affliction, but in that he ultimately proved to be a frustrating mentor. Perhaps because she herself was going through the emotional and physical ravages of the disease, her take on Chekhov’s attitude towards tuberculosis was much more clear-eyed than Garnett’s. Unlike Garnett, she knew that Chekhov was fully aware that he was dying, was much pained by it but also resigned to it. Having copied passages from Chekhov’s last letters in one of her notebooks in 1922, she wrote: ‘Who reads between the lines here? I at least. K.M.’.54 What she read ‘between the lines’ becomes obvious in her subsequent letter to Murry: ‘[I]f one reads “intuitively” his last letters, they are terrible. What is left of him. [. . .] Read the last! All hope is over for him. [. . .] For the last 8 years he knew no security at all.’55 Mansfield never had romantic notions about her disease; she did not identify it with genius or creativity, but Chekhov’s seeming defeatism in the face of it made her equally uneasy. In that she was probably a true New Zealander, a pioneer woman of action who wanted to find the ‘third way’ of dealing with tuberculosis: not romanticising the disease or meekly accepting the inevitable end, but fiercely confronting it. Whereas Garnett chided Chekhov for not being cautious enough, Mansfield reproached him for being the opposite: not taking enough risks. This is what she herself was about to do late in 1922 by throwing in her lot with Gurdjieff and his highly experimental treatment at the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man in Fontainebleau. In her challenge to Chekhov, whom she assumed would not have approved of her decision, she sounded defiant (but also apologetic): 33
Katherine Mansfield and Russia Risk! Risk anything! [. . .] True, Tchekhov didn’t. Yes, but Tchekhov died. And let us be honest. How much do we know of Tchekhov from his letters. Was it all? Of course not. Don’t you suppose he had a whole longing life of which there is hardly a word? Then read the final letters. He has given up hope. If you de-sentimentalize those final letters they are terrible. There is no more Tchekhov. Illness has swallowed him.56
There is an interesting omission in Mansfield’s discussions of Chekhov’s reaction to his disease: in her journals and letters, she never mentions that he was a doctor, probably because that would have somehow rendered his pessimism about tuberculosis more justifiable and therefore more threatening to her personally. And yet, because of him, she was prepared to trust Russian doctors much more than English or French ones, and her association with Ivan Manoukhin in 1922, before she entered Gurdjieff’s Institute, also opened a new post-diagnosis chapter in her relationship with yet another tubercular Russian writer whom she had read back in New Zealand – Maxim Gorky.
Maxim Gorky Mansfield’s reaction to Gorky in her younger years and prior to her diagnosis was much more subdued than her reaction to Bashkirtseff or Chekhov. The other two were writers to emulate; Gorky was a lesser god. ‘[W]hen I read [. . .] Gorky’, she noted in 1914, ‘I realize how streets ahead of [him] I be . . .’.57 Her meaningful tubercular affinity with him actually happened in the real world, as opposed to the literary one, through the Russian doctor they shared. Because of that connection with Gorky she also became even more keenly interested in Bolshevik Russia’s politics during the last year of her life, and more heavily immersed in Russian émigré disputes. Eight years younger than Chekhov, Gorky was diagnosed with ‘cha khotka’ in the same year, 1897, and also spent some time in Yalta, where the two developed a friendship. As with Mansfield, Chekhov was an irreplaceable role model for Gorky, not just as a short story writer but also as a playwright. Chekhov and Gorky often exchanged letters in which they discussed their states of health, especially when they could encourage each other with good news: ‘I am not coughing and am even eating meat,’ Chekhov assured Gorky in 1900.58 The same year Gorky boasted: ‘I bathe every day, play gorodkee, and have grown very healthy.’59 Gorky worshipped Chekhov every bit as much as Mansfield did and, as with Mansfield, even the dead Chekhov remained a significant presence in Gorky’s life. In 1914, at the beginning of World War One, Gorky wrote in his diary: ‘For five days now my temperature has been above normal, 34
Criticism but the idea of staying in bed is hateful to me. [. . .] I have been reading Chekhov. If he had not died ten years ago the war would certainly have killed him, having first poisoned him with hatred towards mankind.’60 After her diagnosis, Mansfield’s renewed interest in Gorky had little to do with his writings – although she did follow his political articles published in Europe, and collaborated with Koteliansky on translating Gorky’s journals. Her interest was now more focused on his tuberculosis and, more precisely, on the doctor who seemed to keep it under control with the experimental low dose of X-ray radiation treatment: Ivan Manoukhin. Gorky himself was in Europe at the time, mostly residing in Berlin and publishing fiery articles and letters that were upsetting to Lenin and his fellow Bolsheviks. The two most controversial ones in 1922 were about the reactionary nature of the Russian peasant (‘On the Russian Peasantry’), particularly surprising coming from Gorky who himself (like Chekhov) was of a peasant stock, and the injustice of the first Soviet public trial on a grand scale: that of the leaders of the Party of Socialist Revolutionaries, which began in 1922 (‘[I]f the trial of the Socialist Revolutionaries will end with a death sentence, then this will be a premeditated murder, a foul murder’).61 Although not officially an émigré who fled the Soviet Union (he was ostensibly encouraged to go to Europe by Lenin to improve his health), Gorky by then had an uneasy relationship with the new regime. It was largely due to what he saw as the unnecessary vengefulness against other revolutionaries, some of whom were his friends, just because they were not Bolsheviks. He also did not approve of Lenin’s New Economic Policy, which would allow limited private enterprise in order to revitalise Russia’s supply of goods and services.62 Mansfield had a somewhat mixed reaction to Gorky’s journals: ‘I have been translating Maxim Gorki’s Journal of the Revolution all last week,’ she wrote to Ottoline Morrell in 1918. ‘I find Gorki wonderfully sympathetic – This Journal is dreadful. It makes you feel – anything anything rather than revolution.’63 His reminiscences of Tolstoy she considered vitally important, but she was disappointed that Gorky’s stock in England did not rise as a result of their publication: ‘The Gorky on Tolstoi book would have fetched a big price anywhere because people would want to know what he said about Tolstoi. I may be wrong but I think that in England Gorki qua Gorki is not “popular” (with editors of course I mean).’64 That Mansfield followed Gorky’s political publications in the French press in 1922 becomes obvious in her letters to Dorothy Brett: ‘I must say I have never in my life felt so entangled in politics as I do at this moment,’ she wrote to her in April. ‘I hang on the newspapers. I feel 35
Katherine Mansfield and Russia I dare not miss a speech. One begins to think like Gorky feels that its one’s duty to what remains of civilization to care for these things and that writers who do not are traitors.’65 She also complained to Brett that in England people hardly knew what was going on in Russia: ‘It is very extraordinary that Russia can be there at our back door at furthest, and we know nothing, pay no attention, hear nothing in English’.66 Part of the reason Mansfield could not avoid being entangled in politics and news from Russia was that, through Manoukhin, who was now treating her, she not only shared doctors with Gorky but also came into contact with elements of Paris Russian émigré society, many of whom loathed the writer and kept attacking him in the press and in private conversations. Not loyal enough for the Soviets, and too loyal to the Soviets for the émigrés who fled Russia after the Revolution, Gorky was, in essence, pilloried and pelted from both sides. Among his most vehement émigré antagonists who happened to be friends of Manoukhin were a Russian poet, Zinaida Hippius, and her husband, another prominent literary figure, Dmitry Merezhkovsky. Hippius was not just attacking Gorky’s politics but also accusing him (unjustly, it appears) of having stolen valuable objects when he chaired a committee that dealt with the antiques and antiquarian books left behind by fleeing Russian aristocrats. Hippius’s animosity towards Gorky predated the Revolution: while they were still in Russia she dismissively – and snobbishly (given that she came from nobility and Gorky from the peasantry) – referred to him as the ‘Negro in the silk top hat’.67 Mansfield was thus thrust into political civil wars that she knew little about. She knew that her sympathies lay with Gorky, but she still also admired Manoukhin and was hoping that he would prove to be not just Gorky’s but also her own miraculous healer. The hope was not unreasonable and she probably did choose the right doctor, but at the wrong time. Manoukhin was indeed very successful, not just with treating Gorky but also his own wife, Tatiana, who had tuberculosis but lived to be 77. However, the doctor had only recently fled from Russia and was just at the beginning of establishing his practice in Paris, which proved a turbulent transition. He would later blame his inept and scheming French partner, and the loss of valuable samples on his way out of Russia.68 Back in London, Koteliansky, who had approved of Manoukhin’s treatment, was appalled by Mansfield’s hobnobbing with the Russian doctor’s friends, whom he found odious.69 Mansfield was quick to assure him that she did not believe a word they were saying about Gorky: ‘Yes I knew that M & H were liars about Gorki. There was a black stain of malice on every page that had his name.’70 Two months later she was 36
Criticism still trying to put Koteliansky’s mind at rest regarding her feelings about Hippius’s badmouthing of the writer: I have never felt a more complete physical repulsion for anyone. Everything about her is false – her cheeks, glowing softly with rouge. Even her breath – soft and sweet. She is a bad woman [. . .] Just as it is indecent to talk about illness or to describe one’s symptoms [. . .] so it seems indecent to hear them talking of ‘les cadavres’, and Gorki’s cutlets.71
It is not quite clear what Mansfield means by ‘les cadavres’ and ‘Gorki’s cutlets’, but she is probably referring to the Russian famine of 1921–2, when millions of people were dying of hunger while Gorky was supposedly fed at the special government canteens and ate very well, including good beef cutlets. The bright spot, at least for a while, was that through Manoukhin Mansfield also met another famous Russian writer, Ivan Bunin. She could not hide her excitement when she wrote to Koteliansky: ‘To think one can speak with somebody who really knew Tchekhov.’72 Bunin, who was obviously hoping that Mansfield would be more interested in his own short stories (which she had just started reading in Paris), proved disappointing: I met Bunin in Paris and because he had known Tchekhov I wanted to talk of him. But alas! Bunin said, ‘Tchekhov? Ah – Ah – oui, j’ai connu Tchekhov. Mais il y a longtemps, longtemps’. And then a pause. And then, graciously, ‘Il a écrit des belles choses’. And that was the end of Tchekhov. ‘Vous avez lu mon dernier . . .’.73
Unfortunately for her, Gorky, who would have loved to talk with her about Chekhov (albeit through a translator, since, not being a member of the Russian nobility, his French was non-existent), was in Berlin, not Paris, being well enough at that moment not to need Manoukhin’s services. I started this essay by suggesting that Mansfield’s interest in Bashkirtseff, Chekhov and Gorky affected her not just as an artist and a serious student of Russian literature and culture but also as a human being trying to preserve hope and dignity in the presence of a debilitating and ultimately deadly disease. The clearest example of that is of course Chekhov, where Mansfield’s intensified closeness with him after her diagnosis and her vehement desire to be guided by him are well established through her letters and autobiographical writings. The lessons she drew from Bashkirtseff and her struggles with tuberculosis are much harder to ascertain since mentions of Bashkirtseff disappear from Mansfield’s letters and diaries after she left New Zealand. She 37
Katherine Mansfield and Russia robably had intellectually and artistically outgrown her youthful pasp sion for the young Russian diarist by the time she moved to England. Yet, Bashkirtseff’s remarkable perseverance in exhibiting her paintings and sustaining her spirit through her art despite her body giving up must have come to Mansfield’s mind repeatedly as she was trying to defy her own physical deterioration during the last year of her life. Finally, Gorky became an indirect conduit of her reaffirmed interest in Russian culture when she came to France for her final treatments. Engaged in the Russian émigré ideological debates, following political discussions about Russia in French newspapers, defending Gorky’s honour, meeting Russian writers who actually knew Chekhov well (even if not generous with personal reminiscences of him) and designing her own course of treatment, first with Gorky’s doctor Manoukhin and then with Gurdjieff – Mansfield during the last full year of her life appeared to be most intensely steeped in all things Russian, and also (perhaps not coincidentally) feisty and full of plans and hope. Garnett probably would have blamed her too for self-delusion (and perhaps did, upon learning about her joining Gurdjieff), but Mansfield, in a full circle, was indeed simply doing what she had admired Marie Bashkirtseff for in her youth – being a strong and independent woman in search of a solution that would allow her, despite all odds, to continue being an artist. Notes 1. Letters, 3, p. 161 (to S. S. Koteliansky, 14 December 1919). 2. The other two were Turgenev and Tolstoy. 3. Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1978), p. 5. 4. Ibid. pp. 18, 14. 5. Clark Lawlor, Consumption and Literature: The Making of the Romantic Disease (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), pp. 1–2. 6. Ibid. p. 20. 7. Lewis J. Moorman, M.D., Tuberculosis and Genius (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1940), pp. x, xi. 8. Ibid. pp. xii, xiii. 9. Ibid. p. 102. 10. Patricia Moran, ‘Unholy Meanings: Maternity, Creativity, and Orality in Katherine Mansfield’, in Feminist Studies, 17 (1991), p. 113. 11. We of course do not know for sure whether there may have been more references to Bashkirtseff in the portions of the diaries which either Mansfield or her widower and editor John Middleton Murry subsequently destroyed, but as the editors of the fourth volume of Mansfield’s Collected Works Gerri Kimber and Claire Davison point out, these most likely involved ‘personal crises, or potentially embarrassing discussions of individuals’. See CW4, p. 5. 12. Kimber and Davison suggest that the reason the quote is in its original French is because she may have taken it ‘not directly from the diary, but from Marie Corelli’s novel God’s Good Man: A Simple Love Story’, which she was reading at the time. In
Criticism this 1904 novel, one of the female characters utters precisely this French quote by ‘a charming Russian girl Bashkirtseff’, followed by ‘Oh, how I agree with her!’ (CW4, p. 30, n. 2). This allows us to assume that when Mansfield read Bashkirtseff it was, most likely, not the original 1887 French version, but Mathilde Blind’s 1890 translation. 13. 30 March 1907, CW4, p. 30. 14. 21 October 1907, CW4, p. 57. 15. Or twenty-six, depending on whom we are to believe, since her mother, who published the journals, may have tried to make her appear more precocious and therefore younger. 16. Or twenty-two; see above. 17. Marie Bashkirtseff, The Journal of Marie Bashkirtseff, trans. and with introduction by Mathilde Blind (London: Cassell, 1890), p. 390. 18. Ibid. p. 480. 19. Ibid. pp. xxiv–xxv. 20. See Galya Diment, ‘Katherine Mansfield’s Russian Healers’, in Claire Davison and Gerri Kimber (eds), Katherine Mansfield’s French Lives (Leiden: Brill Rodopi, 2016), pp. 40–57. 21. Letters, 2, p. 341 (to S. S. Koteliansky,?July 1919). 22. Letters, 2, p. 349 (to Koteliansky, mid-August 1919). 23. Constance Garnett, ‘Biographical Sketch’, in Anton Chekhov, Letters of Anton Chekhov to His Family and Friends with Biographical Sketch, trans. Constance Garnett (New York: Macmillan, 1920), pp. 36–7. 24. John Middleton Murry (ed.), The Scrapbook of Katherine Mansfield (London: Constable, 1939), p. 242. 25. Anton Chekhov, Note-Book of Anton Chekhov, trans. S. S. Koteliansky and Leonard Woolf (New York: B. W. Huebsch, 1922), p. 15. 26. Ibid. p. 9. 27. See, for example, his letter to M. O. Menshikov, 28 January 1900: ‘I am afraid of Tolstoy’s death. If he was to die there would be a big empty place in my life. To begin with, because I have never loved any man as much as him’ (Chekhov, Letters, p. 383). Tolstoy, who was thirty-two years older than Chekhov, outlived him by six years. 28. Ibid. p. 99, to A. S. Suvorin, 11 September 1888. 29. Ibid. p. 369, to G. I. Rossolimo, 11 October 1899. 30. Chekhov, Note-Book, pp. 51, 120. 31. Chekhov, Letters, p. 274, to Suvorin, 16 October 1891. 32. Ibid. p. 131, to Suvorin, 4 March 1890. 33. Ibid. p. 229, to Suvorin, 31 January 1891. 34. Ibid. p. 287, to E. P. Egorov, 11 December 1891. 35. Ibid. pp. 306–7, to Suvorin, 28 May 1892. 36. Ibid. pp. 347–8, to Suvorin, 1 April 1897. 37. Ibid. p. 375, to Suvorin, 8 January 1900. 38. Ibid. p. 385, to L. S. Mizinov, 29 January 1900. 39. For more on their collaboration, see Claire Davison, Translation as Collaboration: Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield and S. S. Koteliansky (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014), where you will find an excellent analysis of the letters that Mansfield translated with Koteliansky and how those translations were different from Garnett’s (pp. 147–61). See also Galya Diment, A Russian Jew of Bloomsbury: The Life and Times of Samuel Koteliansky (Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 2011).
Katherine Mansfield and Russia 40. See her diary entry from 1916, where she quotes a passage from Chekhov’s story ‘The Duel’ (CW4, p. 208). 41. See January? 1914, CW4, p. 129. 42. October? 1915, CW4, p. 176. 43. Letters, 2, p. 345 (to Koteliansky, early August 1919). 44. Letters, 4, p. 130 (to John Middleton Murry, 1 December 1920). 45. 25 June 1918, CW4, p. 254. 46. Letters, 5, p. 285 (to Murry, 4 October 1922). 47. 19 December 1920, CW4, p. 337. 48. 20 January 1922, CW4, p. 406. 49. 16 December 1920, CW4, p. 333. 50. 12 January 1922, CW4, p. 403. 51. Murry, Scrapbook, p. 162, 12 December 1920. 52. Letters, 4, p. 244 (to Ottoline Morrell, late May 1921; her emphasis). 53. Murry, Scrapbook, p. 242. In the original Chekhov does not use the verb ‘chakhnut’, from which ‘chakhotka’ came, for ‘wither’; instead, he uses ‘sokhnut’, to dry. 54. Ibid. p. 242. 55. Letters, 5, p. 299 (to Murry, 15 October 1922; her emphasis). 56. 14 October 1922, CW4, p. 434. 57. 17 January 1914, CW4, p. 140. 58. To A. M. Peshkov (Maxim Gorky), 16 October 1900, in Maxim Gorky, Reminiscences of Tolstoy, Chekhov and Andreyev, trans. S. S. Koteliansky and Leonard Woolf (New York: Viking Press, 1966), p. 109. 59. To A. P. Chekhov, first half of July 1900, in Gorky, Reminiscences, pp. 107–8. The emphasis is the translators’; their footnote says, ‘Russian outdoor game resembling skittles or ninepins’ (p. 107). 60. Maxim Gorky, Fragments from My Diary, trans. Moura Budberg (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972), p. 150. 61. Quoted in Tovah Yedlin, Maxim Gorky: A Political Biography (Westport, CT and London: Praeger, 1999), p. 155. 62. For more on the Gorky-Lenin relationship in the early 1920s and Gorky’s political activities in Europe, see Yedlin, Maxim Gorky, pp. 147–75. 63. Letters, 2, p. 291 (to Ottoline Morrell, 17 November 1918; her emphasis). 64. Letters, 5, pp. 291–2 (to Koteliansky, 9 October 1922; her emphasis). The inconsistent spelling of Gorky/Gorki is hers. 65. Letters, 5, p. 157 (to Dorothy Brett, 29 April 1922). 66. Letters, 5, p. 94 (to Brett, 9 March 1922). 67. Quoted in Yedlin, Maxim Gorky, p. 127. 68. For a detailed history of Manoukhin treating Gorky and Mansfield, see Diment, ‘Katherine Mansfield’s Russian Healers’. 69. Koteliansky had his own wranglings with Hippius, whom he translated without her permission; see Diment, A Russian Jew of Bloomsbury, pp. 125–8. 70. Letters, 5, p. 129 (to Koteliansky, 25 March 1922). 71. Letters, 5, pp. 184–5 (to Koteliansky, 29 May 1922). 72. Letters, 5, p. 148 (to Koteliansky, 8 April 1922; her emphasis). 73. Letters, 5, p. 206 (to William Gerhardi, 14 June 1922).
‘A child of the sun’: Katherine Mansfield, Orientalism and Gurdjieff Gerri Kimber
Although during her childhood her family were regular worshippers at the old wooden St Paul’s Cathedral in Wellington, Katherine Mansfield was not a practising Christian as an adult. Her search for the spiritual was of a much more esoteric nature, leading her ultimately to join G. I. Gurdjieff and his followers at Fontainebleau, where she died. Ruth Mantz notes that ‘[m]any of her early diaries – not included in the Journal – already reflect a desperate personal need for a mystical philosophy’.1 Much of my book on Mansfield’s reception in France relates how the reactionary Catholic critics there who so swiftly claimed Mansfield after her death ignored this aspect of her personality.2 Yet as early as 1908 she was formulating opinions which today we might almost term ‘new age’, such as: ‘To weave the intricate tapestry of one’s own life, it is well to take a thread from many harmonious skeins – and to realise that there must be harmony.’3 There was a particular strand to this spirituality which manifested itself both in Mansfield’s personal life and in her creative endeavours, and that was her deep fascination with the Orient and its traditions, especially the tea ceremony. I shall show how this eventually linked up with her attraction to P. D. Ouspensky and Gurdjieff and the theosophical philosophies expounded in the book Cosmic Anatomy,4 which would go on to have such a deep effect on her at a critical time in her life. Thus, this essay will explore Mansfield’s spiritual development, culminating in her decision to enter Gurdjieff’s ‘Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man’ near Paris in the autumn of 1922, together with her desire as she expressed it at the end of her life: ‘I want to be all that I am capable of becoming so that I may be – [. . .] a child of the sun’.5 Mansfield had been back in Europe for less than two years when the 41
Katherine Mansfield and Russia enormous Japan-British exhibition was held at White City in Shepherd’s Bush, from 14 May to 29 October 1910. It was the most concerted and systematic attempt by Japan to explain its traditional society and arts, modern industry and empire to its most important international ally, Great Britain. There were ‘Japanese shrines and a village, miniature gardens, jugglers and wrestlers, prints and porcelain, the tea ceremony, the haiku’.6 By the time the event closed in October, over eight million visitors had attended. Mansfield took to wearing a kimono at home, reread the poems of Yone Noguchi and The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura,7 and invested in Japanese clothes and soft furnishings. Early in 1911, she moved to the Gray’s Inn Road and decorated her flat in an entirely Japanese manner, with plain bamboo matting, floor cushions, and a stone Buddha in front of which she placed a bowl of water containing bronze lizards. Kathleen Jones explains the mature Katherine’s ‘love of Japanese minimalism, her hatred of clutter, and her obsession with order’ as a reaction against the ‘fussy Victorian colonial interior’ of the house where Mansfield was born and spent her first few years.8 Also as a result of this Oriental influence, Mansfield developed an almost ritualistic approach to tea drinking which remained with her all her life. The ritual of tea drinking, or as the Japanese call it, ‘The Way of Tea’, refers to a way of life, or a lifestyle, devoted to preparing the best possible bowl of powdered green tea for guests. By extension, it becomes a means of communing with nature and friends. Deeply rooted in Zen philosophy, it is a way to remove oneself from the mundane affairs of day-to-day living and to achieve, if only for a time, serenity and inner peace: ‘The Way of Tea is expressed in four Japanese characters: Harmony, Respect, Purity and Tranquility [. . .] The tea ceremony harmonizes with the Zen concept of living fully in the present.’9 This attitude is expressed through a famous story retold by Mikael Zaurov, a well-known expert in ‘The Way of Tea’: There was once a famous Chinese master named Zhao Zhou. He was so famous that he had visitors all the time who would come seeking the meaning of enlightenment. One day two young seekers knocked on his door begging for words of wisdom. Zhao Zhou welcomed them into his small hut and told them to sit down at a table where an old monk was already sitting. ‘Please tell me the meaning of Buddha’, the first student asked. Zhao Zhou replied, ‘Drink some tea!’ The second student then asked, ‘What is truth?’ and Zhao Zhou excitedly replied, ‘Drink some tea!’ The old monk sitting there was quite perplexed about this interaction and wondered to himself, ‘Why does he tell them to both drink tea instead of answering their questions?’ Zhao Zhou, being a great Zen master, read the monk’s mind and said to him, ‘You drink tea too!’10
Criticism The story symbolises the relationship that both Chinese and Japanese spiritual traditions have with ‘The Way of Tea’. It is an integral part of both cultures, stemming from Chan Buddhism, which later evolved into Zen. Zaurov explains: One facet of Zen’s style is teaching through a story or a question posed to the student, commonly referred to as a koan. The most famous koan is of course, what is the sound of one hand clapping? The answer is not as important as how you arrived at it and what you gained from it. Not every koan is a question; some just tell a short story. There is a specific purpose to each koan, a specific insight meant for dawning within the individual as they internally digest the ideas. The koan above is a famous one used in Zen; it illustrates the importance of tea and its relation to the goal of Buddhism.
The insight gained from this koan shows us that the act of drinking tea is something special and to be cherished.11 In addition, the influence of tea and of Japonisme in Mansfield’s work is an area of Mansfield studies relatively untouched by scholars, enabling me to offer new perspectives on her spirituality as well as her fiction. ‘Japonisme’ – an interest in Japanese arts, crafts, literature and culture – had already impacted British, French and American culture from the mid-nineteenth century onwards: for example, the influence of the Japanese print artist on the Post-Impressionist movement. Examples include Manet’s famous portrait of Émile Zola from 1868, showing Zola in front of some prints by Sharaku and a Japanese screen. Van Gogh also made direct copies of prints by Hiroshige, most notably in A Tree in Bloom, The Bridge, and his Portrait of Père Tanguy. When Mansfield visited the Japan-British exhibition, she had already read Yone Noguchi’s experimentally modern novel, The American Diary of a Japanese Girl, first published in 1902.12 Noguchi was the first Japanese author to publish English-language novels and books of poetry. Born in 1875 near Nagoya, Japan, he travelled to the United States in 1893 and soon became part of the literary scene in San Francisco and later in London and New York City. Now it was his poetry that captivated Mansfield. Noguchi would go on to appear in five issues of the little magazine Rhythm during 1912–13, and issue 3 of its spin-off, the Blue Review. Yet it is important to note that he only appeared once Mansfield had become a part of the editorial team, after June 1912 – her influence in this regard is therefore critical.13 William Orton, a visitor to Mansfield’s flat in Cheyne Walk in 1910, commented: 43
Katherine Mansfield and Russia She had made the place look quite beautiful – a couple of candles stuck in a skull, another between the high windows, a lamp on the floor shining through yellow chrysanthemums, and herself, accurately in the centre, in a patterned pink kimono and white flowered frock, the one cluster of primary brightness in the room.14
Mansfield presented Orton with a copy of the poems of Noguchi. Her lifelong companion, Ida Baker (always known as L.M.) recounts how also at this time, one night after Mansfield had gone to bed, she called out to Ida that she was ‘thinking of going to Japan’.15 She also acquired two Japanese dolls, O Hara San and Ribni, anthropomorphised into living little beings, as here in a letter to Murry, written on Christmas Day, 1915: We are still quite babies enough to play with dolls and I’d much rather pretend about [O] Hara [San] than about a real person. I would so see her, with her little hands in her kimono sleeves, very pale and wanting her hair brushed’.16
J. Lawrence Mitchell notes that ‘the name O Hara San must be a misrecollection of O Hana San (‘Miss Flower’), the title of a poem in Yone Noguchi’s From the Eastern Sea (1903)’.17 The Japonisme of Mansfield continued throughout her life. A childhood friend, Sylvia Lynd, claimed she looked ‘not unlike one of those little dolls [. . . from] Japan’s less commercial days’,18 and Virginia Woolf, reminiscing after Mansfield’s death about a visit she had paid to her in 1919, wrote: ‘She had her look of a Japanese doll, with the fringe combed quite straight across her forehead.’19 Mitchell comments on her ‘love affair with things Japanese’ and notes that ‘her distinctive hairstyle, her Japanese dolls, her fondness for kimonos and for Yone Noguchi’s poetry – even perhaps her aesthetic of the miniature [. . .] – are all manifestations of this love affair’.20 To this list I would also add The Book of Tea (1906) by Kakuzo Okakura, which Mansfield had first read in 1907, back in Wellington following her three years’ schooling at Queen’s College in London. The impact of this slim volume can be clearly seen in her personal writing. Gillian Boddy notes: Writers such as Ernest Dowson, Walter Pater and Arthur Symons contributed to her early belief that the ideal short story would capture the transitory vividness of life ‘to catch that moment’. This must have been further reinforced in Wellington by her reading of [. . .] The Book of Tea’.21
At the Japan-British exhibition there was a tea-house erected for visitors to witness authentic tea ceremonies and where, according to the official programme, ‘fair maidens of Nippon serve tea and dainties 44
Criticism to delighted visitors’.22 Okakura’s book was a popular purchase at the exhibition. He was a highly respected Japanese scholar who wrote in English and who helped to both promote and protect Japanese cultural heritage at this time. Outside of Japan he had an impact on a number of important figures, directly or indirectly, including the philosopher Martin Heidegger, Ezra Pound, and especially the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore. Under the guise of explaining the intricacies of the tea ceremony, Okakura presented philosophies from the Orient in a clear and concise manner. He was considered unquestionably a man of genius, one of the great historical scholars of the modern world. He knew the Orient as few men ever have, for he combined the sharp focus of the West with a native knowledge of Japan, Korea, China, and other lands. His knowledge of all branches of Oriental art was, for its day, unequalled.23
There are certainly resonances in Mansfield’s work to The Book of Tea. Taken at the most basic level, the word ‘tea’ itself occurs constantly in her creative writing, from the poem ‘Camomile Tea’ to the short story ‘A Cup of Tea’, and there are other, more general Eastern influences discernable as well: ‘M-madam’, stammered the voice. ‘Would you let me have the price of a cup of tea?’ ‘A cup of tea?’ There was something simple, sincere in that voice; it wasn’t in the least the voice of a beggar. ‘Then have you no money at all?’ asked Rosemary. ‘None, madam,’ came the answer.24
There are further oriental influences in this story: And ‘There!’ cried Rosemary again, as they reached her beautiful big bedroom with the curtains drawn, the fire leaping on her wonderful lacquer furniture, her gold cushions and the primrose and blue rugs.25
In the story ‘Je ne parle pas français’, there are references to tea and the Orient: For Mouse was beautiful. She was exquisite, but so fragile and fine that each time I looked at her it was as if for the first time. She came upon you with the same kind of shock that you feel when you have been drinking tea out of a thin innocent cup and suddenly, at the bottom, you see a tiny creature, half butterfly, half woman, bowing to you with her hands in her sleeves.26
Consider this episode from ‘Germans at Meat’: ‘Ah, that’s one thing I can do,’ said I, laughing brightly, ‘I can make very good tea. The great secret is to warm the teapot.’
Katherine Mansfield and Russia ‘Warm the teapot,’ interrupted the Herr Rat, pushing away his soup plate. ‘What do you warm the teapot for? Ha! ha! that’s very good! One does not eat the teapot, I suppose?’ He fixed his cold blue eyes upon me with an expression which suggested a thousand premeditated invasions. ‘So that is the great secret of your English tea? All you do is to warm the teapot.’ I wanted to say that was only the preliminary canter, but could not translate it, and so was silent.27
From ‘Bliss’: And, Alice, don’t put that dreadful old pink and green cosy on the afternoon teapot again. That is only for the mornings. Really, I think it ought to be kept for the kitchen – it’s so shabby, and quite smelly. Put on the Japanese one.28
From ‘Psychology’: ‘Have a cigarette? I’ll put the kettle on. Are you longing for tea?’ ‘No. Not longing.’ ‘Well, I am.’ ‘Oh, you.’ He thumped the Armenian cushion and flung on to the sommier. ‘You are a perfect little Chinee.’ ‘Yes, I am,’ she laughed. ‘I long for tea as strong men long for wine.’ She lighted the lamp under its broad orange shade, pulled the curtains and drew up the tea table. Two birds sang in the kettle; the fire fluttered [. . .] while she shook the teapot hot and dry over the spirit flame.29
From ‘Second Violin’: She had just drunk three large cups of really boiling tea. Surely, they ought to have warmed her. One always read in books of people going on their way warmed and invigorated by even one cup. And she had had three! How she loved her tea! She was getting fonder and fonder of it. Stirring the cup, Miss Bray looked down. A little fond smile parted her lips, and she breathed tenderly, ‘I love my tea.’30
The list is endless. Kimonos are everywhere too: (‘The Garden Party’:) Jose, the butterfly, always came down in a silk petticoat and a kimono jacket.31 (‘Revelations’:) She took off the white kimono. She didn’t want to look at herself any more.32 (‘Je ne parle pas français’:) I wore a blue kimono embroidered with white birds and my hair was still wet; it lay on my forehead, wet and gleaming.33
Even in her personal writing, there is ‘tea’, constantly: 46
Criticism At one o’clock I called L. M. & she went down & made some tea. Bogey, in my home I shall always have the things for tea in my room, so that in the middle of the night I can brew a cup. Mr. Salteena’s thrill for tea in bed I feel for tea in the middle of the night. Ten years ago I used to have tea and brown bread & butter every morning at half past two.34
If we take the term ‘ten years ago’ to be a loose time definition, then we can see that it was almost ten years before writing the above, in the summer of 1910, that she had been at the Japan-British exhibition, immersed in Noguchi and Okakura, from whence what might be termed her ‘obsession’ with tea and the Japonisme element in her work really took off. Elements can be seen in earlier pieces, such as ‘Germans at Meat’, published in March 1910 but written in 1909, attesting to earlier immersions into Japanese literature and culture as noted above. The Book of Tea, however, was more to Mansfield than just a celebration of the art of tea-drinking. Reading the book, one is struck by words, phrases, passages, which seemingly connect with Mansfield’s own life and which she may have used as inspiration in her own writing, consciously or not. Take for example, The Book of Tea: Those of us who know not the secret of properly regulating our own existence on this tumultuous sea of foolish troubles which we call life are constantly in a state of misery while vainly trying to appear happy and contented. We stagger in the attempt to keep our moral equilibrium, and see forerunners of the tempest in every cloud that floats on the horizon. Yet there is joy and beauty in the roll of billows as they sweep outward toward eternity. Why not enter into their spirit, or, like Lieh Tsû, ride upon the hurricane itself?35
In 1920, in a letter to Murry, Mansfield wrote almost the very same thing, in her own words: Everything has its shadow. Is it right to resist such suffering? Do you know I feel it has been an immense privilege. Yes, in spite of all. How blind we little creatures are! Darling, its only the fairy tales we really live by. [. . .] It has taken me three years to understand this – to come to see this. We resist – we are terribly frightened. The little boat enters the dark fearful gulf and our only cry is to escape – ‘put me on land again.’ But its useless. Nobody listens. The shadowy figure rows on. One ought to sit still and uncover one’s eyes.36
Uncovering one’s eyes can lead to epiphanic moments in Mansfield’s fiction, consisting of manifestations which go on to produce a profound realisation, perceived by the reader though not necessarily by the characters themselves; as Dominic Head points out, ‘the resulting 47
Katherine Mansfield and Russia ambiguity often reveals the point of her art’.37 Where the character is in a percipient state, then the emphasis moves towards more of a spiritual experience, or to use her own words, the ‘blazing moment’: If we are not to look for facts and events in a novel – and why should we? – we must be very sure of finding those central points of significance transferred to the endeavours and emotions of the human beings portrayed [. . .] The crisis, then, is the chief of our ‘central points of significance’ and the endeavours and the emotions are stages on our journey towards or away from it. For without it, the form of the novel, as we see it is lost. Without it, how are we to appreciate, the importance of ‘one spiritual event’ rather than another? What is to prevent each being unrelated – complete in itself – if the gradual unfolding in growing, gaining light is not to be followed by one blazing moment?38
One item I discovered in the Alexander Turnbull Library in 2013 (amongst the then recently acquired archive of John Middleton Murry material) was a framed poem (a gift for Mansfield’s birthday in 1918) – ‘Reading the Book of Hills & Seas’ – by T’ao Ch’ien (ad 365–427), where the ancient poet catalogues the joys of summer – green grass, trees, birds and spring wine, gentle rain, solitude and a good book: In the month of June the grass grows high And round my cottage thick-leaved branches sway. There is not a bird but delights in the place where it rests: And I too – love my thatched cottage. I have done my ploughing: I have sown my seed. Again I have time to sit and read my books. In the narrow lane there are no deep ruts: Often my friends’ carriages turn back. In high spirits I pour out my spring wine And pluck the lettuce growing in my garden. A gentle rain comes stealing up from the east And a sweet wind bears it company. My thoughts float idly over the story of King Chow My eyes wander over the pictures of Hills & Seas. At a single glance I survey the whole Universe. He will never be happy whom such pleasures fail to please.39
If we needed more evidence of Mansfield’s fondness for Eastern mysticism, here it is. By February 1918 of course, Mansfield had suffered her first haemorrhage, and so, as her health deteriorated, her nomadic wandering began, in search of the right climate to assuage the symptoms of her tuberculosis. In February 1920, after an initial visit to the Italian Riviera, 48
Criticism she became ensconced in the Villa Flora in Menton, owned by her wealthy cousin Connie Beauchamp and Beauchamp’s friend, Jinnie Fullerton. Here she was cosseted and surrounded by luxuries such as she had not experienced in a long while. Beauchamp and Fullerton hoped for a Catholic convert for their troubles, and at one point it looked as if they might get their wish, but ultimately Mansfield realised she had ‘no use for the “personal deity” of the Catholic Church’. One should also remember that Mansfield was driven not so much by sales figures as by a search for health and a resolve to cheat the early death everyone predicted for her. As a result, like D. H. Lawrence, who also spent his life on the move, in part seeking respite for his tuberculosis, she never lost the talent for taking pleasure in simple things. The year 1922 was transformed for Mansfield by the reading of a book entitled Cosmic Anatomy and the Structure of the Ego (1921) whose Eastern mystic philosophy she wholeheartedly embraced; the book made her all the more determined to seek a spiritual cure for her diseased body, since physical cures had proved worthless. In January 1922, from Switzerland, she wrote in her notebook: I have read a good deal of Cosmic Anatomy – understood it far better. Yes, such a book does fascinate me. [. . .] To get even a glimpse of the relation of things, to follow that relation & find it remains true through the ages enlarges my little mind as nothing else does.40
On finishing the book, she wrote to her friend Violet Schiff that she had ‘passed through a state of awful depression [. . .] But I see my way now, I think. What saved me finally was reading a book called Cosmic Anatomy, and reflecting on it.’41 I also believe that as she read the book, its title – subconsciously, or even consciously – was reminding her of passages from The Book of Tea: To the Neo-Confucian mind the cosmic law was not reflected in the phenomenal world, but the phenomenal world was the cosmic law itself.42 The Tao is in the Passage rather than the Path. It is the spirit of Cosmic Change, – the eternal growth which returns upon itself to produce new forms. [my italics]43
The book Cosmic Anatomy, by ‘M. B. Oxon’, had been sent to Murry by A. R. Orage, Mansfield’s erstwhile editor at the New Age and on/off friend since 1910. As James Moore notes, the pseudonym was ‘a tribute to M. A. Oxon, the notable Victorian spirit medium, the Reverend W. Stainton Moses’.44 Alpers claims that by sending the book, Orage had ‘unwittingly intervened in her destiny’,45 but I would disagree. Orage had been a theosophist for many years, with interests also in mystical 49
Katherine Mansfield and Russia literature, Nietzsche and the insights of the Mahabharata. One of his earliest publications was Consciousness: Animal, Human and Superhuman, published by the Theosophical Society in 1907. ‘M. B. Oxon’ was in fact the pseudonym of Dr Lewis Alexander Richard Wallace, a Scottish theosophist who had made a good deal of money sheep farming in New Zealand and who went on to fund Orage by giving him half the amount needed (£500) to purchase the New Age in 1907 (with Bernard Shaw volunteering the other £500). In return, Orage indulged Wallace and allowed him to publish his theosophical articles in the magazine. In addition, Beatrice Hastings, Orage’s partner at this time, was also a theosophist. Moore disappointingly observes: ‘History unfortunately leaves us no record of any four-handed conversation by Orage, Beatrice, Katherine and that good grey goose Dr Wallace.’46 As well as immersing herself in all things oriental, from her first meeting with Orage in February 1910 through to the end of 1911, Mansfield now became part of the close-knit theosophical community surrounding Orage and Hastings. It is surely likely then that the main benefactor of the paper and regular contributor, Dr Wallace, would have crossed her path. Thus the author of Cosmic Anatomy would have been almost certainly known to her, though not to Murry. There is another – earlier – theosophical connection. In 1912, Mansfield had written a poem for Ida Baker called ‘The Secret’,47 ‘inscribing it’, as the latter notes, ‘inside the cover of a small book of occult wisdom, which was always one of my treasures’.48 This book was a little theosophical volume called Light on the Path and Karma, written by Mabel Collins in 1886, and clearly a favourite of Mansfield’s in 1912. Its original subtitle was: ‘a treatise written for the personal use of those who are ignorant of the eastern wisdom and who desire to enter within its influence’ – further evidence of Mansfield’s early attraction to eastern mysticism. Almost a year before reading Cosmic Anatomy, on 9 February 1921, after a long period of estrangement, Mansfield had written a letter to Orage from the Villa Isola Bella in Menton: Dear Orage, This letter has been on the tip of my pen for many months. I want to tell you how sensible I am of your wonderful unfailing kindness to me in the ‘old days.’ And to thank you for all you let me learn from you. I am still – more shame to me – very low down in the school. But you taught me to write, you taught me to think; you showed me what there was to be done and what not to do. My dear Orage, I cannot tell you how often I call to mind your conversation or how often, in writing, I remember my master. Does that sound impertinent? Forgive me if it does.
Criticism But let me thank you, Orage – Thank you for everything. If only one day I might write a book of stories good enough to ‘offer’ you . . . If I don’t succeed in keeping the coffin from the door you will know this was my ambition. Yours, in admiration and gratitude Katherine Mansfield I haven’t said a bit of what I want to say. This letter sounds as if it was written by a screw driver, and I wanted it to sound like an admiring, respectful, but warm piping beneath your windows. I’d like to send my love, too, if I wasn’t so frightened. K.M.49
Alpers notes that ‘Orage, on his death, was found to have kept very few personal papers, but this letter was among them, suggesting that for him, as well, it possessed a special significance.’50 In conversation with Orage, Ruth Mantz recalled the following exchange: ‘“The only letter from Katherine that I ever kept” Orage told me, “was this letter, which led to our meeting again, dated September 11th 1921. You may use it, but I would like to have it back.”’51 This letter comes just a few weeks after one of Mansfield’s most painful and depressing periods when she had discovered Murry’s affair with Princess Elizabeth Bibesco, resulting in a vituperative exchange of telegrams and letters between the unhappy couple. It stands out as Mansfield looking back from her present unhappy life, alone, sick, seemingly abandoned by Murry and searching out someone from her past who offered security at a point in her life when she had never felt so insecure. It is a letter written from a place of complete despair and a desire to reconnect and to perhaps forge a new direction for herself. It is almost certainly this letter that acts as the catalyst for Orage sending Wallace’s book to Switzerland a few months later. It also seems entirely possible that Orage deliberately sent the book to Murry, knowing that he would hate it and, understanding Mansfield’s contrary nature, that this would immediately make her curious to read it. Moore also concurs with this opinion: But why of all reviewers to Murry? Murry with his entrenched hostility to occult ideas? And if Katherine were the intended recipient, why not simply send it to her in the first place? Murry said he found the book’s gnostic speculations positively repellent mumbo jumbo. His scepticism only accentuated her enthusiasm.52
Orage played this point well. Keen for Mansfield to read the book, he nevertheless did not wish to be seen sending her things directly. Mansfield and Orage now kept up a secretive correspondence, with Mansfield giving him the code name ‘China’; for example, on Saturday 14 January 1922, she wrote in her notebook: ‘Posted my story to Pinker. 51
Katherine Mansfield and Russia Heard from China’.53 An unpublished draft letter to Orage, sent from the Chalet des Sapins, confirms her deep connection with the book: My dear Orage Whether I shall ever be able to say I have read your new book I do not know. I can foresee no change in my present condition of reading it and reading it.54
Arriving in London in August 1922, after a period of two years abroad in France and Switzerland, Mansfield had continued the Paris-based Russian doctor Manoukhin’s expensive X-ray treatment of the spleen, extolled as a cure for tuberculosis, with a London radiologist, Dr Webster. However, her confidence in his treatment being as effective as that of Manoukhin’s was not high, and she therefore sought to return to Paris in order to continue the treatment with Manoukhin himself. The treatment was expensive – and ultimately useless.55 Having completed her first sessions of radiation treatment in Paris earlier in 1922, she had then spent two months in Switzerland with Murry before returning with him to London on 17 August, she staying with Dorothy Brett in Hampstead, he ‘simply tagging along in misery’56 and lodging next door with Boris Anrep. During the month of September 1922, by which time Murry had escaped to Vivian Locke-Ellis’s house in Sussex, Mansfield actively sought out Orage. Both were now fascinated with the esoteric theories of Gurdjieff on which they attended lectures given by P. D. Ouspensky. Orage, who had been introduced to the ideas of Ouspensky by the poet F. S. Flint in 1911, had actually met the philosopher in 1913, and the two men corresponded thereafter. In 1919, Orage published Ouspensky’s ‘Letters from Russia’ in the New Age.57 Mansfield visited the London home of Ouspensky in order to obtain further details about Gurdjieff. Her intention was to return to Paris, not just to continue her treatment with Manoukhin, but with a notion of perhaps entering the community Gurdjieff was just then setting up – the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man – whose philosophy decreed that a cure for physical ailments such as tuberculosis depended first upon a healing of the inner spirit. Two days earlier, on 28 September, Orage had resigned his editorship of the New Age in preparation for a similar move. For Mansfield, now gravely ill, this spiritual approach seemed to offer a real possibility of an alternative cure for her tuberculosis, in addition to her radiation treatment. Thus she travelled alone to Paris, where on 3 October, on the advice of Orage, she consulted with Dr James Carruthers Young, a medical doctor and Gurdjieff adherent who was also an advocate of holistic medicine and ‘who gave her permission to apply to the Institute’.58 52
Criticism On 16 October 1922, Mansfield entered Gurdjieff’s Institute, initially on a fortnight’s trial, but soon becoming a permanent resident. After her death, Orage tried to analyse the impetus for Mansfield joining the Fontainebleau community: The real reason, and the only reason that led Katherine Mansfield to the Gurdjieff Institute was less dissatisfaction with her craftsmanship than dissatisfaction with herself; less dissatisfaction with her stories than with the attitude toward life implied in them; less dissatisfaction with her own and contemporary literature than with literature. [. . .] For she realised that it is not writing as writing that needs criticism, correction, and perfection, so much as the mind, character, and personality of the writer. One must become more to write better.59
For Mansfield, an entire attitude change towards her craft – a complete transformation – was needed. Orage recorded her conversations on this very subject: ‘I have not been able to think’, she said, ‘that I should not have made such observations as I have made of people, however cruel they may seem. After all, I did observe those things, and I had to set them down. I’ve been a camera. But that’s just the point. I’ve been a selective camera, and it has been my attitude that has determined the selection; with the result that my slices of life (thank you, Mr. Phillpotts!) have been partial, misleading, and a little malicious. Further, they have had no other purpose than to record my attitude, which in itself stood in need of change if it was to become active instead of passive. Altogether, I’ve been not only a mere camera, but I’ve been a selective camera, and a selective camera without a creative principle. And, like everything unconscious, the result has been evil.’ ‘Well, what is your new plan?’ ‘To widen first the scope of my camera, and then to employ it for a conscious purpose – that of representing life not merely as it appears to a certain attitude, but as it appears to another and different attitude, a creative attitude’.60
Murry, who in 1922 had not yet entered his own mystical phase, admitted: ‘I could scarcely bear to discuss the doctrines of Ouspensky with Katherine. The gulf between us was painful to us both; and living under the same roof became a kind of torture. I could not bear it.’61 And Mansfield wrote in a similar vein to Murry from Paris on 11 October, just before entering the Prieuré, thinking back to their time together in Menton: ‘I remember what we really felt there. The blanks, the silences, the anguish of continual misunderstanding. Were we positive, eager, real – alive? No, we were not. We were a nothingness shot with gleams of what might be.’62 53
Katherine Mansfield and Russia Gurdjieff was fifty-six when Mansfield arrived at the Prieuré in October 1922. He had been born in 1866 in Alexandropol, on the Russian-Turkish border. The experiences and special education to which he was exposed, as James Moore explains, imbued him with an irrepressible striving to understand clearly the precise significance of the life process on earth, of all the outward forms of breathing creatures and, in particular, of the aim of human life in the light of this interpretation. Gurdjieff believed that civilisation had thrown men and women out of balance, so that the physical, the emotional and the intellectual parts had ceased to work in accord. Twenty years of his life, from 1887– 1911, were spent in Central Asia, dedicated to a search for traditional knowledge. He started teaching in Moscow in 1912, but this work was disrupted by the First World War and the Russian Revolution. Together with the followers he had gathered over these years who had somehow managed to leave Bolshevik Russia, he arrived eventually in Paris. There had been plans to set up his Institute in London, but these had been cut short by the British authorities who suspected him of being a Russian spy. He arrived in Paris on 1 October 1922, having leased the Prieuré at Fontainebleau sight unseen. What precisely was Gurdjieff’s teaching? ‘“I teach,” he said gnomically, “that when it rains, the pavements get wet.” [. . .] His one constant demand is Know thyself [. . . his] one master-idea: that Man is called to strive for self-perfection, in service to our sacred living Universe.’63 This philosophy adheres remarkably closely to the koan and Zen teachings and would have seemed familiar to Mansfield. According to Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, the famous Indian philosopher and mystic, ‘George Gurdjieff [. . .] introduced the East to the West, without even mentioning it, without even claiming it – because the very claim that, “I have introduced Zen” comes from the ego. Gurdjieff never talked about Zen, and he was living Zen.’64 William Segal states: there is a profound connection between zen and the teaching of Gurdjieff, in that they both propose that only with tough disciplines and practice is it possible to relate to a ‘changeless self’. Theory without practice, words without an immediate connection to experience, is for followers of both Zen and Gurdjieff as fruitless as ‘pouring from the empty into the void’. Similarly for students of Gurdjieff, the dualistic separation of body and mind, the material and the spiritual, stuffing oneself with knowledge without developing corresponding being can only impede the circulation of life and lead to the destruction of the humanness of humanity.65
This was of course the conclusion Mansfield had come to on her own, with the aid of her reading of both Eastern mysticism and Cosmic 54
Criticism Anatomy. Mansfield would have perfectly understood when Dr Wallace concluded his book by stating: ‘We only attain confidence by giving up self-confidence, and restraint by giving up self-restraint. We cannot go to sleep by trying. So, too, we only get free will by renouncing self-will.’66 Copying from Cosmic Anatomy, Mansfield had written in her notebook at the end of February 1922: Do you know what individuality is? No. Consciousness of will. Conscious that you have a will and can act.67
Okakura, in the Book of Tea, had written: ‘We nurse a conscience because we are afraid to tell the truth to others; we take refuge in pride because we are afraid to tell the truth to ourselves.’68 And reaffirming this premise, in October 1922, Mansfield wrote: ‘Therefore if the Grand Lhama of Thibet promised to help you – how can you hesitate! Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinion of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth.’69 Olga Hinzenberg (known as Olgivanna), in her article recollecting Mansfield’s time in Fontainebleau, outlined the Prieuré’s beliefs and regime: But immortality is far beyond. Let us say we aim to be real: let the conscious ‘I’ be in the centre and there direct our actions harmoniously until we find the rhythm of Principle. But even this is far in the future. Just to be a completely developed human being, to have our mind, emotions, movement, body, mechanism, in well-proportioned order, is a difficult task. And most of us, indeed, are still far from even that. So this, in short, was our work in the Institute and we were reaching it by way of ordinary life: in the gardens, in the kitchen, doing housekeeping, farming, until the day’s work to keep up the Institute was done. In the evening we worked in movement, exercises, memorising, concentration. There were some, weak physically, who did very little; some who did nothing. They were only in touch with the ideas and life that interested them. To these latter belonged Katherine Mansfield.70
She also recorded Mansfield’s arrival in 1922: She stood in the doorway of our main dining-room and looked at all and at each with sharp, intense dark eyes. They burned with the desire and hunger for impressions. She wanted to sit down and eat with all the students, but someone called her to a different dining-room. [. . .] I told Gurdjieff what a lovely face she had and how much I liked her.71
Gurdjieff spoke very little English or French and his contact with Mansfield was limited. Nevertheless, as Moore states, she, like many 55
Katherine Mansfield and Russia others, ‘was magnetised not by a system of self-supportive notional abstractions, but by a human being of Rabelaisian stature, by the fine energies at his disposition, and by his empathy, his vision, his humour, and by his sheer quality of “being”.’72 In The Book of Tea, Okakura describes how [t]he organisation of the Zen monastery was very significant [. . .] the most respected and advanced monks were given the more irksome and menial tasks. Such services formed a part of the Zen discipline and every least action must be done absolutely perfectly. Thus many a weighty discussion ensued while weeding the garden, paring a turnip, or serving tea. The whole ideal of Teaism is a result of this Zen conception of greatness in the smallest incidents of life.73
At Gurdjieff’s Institute, this was exactly the regime on offer. Orage, for example, could be found digging a vegetable patch in frozen ground, and Mansfield wrote to Murry, not long after arriving, on 23 October 1922: ‘At present the entire Institute is devoted to manual work, getting this place in order, out and inside. Its not of course work for the sake of work. Every single thing one does has a purpose, is part of a “system”.’74 Mansfield’s initial arrival at the Institute was noted by several of the residents, one of whom, Tcheslaw Tchekhovitch, wrote: ‘one day in October, we did not really notice the appearance of a certain fraillooking woman. Yet, strangely enough, not long after she moved away we found ourselves talking about her during a break. “Who is she?” I asked. No one knew her.’75 Tchekhovitch’s recollection offers a revealing insight into how Mansfield was perceived by the Russian community there, a perspective that has not previously been cited by other scholars. Of her first few days at the Prieuré, he recorded: During the following days, she went from one group to another, apparently fascinated by our activities. Everywhere, her graciousness elicited the same welcoming response. She was often to be found in the kitchen when it was at its busiest, in the cowshed when the cows were being milked, and each morning in the barnyard scattering the grain with a delicate hand. We bent over backwards to please her and make her life easier. Often it was my job to carry wood up to her room, where we kept a fire burning day and night. Not to make her feel a burden, we were careful to bring the wood when she was not there. Her room was on the second floor, next to Mr. Gurdjieff’s. An especially peaceful atmosphere suffused this beautiful room, with its large window looking out over the gardens.76
Many Mansfield scholars have speculated as to the reasons why Gurdjieff allowed Mansfield to join his Institute when it was obvious she was dying. In the end it was probably an act of charity for which he 56
Criticism received little recognition. There is no other reason to account for his choice in allowing someone with only weeks to live to enter the Prieuré, knowing that the death of a famous English writer at his Institute, so soon after its opening, would certainly not aid his cause in any way – indeed would lay himself and his institution open to denigration. As Ouspensky said, many years later: ‘G. was very kind to her, he did not insist upon her going although it was clear that she could not live. For this in the course of time he received the due amount of lies and slanders.’77 Two of his followers were medically qualified doctors, so there could be no doubt as to the true state of Mansfield’s health. Claire Tomalin also agrees: ‘All the evidence suggests that he was behaving kindly towards a woman who was clearly dying; there was little question of any cure being offered.’78 In fact, Tchekhovitch offers a startling revelation in his recollections: that Gurdjieff, fearing for the reputation of his newly-founded Institute, had in fact wanted Mansfield to leave: One day, after Mr. Gurdjieff had just left for Paris, as he did regularly, I noticed that Katherine’s demeanour had changed: she looked overwhelmed, as if everything in her had slowed down. ‘Bonjour, Katya. How are you?’ ‘Bonjour, Tchekhovitch.’ Her voice was subdued; its tone had changed. She took her usual place and watched us working with a far-away look in her eyes. Suddenly, she put her head in her hands and began to weep. I went over to her and put my hand on her shoulder. ‘What’s wrong, Katya?’ ‘It’s nothing.’ Then she added, ‘I’m very unhappy.’ I insisted on knowing what was tormenting her. ‘Well,’ she said sorrowfully, ‘Gyorgi Ivanovitch doesn’t want me to stay here any longer. He’s asked me to leave.’ ‘And what about you? What do you want?’ ‘I want to stay here. I’m so happy among all of you.’ ‘Then why is Gyorgi Ivanovitch asking you to leave?’ ‘He wants me to go to a sanatorium. I’m quite ill, you see. I have tuberculosis and I don’t have much longer to live. I want so much to stay here until the end. Here, I’ve found what I’ve been seeking for a long time. I don’t want to be anywhere else, with people I don’t know. I want to stay here with all of you. But I think that he doesn’t want me to die here.’ I was so taken aback by this unexpected confession that, at first, I could not think of anything to say to her. But I could not keep silent. A strange determination came over me on her behalf: not to give up, not to lose hope. I could not believe Gyorgi Ivanovitch would refuse to let her stay at the Prieuré if she expressed her wish sincerely, from the depths of her being. Gently, I spoke my mind. ‘You know as well as I that Gyorgi Ivanovitch is a good man. He won’t refuse, if you speak to him frankly.’ Then, wanting to provide her with a request he could not turn down, I added, ‘Don’t just ask to stay. Tell him it’s the only way for you to find true happiness.’ [. . .] I learned later that Katherine Mansfield’s request had put Mr Gurdjieff in a very difficult position. At first he had been reluctant. ‘If she dies here, just imagine
Katherine Mansfield and Russia what malicious gossip will ensue – another pretext for slander. They are bound to say that we were the cause of her premature death.’ This was the essence of Mr Gurdjieff’s realistic and somewhat bitter remarks with Mme de Salzmann, Mrs Frank Lloyd Wright, and Mme Chaverdian who had begged him to agree to Katherine’s request. These women were not easily put off. ‘Gyorgi Ivanovitch, people have already said plenty of scandalous things about you, so one more isn’t going to make much difference! We’ll share that burden with you.’ ‘All right, then,’ he said, looking at them intently. ‘So be it. We’ll all bear it together!’79
Thus it was that Gurdjieff and his followers, having accepted that the terminally ill Mansfield would die at the Institute, went out of their way to help her; two women, Olgivanna and a young Lithuanian girl, Adèle Kafian, who spoke no English, were tasked with looking after her. In her own personal recollections of Mansfield, Adèle described the cowshed balcony expressly made for the writer, on Gurdjieff’s orders, since the exhalations of cows were believed to aid tuberculosis sufferers: On the leader’s instructions, a special balcony was constructed for her in the cowshed, for rest, or, perhaps, to renew her strength through the radiation of animal magnetism, or perhaps simply for the healthy smell of fresh manure. It was a tiny wooden balcony, artistically designed, with a small staircase of five or six steps, surrounded by a balustrade gilded in Eastern style. The floor was covered with mattresses and real Eastern rugs. Cushions and round pouffes, covered with coloured tapestry, invited one to rest and gaze at the ceiling, cleverly painted by our talented artist with all kinds of birds, insects and little animals hiding among fanciful branches. Among them one could detect caricatures of all the inmates of the house. Under the balcony stood our three cows and the mule, Drafit. When my turn came to work for a week in the cowshed, I gave special care to the little balcony; I decorated the staircase with leaves and branches, and used to sit and wait for Mrs. Murry.80
The artist in question was Alexandre de Salzmann; in the mural, Orage was depicted as an elephant.81 Mansfield’s initial impressions of Gurdjieff were mixed: ‘Mr Gurdjieff is not in the least like what I expected. Hes what one wants to find him, really. But I do feel absolutely confident he can put me on the right track in every way.’82 Indeed, by 12 November she was writing: Here, I confess, after only five weeks, there are things I long to write! Oh, how I long to! But I shall not for a long time. Nothing is ready. I must wait until la maison est pleine. I must say the dancing here has given me quite a different approach to writing. I mean some of the very ancient oriental dances. There is one which takes about 7 minutes and it contains the
Criticism whole life of woman – but everything! Nothing is left out. It taught me, it gave me more of woman’s life than any book or poem. There was even room for Flaubert’s Cœur Simple in it.83
Although Orage was kept busy with manual labour tasks, he nevertheless sought out Mansfield’s company whenever he could: I saw Katherine Mansfield almost every day in the institute, and we had many long talks together. For months she was quite content not to be writing or even reading. We had a common surprise in contrasting our current attitude towards literature with the craze we had both experienced for many years. What has come over us? she would ask whimsically. Are we dead? Or was our love of literature an affectation, which had now dropped off like a mask? Every now and then, on the other hand, a return of the old enthusiasm would be experienced. She would begin a story and confide to me that she was rather enjoying the thrill of writing again. The following day she had torn it up, quite cheerfully, and with a grimace of humour. Premature delivery!84
Ouspensky, too, was touched ‘by the striving in her to make the best use even of these last days, to find the truth whose presence she clearly felt but which she was unable to touch’.85 Mansfield told him: I know that this is true and that there is no other truth. You know that I have long since looked upon all of us without exception as people who have suffered shipwreck and have been cast upon an uninhabited island, but who do not yet know of it. But these people here know it. The others, there, in life, still think that a steamer will come for them tomorrow and that everything will go on in the old way. These already know that there will be no more of the old way. I am so glad that I can be here.86
At Mansfield’s invitation, Murry came out to Fontainebleau to see her on 9 January 1923. The day before, two of the residents, Jessmin Howarth and her daughter, Dushka, helped her to get her room ready: We [. . .] had opportunities to talk with Katherine Mansfield who would sit on the stairs in her red jacket, and with wonder and laughter, go over some of the esoteric conversation that had taken place at [. . .] table. We were glad that we had gone into her room and had given it a ‘spring cleaning’ before her husband was to arrive from England. She died the next day.87
A handwritten note by another Gurdjieff disciple describes Mansfield’s last few hours: Katherine Mansfield sat in the study-house for over an hour listening to the music, looking happier than I had ever remembered, holding her
Katherine Mansfield and Russia husband’s hand. It was unusual for her to stay up so late, she was especially anxious to have J. M. M. hear the music which she enjoyed so much. We all felt she had used too much energy, was too excited and overtaxed her strength.88
On the evening of Murry’s arrival, whilst excitedly climbing the wide wooden staircase up to her room with him, she suffered a massive haemorrhage and died. After her death, Tchekhovitch recorded that ‘Her absence left a great emptiness, which was felt by us all. For a long time I was haunted by the image of her face, especially her radiant expression as she sat, in perfect stillness, watching us practise the sacred dances.’89 Mansfield is buried in the communal cemetery at Avon, near Fontainebleau, a few feet away from Gurdjieff himself, and, in a strange twist of fate, next to the railway line carrying trains from Paris to the Mediterranean; how many times, unwittingly, Mansfield had sped past the place where she would ultimately be buried. Mansfield was happy at Fontainebleau, that much is clear from her letters, notebooks and the testimonials of many of the other inhabitants of the Prieuré. After her death, and with initial stereotyping by the French critics, which thus instigated the process of hagiography, she was assigned, as Moore states, ‘the sheepish role of wronged woman to Gurdjieff’s predatory male’.90 From all we know of Mansfield and her determined personality, together with the above recollections, this scenario is impossible to countenance. Nevertheless, following her death, many people who had known her were swift to condemn the Institute and its adherents, some even whilst she was actually there. For example, Vivienne Eliot wrote to Ezra Pound in Paris in reply to his request to know the whereabouts of Lady Rothermere: ‘She is now in that asylum for the insane known as La [sic] Prieuré where she does religious dances naked with Katherine Mansfield.’91 D. H. Lawrence’s judgement on the affair sums up the general view of the literary establishment at that time: ‘I have heard enough about that place at Fontainebleau where Katherine Mansfield died, to know it is a rotten, false, self-conscious place of people playing a sickly stunt.’92 Her early biographers and critics were mystified by her decision; Ian Gordon, for example, claims that ‘[t]he final scenes of faith-healing under the guidance of a crazy Russian [. . .] can hardly be the basis of a fair judgement either of her real quality or of her view of life.’93 Before her death, in one of her last conversations with Orage at the Institute, Mansfield told him: There are in life as many aspects as attitudes toward it; and aspects change with attitudes. At present we see life, generally speaking, in only a passive
Criticism aspect because we bring only a passive attitude to bear upon it. Could we change our attitude, we should not only see life differently, but life itself would come to be different. Life would undergo a change of appearance because we ourselves had undergone a change in attitude. I’m aware, for example, of a recent change of attitude in myself: and at once not only my old stories have come to look different to me, but life itself looks different. I could not write my old stories again, or any more like them: and not because I do not see the same detail as before, but because somehow or other the pattern is different. The old details now make another pattern; and this perception of a new pattern is what I call a creative attitude toward life.94
Orage died on 6 Nov 1934, aged 61. Inscribed on his gravestone at Hampstead Churchyard are the following words, which encapsulate his theosophical principles: Thou grievest for those that should not be grieved for The wise grieve neither for the living nor for the dead Never at any time was I not nor thou nor these princes of men Nor shall we ever cease to be hereafter The unreal has no being The real never ceases to be
Mansfield’s own inscription on her upright headstone reads: ‘Wife of John Middleton Murry’; on a flat footstone below is inscribed: ‘Out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety’, from Henry IV Part 1: II, 3. Of the two, it seems Orage was much better served on his tombstone than Mansfield. Gurdjieff himself, buried near to Mansfield in the graveyard at Avon, seemingly never forgot his brief visitor. On 26 August 1949, in conversation with Gurdjieff just a few months before his death, Elizabeth Bennett recorded: When Mr G[urdjieff] was talking tonight about Katherine Mansfield, Mme de S[alzmann] told him that they have put up a plaque in her memory on the Prieuré wall, ‘but not yet to M. Gurdjieff’. [. . .] There was one unexpected moment [during the toasts to the idiots, a ritual of sorts at Gurdjieff’s table]. At Hopeless Idiots, Cathleen’s was the only toast, and when I drank her health, Mr G. pricked his ears and said, ‘Who? Where?’ Mme de S. pointed to Cathleen and he said, ‘Oh. I thought you said Katherine Mansfield. She my friend. But she die. So I astonished what you repeat that name. She my good friend.’95
This essay has attempted to paint a picture of a young writer whose experiences emboldened her, made her take risks, opened her up to the new, the different, always in her life seeking untrodden paths, with, 61
Katherine Mansfield and Russia I would like to suggest, a copy of The Book of Tea deep in her subconscious, perhaps deep in her pocket – who knows? – to draw upon in the formation of philosophies to the end of her all too brief life. Moreover, Mansfield died in a Russian community, which undoubtedly gave her intense pleasure in those last few weeks of her life. Nevertheless, it is perhaps fitting to leave the final word to Okakura: Meanwhile, let us have a sip of tea. The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are bubbling with delight, the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle. Let us dream of evanescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things.96 Notes I should like to express my thanks to Roger Lipsey for alerting me to the recollections of Tcheslaw Tchekhovitch, Elizabeth Bennett and Jessmin and Dushka Howarth. (A much shorter version of this essay, titled ‘Tea, Zen and “Cosmic Anatomy”: The Mysticism of Katherine Mansfield’, was first published in the Turnbull Library Record, 48, 2016.) 1. Ruth Mantz, ‘K.M. – fifty years after’, Adam International Review, 38 (1972), pp. 117–27 (p. 121). 2. Gerri Kimber, Katherine Mansfield: The View from France (Bern: Peter Lang, 2008). 3. CW4, p. 92. 4. ‘M. B. Oxon’, Cosmic Anatomy and the Structure of the Ego (London: John M. Watkins, 1921). 5. CW4, p. 434. 6. Antony Alpers, The Life of Katherine Mansfield (London: Jonathan Cape, 1980), p. 118. 7. Kakuzo Okakura, The Book of Tea (New York: Fox Duffield and Company, 1906). 8. Kathleen Jones, Katherine Mansfield: The Storyteller (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010), p. 17. 9. ‘Tea Life: Zen and Tea’, http://www.holymtn.com/tea/TeaLifeZenTea.htm (accessed 14 February 2017). 10. Mikael Zaurov, ‘The Way of Tea’, http://www.teamuse.com/article_100601.html (accessed 14 February 2017). 11. There is a curious coincidence here: the first volume of the autobiography of John Middleton Murry’s son Colin is titled One Hand Clapping. Colin Middleton Murry, One Hand Clapping: A Memoir of Childhood (London: Victor Gollancz, 1975). 12. Yone Noguchi, The American Diary of a Japanese Girl (New York: Frederick A. Stokes, 1902). 13. For further details on Mansfield and Rhythm see Gerri Kimber, ‘Mansfield, Rhythm and the Émigré Connection’, in Janet Wilson, Gerri Kimber and Sue Reid (eds), Katherine Mansfield and Literary Modernism (London: Continuum, 2011), pp. 13–29. 14. William Orton, The Last Romantic (New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1937), p. 270. 15. Cited in Alpers, Life, p. 119. 16. Letters, 1, p. 232. 17. J. Lawrence Mitchell, ‘Katherine Mansfield and the Aesthetic Object’, Journal of New Zealand Literature, 22 (2004), pp. 31–54 (p. 48). 18. Guy Morris, ‘In Memory of . . . Katherine Mansfield’, New Zealand Railways Magazine, 13:7 (1 October 1938), pp. 25–9 (p. 27).
Criticism 19. Anne Olivier Bell (ed.), The Diary of Virginia Woolf, Vol. II, 1920–1924 (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978), p. 226. 20. Mitchell, ‘Katherine Mansfield and the Aesthetic Object’, p. 50. 21. Gillian Boddy, Katherine Mansfield: A ‘Do You Remember’ Life (Wellington: Victoria University Press, with the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace Society, Inc.), pp. 44–5. 22. Amanda Herries, Japanese Gardens in Britain (Princes Risborough: Shire Publications), p. 21. 23. Everett F. Bleiler (ed.), The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura (New York: Dover, 2010), p. xvii. 24. CW2, p. 463. 25. CW2, p. 464. 26. CW2, p. 126. 27. CW1, p. 165. 28. CW2, p. 84. 29. CW2, pp. 193–4. 30. CW2, p. 391. 31. CW2, p. 401. 32. CW2, p. 216. 33. CW2, p. 122. 34. Letters, 3, p. 123 (26 November 1919). 35. Okakura, Book of Tea, p. 67. 36. Letters, 4, p. 75 (18 October 1920). 37. Dominic Head, The Modernist Short Story: A Study in Theory and Practice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 110. 38. CW3, p. 550. Review of Heritage by Vita Sackville West, titled ‘A Novel Without a Crisis’. 39. MS-Papers-21326-091, Murry Family Collection. Inscribed: ‘Katherine’s birthday 1918’. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ. 40. CW4, p. 399. 41. Letters, 5, p. 8 (c. 8 January 1922). 42. Okakura, Book of Tea, p. 15. 43. Ibid. p. 20. 44. James Moore, Gurdjieff and Mansfield (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980), p. 130. 45. Alpers, Life, p. 353. 46. Moore, Gurdjieff and Mansfield, p. 88. 47. In the profoundest Ocean There is a rainbow shell, It is always there, shining most stilly Under the great storm waves And under the happy little waves That the old Greeks called ‘ripples of laughter’. And you listen, the rainbow shell Sings – in the profoundest ocean. It is always there, singing most silently!
Gerri Kimber and Claire Davison (eds), The Collected Poetry of Katherine Mansfield (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016), p. 100. 48. Ida Baker, Katherine Mansfield: The Memories of L.M. (London: Michael Joseph, 1971), p. 68.
Katherine Mansfield and Russia 49. Letters, 4, p. 177 (9 February 1921). 50. Alpers, Life, p. 325. 51. Ruth Mantz, ‘In Consequence: Katherine and Kot’, Adam International Review, 38 (1972), pp. 95–107 (p. 103). 52. Moore, Gurdjieff and Mansfield, p. 130. 53. CW4, p. 404. 54. MS-Papers-11326-005. Unfinished letter by Katherine Mansfield. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ. 55. For a detailed examination of this period of Mansfield’s life, see Galya Diment, ‘Katherine Mansfield’s Russian Healers’, in Claire Davison and Gerri Kimber (eds), Katherine Mansfield’s French Lives (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2015), pp. 40–57. 56. Alpers, Life, p. 369. 57. See Paul Beekman Taylor, Gurdjieff and Orage: Brothers in Elysium (York Beach, ME: Weiser Books, 2001), p. 16. 58. Ibid. p. 26. 59. A. R. Orage, ‘Talks with Katherine Mansfield at Fontainebleau’, Century Magazine, 109, November 1994, pp. 36–40 (pp. 36–7). 60. Ibid. p. 38. 61. Quoted in F. A. Lea, The Life of John Middleton Murry (London: Methuen, 1959), pp. 90–1. 62. Letters, 5, p. 294 (11 October 1922). 63. James Moore, ‘Gurdjieff: The Man and the Literature’, Gurdjieff International Review, Fall 1998 Issue, Vol. II (1), http://www.gurdjieff.org/moore1.htm (accessed 14 February 2017). 64. Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, ‘Hari Om Tat Sat: The Divine Sound That is the Truth’, http://www.osho.com/iosho/library/read-book/online-library-gurdjieff-durkheim-europe-2aa87c2a-68b?p=7deea1384506fde3df4bf06239154804 (accessed 14 February 2017). 65. William Segal, ‘The Patriarch Goes West’, in Jacob Needleman and George Baker (eds), Gurdjieff: Essays and Reflections on the Man and His Teachings (New York: Continuum, 1996), pp. 425–6. 66. Cosmic Anatomy, p. 257. 67. CW4, pp. 426–7. 68. Okakura, Book of Tea, p. 22. 69. CW4, p. 434. 70. Olgivanna, ‘The Last Days of Katherine Mansfield’, Bookman, 73, March 1931, pp. 6–13 (p. 6). 71. Ibid. p. 6. 72. James Moore, ‘Katherine Mansfield and Gurdjieff’s Sacred Dance’, in Roger Robinson (ed.), Katherine Mansfield: In From the Margin (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1994), pp. 189–200 (p. 191). 73. Okakura, Book of Tea, pp. 28–9. 74. Letters, 5, p. 308 (23 October 1922). 75. Michel de Salzmann and Serge Gautier d’Orier (eds), Gurdjieff: A Master in Life. Recollections of Tcheslaw Tchekhovitch (Toronto: Dolmen Meadow Editions, 2006), p. 77. 76. Ibid. p. 79. 77. P. D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous (London: Routledge, 1950), p. 386. 78. Claire Tomalin, Katherine Mansfield: A Secret Life (London: Viking, 1987), p. 233.
Criticism 79. De Salzmann and d’Orier, Gurdjieff, p. 80. 80. Adèle Kafian, ‘Looking Back to the Last Days of Katherine Mansfield’ (trans. from the Russian by R. Bernstein), Adelphi, October–December 1946, pp. 36–9 (p. 37). 81. See Taylor, Gurdjieff and Orage, p. 30. 82. Letters, 5, p. 306 (21 October 1922). 83. Letters, 5, p. 322 (12 November 1922). 84. Orage, ‘Talks’, p. 37. 85. Cited in Moore, Gurdjieff and Mansfield, p. 139. 86. Cited in ibid. p. 152. 87. Jessmin Howarth and Dushka Howarth, ‘It’s Up to Ourselves’: A Mother, a Daughter and Gurdjieff – A Shared Memoir and Family Photo Album (New York: Gurdjieff Heritage Society, 2009), pp. 66–7. 88. Private recollection, private collection. 89. De Salzmann and d’Orier, Gurdjieff, p. 83. 90. Moore, ‘Katherine Mansfield and Gurdjieff’s Sacred Dance’, p. 199. 91. Taylor, Gurdjieff and Orage, p. 26. 92. Cited in Moore, Gurdjieff and Mansfield, p. 3. 93. Ian Gordon, Katherine Mansfield, Writers and Their Work, No. 49 (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1954), p. 29. 94. Orage, ‘Talks’, p. 39. 95. Elizabeth Bennett (ed.), Idiots in Paris: Diaries of J. G. Bennett and Elizabeth Bennett, 1949 (Daglingworth: Coombe Springs Press, 1980), p. 43. 96. Okakura, Book of Tea, p. 9.
Near Misses: From Gerhardi to Mansfield (and back), via Anton Chekhov Claire Davison
‘Ach, Tchekov! Why are you dead! Why can’t I talk to you – in a big, darkish room – at late evening – where the light is green from the waving trees outside.’1 This heartfelt diary entry from July 1918 is a perfect example of Katherine Mansfield’s five-year-long ‘dialogue with Chekhov that runs through her letters and notebooks’ until the end of her life.2 It was a dialogue fuelled by voraciously reading the volumes of Chekhov’s short stories in Constance Garnett’s translations as they were published; attending and reviewing Vera Donnet’s production of The Cherry Orchard;3 embarking on extensive translations of Chekhov’s letters and a biographical note in collaboration with S. S. Koteliansky, with whom she was also discussing details of the writer’s life, convictions and poetics; reading his stories and plays aloud in the evenings; following the development of her husband John Middleton Murry’s critical writings on Chekhov, which included acrimoniously taking him to task whenever she disagreed with his sentimental or metaphysical approach;4 and imaginatively identifying with Chekhov and recreating her life through his, especially throughout the months at the Gurdjieff Institute.5 Inspirational and imaginatively present in her life as he was, Chekhov, who had died in 1904, could not respond to this ongoing, dialogicallyconstrued conversation.6 A letter that arrived out of the blue on 17 June 1921 was arguably the next best thing. It occasioned a fruitful renewal and redefinition of Mansfield’s dialogue with Chekhov and prompted possibly the most insightful and vibrant epistolary exchange of her last years. The letter was from a certain William Gerhardi,7 an undergraduate reading Russian literature at Worcester College, Oxford, whose deferential tone only partially restrains his delight at discovering a new writer: 66
Criticism Dear Miss Mansfield, I hope you won’t mind if I write to tell you how extremely beautiful I think your story is. I am speaking of ‘The Daughters of the Late Colonel’. I have only just read it, and I have never read anything of yours before. I think it is, and in particular the last long paragraph towards the end, of a quite amazing beauty. The restraint [. . .] leaves me breathless. I hope you won’t think it presumptuous on my part to point out to you these qualities in your own work [. . .]8
Doubtless longing for a response from a writer he esteemed, he struck just the right chord by drawing a parallel between Mansfield’s ‘Daughters’ and Chekhov’s ‘Sisters’: ‘I don’t remember ever reading anything so intolerably real – stifling – since “The Three Sisters”.’ Gerhardi’s closing note suggests there was more to his enthusiasm than mere admiration. There is a finely veiled suggestion that, via her story and Chekhov, he has recognised a kindred spirit:9 ‘Please don’t be angry with me for writing to you, but really I don’t see why you shouldn’t know, or even be glad to know, that that which had moved you to write this story has also moved another, in probably very much the same way.’10 It just so happened that the young admirer was set to become ‘the English Chekhov’ of the 1920s, to the extent that John Bayley considers him ‘at least as potent a literary influence in England as Hemingway, and more pervasive, more part of the new metropolitan air that English authors breathed’.11 These authors, argues Bayley, ‘absorbed him as Dostoevsky and the Russian writers had breathed the air of Gogol’.12 His first novel, which was doing the rounds of London’s publishers in search of a willing publishing house, would soon be hailed in the Times Literary Supplement as the ‘story Tchehov omitted to tell’.13 One year later, Gerhardi would become ‘the first author of a full-length book on Chekhov in any language except Russian’,14 and he remained an esteemed speaker on Chekhov on the BBC for decades. This prevailing confidence in his insights was in part grounded on his enviably intimate familiarity with Russian life and letters, having grown up and been educated in St Petersburg, and speaking and reading in Russian more spontaneously and accurately than he did in English until well into his university years. In fact, a certain confusion as to whether or not he was actually Russian lasted all his life, as he would bemoan at intervals throughout his autobiography.15 Credentials and ambiguities such as these could not fail to appeal to Mansfield, who frequently cultivated a Russian identity of her own as part of her lifelong fascination both with liminal, decentred selves, and with the arts and literature of Central and Eastern Europe.16 When Gerhardi asked for advice about his as yet unpublished first novel, Futility, which 67
Katherine Mansfield and Russia was doing the rounds of London’s publishers, she read it attentively, provided detailed, sensitive feedback and recommended a publisher – thus rescuing the manuscript from its thankless quest around London. In return, he named her the book’s honorary ‘godmother’; she is the dedicatee of the 1922 American edition and subsequent reprints of the Cobden-Sanderson edition.17 Gerhardi’s handwritten note in a copy bought by Jacques Schwartz, an American manuscript collector, reads: ‘This is my first book, dedicated to dear, dear Katherine Mansfield, who found me my first publisher, after thirteen had refused it.’18 Such auspicious beginnings promised a treasured friendship to come. Here were two genuine ‘fellow Chekhovians’ – a decidedly avantgarde label at the time, to the extent that ‘[o]nly astute readers such as Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield recognised Chekhov as their contemporary straight away’.19 In Gerhardi and Mansfield’s case, being Chekhovian, or Chekhov’s contemporary, meant more than merely hailing the originality and subtlety of his stories and stagecraft. It entailed a remarkable form of literary, critical and biographical ventriloquism as they wrote with, for and about Chekhov, in their own works and to each other, in a variety of ways that often prove to have a vibrantly modernist edge to them, as shall be suggested here. Paradoxically, and quite fortuitously, it also engaged them in a decidedly Chekhovian-spirited story of their own. In fact, if we take Chekhov’s ‘About Love’ (1898) as a gauge, Mansfield and Gerhardi’s epistolary exchanges out-Chekhov Chekhov. In ‘About Love’, Alyokhin, an aspiring writer who is postponing his literary aspirations so as to pay off the family debts, meets Anna Luganovich, the young wife of a clerk at the law courts; he falls in love with her, realising in the depths of his heart that they are an idyllically matched pair in mind and sensibility. His literary career never takes off, but he becomes a much-loved family friend, nurturing this secret passion which he believes Anna shares. The years pass; Luganovich is promoted and transferred to a distant township; on the day of departure, a final, heart-wrenching avowal seems about to take place. Instead, they kiss goodbye, wipe away their tears, and the train departs, leaving Alyokhin to walk home alone.
A Chekhovian Correspondence Mansfield and Gerhardi’s tale in letters that are, and are not, about love, takes this sort of ‘near miss’ one degree further – they never meet at all, no matter how carefully they plan a first encounter. A partial reconstruction of this thwarted meeting – for Gerhardi’s letters have not all survived, and exisiting drafts do not necessarily reflect the 68
Criticism efinitive contents of letters he sent20 – suggests that Mansfield is the d first to regret the exchanges that could take place were they closer: ‘but if you were here I would go into details I cant in a letter. [. . .] I hope you will write to me. If you feel offended please tell me. Its not easy to talk man to man at a distance.’21 The appeal of dialogue and mutual understanding is the sounding note of her next letter, only nine days later: ‘Your fearfully nice letter makes me wish that instead of upsetting your table you would sit down at mine & drink tea and talk.’22 More letters follow. By the following February, when she is in Paris and therefore slightly more accessible than in a Swiss mountain village, their growing intimacy is attested by playfully fictionalised selves and micro-narratives embedded in the letters. She encourages a meeting in a cosy hive of literary activity which she has yet to find: ‘If you do come to Paris at Easter you will come and see me. By then I expect I shall have a little flat. I am on the track of a minute appartement [sic] with a wax-bright salon where I shall sit like a bee writing short stories in a honeycomb.’23 Once back in Switzerland, she admits she had begun other letters, only to be callously interrupted by a Paris that is part modern capital, part would-be hero of a Trojan passion: ‘The truth is I have been on the pen point of writing to you for weeks and weeks but always Paris – horrid Paris – snatched my pen away.’24 Tenderness and gentle flirtation gradually meander into their correspondence. After a thwarted encounter comes an acknowledgement that had their meeting come about, it would have been nipped in the bud.25 A short note in August announces a golden opportunity: ‘I am in London for a few weeks. Is there any chance of seeing you? I should so much like to meet the author of so successful a godchild’ and includes Mansfield’s phone number to hasten their exchange.26 This time, he cancels, when ill health keeps him in Bolton; she responds with concern and sends tea to drink in bed – guaranteed to have the same galvanising effect as a short story.27 He later responds: You must not think it rude of me that I am delaying my departure. There are about half-a-dozen reasons why I cannot go to London yet; each in itself is not surmountable, but together they are pretty formidable! You don’t know how anxious I am to see you before you flit off to Italy.28
By the time Gerhardi arrives, she has returned to Paris, where she imagines them not meeting for many years, when their growing intimacy will have evolved into something more playfully eccentric: ‘instead of laughing, as we should now, a faint airy chuckle will pass from bath chair to bath chair’.29 69
Katherine Mansfield and Russia Gerhardi’s next surviving letters are not to Mansfield, but about her: first, in a bereft dialogue with himself: ‘“We were so close, why weren’t we closer”, wrote William in tiny letters on a square of paper, then crumpled it up.’30 Then follows a letter to Edith Wharton, expressing his bewilderment and pain that such an imminently intense friendship should have come to nothing: ‘I feel that I know her so well . . . I have never heard her voice, never seen her . . . If I had seen her even once before she died I would have been able to settle down to the thought of her death better. But to have known her so well . . . by letter!’31 His wistfulness for her letters resounds anew when writing to Murry, five years later, having just read Murry’s edition of her correspondence: ‘What letters! What a woman! You are quite right: most of them are equal to her best work. And she stands revealed in them, tender and tragic, wise, fragrant, true.’ She had become, by this time, very much ‘Murry’s Mansfield’, as Gerhardi’s letter acknowledges, ‘And how she loved you, how she loved you!’32 Gerhardi’s autobiography foregrounds the Chekhovian note in their story. An early chapter summarises their series of thwarted encounters. Then, in a much later chapter entitled ‘Digression on Love’, he returns to the pathos of their intimacy, and the friendship which might have been. He admits that only ‘[t]wice in my life to date, I have come across women with some of Hugh Kingsmill’s inherent poetry, simplicity, high spirits, and deep-rooted humour; women with whom I think I could have been lastingly happy. One was Katherine Mansfield.’33 Gerhardi’s gently Chekhovian musings over the ironies of life which mean the right encounters never quite happen and the perfect opportunities never quite get seized are not merely afterthoughts, years later. As his evocation of Three Sisters in the very first letter suggested, theirs was a Chekhov-centred relationship from the outset, and not merely for biographical reasons. It is underlined by their adoption of Chekhov as a form of epistolary intermediary. If these two writers are kindred spirits, it is partly because they build their epistolary personae as if they were themselves characters from Chekhov’s stories, letters, plays or notebooks. They willingly, perhaps wilfully, play the part of Chekhovian-style star-crossed lovers, destined not for tragic passion and separation, but just for a series of slightly comic bungles, which mean they are never in the right place at the right time. As D. S. Mirsky points out, discussing Chekhov’s art: the ineffective people, if sometimes funny, are invariably lovable, and the efficient people are vulgar. [. . .] He hated the man who deserves success quite as much as the man who commands it undeservingly. Inefficiency is for him the cardinal virtue, and defeat the only halo.34
Criticism Mansfield and Gerhardi’s familiarity with Chekhov’s writings, and in particular his letters, becomes a template for their relaxed, vibrant roles as correspondents.35 They adopt a spontaneously Chekhovian voice, tone and style which hastens their intimacy, endowing their new acquaintanceship with a feeling of deep-rooted familiarity stretching back into the past.36 Examples of this imitative craft include: a Chekhovian delight in quirky everyday observations and rituals; clownish irreverence and chatter; the commonplace transfigured into absurd, often animalesque farce; witty jibes about the contemporary social and literary scene; a tender, protective affection for their own literary characters; and a concern for the ethics of writing: All was meant, of course, to lead up to that last paragraph, when my two flowerless ones turned with that timid gesture to the sun. ‘Perhaps now.’ And after that, it seemed to me, they died as truly as Father was dead.37 How is it possible to be here in this remote, deserted hotel and at the same time to be leaning out of the window of the Villa Martin listening to the rain thrumming so gently on the leaves and smelling the night-scented stocks with Milly (I shall be awfully disappointed if you don’t like Milly).38
Their use of seemingly absurd detours, postscripts and self-reflexive debunking, which set the poignancy, beauty and triviality of life’s little ironies side by side, likewise creates a performative tribute to the style and genre of Chekhov that in turn reads as the most exquisite exercises in cameo self-portraiture: Here comes my ancient landlady with a cup of tea made from Iceland moss and hay flowers. She is determined to make a new man of me – good old soul – and equally convinced that nothing but herb tea will do it. My inside must be in a state of the most profound astonishment.39 To show you how famous I am, I am receiving long screeds from a totally unknown woman – undergraduate, who, having read my book, writes to me to explain in detail the psychological difficulties of her attitude towards life . . .! I write back like a doctor, giving precise instructions: ‘This is this, and that is that; do this and avoid that,’ and so forth.
[. . .]
P.S. Pond Street . . . Don’t the shops always ask you if it’s Bond Street?40
Meanwhile, Chekhovian allusions artfully disseminated through the letters read as a form of literary code, only decipherable by the initiate. I press your hand warmly.41 And at present I am full of wandering blue rays like a deep sea fish. The only real trouble is its terribly expensive. So much so that when I read the price I felt like Tchekhov wanted Anna Ivanovna to feel when she read his
Katherine Mansfield and Russia story in a hot bath – as though someone had slung her in the water & she wanted to run sobbing out of the bathroom.42 Do you intend to adopt a literary career as they say? Or do you have to make literature your mistress.43
Their conversations about ongoing works are likewise steeped in Chekhovian resonance. Mansfield breaks off from a discussion of Chekhov, about whom she ‘could go on and on and on’ to comment on the proposed title of Gerhardi’s next work – ‘About Love’ – another Chekhovian allusion. This elicits Gerhardi’s admission that, in true Chekhovian style, the work failed to advance: ‘I have put aside my novel “About Love”. So far I know nothing about love. I am writing another novel – a lighter one, in the first person, with a number of so-called somersaults, etc., called “Bubbles”. May I ask your opinion of the title?’44 For Mansfield, Gerhardi’s presence as a richly Russian-forged reference-point came too late to have a lasting impact on her literary craft; he does prompt her, however, to reread and reassess her works, and, as her allusions to ‘Mr and Mrs Williams’ and ‘The Dove’s Nest’ confirm,45 he was becoming a ‘Model’ reader (in Umberto Eco’s sense of the term)46 for stories in the making. She was also visibly warming to the unexpected overlaps in their narrative approach – and in particular the delicate balance of pathos and absurdity, as the tiny example of Aunt Aggie in her bath chair reveals: ‘By the way, for proof of your being a writer you had only to mention a bath chair & it crept into your writing. It was a queer coincidence. I had just been writing a bath chair myself and poor old Aunt Aggie who had lived in one.’47 Gerhardi’s literary career, however, was just beginning, and the intertwined impact of Chekhov and Mansfield on the development of his aesthetic and subtly political/apolitical literary creed proved lifelong. It is to such questions of an interwoven literary craft, made of vicarious voices, common leitmotifs and hypothetical addressees – speaking to and about Chekhov, and also to or about Mansfield – that I now turn, to see the crafting of life, self-portraiture and intertextuality persists throughout his fiction and non-fiction.
Mansfield’s Godchild: Gerhardi’s Chekhovian Novel As Gerhardi’s biographer notes, one of the most tangible examples of the lasting presence of Mansfield in Gerhardi’s poetics is the way their self-consciousness as writers with ‘Chekhovian poise’48 and their development of epistolary personae when addressing each other are transposed into the characteristic narrative voice of his fiction: 72
Criticism He kept on writing to Katherine. Her long, vibrant, and thoughtfully worded letters to Gerhardie [sic] suggest a spontaneous intimacy between them. Her interest provided the first suggestion of the flirtatious, seductive role that Gerhardie the writer was to play with his readers – both in the novels themselves and in subsequent correspondence. His is a deliberate awareness of the invisible reader, of the role of writer as absent presence, even seducer, working through his fiction both as voice and as (implied) physical presence.49
This cannot of course be attributed mechanically to Mansfield’s influence – it was always already there, both in the earlier drafts of Futility that he was working on before he first met Murry and heard him evoke his own wife as a renowned writer,50 and in his letters home.51 Reread in the light of a Gerhardi-Chekhov-Mansfield dialogue, however, the novel gains a more self-reflexive and self-deflecting, intensely modernist focus, which is overlooked when read with the more ethnographic approach favoured by its 1922 Anglophone readership.52 Andrei Andreiech, the narrator of Futility: A Novel on Russian Themes, is an Anglo-Russian with a Russianised name, and his literary genealogy (with his self-mirroring name) clearly relates him to Chekhov’s archetypal would-be heroes. Like them, he stands just outside the constantly bickering, comically self-absorbed Bursanov family, watching them flounder through impossible love triangles and precarious financial speculations in a world in the throes of war, revolution and then civil war. Deliberate Chekhovian analogies ensure no reader can miss them: the first chapter (which is more like an Act, so self-consciously theatrical is the novel’s construction and its melodramatic, on-stage and offstage actions) bears the title ‘Three Sisters’; like Chekhov’s sisters, the Bursanov trio are either marriageable or unhappily married, and they dream constantly of getting to Moscow or to St Petersburg in pursuit of the lives that might assure them happiness. A theatre outing to see Chekhov’s Three Sisters prompts Andrei Andreiech to read their lives in the same light; and when he tries vainly to bring a little order into their domestic chaos, and thereby resolve their various crises in the way a competent narrative authority would handle a plot, he exclaims in exasperation: ‘“But do you silly people realize how utterly laughable you all are? Oh my God! Can’t you see yourselves?” (I could not see myself.) “But can’t you see that you have been lifted out of Chehov? . . . Oh, what would he have not given to see you and use you!”’53 The metafictional ploy is further underscored lines later: ‘One doesn’t often come across such incomparable material. I feel I am almost capable of doing it myself. I’ll write up such a Three Sisters as will knock old Chehov into a cocked hat. It’s so easy.’54 73
Katherine Mansfield and Russia So where might Mansfield come into this intense exercise in literary pastiche? The first answer is quite simply in the workings of the metafictional game – fittingly referred to as a Russian doll (‘Matryoshka’) structure by many critics. Although no full draft of the novel that Gerhardi sent Mansfield appears to have survived, it was ‘overhauled thanks to K. M.’s helpful advice’.55 Her suggested improvements point to features in the Urtext that are not always in the final, published version. Foremost among these is the circular plot: in the Urtext, Nina (one of the three sisters) finally undertakes to write the story of the family fiascos. It is the one weakness of the novel that Mansfield underlines explicitly: I think the only thing that does not convince me is Nina’s novel – that feels ‘strained’. It seems to stand out too clearly, to be out of focus, even. Its such a remarkable thing to have done that instead of wondering why she did it, one stops short at how. It gives the reader the wrong kind of shock.56
The awkward device is indeed written out of the published version, to be replaced instead by the narrator deciding, as very meagre consolation for having lost the woman he loves, to tell their story instead. Thus the desolation of closure on the final page of the novel – with the sisters sailing away – spirals round to deliver the novel’s opening gambit, ‘And then it struck me that the only thing to do was to fit all this into a book. It is the classic way of treating life. For my ineffectual return to Vladivostock is the effectual conclusion of my theme.’57 We can therefore surmise that this new narrative strategy and perspective, and the moderate or substantial ‘overhauling’ it required, was directly inspired by Mansfield’s advice. The metafictional evocations of Andrei Andreiech’s literary masterpiece to come, disseminated throughout the text, thus attest Mansfield’s presence in the finished work. In point of fact, the artist who fails in life but instead becomes a willing narrator of his own story as an illustration of the absurdities of love is a far more resolutely Chekhovian posture than the planned shift in point of view and voice from the hapless onlooker to that of Nina, the fickle loved one. It is not only a more Chekhovian perspective, however; it is also Mansfieldian. When Gerhardi first began reading Mansfield’s stories, two in particular caught his attention. The first was ‘The Daughters of the Late Colonel’; evoking the second, he exclaims, ‘The kaleidoscopic exuberance of her “Je Ne Parle Pas Français” increased my admiration. What dash! How supple – acrobatic.’58 A parallel reading of Futility and ‘Je ne parle pas français’ opens up a rich tapestry of interwoven echoes, from leitmotifs such as the shifting spatiality, liminal spaces and troublingly displaced oedipal and homoerotic tensions, to the bold theatrical and 74
Criticism cinematographic framework and feckless onlooker-turned-narrator. There is no delimiting what this owes to Mansfield, or what she herself might have owed to Chekhov; it nonetheless remains a compelling instance of literary interrelations circulating, rather than approaching influence in binary and derivative terms. Another striking example is a structural device and spatial perspective that can be traced back from a story Gerhardi singled out in his letters to Mansfield: the journey. His initial comments can be surmised from her response: ‘Ive been wanting to say – how strange how delightful it is you should feel as you do about The Voyage. No one has mentioned it to me but Middleton Murry.’59 In biographical terms, there is nothing surprising about both writers’ creative imagination being forged by the sensations of extended travelling – Gerhardi’s to-ing and fro-ing from St Petersburg across the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic to England, and eastward from St Petersburg to Vladivostok, were just as formative as Mansfield’s displacement from Wellington to London. What is fascinating, however, is their transposition of such journeys into the spatial and thematic dynamics of narrative. This does not mean describing the sensations of travelling; it involves capturing the paradoxical sense of flux and mutability on the one hand, and the absurd stasis of the traveller and observer on the other. It is a leitmotif running through Mansfield’s work, from letters and stories like ‘The Voyage’, ‘The Wind Blows’ and ‘Father and the Girls’, to drafts and jottings in the notebooks. Similarly, in a (now lost) notebook, she copied down a quote from Chekhov on the exact same lines, adding a comment of her own: ‘“I should like to meet a philosopher like Nietzsche somewhere in a train or steamer, and to spend the whole night talking to him” So should I, old boy!’60 The personal, biographical note, however, gives way to a bolder, more ontological and modernist trope when these figures are set alongside Gerhardi’s characteristic writings from the early-to-mid-twenties. Futility opens and closes on harbour scenes where a departing ship ‘sets the tone’: And the harbour has been strangely, knowingly responsive. It has sounded the note of departure, and the tall stone houses of the port seem to brood as I walk below and ‘set the tone’. And because of this and the sense that I am marking time till the big steamer comes and bears me home to England I am eagerly retrospective. . . . When the Simbirsk, of the Russian Volunteer Fleet, had at last completely vanished, carrying away the three sisters to Shanghai, I came back to my room at the hotel.
The three closing sentences are as follows: 75
Katherine Mansfield and Russia The space at the quay where the Simbirsk had been showed empty; dull, dirty water heaved at my feet and a cork from a bottle and some bits of wood heaved upon it. I looked out upon the sea for a sign of the steamer. It had completely vanished. I peered at the horizon to see if I could spot the smoke from its two funnels. But there was none.61
The centrality of this trope in his creative imagination, which Futility reinforces with innumerable train journeys and (often abortive) departure scenes, becomes clearer when we open his second novel, The Polyglots, which took over from the abandoned drafts of ‘Bubbles’ and ‘About Love’. Here too, Chapter One begins with a narrator surveying land from aboard a ship hoving into port, and the final chapter ends on the same lingering note of departure: And while we stood there [on deck] and waited, and while we paced on in silence I heard no stealthy steps; no cool covert hands hid my sight. There was no doleful laughter, no shrug, no ecstatic delight. It was doleful in the gathering twilight, and the lights of England blinked at us ruefully, sadly. The gong echoed to the sound of the sea, and the gulls, the wind, and the drizzling rain.62
Turning from these examples back to Chekhov makes the spiralling interactions of biography, vicariously lived lives, and creative performativity, from Mansfield to Gerhardi via Chekhov, much clearer. Gerhardi’s Anton Chehov begins: There is an experience familiar to travellers. You sit at the train window, and the train shoots through the approaches of some big town, and you see tall squalid houses with the washing hanging out of the window [. . .] And you become aware of the diversity of life, and of your hopeless handicap in keeping pace with it – life is too big, too quick, too varied – and of your puny, puny self.63
The travelling trope and the figure of the ineffectual observer, hovering on the brink, part of the scene and yet strangely, often painfully removed from it, prove to be keynotes in the letters, stories and notebooks of all three writers. A fragment from Chekhov’s notebooks that Mansfield copied down and annotated illustrates this circulating, transpositional leitmotif: ‘“I am in the condition of a transplanted tree which is hesitating to take root or begin to wither”. (Tchehov’s letters: February 10, 1900). So am I exactly’.64 There is of course a vast English literary ancestry for such hesitant (‘puny’), vacillating and uprooted heroes, extending from Hamlet to Prufrock. Its peculiar appeal to Mansfield and Gerhardi, however, gains in vibrancy if read via Chekhov back through Russian literary traditions; this underscores the extent to which Gerhardi’s Andrei Andreiech or 76
Criticism Mansfield’s Raoul Duquette and her ‘Man without a Temperament’ epitomise ‘the superfluous man’ – the inefficient, reluctant go-between who had long been hailed as a classically Russian trope. As generations of Russian schoolchildren (including Gerhardi himself) learnt, and as Mirsky explains for his expanding Anglophone readerships, the genealogy can be traced effortlessly from Turgenev’s cult of inefficient noblemen and émigrés and his 1858 lecture, ‘Hamlet and Don Quixote’, through Goncharov’s Oblomov65 and Lermontov’s Pechorin (from A Hero of our Time) to present times: ‘It is also typical of the dying generation of the gentry and the Hamlet-like generation of the forties. It was this heritage that was taken up by the still more decadent intelligentsia – in the work of its greatest writer, Chekhov.’66 There were various means by which Mansfield could have alighted on this literary mode, of which Prufrock – which she loved performing – was a self-consciously contemporary avatar. Her era, however, had discovered the peculiarly Anglo-Russian dynamics of liminality and equivocation in ‘Shakespeare in Russia’, an essay by Oscar Kartoschinsky published in England in 1916 and quite widely discussed in literary reviews: ‘It was Hamlet that won the deepest sympathy of the Russian. His passivity, his constant reflection, his everlasting pensiveness, – are these not typically Russian traits? We can almost say that in Russia alone Hamlet is sincerely loved and deeply understood.’67 Closer to home, Mansfield’s own readings and her insightful conversations with Koteliansky would have brought the literary type to her attention. In 1920, for example, the Athenaeum had published Koteliansky’s translation of Chekhov’s ‘In Moscow’ [V Moskve], to which he gave the title ‘The Moscow Hamlet’; the leitmotif of this story is ‘I could have’: And yet I could have learned anything. If I could have got the Asiatic out of myself, I could have studied and loved European culture, trade, crafts, agriculture, literature, music, painting, architecture, hygiene. I could have had superb roads in Moscow, begun trade with China and Persia, brought down the death-rate, fought ignorance, corruption and all the abominations which hold us back from living . . . Yes, I could have! I could have! But I’m a rotten rag, useless rubbish. I am a Moscow Hamlet.68
There is, in other words, perhaps more than meets the eye in Mansfield’s passing analogy between Hamlet and The Cherry Orchard in her review of the 1920 production.69 Whether she read them or saw them on stage, she would have known that all Chekhov’s major plays explore the fittingness of Hamlet-type figures and Russian would-be heroes who miss, or let pass, the opportunity to attain the greatness they believe they were made for. This partly comic, 77
Katherine Mansfield and Russia partly heart-wrenching procrastination is of course the devastating, centralising force of ‘The Daughters of the Late Colonel’, whose stifling Chekhovian aura, poised on the brink of absurdity, Gerhardi recognised so deftly. Mansfield’s contemporary readership, however, inclined to a more conventional, moralising perspective and condemned its ‘cruelty’.70
Near-Missing an Answer? – Chekhovian Politics Examples of such spiralling, shared, interchanging thematics abound when reading Chekhov, Mansfield and Gerhardi side by side. Rather than accumulating examples, however, I would now like to suggest a more critical, philosophical and even political edge in their works that is highlighted by tripartite juxtapositions. The example of Mansfield’s ‘two daughters’, set alongside Chekhov and Gerhardi’s ‘three sisters’, proves a solid case in point. All three writers were lastingly labelled ‘apolitical’ on the grounds of their political equivocation, which went from deftly eschewing the activist banners of their times to brisk, sometimes sardonic impatience with any form of militantism. Admittedly, the ‘apolitical’ labels were, to a certain extent, reviewed in hindsight, but they never disappeared. Chekhov’s poetics, however, were rapidly read as ‘something in the nature of a forecast of the Russian Revolution’,71 as were his portrayals of endearing social misfits with an unassailable conviction that a better world might follow. Gerhardi foregrounds this feature of Chekhov’s poetics, taking as his starting point an extended extract from Chekhov’s notebooks: It seemed to me that we uncultured, worn-out people, banal in speech, stereotyped in intention, have grown quite mouldy, and, while we intellectuals are rummaging around old rags and, according to the old Russian custom, biting one another, there is boiling up around us a life which we neither know nor notice. Great events will take us unawares, like sleeping fairies [. . .] And I thought that, were we now to obtain political liberty, of which we talk so much, while engaged in biting one another, we should not know what to do with it, we would waste it in accusing one another in the newspapers of being spies and money-grubbers, we should frighten society with the assurance that we have neither men, nor science, nor literature, nothing! Nothing!72
Gerhardi homes in on the inherently political underpinnings of the rootless, dismayed vacillator by realigning hesitation with the art of posing questions – not ‘yes/no’ questions, but deeper, underlying questions that probe the core and causes of life as it stands. He starts by quoting Chekhov’s letter to Aleksey Souvorin: 78
Criticism [. . .] you confuse two things: solving a problem and stating a problem correctly. It is only the second that is obligatory for the artist. In ‘Anna Karenina’ and Evgeni Onegin not a single problem is solved, but they satisfy you completely because all the problems are correctly stated in them.73
It is a quotation Mansfield was particularly familiar with. She had translated the same letter in collaboration with Koteliansky for publication in the Athenaeum,74 and she underlines its importance in letters to Virginia Woolf and to S. S. Koteliansky: Tchekhov has a very interesting letter published in next week’s A . . . what the writer does is not so much to solve the question but to put the question [. . .] Come & talk it over with me. Wonderful they are. The last one, the one to Souverin [sic] about the duty of the artist to put the ‘question’ – not to solve it and so to put it that one is completely satisfied seems to me to be one of the most valuable things I have ever read. It opens – it discovers rather a new world.75
Gerhardi draws out the inherent politics of question-putting by linking Chekhov’s letter to a later letter, also to Souvorin. Again, it is a quotation Mansfield also copied down in a notebook of her own: The object of [Sinkiewicz’s] novel is to lull the bourgeoisie to sleep in its golden dreams. Be faithful to your wife, pray with her over the prayerbook, save money, love sport, and all is well with you in this world and the next. The bourgeoisie is very fond of so-called practical types and novels with happy endings, since they soothe it with the idea that one can both accumulate capital and preserve innocence, be a beast and at the same time be happy.76
Chekhov’s virulent impatience with the inherently ideological nature of novelistic form, and particularly the soothing sense of an ending that consecrates bourgeois conventions, of course anticipates one of the staples of literary theory since its break with New Criticism. His championing of ‘the question’ as a potentially radical, liberating force, engaging both doubt and speculative freedom, inevitably invites us to reconsider the deliberately suspended endings that both Mansfield and Gerhardi made into hallmarks of their own.77 In each case, their subtle brand of politicised aesthetics means not delivering a political message, but ‘crying out against corruption’: teasing out and laying bare those teeming instances of injustice, exclusion and suffering which lay just outside their era’s field of vision, making the reader or spectator feel the scandals which are stifled by the political status quo. The question thus seeks not to prompt a slick answer but to disturb and devastate clichés and complacency – which for all three writers means probing and feeling the world from the point of view of an exile, outsider, or 79
Katherine Mansfield and Russia the dispossessed.78 There are two salient examples of this which emerge when reading from Mansfield to Gerhardi, and back, via Chekhov, which I shall evoke by way of a conclusion; the first is their heightened sensibility when rendering women’s social, emotional and political vulnerability, the second is their use of music. Gerhardi’s Futility hovers from beginning to end on the brink of farce, but it is nonetheless one of the first post-war novels to explore the trans-European consequences and impending repercussions of war – in particular, the price to be paid for wars of attrition, the disillusions of revolution, and the blindness of western interventionism and blundering in the civil war. The absurdly burgeoning debts and speculations of the Bursanov family, who trail from St Petersburg to Vladivostok in the hope of salvation, epitomise the appalling losses and disillusions of those years.79 This political superstructure, however, is never spelt out; it is encapsulated differently by each character, and in particular by Fanny Ivanovna who is a saliently ‘Chekhovian character’. She is the former governess and lady’s-maid-cum-adoptive mother of the three sisters, and their father’s neglected mistress; now superfluous, she is compelled to remain in the household because returning home unwanted, destitute and unmarried would be even more humiliating than staying behind. The truly Chekhovian nature of her outsiderness, however, lies in her nationality: like Andrei Andreiech, Fanny Ivanovna may have a Russianised name, but she’s German, not Russian, and all the more poignantly vulnerable in the war and post-war climate. By making the most archetypally Chekhovian character a foreign (i.e. non-Russian) woman whose situation would be tragic were it not for her ability to recite it word-perfect to any conveniently trapped listener, Gerhardi thus undermines one of the most enduring myths of the era. The hapless, near-farcical losers are not emblematic of a specifically Russian exoticness or difference; they are quintessentially modern figures playing out on a tiny, micropolitical scale the consequences of economic, legal, social and judicial disfranchisement. It comes as no surprise, therefore, to observe that the sadly yet comically vulnerable Fanny Ivanovna is the one character Mansfield singles out for commentary in her detailed letter commenting on the first draft of the novel: ‘Fanny Ivanovna is very good. I see her. [. . .] And another thing that is good is the play of humour over it all. That makes it flexible, warm, easy, as it should be.’80 Fanny Ivanovna invites comparisons with some of Chekhov’s equally vulnerable, and yet slightly ridiculous, domestic figures – notably Charlotta Ivanovna in The Cherry Orchard and Anfisa in Three Sisters. She is also a variation on Mansfield’s Nurse Andrews, thereby accentuating the exquisite Chekhovian art of 80
Criticism ‘The Daughters of the Late Colonel’ and suggesting that Gerhardi was still ‘breathless’ under the imaginative and emotional spell of ‘The Daughters’ when composing Futility. Like Fanny Ivanovna, Nurse Andrews in ‘The Daughters’ is singled out as much for her social and linguistic gaucheness as for her economic vulnerability – there is both gluttony and habitual privation at play in her unbecoming appetite for jam and butter, just as there are professional and social tensions behind her jealously attending her patient’s bedside. Furthermore, she serves as a foil for the daughters’ own economic, social and gender vulnerability: like the dwindling provisions of jam, the delicate issue of profits and losses associated with keeping on a maid is a sore but subtle reminder of underlying social disintegration. The penultimate long paragraph likewise reveals a decisively Chekhovian ring when Mansfield adopts the ‘poetics of the question’: ‘If mother had lived, might they have married? [. . .] How did one meet men? Or even if they’d met them, how could they have got to know men well enough to be more than strangers? [. . .] But now? But now?’ The question is as tragic and far-reaching as it is pathetically comic – encapsulated by a letter attached to a jug of hot water left by a ‘mysterious man’ outside a rented room in an Eastbourne boardinghouse – the ‘near miss’ poetry of the delicate gesture is summed up by the steam that effaces his writing.81 The closing sequences of ‘The Daughters’ provides another key to the Chekhov-Gerhardi-Mansfield dialogue. Although the daughters’ inner monologues are potentially exquisite and exalting, the entire scene is accompanied by the ‘carelessly scattered’ notes of the barrel organ outside and the cheep of sparrows. With such a soundscape, the intimations of an epiphany fall sadly short of the tragic or grandiose – the fortuitous barrel-organ accompaniment can only offer a repetitive, slightly wheezy, timbre-less jangle. The effect is analogous to that achieved by Chekhov in Three Sisters where, from the outset, the potentially wistful, bereft tones of three sisters living in the shadows of their own military father’s death are methodically undercut by intrusively discordant music: tuneless whistling, an accordion in the street, and a band playing jaunty military marches. This art of using music not to provide a conventional, harmonious and sentimental background, but as a subtly incisive marker of social and emotional discord with distinctly political or ideological overtones, is a major characteristic of all three writers – Mansfield’s ‘Miss Brill’ and ‘The Singing Lesson’, Gerhardi’s ‘The Bass Drum’, and Chekhov’s ‘The Choristers’, ‘Easter Eve’ or ‘Anna on the Neck’ being cases in point, with all three Chekhov stories also prompting comments or annotations by Gerhardi and Mansfield.82 Reading 81
Katherine Mansfield and Russia musical stories like these in dialogue, via Chekhov and Mansfield’s musical lives and writings, Gerhardi’s analysis of musical tropes in Chekhov’s poetics suggests the means he found to prolong those inspirational literary conversations that were cut short by Mansfield’s death. It also underscores the acoustic modernity of their works, breaking starkly with the more melodious, romantic clichés of music left over from the century before.83 Music’s paradoxical powers – ranging from the epiphanic to the trivial via the manipulative, and its open-ended deferral of absolute meaning – provides the most fitting note on which to conclude here. It is exquisitely illustrated by the long paragraph just before the end of Mansfield’s ‘The Daughters’. The passage reads as a haunting poetic elegy in which Constantia stands listening to the barrel organ and thinking with unusual clarity of what their lives were, what they had become, and what they might have been: Until the barrel-organ stopped playing, Constantia stayed before the Buddha, wondering, but not as usual, not vaguely. This time her wonder was like longing. She remembered the times she had come in here, crept out of bed in her nightgown when the moon was full, and lain on the floor with her arms outstretched, as though she were crucified. Why? [. . .] but it all seemed to have happened in a kind of tunnel. It wasn’t real. It was only when she came out of the tunnel into the moonlight or by the sea or into a thunderstorm that she really felt herself.84
The passage is intensely rich in interwoven Chekhovian, and musical, resonances.85 It is also a paragraph that almost had a strangely Russian afterlife. In his first letter, Gerhardi singles out this ‘last long paragraph’ that left him breathless, adding: ‘I finished up by translating the end of it into Russian for myself, and, you know, it almost gains by it’.86 Written by the writer poised to become ‘the English Chekhov’ before being all but forgotten in the wings of early-twentieth-century English literature, Gerhardi’s Russian translation of ‘The Daughters’ would be the first transposition of Mansfield’s oeuvre into a language she loved and was learning, thereby offering it a place in the literary tradition and culture she most admired, and which she was wholeheartedly adopting in the early 1920s. What Russian literary idiom, tone and resonance did Gerhardi give Mansfield? We inevitably yearn to know more, but so far it remains untraced. It is thus a frustratingly apt metaphor for this all-tooshort literary friendship; the possibly lost translation resembles another story ‘Chekhov omitted to write’, made of promises and plans which only survive as intuitions of what might have been. Inconclusive and insubstantial as it may be, the tale appeals, as untold tales and unheard 82
Criticism melodies do. As Gerhardi observed to Mansfield, just as aptly, ‘do you know I never realised how much more pleasant it is not to write a book about an author you like’.87 Notes 1. CW4, p. 254. Throughout this article, spellings of Russian proper nouns may vary in quoted texts, depending on the transcription being used by the author/translator at the time. In each case, the quoted text reproduces exactly the spelling found in the original publication. In my own text, I have opted for clarity and familiarity by using today’s standardised spelling, rather than the more phonetically accurate notation that many critics now prefer. 2. Rachel Polonsky, ‘Chekhov and the Buried Life of Katherine Mansfield’, in Anthony Cross (ed.), A People Passing Rude: British Responses to Russian Culture (Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2012), p. 203. 3. The production at the Art Theatre, St Martin’s opened on 11 July 1920. Since the Murry-Mansfield review was published on 16 July, they probably attended the first night. See CW3, pp. 631–4. 4. Murry had also been co-translating with Koteliansky and working on his essay, ‘Thoughts on Tchehov’, published in Aspects of Literature (1920). See Letters, 4, pp. 139–40. For an analysis of this sometimes sharp exchange, see my Translation as Collaboration: Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield and S. S. Koteliansky (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014), pp. 46–8. 5. For a detailed account of this period and its Chekhovian interlinks, see Galya Diment, ‘Katherine Mansfield’s Russian Healers’, in Claire Davison and Gerri Kimber (eds), Katherine Mansfield’s French Lives (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2015), pp. 40–57. 6. At times in her diary, Mansfield appears both to question Chekhov and then to reply as if he were answering her. See for example CW4, p. 434. 7. Although usually referred to as ‘Gerhardie’, Gerhardi did not add the final ‘e’ to his name until 1967. For this reason, the present essay adopts the earlier spelling. 8. MS-papers-4003-37-1. Courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ. I would like to thank the library for granting me access to the Gerhardi papers and for permission to quote extensively in this article. 9. Murry was the first to acknowledge that the relation between Mansfield and Chekhov was that of ‘kindred temperaments’, in his ‘definitive edition’ of her journal: John Middleton Murry (ed.), The Journal of Katherine Mansfield 1904–1922: Definitive Edition (London: Constable, 1954), p. xiii. This was, however, part of his careful downplaying of any Chekhovian influence on Mansfield’s works. For detailed discussion of this question, see Polonsky, ‘Chekhov and the Buried Life’, pp. 201–14. Gerhardi critiques Murry’s writings on Chekhov with heavily veiled but revealing insights in his autobiography. See Gerhardi, Memoirs of a Polyglot (London: MacDonald, 1973), p. 346. 10. MS-papers-4003-37-2. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ. 11. John Bayley, ‘Baby Face’, London Review of Books, 12: 10, p. 9. 12. Ibid. p. 9. 13. Edward Shanks, ‘Futility’, Times Literary Supplement, 1070, 20 July 1922, p. 473. 14. Dido Davies, William Gerhardie: A Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press), p. 125. 15. Gerhardi, Memoirs of a Polyglot, p. 297. Davies recounts the following example of the often reciprocal misunderstandings that dogged Gerhardi: ‘While the Moscow Arts Players toured the United States, the American publishers contrived to sell copies
Katherine Mansfield and Russia of Futility in the theatres during the Russian performance of Chekhov’s Three Sisters, with the result that many of the audience believed that the Chekhov was merely a dramatized version of Gerhardie’ (Davies, p. 122). 16. See Joanna Woods, Katerina: The Russian World of Katherine Mansfield (Auckland: Penguin, 2001). 17. The formal dedication has unfortunately been dropped in more recent paperback reprints of the novel, and the novel is more readily associated with the name of Edith Wharton, who wrote the preface to the first American edition, an addition that most paperback reprints have kept. 18. This copy is now held in the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. For further, more scurrilous arrangements between Gerhardi and Schwartz over the original manuscript, see Davies, p. 357. 19. See Roberta Rubenstein, Virginia Woolf and the Russian Point of View (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), p. 59. 20. The largest collection of Gerhardi papers is now at the University Library, Cambridge. 21. Letters, 4, p. 318 (12 November 1921). Here as elsewhere in their letters, hints of intimacy are playfully veiled by conventions of male epistolary address. 22. Letters, 4, p. 321 (21 November 1921). 23. Letters, 5, p. 56 (8 February 1922). See also 11 March 1922, Letters, 5, p. 100. 24. See also Letters, 5, p. 204 (14 June 1922). 25. See for example Letters, 5, p. 204 (14 June 1922). 26. Letters, 5, p. 249 (c. 20 August 1922). 27. Here, too, tentative expressions of warmth, familiarity and love are veiled by simile and innuendo: ‘But the idea, even, of the short story after a cup or two seems almost too good to be true, and I pledge it in a third cup as one pledges love – –’ (25 August 1922, Letters 5, p. 257). See also Gerri Kimber’s essay, ‘A child of the sun’: Katherine Mansfield, Orientalism and Gurdjieff’ in this volume, pp. 41–65 for the influence of orientalism and tea in Mansfield’s work. 28. Gerhardi to Mansfield, 2 October 1922. MS-papers-4003-39-1. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ. 29. Letters, 5, p. 293 (10 October 1922). 30. Davies, p. 125. 31. Ibid. p. 125. 32. Ibid. p. 125. To his mother Gerhardi writes, using a metaphor Mansfield frequently used herself, ‘What a marvellous woman she was, head and shoulders above Murry. Murry is awfully intelligent, of course, and there is nothing he doesn’t know about literature; but he has no wings. So he must flop parterre. What treasures there are in her letters’ (Davies, p. 125). 33. Gerhardi, Memoirs of a Polyglot, p. 329. 34. D. S. Mirsky, Modern Russian Literature (London: Oxford University Press – Humphrey Milford, 1925), pp. 88–9. In the same section on Chekhov, Mirsky adds, ‘England will again probably have the distinction of following his example with greatest profit. The late Katherine Mansfield was probably the most faithful and at the same time the most original of his disciples’ (p. 89). Gerhardi pays a similar tribute to Mansfield in his book on Chekhov: ‘But so far, it seems that only Katherine Mansfield was alive to the intrinsic value of Chehov’s method. For she alone, with a flavour all of her own, invites comparisons with Chehov’s method of using psychology for artistic ends’ (William Gerhardi, Anton Chehov [London: Duckworth, 1923], p. 132).
Criticism 35. For an account of Mansfield’s co-translations of Chekhov’s letters and their likely impact on her own work, see Davison, Translation as Collaboration, pp. 44–7, 123–31, 156–9. 36. Chekhov’s letters written at the beginning of his career, following warm praise from the writer and critic Grigorovitch, may well have been echoing in both Mansfield’s and Gerhardi’s minds as they wrote to each other. See Chekhov’s letter, translated by Mansfield, in CW3, pp. 202–4. 37. Letters, 4, p. 249 (23 June 1921). 38. Letters, 5, p. 205. The ‘Milly’ to whom Mansfield refers is the young girl and central consciousness in her unfinished story ‘The Dove’s Nest’. See CW2, 448–61. 39. Letters, 5, p. 206 (14 June 1922). 40. MS-papers-4003-39-1. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ. While fewer letters to Mansfield have survived, Gerhardi’s Anton Chehov attests to a subtle understanding of the creative sensibility in Chekhov’s letters. See the fourth chapter, ‘The Means by which his sensibility was given expression: a Technical Examination of his Style’, in Gerhardi, Anton Chehov, pp. 100–53. 41. Letters, 4, p. 320 (12 November 1921). Mansfield is using a literal translation of a classic Russian formula for closing letters; it also features in her letters to Koteliansky and in the Chekhov letters they translated. 42. Letters, 5, p. 56 (8 February 1922). Reference unidentified by the volume editors. Mansfield is referring to Chekhov’s letter to Souvorin, 23 February 1891, not included in the published letters co-translated with Koteliansky. It may, however, have been in the collection that got lost. Garnett translates Chekhov’s evocation of his novel-in-progress as follows: ‘I shall bring Anna Pavlovna a copy on vellum paper to read in the bathroom. I should like something to sting her in the water, so that she would run out of the bathroom sobbing.’ See Constance Garnett, Letters of Anton Chekhov to his Family and Friends (London and New York: Macmillan, 1920), pp. 230–1. 43. Letters, 5, p. 222 (10 July 1922). Mansfield is referring to Chekhov’s letter to Souvorin, dated 11 September 1888, in which he writes, ‘Medicine is my legal wife, and literature is my mistress.’ It features in the Athenaeum selection which she co-translated with Koteliansky. See CW3, p. 213. Gerhardi likewise comments on the letter in his Anton Chehov (p. 70). 44. MS-papers-4003-39-4. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ. 45. See Letters, 5, pp. 55, 205–6. 46. Eco’s ‘Model Reader’ is the ideal, direct addressee who shares the writer’s ‘conceptual encyclopedia’; this means they can pick up on and fill in the subtle allusions disseminated within a text. See Umberto Eco, The Role of the Reader: Explorations in the Semiotics of Texts, ed. Thomas Sebeok (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1979), pp. 5–13. 47. Letters, 5, p. 55 (8 February 1922). 48. Davies, p. 116. 49. Ibid. p. 114. 50. Gerhardi met Murry in the academic year 1921–2, when Murry went to Oxford to give the series of six lectures on ‘Style’ later compiled in The Problem of Style (1922). The visit included more informal discussions during which ‘[Murry] also made some shy allusion to the work of his wife, Katherine Mansfield; and when I read a story of hers I was so pleased with it that I wrote her a letter’ (Gerhardi, Memoirs of a Polyglot, p. 199).
Katherine Mansfield and Russia 51. There is of course no ‘flirtatious, seductive tone’ in letters to his parents, but they favour a worldly, self-theatricalising tone, with Gerhardi playing the part of the successful writer and Don Juan that his mother purportedly hoped he’d be. Davies’s biography includes various examples of such letters, for example pp. 172–3; 266–7. 52. See for example Wharton’s preface, in which she claims Gerhardi’s novel ‘has undertaken to translate the Russian soul in terms of our vernacular’ and successfully bridges between ‘the two so utterly alien races to whom he belongs almost equally, by birth and bringing-up – the English and Russian’ in Gerhardi, Futility (London: Cobden Sanderson, Revised Edition,  1927), pp. 5–6. For a discussion of the ethnographical slant of the reception of Russian literature in the early twentieth century, see the introduction to Rebecca Beasley and Philip Bullock (eds), Russia in Britain 1880–1940 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), pp. 1–18. 53. Gerhardi, Futility, p. 72. 54. Ibid. p. 72. 55. This is a handwritten annotation added by Gerhardi to Mansfield’s letter, now held at the ATL. See Letters, 4, p. 320, n.5. Extracts from the Urtext are held by the Manuscripts Department at Cambridge University Library. Gerhardi’s annotated and corrected version of the first New Readers Library edition is held at the Turnbull Library, with the added note: ‘This is my personal copy, with substantial revisions and annotations for the Collected Uniform Revised Edition published by Macdonald’s’. MSX–2934. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. This edition is used for references in the present essay. 56. Letters, 4, p. 319 (12 November 1921). For the first draft of ‘Nina’, see ADD-MS8292155-2. Gerhardi Papers, Manuscripts and Archives, Cambridge University Library, UK. 57. Gerhardi, Futility, p. 11. 58. Gerhardi, Memoirs of a Polyglot, p. 199. The passage refers alternately to Chekhov, Mansfield, tuberculosis, then back to Chekhov, then back to Mansfield, thereby underlining the interacting lives and identities of Mansfield and Chekhov in Gerhardi’s mind. 59. Letters, 5, p. 101 (11 March 1922). 60. CW4, p. 271. 61. Gerhardi, Futility, pp. 11, 256. 62. Gerhardi, The Polyglots (London: Prion,  2001), pp. 1; 310. 63. Gerhardi, Anton Chehov, p. 13. As a fascinating example of interweaving voices, see the last page of Gerhardi’s work. It ends with the closing lines of Three Sisters, making Chekhov’s stage direction, ‘Curtain’, Gerhardi’s final words on Chekhov (p. 192). 64. CW4, p. 292. 65. See Mirsky’s comments on Oblomov: ‘The novel is the crowning glory of what Miss Harrison has very aptly called the ‘imperfective’ style in literature. The name of Oblomov has given rise to the word Oblomovshchina – ‘Oblomovdom’ – which, to quote Miss Harrison, ‘means the imperfective state incarnate’ (Mirsky, p. 35). Gerhardi possibly pays tribute to this ineffectual literary hero by naming the ship that bears the three sisters away the Simbirsk, which is the city of Goncharov’s birth, itself reputed to be rather sleepy. My thanks to Galya Diment for pointing out this detail. 66. Mirsky, p. 33. Mirsky, however, tempers the national stereotype later in the study: ‘[Inefficiency] has been believed by some to be essentially Russian, but in its extreme expression it is certainly quite personal to Chekhov’ (p. 89).
Criticism 67. Oscar M. Kartoschinsky, ‘Shakespeare in Russia’, Russian Review, 1, 1916, p. 1. 68. Anton Chekhov, Plays and Stories, ed. and trans. S. S. Koteliansky (London: Dent, 1937), p. 343. 69. CW3, pp. 631–2. 70. Letters, 4, p. 249 (23 June 1921). 71. Gerhardi, Anton Chehov, p. 78. Gerhardi identifies this feature specifically in the notebooks and insists on the threat of censorship which incited writers to shun outspokenness. 72. Gerhardi, Anton Chehov, p. 79. Gerhardi’s preface indicates that he uses Garnett’s translations when available, with silent amendments of his own when required. For the notebooks, he uses the version co-translated by Koteliansky and Leonard Woolf. It is worth recalling Murry’s scathing review of the notebooks, which he deems a ‘heap of sweepings from [Chekhov’s] floor’ (John Middleton Murry, ‘The Notebooks of Tchehov’, Nation and Athenaeum, 4 June 1921, p. 365). Gerhardi, meanwhile, like Mansfield, is vividly aware of the huge creative insights to be gleaned from such fragments and jottings; he quotes at length from them, even referring indirectly to Murry’s judgement, and justifying a creative interest in Chekhov’s thoughts and musings. See Gerhardi, Anton Chehov, p. 27. 73. Gerhardi, Anton Chehov, p. 81. 74. CW3, p. 221. 75. Letters, 2, pp. 320, 324. 76. Gerhardi, Anton Chehov, p. 83, from a letter in Garnett, Letters of Anton Chekhov, p. 336. The letter also refers guardedly, but directly, to the ongoing war with Japan. See also CW4, p. 271. 77. Davies links Gerhardi’s characteristic use of the ampersand and suspended endings with his awareness of musical forms and an attentive, musically alert concern with tone and style, and links such features to keynotes of Chekhov’s poetics. Exactly the same parallels can be made for Mansfield’s writings. Take, for example, their common eschewal of plot, ‘while seeing beauty in the endless deferral and frustration of these expectations. Likewise, most of Gerhardi’s examples from Chekhov are passages whose very inconclusiveness sets up expectations of a fulfilment that is never reached’ (Davies, pp. 126–7). In a letter to his parents, Gerhardi deplores the ‘silly asses’ who can’t see how open-endedness captures ‘real life’: ‘The ‘crisis in my book, which takes place at the beginning and does not “explode”, but is allowed to lapse and dwindle down gradually in a kind of diminuendo until at the end the people find that their position is essentially the same – and that nothing has happened. That is a new departure and is in itself a kind of plot’ (Davies, p. 119). 78. These were also salient features of the Russian Formalists, whose more political objectives were mostly overlooked in the western reception of Formalism. Contemporary critics, however, increasingly acknowledge the intertwined political and formal poetics of defamiliarisation. 79. Gerhardi’s micropolitical approach concentrates on grotesque details, the tininess of which accentuates the scandal of the vast corruption they emblematise. Again, the same is true of Mansfield and Chekhov. 80. Letters, 4, p. 318 (12 November 1921). 81. CW2, p. 281. 82. See Mansfield’s evocations of ‘Easter Eve’ in a letter to Koteliansky, Letters, 5, p. 162. Although very different, Chekhov’s ‘The Choristers’ gains from being read alongside Mansfield’s ‘The Singing Lesson’.
Katherine Mansfield and Russia 83. There are striking parallels to be made between Gerhardi’s characters and settings, especially in his short stories, and Mansfield’s self-portrait in a letter to him, as if he were striving to write pieces that would appeal to her, even after her death: ‘I like sitting on doorsteps, & talking to the old woman who brings quinces, & going for picnics in a jolting little waggon, and listening to the kinds of music they play in public gardens on warm evenings, and talking to captains of shabby little steamers’ (Letters, 4, p. 323 [21 November 1921]). 84. CW2, pp. 281–2. 85. See the following extract from Chekhov’s notebooks that Gerhardi returns to twice in his Anton Chehov: But when one listens to music, all this is – that some people lie in their graves and sleep, and that one woman is alive and, grey-haired, is now sitting in a box in the theatre, seems quiet and majestic, and the avalanche [romantic love] no longer meaningless, since in nature everything has a meaning. And everything is forgiven, and it would be strange not to forgive. (Gerhardi, Anton Chehov, pp. 31–2; p. 44)
It resounds uncannily with some of Mansfield’s passing quotes and reflections about music, such as her letter to Murry, Letters, 5, p. 49. 86. MS-papers-4003-39-2. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ. 87. MS-papers-4003-39-3. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ.
Mansfield, Movement and the Ballets Russes Ira Nadel
‘If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.’1 Emma Goldman ‘I would like you to see the dancing here.’2 Mansfield to John Middleton Murry, 27 October 1922
I For Katherine Mansfield, dance – especially Russian dance – was integral not only to her life but also to her art, as her 27 October 1922 letter to her husband John Middleton Murry from Gurdjieff’s institute in France demonstrates. The expressiveness, staging, excitement, exoticism and movement of dance found its way into her prose following her exposure principally to the Ballets Russes. The company’s thrilling visual narratives initially encouraged Mansfield to experiment and revise her own treatment of language and form. Rhythm, the journal she co-edited with Murry, contained numerous commentaries and essays on the Ballets Russes, along with dramatic woodcuts of dancers in action, reflecting both the Ballets Russes’s style as well as Mansfield’s own attitude towards movement, which would later be expressed in her writing. The impact of modern dance on Mansfield’s writing, expanded by her love of Russian culture and music, is wide-ranging. For Mansfield, dance became the entrée to a new form and a new freedom of expression which she found intoxicating. The influence of dance on her work, however, is less the idea of social dance recently studied by Rishona Zimring, concentrating on festivity and the power of women, but a more avant-garde, experimental dance seen in the Ballets Russes that offered unorthodox movements, stage design and costumes that presented Mansfield with original approaches to character and setting.3 No 89
Katherine Mansfield and Russia longer would she deal with, in the words of Woolf, ‘this appalling narrative business of the realist: getting on from lunch to dinner’.4 Her short stories would assume an incisive objectivity reflecting a Chekhovian dispassion to create a truthful vision of life and death marked by movement and action, duplicating the free expression found in the new dance. To do otherwise would be ‘false, unreal, merely conventional’.5 A new emphasis on movement accompanied the new attraction of dance, which was soon visible in the dance imagery of Yeats, Eliot and Lawrence as well as Mansfield.6
II ‘At the Russian Library you meet men belonging to every class of s ociety [. . . and] the smoke which issues from cigars and pipes and cigarettes welds all these atoms of Russian society into an indistinct mass. Count E. Armfelt7
Mansfield was an early – and persistent – admirer of Russia and the Russians, which made her attraction to the Ballets Russes natural. In a notebook entry for 29 June 1907, Mansfield wrote that her ‘mind [was] like a Russian novel’ to underscore her growing empathy with Russian culture.8 After her return to London in August 1908, Mansfield’s identification with Russia intensified, partly through an encounter with the Polish writer Floryan Sobieniowski the following year at Bad Wörishofen. In 1909, interest in Russia was high: that year Serge Diaghilev began his Ballets Russes featuring Anna Pavlova and Vaslav Nijinsky. Jean Cocteau designed the illustrated program for the opening night in Paris with the talent manager, producer and impresario Gabriel Astruc, while Diaghilev arranged for fifty-two beautiful actresses to sit in the dress circle, blondes alternating with brunettes to create a sensation and impress the audience. The opening work was Le Pavillon d’Armide, and one critic wrote that by the pas de trois in the second scene with Nijinsky, Diaghilev and his Russian dancers had conquered Europe. Nijinsky, dancer and choreographer, had incorporated a system called ‘eurhythmics’ (exercises derived from a Swiss musician Émile Jaques-Dalcroze seeking to imitate complex patterns of rhythm or beats in the body) into the dance, later assimilated into the movements of Le Sacre du printemps.9 The impact of the Polovtsian Dances from Borondin’s Prince Igor, the second ballet, was revolutionary. The frenzied music and energetic dancing, labelled ‘barbaric’, was startling but also irresistible.10 By 1910, Mansfield began to introduce herself as ‘Katerina’.11 She even started to sign notes and letters with a variation of this: ‘Katharina’, 90
Criticism altered to ‘Katerina Mansfield’ when she signed a lease for a flat in Clovelly Mansions in 1911.12 It was also the year Tolstoy died and Diaghilev premiered Stravinsky’s Firebird in Paris, a ballet based on a Russian folk tale with choreography by Michel Fokine. Having a Russian theme by a Russian composer debuting at the Théâtre national de l’Opéra was a sign of the high status of Diaghilev’s company. An affair with Francis Heinemann, an enthusiastic Russophile and nephew of the publisher William Heinemann, whom she had met in London, extended Mansfield’s Russian interests. He gave her a carved wooden Russian village for Christmas and they talked about going to Russia together. Her story ‘A Dill Pickle’ (1917), occasioned by a chance meeting with him six years later, led to a fictionalised account of their possible journey. The male protagonist, having visited Russia, tells the female that she would enjoy almost everything in the country: ‘It’s so informal, so impulsive, so free without question.’13
III For a time, Art has danced to the strains of the Russian Ballet, leaving here and there lingering notes on dress fabrics, wallpapers and cushions. The Studio, 191414
The Ballets Russes first came to London in June 1911, the year of the first London production of The Cherry Orchard. They gave their first performance on 21 June, the day before the coronation of King George V.15 All three events made a significant impression on the public and in artistic circles. The New Age ran a lengthy article on the Ballets Russes by Huntly Carter, who summarised their triumphs and emphasised the skill of Diaghilev at fusing a set of disparate artists, dancers, composers and set designers to create ‘a big aesthetic sensation’.16 Excitedly, a character in Virginia Woolf’s first novel, The Voyage Out, asks, ‘Have you seen those wonderful Russian dancers?’17 Diaghilev, by then living in Paris, preferring its liberal, avant-garde atmosphere, free from the political turmoil and more repressive society of Russia, sought to expand the link between entertainment, art and commerce and to capitalise on Western interest in Russia. Prior, in April 1909, Diaghilev had returned to St Petersburg to rehearse a new company of dancers, telling his Paris promoter Gabriel Astruc there would be ‘no opera this year. Bringing brilliant ballet company eighty strong’, with fifteen performances supported not by Imperial subsidies, as his operas had been, but by a mixture of commercial promotion and 91
Katherine Mansfield and Russia wealthy sponsors.18 Diaghilev had sensed a desire by the French public to know more about Russia and its culture and had turned first to opera and then Russian music before developing his own ballet company. In his own words, ‘from Opera to Ballet is but a step’.19 There were more than four hundred dancers on the roster of the Imperial Theatres at the time, although they danced only traditional, classical ballets. Diaghilev’s innovative theatre meant choreography became an important contribution to experimental modernism across all the arts.20 The comments of the critic Francis Toye, responding to Schéhérazade, performed during the November 1911 season of the Ballets Russes in London, wrote that the ballet ‘“may boast all the vices – but as a work of art it is supreme”’.21 Even Arnold Bennett, who attended the first Ballets Russes season in Paris, could not prevent himself from praising the excellence of the dancing and originality of the productions.22 The impact of the ballet company, which ironically never performed in Russia, was multiform, returning the male dancer to centre stage and focusing on expressiveness, not simply technique, while freeing movement to convey cross-rhythms, pulsating feet and fuller physical and spiritual engagement with music.23 Concentrating on individuals, not a corps de ballet, one-act pieces developing a single theme (as seen in Mansfield’s stories) and collaboration defined their unique style. Additionally, dancers and choreographers teamed up with set designers and musicians. Attention to Russian art and folk art, not western themes, intensified interest. The experimental dance of the Ballets Russes stimulated artists in all genres to consider a more radical aesthetics. A Parisian artistic triumph, however, did not mean a financial success, a pattern repeated in the early years of his company. Box-office receipts were not enough to cover costs, but by 1911 he had a loyal company and an international star in Nijinsky. Diaghilev was now prepared to take on London. As his finances improved and his reputation for experimentation and unorthodox productions grew, he began to commission original works by Russian and Parisian artists and composers to strengthen the modernity of his repertoire. This also allowed him to approach a well-to-do English crowd interested in ‘the new’ to subscribe to his season.24 The Ballets Russes first performed at Covent Garden with Tamara Karsavina and Nijinsky directed by Diaghilev in June 1911 and returned in October 1911, beginning a three-week season on 12 October.25 At the end of that same year, Mansfield published her first collection of stories, In a German Pension, with her publisher referring to her Russian style on the end page. Her characters are almost French, he wrote, while ‘her descriptions will remind the reader of the Russian masters 92
Criticism like Turgueneff [sic]’.26 Her writing thus confirmed her burgeoning interest in Russia. Importantly, Diaghilev initiated the interaction of dance, music and painting, a new form of mixed media partly inspired by Wagner’s notion of Gesamtkunstwerk, or the total work of art. For example, the visual dimensions of the dazzling, orientally-informed original costumes of the Ballets Russes, often composed of silk, metal thread, glass beads, pearls, velvet and fur, competed with the choreography, the movements of the dancers and the music, as in The Rite of Spring or Parade.27 Diaghilev did not intentionally pursue dance as his goal, but saw it as the best way to unite in performance the arts he loved: music and painting. It was also less expensive to produce than opera.28 Wagner was also one of Mansfield’s earliest musical passions. Her early, unfinished novel ‘Juliet’, which describes a journey by the hero to London to follow a musical friend, includes a seduction scene where Rudolf, a fellow student of the male hero David, plays Wagner to underscore his passion for Juliet.29 The expression of a Wagneresque visuality in productions of the Ballets Russes confirmed Mansfield’s identification with the composer’s musical emotions expressed in several of her stories, such as ‘The Woman at the Store’ from Rhythm, 1912. It was this story that convinced Murry that Mansfield was a writer to watch.30 For Mansfield, Wagner embodied a passionate modernism. The composer was also a determined, rebellious artist who resonated with Mansfield’s own resolve to return to London and aggressively pursue a career either as a musician or perhaps a writer. The original and unorthodox performances of the Ballets Russes, with scores by composers like Stravinsky, Satie and Ravel, projected Mansfield’s own modernist ideals. The deliberate drive towards simplification of melody and harmony in music, led by Satie, Stravinsky, Milhaud and Auric, paralleled the intensified attention to line and angle in the Ballets Russes productions which Mansfield would incorporate in her Chekhovian writing style. Stravinsky, in particular, turned to the energy of Russian folklore with a kind of ritualistic energy and primal violence in The Firebird, qualities that Mansfield admired in Dostoevsky and which she would attempt to recreate in her New Zealand stories.31 The Firebird, Petrushka and Le Sacre du printemps radically broke with a Germanic orchestral tradition, causing Mansfield to readjust her own modernist values. The Firebird, in fact, self-consciously defined the new Russian ballet, not only with its Russian-sourced folk story but with its costumes, choreography and music.32 By 1913, however, the British press still lacked specialist critics in ballet. The music critic usually covered ballet as well as opera, while 93
Katherine Mansfield and Russia ballets were discussed either by reference to their composer or star performer. Schéhérazade was a Rimsky-Korsakov ballet, while individuals like Nijinsky or Anna Pavlova, rather than a company, received praise. But the performances of the Ballets Russes, which combined Russian style with Parisian avant-garde art, became a laboratory of cultural experimentation which Mansfield found engaging. The interconnected worlds of the visual and performing arts displayed by the Russian ballet elided the gap between culture and entertainment. The adaptation of a painterly style to a corporeal medium, with its kaleidoscope of colour and pattern, became a projection of her own unfolding literary practice. Combined with frequent concerts of Russian music, Russian culture was unavoidable in the British capital.33 Even the popular Promenade series reflected this. The 1914 season regularly included a performance of the Russian national anthem, Russia being an ally in the war, as well as the obligatory ‘God Save the King’. By 1917, the Proms offered their first ‘Russian Night’ (all Russian music) in more than a decade, Russia the only country so honoured.34
IV Mansfield and Murry attended performances of the Ballets Russes in 1912 and 1913 at Covent Garden and the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, where they likely saw Le Spectre de la Rose (music by von Weber), Petrushka (music by Stravinsky), L’Après-midi d’un Faune (music by Debussy), Daphnis et Chloé (music by Ravel) and Le Sacre du printemps (music by Stravinsky with choreography by Nijinsky).35 Le Sacre, which had three London performances in July 1913, dispensed with plot as the narrative was not acted out, which meant greater focus on the dance movements. Echoing the modernism of the work’s music, structure and dance was Mansfield’s de-emphasis on action and stress on an episodic form and dialogue rather than description. The ending of Le Sacre, with the sacrificial dance of a young virgin who dances herself to death, anticipates some of the conditions of Mansfield’s female protagonists, while her treatment of the female body becomes, as it does in the ballet, a contested site of gender, social construction and sexual politics (see ‘Miss Brill’  or ‘Marriage à la Mode’ ). Jeux, another new Nijinsky ballet of the 1913 season, was also story-less and modern, set ten years in the future, about a triangular relationship between a man and two women. The scene was a tennis court at dusk lit by electric lights with an airplane flying overhead. The rhythmic counterpoint of movement in the ballet again anticipates the counterpoint 94
Criticism of male and female minds in, for example, Mansfield’s ‘Psychology’ (1919). The latter half of the story makes this clear when the two characters, who admire each other yet repress their feelings, begin to unravel each other’s language but fail to address the truth behind their words: ‘What have we been talking about?’ thought he. He was so utterly bored he almost groaned. ‘What a spectacle we have made of ourselves,’ thought she. And she saw him laboriously [. . .] laying out the grounds and herself running after [. . . but] they were silent this time from sheer dismay.
The counterpoint reveals conflict, the narrator interjecting with ‘What fools they were – heavy, stodgy, elderly – with positively upholstered minds.’ Aware that there was another way to speak to each other, the narrator adds: [A]nd in the new way he wanted to murmur: ‘Do you feel this too? Do you understand it at all?’ Instead, to his horror, he heard himself say: ‘I must be off; I’m meeting Brand at six.’36
The psychological dance in the story is analogous to the emotional movements of hesitation and withdrawal in Diaghilev’s productions. In ‘The Swing of the Pendulum’ (1911), the movements of the strange man and Viola, flirting and asking her to sit on his knee then rising to pat her hair and then making sudden, unwanted advances, also forms a kind of sexual dance. As he seeks a kiss, she fights back, forming a strange, violent, modern, if slightly macabre, pas de deux. His final departure after she bites his hand generates laughter capped by her dancing about the room. Trembling, stumping, pacing, bouncing, banging and squatting all occur as a prelude to this moment initiated when her landlady first visits.37 Mansfield and Murry did not write publicly about the Ballets Russes, although in a review of W. A. Propert’s The Russian Ballet in Western Europe 1909–1920, called ‘The Art of the Russian Ballet’, which appeared in the Nation and Athenaeum in 1921, Murry praised the contributions of the stage designers and painters Natalia Goncharova, Alexandre Benois, and Nicholas Roerich, as well as the scene and costume designer, Léon Bakst.38 The idea of barbarity, aligned with violence, was partly the source of much of the attention and attraction of the Ballets Russes, which undoubtedly appealed to Mansfield. The ‘Russianness’ of the troupe, emanating in part from this perceived ‘barbarism’, was a positive attribute stressed in early reviews, with one French critic celebrating the ‘savage charm and voluptuousness’ of Diaghilev’s productions.39 95
Katherine Mansfield and Russia Another journalist remarked that such action was fascinating: ‘“nothing is more foreign to our senses than these violent outbursts, frenzied and intensive dances, instinctive candour and unbridled fantasy”’, a comment equally important for elements of Mansfield’s writing.40 For the ballet and Mansfield, the sensual and intellectual unite. The folkloric roots of the Ballets Russes, expressed in modern forms, especially appealed to Mansfield, who would employ the primitive and exotic (as in New Zealand’s native societies) but in a new, focused style she found embodied in Chekhov. The Ballets Russes and the Russian writers made it possible for her to overcome any literary insecurity she might have encountered. In the Russian ballet, the critic René Bizet remarked, one found ‘the extraordinary barbaric refinement of a world whose delicacies and splendors we had never tasted’.41 Such a contrast is at the core of Mansfield’s fiction, which blends sophistication with, if not shock, then surprise. Death, it seems, always intrudes, as in, for example, ‘The Garden Party (1921)’. In showcasing their Russian origins through artistic expression, the Ballets Russes dramatised a particular past into a radicalised present. Mansfield likely found in their work confirmation for her own artistic ambitions, which, especially in her New Zealand stories, joined novelty and tribalism with the unexpected and sensual, although often in an understated manner. In ‘At the Bay’, for example, it is in the narrator admitting, ‘Oh, the relief, the difference it made to have the man out of the house. Their very voices were changed.’42 But not only in the New Zealand stories but in something like ‘Poison’, with its ominous, threatening line when Beatrice tells the protagonist, ‘It’s the exception to find married people who don’t poison each other – married people and lovers.’43 The Ballets Russes quickly became the most original dance company in Europe. Diaghilev triumphed, restoring ballet to high culture. A 1914 article in the Tatler declared that ‘the Russian Ballet upset all our preconceived ideas concerning ballet, dancing and pantomime’.44 More specifically, the article explained that the appeal of the Ballets Russes lay in its ‘extraordinary scenery, the even more extraordinary dresses [and] the most extraordinary colour schemes’.45 The unique method of dancing challenged the sense of ballet for the English, which often meant ‘a series of ungraceful postures, much idiotic gesture and a great deal of over-muscular legs’.46 Avant-garde composers such as Stravinsky, Ravel, Debussy, Satie, Milhaud, Prokofiev and Poulenc increased attention on the company, while Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Utrillo, Miro, De Chirico and Rouault contributed designs. The simplicity of costume was particularly impor96
Criticism tant, permitting dancers freer movement. The unrestrictive dress allowed expression with one single pose, with every line of the body thought out. Freed from restraining outfits, dancers could emphasise movement. As the choreographer Fokine noted of Ida Rubinstein dancing the role of Schéhérazade, ‘she awaits her fate in a pose without emotion. What powerful expression without movement’, a remark applicable to Mansfield and her concentrated literary style free from rhetorical excess, a style partly derived from Chekhov.47 Other writers soon found reference to the ballet and the Ballets Russes a useful marker of contemporary culture in their work. In 1916, the year he published a critical study of Dostoevsky, Murry also published the novel Still Life (dedicated to Mansfield and Leslie Heron Beauchamp, Mansfield’s recently deceased brother). It contains an erotic dance section, likely influenced by scenes performed by the Ballets Russes and an early incident in Paris reported to Murry by Mansfield: ‘du monde arrived at Beatrice Hastings’, she wrote in a letter, ‘including a very lovely young woman – married & curious – blonde – passionate – We danced together.’48 Fascination with the Ballets Russes influenced other writers including Compton Mackenzie. Two of his popular novels, Carnival (1912) and Coral (1925), deal with a female ballet dancer, while a party in D. H. Lawrence’s Women in Love embodies much of the colour and movement of the Ballets Russes. In one scene, Hermione commands the guests to make ‘a little ballet, in the style of the Russian ballet of Pavlova and Nijinsky’ and perform in costumes of silks and shawls and ‘scarves mostly oriental’.49 Not surprisingly, the post-war period saw a repeated engagement with the aesthetics of dance as an art form according to Susan Jones,50 a point confirmed in Woolf’s The Years, where one of her characters, hesitant about proper dinner-table conversation, blurts out, ‘“I’ve thought of three subjects to talk about [. . .] Racing; the Russian ballet and – Ireland”.’. ‘“Don’t let’s talk of any of them,” his companion replies. “Let’s talk of something interesting. Do you enjoy parties?”’51 But unavoidably, Nijinsky becomes a subject in a later conversation. Social and cultural interest in the Ballets Russes was inescapable. The press and magazines soon found new theories in the aesthetics of dance as presented by the Ballets Russes. In the pages of the New Statesman, for example, there were repeated discussions of the Ballets Russes by such Bloomsbury writers as Clive Bell, Lytton Strachey, Leonard Woolf and Roger Fry. E. M. Forster attended a performance of Le Sacre du printemps and other Ballets Russes productions.52 Those looking for ‘new art to express and to be the salvation of the coming generation’, wrote one critic, ‘will find a good deal of interest in the 97
Katherine Mansfield and Russia popularity of the Russian Ballet’.53 In a review in the New Statesman, the same unnamed reviewer (possibly Strachey or Clive Bell, both of whom regularly published essays in the magazine) added in July 1913, after seeing three remarkable ballets, that ‘the significance of the Russian ballet lies in its efforts after form’.54 Nijinsky’s choreography, in particular, demonstrated a formalist effort towards unity, the dancer/choreographer ‘working to express an idea through moving forms’, a phrase equally apt for Mansfield.55 Commenting on Le Sacre du printemps, a reviewer added that the ‘literalness of plot has gone; we do not rely on an unforeseen denouement to excite us; we look for the unfolding of an idea’, a comment especially applicable to Mansfield’s technique.56 But a critic in the Musical Times complained that as ballet strives ‘to find new idioms of self-expression’, it knows the new vocabulary only imperfectly and ‘drift[s] to the cult of the angular’ with ‘little or no regard for lines of beauty’, a critique occasionally levelled at Mansfield.57
V Art is a perpetual striving towards an ever more adequate symbolic expression of the living realities of the world. John Middleton Murry and Katherine Mansfield, ‘Seriousness in Art’, Rhythm, July 191258
Rhythm, the journal edited by Murry, with Mansfield as co-editor after issue 5 (June 1912), contained substantial criticism of the Ballets Russes.59 Established in 1911 by Murry and Michael Sadler (Mansfield would replace Sadler), Rhythm was attuned to the new dance aesthetic. The very goal of Rhythm was to promote a realism that was dynamic and vital, the rhythmic structures underlying all art forms becoming its cause. The Ballets Russes illustrated this extensively. Conversely, to have a discussion of the status of dance in an avant-garde English journal marked the elevation of ballet to an important critical position. Dance was never far from Rhythm. The first issue contained ‘Les Huit Danseuses’ by Francis Carco, recalling Symbolist dancers Loïe Fuller and Isadora Duncan in addition to acknowledging the prevailing interest in body-culture. Carco recognised this in the circle-dances of Matisse. ‘Chacune m’attirait par son geste,’ he wrote.60 The development of ‘spiritual freedom’ was one of the goals of Rhythm expanded to the need for an art that ‘passes outside the bounds of a narrow aestheticism, cramping and choking itself’. But before art ‘can be human it must learn to be brutal’, a statement with Dostoevskyian overtones that 98
Criticism resonated with Mansfield and her literary practice. The art in Rhythm was to have ‘its roots below the surface and be the rhythmical echo of the life with which it is in touch. Both in its pity and its brutality it shall be real.’61 Appearing in the August 1912 issue of Rhythm, just before Anne Estelle Rice’s review of the Ballets Russes, is Mansfield’s ‘Tales of a Courtyard’, a story with three discreet and seemingly unrelated sections but thematically connected to darkness and death in the Dostoevsky mode. The Slavic settings and Russian names, plus Dostoevsky-styled violence and brutality, confirm its Russian origins and the presence of Russian reverberations in the journal. More directly Russian is Leonid Andreev’s ‘The Present’, published in Rhythm in October 1912. Murry and Mansfield elaborated their vision of Rhythm in 1912, emphasising the critical role of freedom in the work which meant rejection of all that does not aid in making ‘the expression the adequate symbol of the idea’.62 Economy of form is the critical point, an economy displayed by the Ballets Russes. Music becomes visual in form according to Dorothy ‘Georges’ Banks in her review of Petrouchka in the first review of the Ballets Russes in Rhythm. She also reviewed Ida Rubinstein’s production of Salomé in R hythm 2.4 (September 1912), while the Parisbased American painter Anne Estelle Rice reviewed the Ballets Russes in Rhythm 2.2 (August 1912). Rice clearly identified what the Ballets Russes initiated: ‘daring juxtapositions’ that create ‘life and movement in masses of colour, where costumes, drapery and decorations reverberate to sound, action and light’. The theatre and especially ballet, she writes, is ‘a place of action’ and the work of the Ballets Russes offers ‘the tremendous fullness of expression in line and colour’. Line is the dominant idea of the Ballets Russes, demonstrating what can be done ‘with a fusion of theatrical elements’ where the ‘scenic decorator, costumier, musician, “maître du ballet” and poet [. . .] have created a scheme of one palette’. Cléopâtre and Schéhérazade illustrate these qualities fully, especially the former where there are ‘vibrating blues, reds, greens, yellows, lines of severity and voluptuousness, angles relieved by curves’.63 This totality of scene and action, of event and individualism expressed lyrically but with restraint (‘angularity’), influenced Mansfield and her approach to character and scene. A later comment by Rice on Nijinsky’s choreography of L’Après-midi d’un Faune is to the point. Into each movement he introduces ‘a definite design, arbitrary in relation to the preceding one, but complete in itself, and harmonious in the whole’.64 This paratactic construction suggests Mansfield’s structures throughout her major stories, while 99
Katherine Mansfield and Russia another incisive remark hints at Mansfield’s ethos: the ‘direction of line produces a susceptibility to varying sensations’, while the ‘composition of line’ maintains a dominant note. In other words, structure precedes emotion. Rice then expands, again almost providing a blueprint for Mansfield’s later writings: The Russian ballets are elemental to the last degree, full of the visions of Asia, a tropical heat, not of stillness, but of a new life born every instant, where realism and fantasy combine and multiply into a fluidity of moving reds, blues, oranges, greens, purples, triangles, squares, circles, serpentine and zigzag shapes.65
From the clarity of the line comes the intrigue and complexity of the angle, as in Mansfield’s exposure of situation and character through action. The dark is always ‘staring in, spying’ as she describes in ‘The Canary’ (1922), her last completed story, or as in ‘Her First Ball’ or ‘Psychology’, where a dark epiphany suddenly threatens the bond of two friends, or, of course, the death that intrudes in ‘The Garden Party’.66 In Mansfield, anguish often underlies ambiguity, as in ‘The Wind Blows’ (1920): ‘Suddenly – dreadfully – she wakes up. What has happened?’ The abrupt opening, the mystery and the intrigue suggest the dramatic, explosive style of the Ballets Russes.67 But, as with the dark moments in Cléopâtre and Schéhérazade, fear is converted into energy and understanding. The Ballets Russes and Mansfield’s stories repeatedly display and confront a dialectic of becoming with situations unfolding and characters moving towards self-discovery. A further measure of the presence of the Ballets Russes in Rhythm can be seen in a series featured in 1913 called ‘Designs from the Russian Ballet’. Five designs from their productions appeared, all drawn by Anne Estelle Rice: Spectre de la Rose, Schéhérazade (two drawings), Thamar and L’Après-midi d’un Faune. They originally appeared in the August number, but were reproduced in March 1913. Also in the issue is Mansfield’s poem ‘Sea Song’, as well as Boris Petrovsky’s poem ‘There was a Child Once’ and a review of Vladimir Polunin’s drawings at the Groupil’s gallery on Bedford Street, emphasising his successful use of ‘restraint’. In fact, illustrations often accompanied contributions, Georges Banks importantly offering a cartoon image of Mansfield in October 1912. A month earlier, she had done one of the long-limbed Russian ballerina Ida Rubinstein, somewhat notorious for her performance in Schéhérazade. Importantly, and implied by the dual but separate images, both Rubinstein and Mansfield were new modernists, although in separate but complementary forms as dancer and writer. Indeed, ballet itself was understood to combine popular appeal with modernism. 100
Criticism Enhancing the interdisciplinary nature of Rhythm, which resonated with the ethos of dance performed by the Ballets Russes, was the fluid movement between genres and gender. J. D. Ferguson, the original artist for Rhythm, vacillated between choosing a male or female image for the cover, the style and subject matter of the journal’s illustrations crossing gender and disciplinary boundaries. The artist Dunover de Segonzac was interested in depicting dancing and boxing. Ferguson and Rice created paintings that could be understood as feminine in nature, even when depicting males. Their chromatic similarities meant gender identities blended. Such negotiation of gender echoed that on stage with the Ballets Russes and found expression in the writing of Mansfield. Both the stage and the page emphasised the movement of ‘becoming’ and the fluidity of identities which lasted until the end of her life. To Murry on 26 December 1922 she wrote, ‘the question is always “Who am I”’?68 The question plagued her until her death. The impact of dance on Mansfield can be measured by its impact on the body in her writing, with references to dance and the body occurring in numerous stories. Movement and balance initially register their presence through the inner rhythm of a character possessing an almost mobile consciousness, a kind of ‘dance of the intellect’, to cite Pound’s phrase from ‘How to Read’.69 But it also takes a physical form: Mansfield’s figures are constantly alert to change and curious about actions, with dance often the vehicle of discovery. Movement in Mansfield’s stories, where gesture as much as action dominates, is always dance-like, the act expressing emotion without words, as when Ole Underwood opens the door to a shop and the wind disrupts the cards in a game. Other examples include the scene on the train platform in ‘The Little Governess’ (1915); Millie dancing in the dust at the end of ‘Millie’ (1911); the account in ‘Pension Séguin’ (1913) where Monsieur Arthur would often ‘dance for an hour without stopping’, while Mademoiselle Ambatielos would play; the movement of a bush ‘dancing through the sunlight’; or the transformation of Kezia’s tassel fringes of her quilt ‘into a funny procession of dancers with priests attending’ although some ‘did not dance at all but walked stately, bent forward as if praying or chanting’, all emphasise the presence of dance in her work.70 Movement unites all of these scenes, and Jacques Rivière’s review of Nijinsky’s Le Sacre best conveys what this movement means and how one might read Mansfield: There is no need of translation [. . .] by means of this tangible figure we are brought closer to [words] and put into their presence in a more immediate manner; we are able to contemplate them before the arrival
Katherine Mansfield and Russia of language [. . .] we are present through our body and it is the body that understands.
‘Each of the dancer’s gestures is like a word,’ he concludes.71 Like much of Mansfield’s writing where innuendo and symbol reveal more than direct action, dance embodies her compositional practice. Arthur Symons in ‘The World as Ballet’ (1898) corroborated this when he wrote that in dance nothing is stated, there is no intrusion of words used for the irrelevant purpose of describing; a world rises before one, the picture lasts only long enough to have been there: and the dancer, with her gesture, all pure symbol, evokes . . . all that one need ever know of event.72
The ballerina Anna Pavlova, star of the Ballets Russes, told an interviewer that the novelty of her dancing ‘“was merely to subordinate its physical elements to a psychological concept”’. Her goal was to ‘“screen the mechanical element”’.73 Clive Bell expressed this in a similar manner when he wrote of Leonide Massine’s choreography that his idea of ballet was as an ‘organized whole, detached from circumstance and significant in itself’, creating an aesthetic of impersonality.74 Mansfield, in her emphasis on the psychological and objective, reducing the realistic, employs a similar aesthetic. Characterisation in Mansfield rests on a psychological, almost musical conception prompted by an internal tempo expressed outwardly by movement (as in dance), establishing a new practice of aesthetic modernism. Late in her life, Mansfield continued her association with dance. When she lived in Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland, in 1921, she sought and received reports of the ballet from Sydney Schiff, a British novelist. She responded with empathy and enthusiasm: the glimpse of London in his letter, she told Schiff, ‘just that lift of the curtain showing lights [. . .] the Ballet [. . .] took me there for the moment’.75 When she resided at Gurdjieff’s Institute in Fontainebleau, there were reports that Lady Rothermere was performing ‘religious dances naked with Katherine Mansfield’.76 These devotional dances upset T. S. Eliot and his wife. Eliot, partially supported by Lady Rothermere at the Criterion, disliked Mansfield and satirised her as Schéhérazade in his only short story, ‘Eeldrop and Appleplex’.77 Ironically, one of those providing music and movement exercises for Lady Rothermere and Mansfield during their residence with Gurdjieff was Thomas de Hartmann, whose ballet La Fleurette Rouge (The Pink Flower) was performed in 1906 at the Imperial opera houses in Moscow and St Petersburg with Nijinsky, Pavlova and Michel Fokine, three years before Diaghilev formed the Ballets Russes. 102
Criticism Movement in Mansfield’s stories, where gesture as much as action rules, embodies the effect of dance, choreography as much as costume, in her writing. The sudden, often unexpected movements of characters frequently express emotion without words, observed first in the ballets of Diaghilev’s company and duplicated by Mansfield in her fiction. Such action, emulated in Rhythm through its stylised woodcuts and often experimental writing, sustained Mansfield’s commitment to the latent potential of expressiveness in dance. Loosely connected vignettes, as seen in Nijinsky’s L’Après-midi d’un faune, visualised for her a technique she incorporated in her writing. The dance of Nijinsky, the costumes of Bakst, the music of Stravinsky contributed to her expanding sense of the modern borrowing from Chekhov as much as Diaghilev. And both encompassed her love of Russia. Mansfield’s appreciation of the Ballets Russes, shared with the Bloomsbury Group, expanded her ideas about aesthetics and her concept of performance as well as the theatrical function and possibilities of music. But movement was perhaps the most important legacy of dance for Mansfield. Notes 1. Attributed to Emma Goldman from an incident described in her autobiography, Living My Life (New York: Knopf, 1934), p. 56. 2. Letters, 5, p. 310 (to John Middleton Murry, 27 October 1922). 3. Rishona Zimring, Social Dance and the Modernist Imagination in Interwar Britain (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2013), pp. 78–89. 4. Anne Olivier Bell and Andrew McNeillie (eds), The Diary of Virginia Woolf, Vol. III (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980), p. 209. 5. Leonard Woolf and James Strachey (eds), Virginia Woolf and Lytton Strachey: Letters (London: Chatto and Windus, 1956), p. 136. 6. On this topic, see Terri A. Mester, Movement and Modernism: Yeats, Eliot, Lawrence, Williams and Early Twentieth Century Dance (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1997). 7. Count E. Armfelt, ‘Russia in East London’, Living London: Its Work and Its Play (London: Cassell, 1901), Vol. 1, p. 28. 8. Notebooks, 2, p. 104 (29 June 1907). 9. Susan Jones, Literature, Modernism, and Dance (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), p. 71. 10. Alexander Schouvaloff, The Art of Ballets Russes (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), p. 38. 11. Joanna Woods, Katerina: The Russian World of Katherine Mansfield (Auckland: Penguin, 2001), p. 82. 12. Claire Tomalin, Katherine Mansfield: A Secret Life (New York: Knopf, 1987), p. 90. She signed her 1911 UK census form in a similar manner: ‘Katharina Mansfield’. See Gerri Kimber, ‘Circle of Influence: Katherine Mansfield, S.S. Koteliansky and Russia’, in Sarah Ailwood and Melinda Harvey (eds), Katherine Mansfield and Literary Influence (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015), p. 78. 13. Katherine Mansfield, ‘A Dill Pickle’, in Vincent O’Sullivan (ed.), Katherine Mansfield’s Selected Stories (New York: Norton, 2006), p. 113; Woods, Katerina, p. 84.
Katherine Mansfield and Russia 14. See Mary E. Davis, Ballets Russes Style: Diaghilev’s Dancers and Paris Fashion (London: Reaktion Books, 2010), p. 7. 15. That same month a young twenty-two-year-old former Oxonian, John Middleton Murry (who had actually dropped out), published the first issue of Rhythm, soon to be co-edited by Mansfield. 16. Huntly Carter, ‘The Russian Ballets in Paris and London’, New Age, 9: 9, p. 209. 17. Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out, ed. Lorna Sage (Oxford: Oxford World’s Classics, 2009), p. 178. 18. Geoffrey Marsh, ‘Serge Diaghilev and the Strange Birth of the Ballets Russes’, in Jane Pritchard (ed.), Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes 1909–1929 (London: V&A Publishing, 2010), p. 26. 19. Ibid. p. 26. 20. Jones, Literature, Modernism, and Dance, p. 97. 21. Quoted in ibid. p. 97. 22. Ibid. p. 98. 23. See ibid. p. 70. 24. Preparing the way for the Ballets Russes was Thamar Karsavina, a Russian dancer who performed in 1909 at the Coliseum, followed in 1910 by Anna Pavlova and Michael Modkin at the Palace, succeeded by a series of other dancers in venues as varied as the Palace Theatre and the Empire. See Cyril W. Beaumont, The Diaghilev Ballet in London, A Personal Record (London: Putnam, 1940), p. 4. On Diaghilev’s finances, see Schouvaloff, The Art of Ballets Russes, p.38. 25. Beaumont, Diaghilev Ballet in London, p. 7. 26. Woods, Katerina, p. 88. 27. Among the many discussions of the Ballets Russes costumes see Alston Purvis et al. (eds), The Ballets Russes and the Art of Design (New York: Monacelli Press, 2009); Robert Bell and Christine Dixon, The Ballets Russes: The Art of Costume (Canberra: National Gallery of Australia, 2010); Davis, Ballets Russes Style; and Juliet Bellow, Modernism on Stage, The Ballets Russes and the Parisian Avant-garde (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2013). 28. Marsh, ‘Serge Diaghilev and the Strange Birth’, p. 26. 29. Notebooks, 1, pp. 60–2. 30. When Murry first met Mansfield at a dinner arranged by the novelist W. L. George in December 1911, George addressed Mansfield throughout the evening by the correct Russian form of her name: Yekaterina. In turn, Mansfield spoke highly of the dramatic and violent writing of the Russian naturalist writer, Mikhail Artsybashev and his novel Sanin, while praising German over English translations from the Russian (see Woods, Katerina, p. 91; Tomalin, Katherine Mansfield, p. 100). 31. Howard Goodall, ‘Music and The Ballets Russes’, in Pritchard, Diaghilev and the Golden Age, pp. 176–8. 32. Jennifer Homans, Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet (London: Granta, 2010), p. 301. 33. On Russian music in England, led by performances by Tchaikovsky and Arthur Rubinstein beginning in the late 1880s, see Philip Ross Bullock, Rosa Newmarch and Russian Music in Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century England (Farnham: Ashgate, 2009), pp. 32–5. In a letter to Lady Ottoline Morrell, Mansfield asks, ‘do you remember when the russian music sounded in that half-empty hall?’ (Letters, 2, p. 254). Contributing to her attachment to things Russian was Mansfield’s relationship with S. S. Koteliansky. The émigré Russian Jewish translator of Chekhov and others
Criticism r einforced a Russian world theatricalised by the Ballets Russes. In her last months, Mansfield worked on translations of Dostoevsky’s letters and Gorky’s Reminiscences with Koteliansky, rather than her own short stories. During her exhausting irradiation treatment in France, Mansfield wrote the following to Koteliansky: ‘While I was waiting at the Clinique tonight the doors were all open and [. . .] people were talking Russian [. . .] I cannot tell you how I love Russian. When I hear it spoken it makes me think of course always of Tchekhov’ (Letters, 5, p. 38). For a comprehensive account of Koteliansky’s life, see Galya Diment, A Russian Jew of Bloomsbury: The Life and Times of Samuel Koteliansky (Montreal: McGill-Queens Press, 2011). For Koteliansky’s influence on the Bloomsbury Group, see Andrei Rogachevskii, ‘Samuel Koteliansky and the Bloomsbury Circle’, Forum for Modern Language Studies, 36: 4 (2000), pp. 368–85. 34. Bullock, Rosa Newmarch, p. 123. 35. Lynn Garafola, Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 327. 36. Mansfield, ‘Psychology’, in O’Sullivan, Selected Stories, pp. 159–60. 37. Mansfield, ‘The Swing of the Pendulum’, in O’Sullivan, Selected Stories, pp. 27, 19, 25–6. 38. Murry, ‘The Art of Ballet’, Nation, 10 September 1921, p. 834. 39. Davis, Ballets Russes Style, p. 61. 40. Quoted in ibid. pp. 61–2. 41. Ibid. p. 61. 42. Mansfield, ‘At the Bay’, in O’Sullivan, Selected Stories, p. 255. 43. Mansfield, ‘Poison’, in O’Sullivan, Selected Stories, p. 211. 44. ‘Tatler’, in Pritchard, Diaghilev and the Golden Age, p. 49. 45. Ibid. p. 49. 46. Ibid. p. 49. 47. Michel Fokine, Fokine: Memoirs of a Ballet Master, trans. Vitale Fokine, ed. Anatole Chujoy (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1961), p. 155. 48. Letters, 1, p. 164 (to Murry, 22 March 1915). 49. D. H. Lawrence, Women in Love (London: Penguin, 1994), p. 91. 50. Jones, Literature, Modernism, and Dance, pp. 142–7. 51. Virginia Woolf, The Years, ed. Hermione Lee, notes by Sue Ashee (Oxford: Oxford World’s Classis, 2009), p. 239. 52. Ramsay Burt, ‘Le Sacre du printemps in London’, in Rebecca Beasley and Philip Ross Bullock (eds), Russia in Britain, 1880–1940: From Melodrama to Modernism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), p. 132, n. 8. 53. ‘The Russian Ballet I’, New Statesman (5 July 1913), p. 406. 54. ‘The Russian Ballet II’, New Statesman (19 July 1913), pp. 469–70. Strachey and Bell commented often on dance for the New Statesman. See Garafola, Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, pp. 316–17. The ballets were Nijinsky’s Jeux (set to the music of Debussy), L’Après-midi d’un faune and Le Sacre du printemps (design by Nijinsky, music by Stravinsky). 55. ‘The Russian Ballet II’, pp. 469–70. 56. Ibid. p. 469. 57. ‘Russian Opera and Ballet at Drury Lane’, Musical Times, 54: 846 (1 August 1913), p. 535. 58. John Middleton Murry and Katherine Mansfield, ‘Seriousness in Art’, Rhythm, 2: 6 (July 1912), p. 36.
Katherine Mansfield and Russia 59. Other publications commenting on the Ballets Russes included the New Age, the Egoist and the Little Review. 60. Francis Carco, ‘Les Huit Danseuses’, Rhythm, 1 (Summer 1911), p. 21. 61. [John Middleton Murry], ‘Aims and Ideals’, Rhythm, 1 (Summer 1911), p. 36. 62. Jones, Literature, Modernism, and Dance, p. 99. 63. Anne Estelle Rice, ‘Les Ballets Russes’, Rhythm, 2: 7 (August 1912), pp. 106–8. 64. Ibid. p. 110. 65. Ibid. p. 108. 66. Josiane Paccaud-Huguet, ‘A Trickle of Voice: Katherine Mansfield and the Modernist Moment of Being’, in Gerri Kimber and Janet Wilson (eds), Celebrating Katherine Mansfield: A Centenary Volume of Essays (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), pp. 135–8. The suddenness of such unexpected exposures may, in psychological terms, relate to the suddenness of learning of her brother Leslie’s accidental death from a grenade in October 1915, or the unexpected leaps, turns and changes in direction of Diaghilev’s dancers. 67. Mansfield, ‘The Wind Blows’, in O’Sullivan, Selected Stories, p. 75. 68. Letters, 5, p. 340 (to John Middleton Murry, 26 December 1922). 69. Ezra Pound, ‘How to Read’, in T. S. Eliot (ed.), Literary Essays of Ezra Pound (New York: New Directions, 1968), p. 25. 70. Mansfield, ‘Ole Underwood’, in O’Sullivan, Selected Stories, pp. 40–1; ‘The Little Governess,’ in ibid. p. 53; ‘Pension Séguin’, in ibid. p. 2; http://www.katherinemansfieldsociety.org/assets/KM-Stories/EPILOGUE-I-PENSION-SEGUIN1913.pdf. (accessed 14 February 2017); ‘Prelude’, in O’Sullivan, Selected Stories, p. 91. 71. Quoted in Mester, Movement and Modernism, p. 20. 72. Arthur Symons, ‘The World as Ballet’, in Cobbett Steinberg (ed.), The Dance Anthology (New York: New American Library, 1980), p. 348. 73. Quoted in Garafola, Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, p. 25. 74. Clive Bell, ‘The New Ballet’, New Republic (30 July 1919), p. 415. 75. Letters, 4, p. 330 (3 December 1921). 76. Vivienne Eliot to Ezra Pound, 2 November 1922, in Valerie Eliot (ed.), The Letters of T. S. Eliot, 2 vols (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988), p. 588. 77. Stephen Klaidman, Sydney and Violet: Their Life with T. S. Eliot, Proust, Joyce and the Excruciatingly Irascible Wyndham Lewis (New York: Doubleday, 2013), p. 96.
At Home Among the Russians: The Short Stories of Olive Garnett and Katherine Mansfield Frances Reading
Olive Garnett and Katherine Mansfield emerge from the same coterie that boasts some of the most recognisable names in literary history: Ford Madox Ford, D. H. Lawrence, Joseph Conrad and Mansfield herself, to name a few. Garnett was friends with Ford from childhood and her brother, Edward, was an editor, advisor, and friend to Ford, Lawrence and Conrad. Through her brother, Garnett became well acquainted with Lawrence and exchanged letters with Conrad, allegedly becoming fictionalised as Natalia Haldin in Conrad’s Under Western Eyes.1 Edward’s wife, Constance, on the other hand, corresponded with Mansfield about their competitive translations of Anton Chekhov’s works. Despite Edward’s pedigree in publishing, writing and editing books, Olive Garnett has not become a familiar name, although her two published works did enjoy a reasonable level of positive attention in the British and American press at the time. Mansfield’s oeuvre and name, however, are celebrated and critiqued internationally, with studies of her personality and life commanding as much interest as the analysis of her work. Both Mansfield and Garnett had a common interest in Russia and, writing in the same literary milieu, both wrote short stories about Russia and Russians. Where the interest in Russia comes from for Garnett and Mansfield forms a substantial part of this essay. Both were influenced by various Russian radicals and philosophers, such as Nikolai Chernyshevsky, who conceivably served to inspire the writing of both women. Mansfield’s short stories ‘Tales of a Courtyard’ (1912) and ‘A Dill Pickle’ (1917), and Garnett’s ‘The Case of Vetrova’ (1900), ‘Roukoff’ (1900) and ‘A Russian Girl’ (1905), as well as letters and diary entries, will be e xamined. The context for the essay will stem from the ‘Russomania’ that took hold from the 1880s onwards, culminating in the subsequent fin-de-siècle 107
Katherine Mansfield and Russia and post-Great War paranoia within the British national consciousness which expressed itself in the form of prejudice towards the foreign Other. The trajectory from ‘Russomania’ to post-war prejudice and a rise in Russophobia maps a clear link between the start of Garnett’s writing career and the end of Mansfield’s. The purpose of this article is to incorporate Garnett into the discussion surrounding Mansfield in relation to Russian themes. It will consider the influence Russia, and Russian people, had on the style and work of Mansfield and Garnett, and in turn reveal how both writers present Russia. The Crimean War (1853–6) contributed to the increased demand for all things Russian in Britain.2 The size of Russia’s army, its geographical location and its interests in central Asia meant that Russia posed a significant threat to the British Empire’s most valued possession, India. The Crimean War was the first media war in history, further engaging the British public’s attention with the expansionist Russian Empire, with correspondents and members of the armed forces, such as William Howard Russell (The Times) and General Pélissier (the Standard), sending regular reports.3 The British public’s curiosity began in 1854 just after the beginning of the Crimean War, with interest gathering momentum in the 1880s when the translation of Russian literary works into English began in earnest.4 Before the Crimean War, only twenty-one Russian books had been translated into English.5 However, by 1860 a further seventeen literary works were available in translation, including publications by Ivan Turgenev and Mikhail Lermontov. Colonial ties ensured that Britain’s newfound interest in Russia was transmitted to New Zealand. By 1897, the General Assembly Library in Wellington had a modest collection of Russian fiction, including works by Gogol, Pushkin and Dostoevsky, nineteen texts by Tolstoy and sixteen by Turgenev. Mansfield did not have borrowing privileges at the library until 1907; however, she was exposed to Dostoevsky, and possibly Turgenev, in the preceding three years at the liberal women’s educational establishment, Queen’s College in London, where Garnett had likewise been educated between 1882 and 1889.6 1907 was also the year Mansfield decided to dedicate time to becoming a writer. Joanna Woods argues that while reading Russian novels, Mansfield was ‘searching for a style’ and found it within the pages of Turgenev and Chekhov.7 Garnett was born in London in 1871. In 1890 she and her family moved into an official residence at the British Museum where Garnett’s father, Dr Richard Garnett, had been appointed Keeper of Printed Books.8 Dr Garnett’s position resulted in his becoming ‘a body of bibliographical knowledge’,9 and this, coupled with his focus on developing 108
Criticism the Russian collection within the library, gave the well-educated Garnett access to a wealth of literature to which she might not otherwise have been exposed.10 The Garnett family was very left-wing, and Edward did not hesitate in inviting Russian political refugees into his home. Thus, it was through Edward and Constance that Garnett met and became friends with several Russian émigrés. Garnett, already having an interest in Russia owing to her reading, was keen to meet the exiles; indeed four of them changed the course of her life and equipped her with the experience, language and inspiration to write and publish her short stories and novels. The earliest was Felix Volkhovsky, the first Russian radical to attempt to assassinate a tsar – Alexander II – in April 1866. After fleeing Russia, Volkhovsky established himself by speaking publicly and writing articles for The Times on the Russian penal system. It was whilst residing with Edward and Constance that Volkhovsky tutored Garnett in Russian. Then came Prince Peter Kropotkin, a man from an aristocratic family who eschewed his heritage in favour of taking a leading role in the international anarchist movement. Kropotkin’s activism led to his arrest and imprisonment in France in 1883, after which he travelled to England. Kropotkin took up work as a scientific journalist, and many of his anarcho-communist articles and pamphlets were collected and published, such as Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution (1902). Kropotkin became one of Garnett’s chief mentors in her bid to gain a better understanding of the attitude of Russian revolutionaries, as detailed in her numerous diaries.11 The third and most significant émigré Garnett met was Sergey Stepniak. Like his close associate, the anarchist Peter Kropotkin, Stepniak rejected his noble birth and by the age of twenty-two was involved in the populist movement, khozhdeniye v narod (‘going to the people’). After escaping arrest, Stepniak spent time in Central Europe where he met the ‘father of anarchy’, Mikhail Bakunin, in Lugano, Switzerland. Bakunin converted Stepniak away from a pacifistic political career towards a more violent one. Returning to Russia, Stepniak assassinated General Mezentsev, the head of Alexander II’s Tretiye Otdeleniye (Third Section), Russia’s secret police, in August 1878. Stepniak fled Russia once again, this time to England. His Jewish wife, Fanny, the fourth influential Russian in Garnett’s life, joined him. Garnett fell in love with Stepniak, although her love remained unrequited. Despite her feelings, Garnett always remained close friends with Fanny, who in turn helped Garnett practise her Russian. Indeed, the Fanny-Garnett relationship became so close that Fanny saw Garnett as the daughter she never had. In England, Stepniak delivered public 109
Katherine Mansfield and Russia lectures on conditions in Russia and published texts such as The Career of a Nihilist (1889). In collaboration with Volkhovsky and Kropotkin, he formed the ‘Society of Friends of Russian Freedom’ in 1890, and its journal, Free Russia, became a notorious source of anti-tsarist opinion in fin-de-siècle England.12 Stepniak became one of the most influential figures in Garnett’s life, serving as an informal personal editor.13 The four Russians met Garnett and her family during the years of British ‘Russian Fever’,14 where a vogue for Russian music, dance, art, literature and traditional artefacts (particularly peasant-produced) spread across Western Europe. The national mood, combined with Garnett’s exposure to Russian literature and history at the British Museum as well as her regular socialisation with Volkhovsky, Kropotkin and the Stepniaks, only served to enhance her interest. Moving with her family to the British Museum and meeting the Russians narrowed the focus of her writing to concentrate on Russian themes and ignited her ambition to be a published author. Garnett travelled to St Petersburg on 5 August 1896 and returned on 24 May 1897, having gained further inspiration for her short stories. The translation work of her sister-in-law, Constance, had a profound effect and influence on both Garnett and Mansfield. Between 1884 and 1928, Constance translated seventy-one volumes of Russian literature into English. While Constance was not alone in the marketplace of Russian-to-English translators, the sheer number of texts being made accessible to the British public by her translations alone made her the most significant translator of the era.15 Adrian Hunter, while neglecting the French and German translations of Russian literature pre-dating Constance’s, believes her work was ‘fundamental in introducing English speakers to the Russian masters and that the course of European and American modernism was altered by her rapid output’.16 Moreover, Claire Davison’s and George Steiner’s belief that Constance’s translations form part of a triad – alongside the Greeks and Elizabethans – as the most momentous developments in the history of Western literature attests to Constance’s achievements and value.17 With modernist literature aiming to break with literary tradition, Constance’s contribution of a ‘new’ style of writing is crucial. However, the irony is not lost upon Davison that the Russian masters were inspired by Victorian novelists, from whom the modernists were so desperate to distance themselves.18 The effect of Constance’s translations on Garnett and Mansfield can be seen in diary entries and letters. On reading Constance’s new translation of Turgenev’s A House of Gentlefolk (trans. 1894), Garnett wrote in her diary: ‘My heart leapt within me, and I experienced pure joy. I have been too long dead to these gentle influences.’19 Garnett was fortunate 110
Criticism to be able to discuss the translations in person with Constance, with whom she spent ample time; however, Mansfield – who saw Constance as a rival, since they were both working on translations of Chekhov’s diaries and letters20 – did not have this luxury. Instead she wrote Constance a letter: [I can] no longer refrain from thanking you for the whole other world that you have revealed to us through those marvellous translations from the Russian. Your beautiful industry will end in making us most ungrateful. We are almost inclined to take for granted the fact that a new book is translated by Mrs Constance Garnett. [. . .] These books have changed our lives, no less! [. . .] I am only one voice among so many who appreciate the greatness of your task, the marvel of your achievement.21
Mansfield’s and Garnett’s semantics are very similar. Mansfield believed that Constance had introduced her to a new world, which stimulated her own writing and lifestyle. Mansfield went as far as Russifying her name and signing documents (including the 1911 UK census) using a variety of Russian-sounding names, including ‘Katharina’, ‘Katerina’, ‘Katoushka’ and ‘Kissienka’.22 However, despite both authors’ citing Constance as a source of inspiration, she was not the main influence on either Garnett or Mansfield. For Garnett, Stepniak helped form and edit the content of her work, and for Mansfield it was Anton Chekhov who influenced her prose and style.23 Garnett’s reliance on Stepniak can be seen in her diaries in comments such as: ‘I may as well remark that it will be entirely owing to Stepniak that the strong points [in a manuscript] will be placed in strong lights, and the trivial points get in their right places in the background. [. . . He] taught me a great deal.’24 Stepniak helped Garnett with the structure of her writing – something she had struggled with.25 Garnett’s self-confidence was also driven by Stepniak’s opinion of her work. After expressing her fear of being a bad writer to him, Garnett took solace in his words of encouragement, commenting that: ‘He believes in me so much that I almost begin to believe in myself’.26 However, Stepniak’s most beneficial piece of advice was that she should ‘write from an English point of view on Russia’,27 which she did. Garnett’s short story collection Petersburg Tales (1900), a fictionalised account of her time in Russia, was hailed as a ‘striking series of studies of Russian life’ by the Manchester Guardian.28 The Times claimed: As a nation we possess distinct ideas concerning the Russians. We have heard much about their character, their prisons, their administration of justice, etc.: but only those of us who have been into their country and lived their life can see them and appreciate them as they are. Petersburg
Katherine Mansfield and Russia Tales gives us the welcome sensation of newness – or, rather, of seeing old things in the new light.29
Garnett’s four short sketches of Russian life gave the British public easy and entertaining access to Russia, which contrasted with newspaper articles or drier works of non-fiction. By making the reader aware that Garnett travelled to Russia, The Times presented Petersburg Tales as a refreshing and trustworthy account of Russian life itself, rather than the more typical accounts of the archaic practices of Russian autocracy. In contrast to Garnett’s self-doubt, Mansfield appears – on the surface at least – confident in her own ability. In 1917, on the flyleaf of her copy of Chekhov’s The Lady with the Dog, she wrote, ‘By all the laws of M. and P. | This book is bound to belong to me. | Besides I am sure that you agree. | I am the English Anton T’.30 By comparing herself to a celebrated writer of cultural significance, Mansfield playfully suggests she possesses substantial literary skills, foreshadowing her own international acclaim. Additionally, like Garnett, Mansfield also acknowledges the impact a Russian had upon her own writing. Further, ‘I am the English Anton T.’ is uncomfortably accurate, and not only because they were both victims of consumption. In 1951 E. M. Almedingen rightly accused Mansfield of plagiarism in The Times Literary Supplement. Upon reading Mansfield’s ‘The-Child-Who-Was-Tired’, originally published in the New Age in 1910, Almedingen claimed she ‘got a curious sense of walking through a once well familiar room’.31 This was because ‘TheChild-Who-Was-Tired’ is simply a borrowing of Chekhov’s story Spat’ khochetsia [Sleepyhead] (1888). Mansfield’s ‘borrowing’ of Chekhov’s story was not an isolated case; critics such as Claire Tomalin, Joanna Woods and W. H. New all cite examples of the ‘unconscious memory of Chekhov’ in Mansfield’s work.32 ‘The-Child-Who-Was-Tired’ is perhaps the most infamous example and was used to illustrate the effect Chekhov’s work had upon Mansfield.33 Much criticism has been produced on Mansfield’s use of Chekhov; however, there has been limited discussion on her representation of Russia and Russians in her fiction. Looking at the language and descriptions used by Mansfield in ‘A Dill Pickle’ and ‘Tales of a Courtyard’ and Garnett’s ‘Vetrova’ and ‘A Russian Girl’, as well as in their personal writings, it is possible to discern the likely influence of the Russian revolutionary, Nikolai Chernyshevsky. One of Chernyshevsky’s qualities that would have been particularly appealing to Mansfield and Garnett was his strong support of women’s rights. As with Mansfield and Garnett, women take a leading role in Chernyshevsky’s literary work, and all three authors explore the (in)equality of the sexes in their texts.34 Chernyshevsky’s seminal 112
Criticism text, Chto delat’? [What is to be Done?], was written in 1862 and translated into English by Benjamin Ricketson Tucker in 1886.35 Lenin found Chernyshevsky’s work to be of particular importance and went on to name his own pamphlet ‘What is to be Done?’ (1902), in recognition of the novel that would later go on to supply ‘the emotional dynamic that went to make the Russian Revolution’.36 Chto delat’? fictionalises Chernyshevsky’s desire for a Russian revolution,37 but owing to censorship, he was forced to adopt an allegorical approach to communicate his desire to the Russian people. For example, at the beginning of the novel the female protagonist, Vera Pavlovna, sings a ‘bold and daring French song’38 – an allusion to ‘La Marseillaise’ – but the words are changed to suit the Russian situation: ‘“We are uneducated but we are working people; we have strong hands. We are uneducated but not stupid, and we long for light”’.39 This sentiment is reflected in Chernyshevsky’s preface to the novel, where he angrily addresses the Russian people: The author is in no mood [. . .] because he keeps thinking about the confusion in your head, and about the useless, unnecessary suffering of each and every one of us that results from the absurd muddle in your thoughts. [. . .] You are so impotent and spiteful, all because of the extraordinary quantity of nonsense between your two ears.40
Chernyshevsky was frustrated by the apathetic nature of the Russian people, furious because ‘intellectual impotence’ meant they did not rise up in revolution.41 In a similar tirade against New Zealanders, Mansfield wrote to her mother, ‘I am ashamed of young New Zealand, but what is to be done. All the firm fat framework of their brains must be demolished before they can begin to learn’ (my italics).42 Both Chernyshevsky and Mansfield complain that their countrymen are ignorant, lazy and have feeble brains. Each extract indicates a desire for change, and the language condemns whole populations for being stupid. While there is currently no further supporting evidence, considering Mansfield’s predilection for borrowing from other writers coupled with the fact that her words echo those of Chernyshevsky, it leaves open the possibility that Mansfield may have been aware of the text or might have either heard somebody talking about it or read it herself. It could be that while Mansfield stayed at the German spa Bad Wörishofen (1909), Floryan Sobieniowski (whose family lived under Russian rule in Poland) discussed Chto delat’? with her. Sobieniowski is cited as the man who introduced Mansfield to writers ‘who were at the forefront of literary developments in Russia’.43 The effects of Chernyshevsky’s work were already being felt across Europe, with Lenin’s pamphlet being published in Stuttgart; the European 113
Katherine Mansfield and Russia i ntelligentsia staying at Bad Wörishofen, including Sobieniowski, would have been aware of it.44 Both Stepniak and Kropotkin read Chto delat’? and, given their shared passion and desire for a Russian revolution, they would have undoubtedly discussed the text with Garnett, even if she had not read it herself. Significantly, Garnett’s short story, ‘The Case of Vetrova’, published in Petersburg Tales, fictionalises a real incident involving the Russian public’s reaction to the death of a female political prisoner who ‘died from the effects of burning, after two days’ horrible suffering’45 in the formidable Petropavlovskaya Krepost (St Peter and St Paul Fortress).46 Evgenia Pavlovna, a journalist in ‘Vetrova’ who has the same patronymic as Chernyshevsky’s protagonist, shares views similar to Chernyshevsky; she despairs of a lack of revolutionary fervour: ‘I saw young Russia, with whom is the future, now lying bruised, humiliated, half torpid; vanquished, [. . .] ominously moaning like some creature in painful sleep.’47 Evgenia’s bleak portrayal of Russia’s young generation is in keeping with general impressions of laziness and selfishness seen in ‘Young Russia’ throughout ‘Vetrova’.48 Garnett’s characters are looking for signs of revolutionary potential but instead are met with apathetic, lethargic attitudes, reflecting Chernyshevsky and Mansfield’s frustrations with Russia and New Zealand respectively. Garnett’s narrator, Miss Foster, admires and sympathises with Evgenia, suggesting that Garnett utilises her to present her opinion on the Russian population she witnessed in 1896–7. Upon reading ‘Vetrova’, Kropotkin informed Garnett that he thought it was ‘excellent: true to reality, and a correct rendering of the Russian atmosphere.’49 This shows that Garnett’s presentation of ‘Dumb Russia’,50 the uninspiring masses, is an accurate representation of the Russian population, at least through the eyes of the radicals and intelligentsia with whom Garnett sympathised. The notion of stupidity as seen in Mansfield’s letter and Chernyshevsky’s preface is repeated, along with a frustration with the stagnant and static Russian people. Evgenia’s grievances sympathise with Kropotkin’s and Stepniak’s views, as documented in Garnett’s diary.51 Further references to Chto delat’? can possibly be seen in Mansfield’s ‘A Dill Pickle’ on the subject of advances in psychology in Russia. The short story was published in October 1917, twenty years after the death of the real Vetrova, and the reader can see a shift in Russia’s national psyche. The events of the intervening twenty years, such as the Russian revolutions of 1905 and March 1917 and the subsequent abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, indicate that Garnett’s ‘half torpid’ Russia had changed.52 ‘On the same day ‘A Dill Pickle’ was published, The Times declared, ‘The [Russian] Revolution is one of the most impressive 114
Criticism things in the world.’53 After the Tsar’s abdication there were uprisings, such as the July Days and the Kornilov affair; however, there was widespread hope that Russia was heading towards democracy.54 In ‘A Dill Pickle’ an unnamed man and his ex-lover, Vera, meet to exchange stories and memories. The unnamed man has been to Russia and describes it as ‘“so informal, so impulsive, so free without question”’,55 implying that the Revolution had been successful. The ‘Dumb Russia’56 we see in Garnett’s ‘Vetrova’ and Chernyshevsky’s Chto delat’? is transformed in Mansfield’s ‘A Dill Pickle’ and now portrayed as a liberated and inviting country. The unnamed protagonist in ‘A Dill Pickle’ attempts to talk to Vera about why their past relationship was unsuccessful. He states that he studied ‘“Mind Systems”’57 while he was in Russia and came to the conclusion that both he and Vera ‘“were such egoists, so self-engrossed’”58 and ‘“not peculiar at all’”.59 Significantly, Chernyshevsky was an advocate of rational egoism which, he believed, could ignite revolutionary fever in the masses. Rational egoism is based on the belief that all humans are motivated by their own self-interest and never knowingly act against their own wishes; however, so long as humanity becomes aware of this fact, it will be possible for society to progress. If Mansfield did read or discuss Chto delat’?, then Chernyshevsky’s development of rational egoism would have become apparent to her through the conceit of two medical students, Lopukhov and Kirsanov. Neither student wants to become a practising doctor after they graduate owing to the ‘underdeveloped, [. . .] pitiful state’ of medicine in Russia.60 Lopukhov and Kirsanov decide to reject their expected path of employment in order to ‘prepare for the future’ by becoming researchers.61 The students make the decision based on self-interest, because they find Russia’s lack of medical knowledge embarrassing. In the short term, this means that two new private medical practices will not be established when Lopukhov and Kirsanov graduate, and thus fewer people can seek treatment in a given area. Long-term, however, the students’ actions will aid the progression of Russian society because their research will benefit Russia as a whole, rather than the comparatively small number of people who would visit a private practice. Chernyshevky argues that if individuals devoted themselves to their own growth and pursued their own paths, like Lopukhov and Kirsanov, life for all Russians would improve.62 Thus, the ‘Mind System’ mentioned in ‘A Dill Pickle’ could be rational egoism. Lopukhov and Kirsanov’s decision not to practise medicine had an immediate negative impact upon potential clients, so it is possible that the couple in ‘A Dill Pickle’ experienced negative side-effects of practising rational egoism, such as appearing selfish to 115
Katherine Mansfield and Russia one another. This would have caused a strain on the relationship and resulted in it ending. If the couple had remained together and fulfilled their own ambitions, the relationship could have been more fruitful, just as Lopukhov and Kirsanov’s research will benefit all of Russia. By looking from ‘Vetrova’ to ‘A Dill Pickle’ we can see a shift in the collective attitude towards Russia – from dejected and defeated to impulsive and ‘free without question’.63 Further, in ‘A Dill Pickle’ the reader sees Russia’s advances in areas of contemporary intrigue, such as psychology.64 At the turn of the century in Russia, psychology and philosophy had remained interdependent disciplines, whereas Western Europe and the United States of America had separated the two and generally considered a more medicalised approach to psychology.65 Medical students, like the fictional Lopukhov and Kirsanov, began to focus on developing Russia’s medical knowledge. By 1912, Russia started to follow suit, with the Psychoneurological Institute in St Petersburg opening in 1907 and the Moscow Institute of Psychology in 1912.66 Russia’s developing interest in psychology is representative of the modernisation of Russia as a whole, moving away from the nation accused of being backward at the end of the Crimean War. The unnamed protagonist in ‘A Dill Pickle’ benefited from Russia’s psychological advances, which apparently offers an explanation as to why his relationship with Vera ended. This illustrates in microcosm Russia’s contribution to western thought via their own modernisation. The final example of Chernyshevsky’s influence upon Garnett can be seen in Garnett’s short story ‘A Russian Girl’, which was published in The Speaker: The Liberal Review in January 1905. The Speaker was a prominent forum for liberal politics, so it seems apt that it published ‘A Russian Girl’ immediately after the Bloody Sunday massacre in front of the Winter Palace in St Petersburg. Garnett would have written the piece before Bloody Sunday, given the deadlines and schedules required for the printing of periodicals; however, the presentation of ‘civilised’ and charitable women in ‘A Russian Girl’ would have greatly increased the sympathies of the reader, particularly given the liberal leaning of the publication towards the Russian people, rather than the Tsar. The protagonist in Garnett’s short story, as in Chto delat’?, is called Vera Pavlovna, a member of the Russian bourgeoisie who uses her position to help the peasants in her village, as here on a visit to a foundling house: Filthy rags suspended from a string protected the face of the sleeping infant within from flies. ‘Here’s a baby, Vera!’ My companion came and looked at it. ‘H’m, well, I’ll bring a piece of muslin. Those rags must be thrown away,’ [Vera] pronounced with decision.67
Criticism The passage illuminates Vera’s philanthropic character in helping those of a lower class by donating food, materials and clothes. Chernyshevsky’s Vera is also charitable, giving the profits of her dressmaking business to her workers: ‘“I have this amount of money left over. Now, what shall we do with it? I established the workshop so that profits would go into the hands of the seamstresses themselves for the work they’ve done. Therefore I’m distributing the money among you.”’68 The distribution of wealth is a microcosm of an egalitarian society, something that Garnett’s Vera also strives for; it can be seen when she requests that each child be allowed to have his or her share in the apples she gives out to the village.69 While the actions of Garnett’s Vera are commendable, surprisingly, given her liberal politics and love of Russia, Garnett frequently does not describe Russian characters or culture favourably. This negativity is symptomatic in some of Mansfield’s work too and reflects the section of the British public that did not revel in the vogue for Russian culture. Britain accumulated supremacy and wealth through industrialisation and imperialism in the nineteenth century; however, these gains were also responsible for the development of confusion and fear in the national consciousness. In ‘De Juventute’ (1860), William Makepeace Thackeray commented that ‘We are of the time of chivalry [. . .] we are of the age of steam.’70 This quotation elucidates a specific anxiety in the British psyche, illustrating how Britain was torn between medieval traditions and the desire to progress. This confusion stretched to Russian culture in Britain, which some immeasurably enjoyed but others saw as a threat to British culture and values. Industrialisation brought with it an influx of crime, disease and poverty while scientists propagated theories of Natural Selection, eugenics and degeneration, all of which contributed to the ‘sense of caution, even alarm’,71 running through nineteenth-century Britain. Further, industrialisation led to improvements in infrastructure, facilitating the movement of people across Europe, heightening the threat of the Other. In 1905, the Aliens Act was passed as the first modern law to inhibit immigration into Britain. The Act was amended in 1914 and 1919 to take the enemies of Britain during the Great War into consideration. By labelling immigrants as ‘Aliens’, the Act dehumanised and ‘othered’ people seeking a new life in Britain.72 This, compounded by Russia’s pan-Slav expansionist policies (which was an ideology that gained impetus in the mid-nineteenth century and aimed to unify the global Slavic population), an imperial interest in central Asia and an influx of Russian immigrants into Britain from 1880, made Russian people and culture a prime target for British paranoia and prejudice.73 117
Katherine Mansfield and Russia Themes surrounding these fears in the national psyche can be seen in the work of Mansfield and Garnett. For example, Garnett’s portrayal of peasants in ‘A Russian Girl’ is unpleasant and in keeping with fin-desiècle themes of fear of immigration, degeneration and threat towards nationhood. In ‘Roukoff’, Garnett utilises physical signs of illness to demonstrate the corruption of Pavel Alexandrovitch Roukoff, who extorted the Russian bourgeois in St Petersburg and used his son’s terminal illness to prey on the sympathies of the public. Likewise, images of diseased bodies, vices or the encroachment of Russia into Britain can be seen throughout Mansfield’s work as well in ‘Tales of a Courtyard’. Despite the dehumanising language the reader sees in these three texts, the style and tone of Mansfield and Garnett indicate to their audiences that their attitudes towards Russian peasants or immigrants do not sympathise with the prejudiced opinions of some of the British public, which has turned from Russophillic to Russophobic. Sickness and degeneration are further explored in ‘Roukoff’ as a device to illuminate Garnett’s dislike of the Russian autocratic regime. By positioning herself as anti-Tsarist, Garnett indicates her sympathy towards those fleeing to England from persecution in Russia. Roukoff used to work in the Russian Senate, the highest judicial body in nineteenth-century Russia, and so his deceit throughout the novel becomes a critique of the Russian regime. Roukoff is malnourished, unnaturally pale and his lips are the same colour as a corpse. Images of sickness and death pervade the story, serving as a metaphorical device to highlight the depraved nature of Roukoff (or the Russian regime) and the gullibility of the Russian bourgeois. Garnett describes Roukoff in a way that indicates he is unwell: His thin brown hair was quite gray; he was above the average height, and emaciated; blue veins streaked his wrist and temples. [. . .] He was frightfully pale. His eyes – blue, and wide open – were covered with film; but his mouth [. . .] was absolutely hideous [. . .] the lips were bluish and sometimes turned white.74
Roukoff is blind, which is ironic given that it was the Russian bourgeois who could not see that he was defrauding them. Considering Roukoff’s previous position in the Senate, his extortion becomes symbolic of the oppressive autocratic regime in pre-revolutionary Russia and his physical disability becomes a metaphor for the corruption of Russian rule. Garnett’s female narrator, the single English character, is a guest in one of the houses Roukoff targets. The narrator is the only character who is suspicious of Roukoff from the beginning and expresses her concerns. The narrator’s warnings are ignored and the narrator’s hosts become 118
Criticism Roukoff’s next victims. As Roukoff used to work in a position of power, this is demonstrative of the Russian Senate’s hold over the bourgeoisie, further indicating Garnett’s contempt for the bourgeois and Russia’s autocratic regime.75 In ‘A Russian Girl’ Garnett’s narrator, Miss Foster, who is the same narrator in ‘Vetrova’, describes the peasants as they are seen through the eyes of her bourgeois hosts using atavistic terminology: ‘primitive’, ‘disgusting’, ‘savages’ and ‘animals’.76 The Russian peasants remain unnamed, given that the Russian bourgeois would not have endeavoured to learn the peasants’ names. This combined with the derogatory terminology homogenises and dehumanises the peasants. Furthermore, it is noted that the charitable Vera is ‘Parisian clad from head to toe’,77 and her westernised style of dress indicates that she is ‘civilised’ while the peasants are not. The wealthy bourgeois family Miss Foster is staying with spends its time ‘chatting in French’ and using ‘long-handled glasses’ to eye the peasants.78 By presenting the Russian bourgeois’s Francophilia alongside their eagerness to marvel at the peasants, Garnett mocks the bourgeois, except for Vera, owing to her philanthropic nature. The majority of the bourgeois have to maintain a ‘safe’ distance from the peasants, needing glasses to view them. The glasses serve to highlight the vulgar curiosity of the bourgeois, as if the peasants were an exhibit at a zoo or museum, which further accentuates the ridiculousness of the spectacle. The effect this has is twofold: firstly it positions Garnett against the bourgeois, and therefore on the side of Russian revolutionaries, and secondly it implies that Garnett is disparaging of Britain’s attitude towards the Russian common people. Mansfield’s story, ‘Tales of a Courtyard’, divided into three sections, contains similar sentiments when addressing Russian immigrants in an undisclosed Eastern European country. While the story is not set in Britain, the attitudes seen are symptomatic of British prejudice against Russian immigrants, meaning that it could be regarded as an allegorical representation of British attitudes towards Russians in their midst. In the first section of the triptych, native people call a group of Russians (two men and one woman) ‘swine’ and note that ‘they’d [the Russians] take some killing’.79 The connection between killing and pigs creates a sinister image of an abattoir. The brutality of Mansfield’s words shocks the reader and highlights the attitude of some among the British public. The trio cause particular offense to the native onlookers because they all live together. One woman refers to the situation as ‘“filthiness”’,80 and it is widely assumed the three Russians are practising Free Love.81 The Russian woman is pregnant and her ‘swollen distorted belly’82 associates her pregnancy with disease and abnormality rather than joy. ‘Tales of a 119
Katherine Mansfield and Russia Courtyard’ comes off the back of Mansfield’s New Age period (1910–12), where her writing style became more satirical and sardonic.83 This, considered alongside Mansfield’s intense fascination with Russia and her liberal attitude to sexuality, suggests that Mansfield’s alarming dehumanisation of the Russian immigrants is intentionally shocking in order to draw attention to the unreasonable British attitude towards Russian immigrants. Both Olive Garnett and Katherine Mansfield clearly felt a close affinity to Russia, Russian people and Russian culture, and this is expressed in their creative and personal writing. Garnett, for example, wrote in her diary: ‘I feel more at home with Stepniak and in harmony with him than with anyone I have known,’84 while Mansfield stated, ‘I have found my people at last’85 when she moved in with a community of mainly Russian émigrés near Fontainebleau in 1922. Through examining external forces such as fluctuating British attitudes towards Russia, from ‘Russomania’ to Russophobia, the influence of notable Russian figures like Chekhov, Stepniak, Kropotkin and Chernyshevsky and the plentiful translations of Constance Garnett, we have seen in part how Mansfield and Garnett’s passion for Russia and subsequent desire to write about Russia evolved. Mansfield and Garnett’s short stories allow the reader to gain a greater understanding of British attitudes towards Russia in the early twentieth century. The stories include snapshots from inside Russia and also Russians in Britain. With regards to Chernyshevsky’s possible influence on Mansfield, there remains limited evidence; however, there is scope for further scholarly work to investigate the links that this essay highlights. While Garnett did not enjoy the commercial success of Mansfield, either in her lifetime or posthumously, offering Garnett as a comparison to Mansfield serves to bring her forth into the literary discourse surrounding Mansfield and in turn allows for a new reading and understanding of Mansfield’s interest in Russia. Notes 1. For the Lawrence-Garnett friendship see Olive Garnett, 1898 Diary, Sunday 1 May 1898 (unpublished), in possession of Caroline White. For Conrad-Garnett correspondence see Olive Garnett, 1898 Diary, November 1898 (unpublished), in possession of Caroline White. For Thomas C. Moser’s argument that Olive Garnett inspired the creation of Natalia Haldin see Thomas C. Moser, ‘An English Context for Conrad’s Russian Characters: Sergey Stepniak and the Diary of Olive Garnett’, Journal of Modern Literature, 11: 1 (1984), pp. 3–44 (p. 4). 2. Rebecca Beasley and Phillip Bullock, ‘Introduction: The Illusion of Transparency’, Translation and Literature, 20 (2011), pp. 283–300 (p. 283). 3. Ulrich Keller, The Ultimate Spectacle: A Visual History of the Crimean War (Abingdon: Routledge, 2002), p. 4. The Crimean War was particularly brutal for its time, with
Criticism both Russian and British writers and journalists expressing their horror and disgust. See Leo Tolstoy, The Sebastopol Sketches (London: Penguin Classics,  1986) and Nicolas Bently (ed.), Russell’s Dispatches from the Crimea 1854–1856 (London: André Deutsch, 1966). 4. Rebecca Beasley and Phillip Bullock, ‘Introduction: Against Influence: On Writing About Russian Culture in Britain’, in Rebecca Beasley and Philip Ross Bullock (eds), Russia in Britain, 1880–1940: From Melodrama to Modernism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. 1–20 (p. 5). 5. Beasley and Bullock, ‘Illusion of Transparency’, p. 283. 6. Barry C. Johnson (ed.), ‘The Museum Garnetts’, in Tea and Anarchy! The Bloomsbury Diaries of Olive Garnett 1890–1893 (London: Bartletts Press, 1989), pp. 1–12 (p. 7); Antony Alpers, The Life of Katherine Mansfield (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1953), p. 57; Joanna Woods, Katerina: The Russian World of Katherine Mansfield (Auckland: Penguin Books, 2001), pp. 24, 34, 52. 7. Woods, Katerina, pp. 52, 53. 8. Alan Bell, ‘Garnett, Richard (1835–1906)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/ article/33334 (accessed 14 February 2017). 9. Ibid. 10. Sandra Kemp, ‘Garnett, Olive: Olivia Rayne Garnett’, The Oxford Companion to Edwardian Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780198117605.001.0001/acref-9780198117605e-439?rskey=pvAtRU (accessed 14 February 2017). 11. Nicolas Walter, ‘Kropotkin, Peter (1842–1921)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), http://www.oxforddnb.com/ view/article/42326?docPos=1 (accessed 14 February 2017). 12. Carol Peaker, ‘We are not Barbarians: Literature and the Russian Émigré Press in England, 1890–1905’, Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century, 19: 3 (2006), p. 6. 13. David Saunders, ‘Kravchinsky, Sergey Mikhailovich (1851–1895)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005) http://www.oxforddnb. com/view/article/62226 (accessed 14 February 2017). 14. Anthony Cross, ‘Introduction’, Journal of European Studies, 35 (2005), pp. 251–2 (p. 252). 15. Other notable names include Aylmer Maude, S. S. Koteliansky and Frederick Whishaw. 16. Adrian Hunter, ‘Constance Garnett’s Chekhov and the Modernist Short Story’, Translation and Literature, 12 (2003), pp. 69–87 (p. 69). 17. Claire Davison, Translation as Collaboration: Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield and S. S. Koteliansky (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014), p. 3. George Steiner, Tolstoy or Dostoevsky: An Essay in Contrast (London: Faber and Faber, 1959), p. 15. 18. Davison, Translation as Collaboration, p. 1. 19. Barry C. Johnson (ed.), Olive and Stepniak: The Bloomsbury Diary of Olive Garnett, 1893–1895 (London: Bartletts Press, 1993), pp. 124–5. 20. Woods, Katerina, p. 173. S. S. Koteliansky translated the work from Russian to English and then Mansfield reviewed and polished it. 21. Letters, 4, pp. 176–7 (to Constance Garnett, 8 February 1921). 22. Woods, Katerina, pp. 82, 83, 84, 99, 117.
Katherine Mansfield and Russia 23. A caveat needs to be added that without the aid of Volkhovsky and Fanny, Garnett would not have been able to speak, understand or read Russian and without Kropotkin, she would not have been so well informed on the condition of Russia after the untimely death of Stepniak in 1895. The pieces of advice that Stepniak gave Garnett form a significant part of her diary and it is apparent that she considers his comments while writing Petersburg Tales and In Russia’s Night. 24. Johnson, Tea and Anarchy, p. 179. 25. Ibid. p. 21. 26. Ibid. p. 233. 27. Ibid. p. 126. 28. ‘Our London Correspondence’, Manchester Guardian, 16 April 1906, p. 6. 29. ‘Books and Their Writers: The Russian at Home’, The Times, 30 September 1900, p. 2. 30. John Middleton Murry (ed.), The Scrapbook of Katherine Mansfield (London: Constable, 1939), p. 162. The ‘T’ in ‘Anton T’ comes from the non-standardised spelling of ‘Chekhov’, so either ‘Tchekhov’ or ‘Tchehov’, which Mansfield used interchangeably. 31. E. M. Almedingen, ‘Chekhov and Katherine Mansfield’, The Times Literary Supplement, 19 October 1951, p. 661. 32. W. H. New, Reading Mansfield and Metaphors of Form (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1999), p. 15; Claire Tomalin, Katherine Mansfield: A Secret Life (London: Penguin, 2003), p. 259; Woods, Katerina, pp. 195–212. 33. For recent and further discussion, see Sarah Ailwood and Melinda Harvey (eds), Katherine Mansfield and Literary Influence (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015). 34. Nikolai Chernyshevsky, What is to Be Done?, ed. Michael Katz and William Wagner (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989), pp. 106, 107, 130. For a discussion of the role of women in Mansfield’s short stories see Aihong Ren, ‘Women Characters in Katherine Mansfield’s Short Stories’, Studies in Literature and Language, 5 (2012), pp. 101–7. Garnett often debated the issue with Stepniak, Kropotkin and Volkhovsky, but still held traditional views on marriage (see Johnson, Tea and Anarchy, p. 141). 35. Nikolaï G. Tchernuishevsky, A Vital Question; or, What is to be Done?, trans. Nathan Haskell Dole and S. S. Skidelsky (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell and Co., 1886). 36. J. Frank, ‘N. G. Chernyshevsky: A Russian Utopia’, Southern Review, 3 (1967), p. 68. 37. Katz and Wagner, What is to Be Done?, introduction, pp. 1–36 (p. 2). 38. Ibid. p. 42. 39. Ibid. p. 42. 40. Ibid. p. 48. 41. Ibid. p. 48. 42. Letters, 1, p. 44 (to Vera Beauchamp, April/May 1908). 43. Woods, Katerina, p. 70. 44. Ibid. p. 70. 45. Olive Garnett, ‘The Case of Vetrova’, in Petersburg Tales (Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1900), pp. 1–70 (p. 5). 46. Vetrova was not a fictional character, but a real woman who was arrested for the ‘slight offence’ of writing an article that ‘escaped the censor by a happy chance’, and ended up being published accidentally. Garnett does not mention this in her text, assuming her readership will be aware whom she is discussing, given the level of reporting of the incident in England. See Garnett, ‘The Case of Vetrova’, p. 4.
Criticism 47. Garnett, ‘The Case of Vetrova’, p. 28. 48. Ibid. pp. 11–12. 49. Olive Garnett, 1898 Diary, Saturday 4 February 1898 (unpublished), in possession of Caroline White. Reproduced with permission. 50. Garnett, ‘The Case of Vetrova’, p. 29. 51. Johnson, Tea and Anarchy, pp. 63–4, 127–8. 52. Garnett, ‘The Case of Vetrova’, p. 28. 53. Anon., ‘Russian Army’s Share in Allied Efforts’, The Times (4 October 1917), p. 7. 54. Robert Service, A History of Modern Russia from Nicholas II to Vladimir Putin (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005), pp. 32–54. 55. Katherine Mansfield, ‘A Dill Pickle’, in Bliss, and Other Stories (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1920), pp. 228–38 (p. 234). 56. Garnett, ‘The Case of Vetrova’, p. 29. 57. Mansfield, ‘A Dill Pickle’, p. 238. 58. Ibid. p. 238. 59. Ibid. p. 238. 60. Katz and Wagner, What is to Be Done?, p. 92. 61. Ibid. p. 92. 62. Ibid. p. 313. 63. Mansfield, ‘A Dill Pickle’, p. 234. 64. In 1913 a section on Freud’s psychology had been added to the British Association’s symposium, the ‘Origin of Life’ (‘British Association: Discussion on the Origin of Life’, The Times [17 September 1913], p. 10). 65. Robert Lawson, Jean Graham and Kristin Baker, A History of Psychology: Globalization, Ideas, and Applications (New York: Routledge, 2016), p. 399. 66. Psychological Institution Russian Academy of Education, About (Moscow: Psychological Institution Russian Academy of Education, 2016) http://www.pirao.ru/en/ (accessed 14 February 2017). 67. Olive Garnett, ‘A Russian Girl’, The Speaker: A Liberal Review, 28 January 1905, pp. 416–18 (p. 417). 68. Katz and Wagner, What is to Be Done?, p. 190. 69. Garnett, ‘A Russian Girl’, p. 417. 70. William Makepeace Thackeray, ‘De Juventute’, in Roundabout Papers and Little Travels and Road-Side Sketches (London: Smith and Elder, 1887), pp. 68–72 (p. 72). 71. Colin Matthew, ‘Introduction: The United Kingdom and the Victorian Century, 1815–1901’, in Colin Matthew (ed.), The Nineteenth Century of the British Isles 1815– 1901, 2nd edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 1–38 (p. 2). 72. David Glover, Literature, Immigration, and Diaspora in Fin-de-siècle England: A Cultural History of the 1905 Aliens Act (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), p. 4. 73. Davison, Translation as Collaboration, p. 2. Many of the immigrants were from the large Jewish communities in Russia. The 1880s saw an alarming rise in anti-Semitism in Russia and anti-Jewish pogroms were rife. 74. Olive Garnett, ‘Roukoff’, in Petersburg Tales, pp. 71–190 (p. 136). 75. Ibid. p. 79. 76. Garnett, ‘A Russian Girl’, pp. 416–18. 77. Ibid. p. 416. 78. Ibid. p. 417. 79. Katherine Mansfield, ‘Tales of a Courtyard’, Rhythm, August 1912, p. 1. 80. Ibid. p. 1.
Katherine Mansfield and Russia 81. Johnson, Tea and Anarchy, p. 125. 82. Mansfield, ‘Tales of a Courtyard’, p. 1. 83. Carey Snyder, ‘Katherine Mansfield and the New Age School of Satire’, The Journal of Modern Periodical Studies, 1: 2 (2010), pp. 125–58 (p. 125). 84. Johnson, Tea and Anarchy, p. 215. 85. Quoted in Woods, Katerina, p. 13.
‘The only truth I really care about.’ Katherine Mansfield at the Gurdjieff Institute: A Biographical Reflection for Jack Lamplough Pierce Butler
Katherine Mansfield entered the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man in mid-October 1922. Occupying the Prieuré des Basse Loges, a rambling chateau near the woods of Fontainebleau that had once been the residence of Mme de Maintenon, the Institute was directed by the enigmatic G. I. Gurdjieff, an esoteric master of Greek and Armenian parentage whose eclectic teaching combined Christian spirituality with Sufi practice. Mansfield was on the verge of literary celebrity, but she was deeply unhappy in her marriage to the critic and editor John Middleton Murry – and she was dying of tuberculosis. Putting herself under the direction of Gurdjieff (to whose methods she had been introduced by A. R. Orage), Mansfield had to set aside the reservations of her husband and literary friends and take a ‘Leap into the Dark’.1 During the last months of her life – she died at the Institute on 9 January 1923 – Mansfield underwent what might be termed an examination, or perhaps an experience, of conscience that led her to an unflinching acknowledgement of her own shortcomings and an attempt to mend relations with family and friends. She imagined a different kind of w riting – stories she would ‘dare show to God’2 – that she hoped would be an expression of a new spiritual health; unhappily, these stories would never be written. But she also perceived the possibility of attaining the inner freedom that had eluded her all her life. From the perspective of her life’s final episode, her abbreviated work constitutes a passionate attempt to depict her inner journey: a going-forth from a place of innocence and certainty, a solitary passage through an inhospitable landscape, and – as the cloud of her illness increasingly darkened the horizon – a destination that seemed to offer little comfort. And yet, like the finely crafted end of a meandering story, her sojourn at Gurdjieff’s Prieuré gave form and meaning to all that had gone before. 125
Katherine Mansfield and Russia Mansfield did not take her decision to go to Fontainebleau lightly, and in a notebook she meticulously records the process by which she arrived at it. She began with the perception that her relations with others left something to be desired. ‘Let me take the case of K.M.,’ she writes: ‘She has led, ever since she can remember, a typically false life. Yet, through it all, there have been moments, instants, gleams, when she has felt the possibility of something quite other.’3 The false life that she had observed entailed a mechanical reaction to others and the harbouring of an ill will that ultimately proved harmful to herself. In seeing this, she anticipated the practice of self-observation which, according to P. D. Ouspensky, a Russian mathematician and philosopher who had met Gurdjieff in Moscow in 1915, was central to Gurdjieff’s method. But more than analysis was required. In Ouspensky’s account, Gurdjieff points out to his students that you do not remember yourselves [. . .] You do not feel yourselves; you are not conscious of yourselves. With you, ‘it observes’ just as ‘it speaks,’ ‘it thinks,’ ‘it laughs.’ You do not feel: I observe, I notice, I see [. . .] In order really to observe oneself one must first of all remember oneself. (Author’s italics)4
Mansfield’s understanding of the teaching was gleaned from her conversations with Orage (who had already had contact with the Institute), from her reading of M. B. Oxon’s Cosmic Anatomy and from Ouspensky’s lectures in London. Based on the observed life recorded so perceptively in her notebook, she must have understood that ‘self-remembering’ involved an additional step: the mobilisation of the attention, the attempt to turn one’s attention inward in order to see the mechanical psyche at work. According to Ouspensky, Gurdjieff regarded identification – with material possessions, with people, with oneself – as ‘the chief obstacle to self-remembering’; the habit of ‘identifying with people’5 was particularly insidious. The antidote lay in the intention to render oneself independent of the opinions of others (or of one’s own imaginings about those opinions), while at the same time behaving towards others in a respectful and compassionate way. Perhaps Mansfield was thinking of this teaching when she wrote famously in a notebook entry dated 14 October 1922, her birthday, while awaiting an invitation to the Prieuré in a Paris hotel room: ‘Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinions of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth.’6 The ideal life that she aspires to sounds like the life that most of us would want, but it is informed by her understanding of the need for the self-awareness, inner effort, and compassion that form the core of Gurdjieff’s work – and of course by her own realisation that her time was short. 126
Criticism Now, Katherine, what do you mean by health? And what do you want it for? Answer: By health I mean the power to live a full, adult, living, breathing life in close contact with what I love – the earth and the wonders thereof – the sea – the sun [. . .] I want to enter into it, to be part of it, to live in it, to learn from it, to lose all that is superficial and acquired in me and to become a conscious and direct human being. I want, by understanding myself, to understand others. I want to be all that I am capable of becoming, so that I may be [. . .] a child of the sun.7 (Author’s italics)
Who was the Gurdjieff to whom she was going, the Gurdjieff who ‘claims to do just what I always dreamed might be done’?8 He had travelled extensively among esoteric communities in the East – at least by his own account in the autobiographical Meetings with Remarkable Men.9 He fled the revolution in Russia and established himself as an esoteric teacher in France, from where he made sallies to England and the United States. Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching formally introduced Gurdjieff to the West; it describes Ouspensky’s first encounter and subsequent meetings with Gurdjieff in Russia, France, and England.10 Since the book was not published until after Gurdjieff’s death in 1949 – and since Ouspensky’s intention was to discern a systematic teaching in Gurdjieff’s spontaneous utterances and extempore disquisitions – it may be best to approach Gurdjieff through his own words, recorded with various degrees of fidelity by his many students. In a talk entitled ‘First Initiation’, Gurdjieff describes the pilgrim’s progress of ‘a man on the path to self-knowledge’: In the first place, he must know what to look at. Once he knows this, he must make efforts, keep his attention, and observe constantly, with tenacity. By holding his attention and constantly observing, one day he might see. If he sees once, he can see a second time, and if this goes on, he will no longer be able not to see. This is the state to be looked for, and the aim of observation; it is from this that true desire, the irresistible desire to become, will be born. Having been cold, we shall become warm, vibrant. We shall be affected by our own reality.11
Surely it was the promise of words like these that prompted the manifesto of Mansfield’s notebook and that at the end of her life drew her irresistibly to the Prieuré. As Ouspensky, who facilitated her entry, noted, she ‘already seemed to me to be halfway to death [. . .] But one was struck by the striving in her to make the best use even of these last days, to find the truth whose presence she clearly felt.’12 Mansfield’s decision was preceded by another parting from Murry. They had travelled together from Sierre to London in September 1922, but once arrived, they found separate lodgings, Mansfield with her 127
Katherine Mansfield and Russia friend Dorothy Brett, Murry next door and subsequently in Sussex; 13 they never again lived together under the same roof. In Murry’s account, Mansfield’s interest in Gurdjieff’s work contributed to their estrangement: I was surprised at the swiftness with which she joined the circle formed about M. Ouspensky, to which Orage and J. D. Beresford belonged [. . .] It was impossible for me to follow her into the Ouspensky circle; or at least it seemed impossible without violating my own integrity.14
Yet the issue of her illness (‘the matter which most deeply concerned us’) and how to treat it was also fraught with difficulty: ‘Now our love spoke across a vast; and my memory of those days is one of despair and anguish. It was evident to me as it was to Katherine that re-birth was the only remedy. But how to be born again?’15 Murry seems to have believed that his wife hoped for a physical cure through occult or spiritual means, whereas a letter to her friend Dorothy Brett revealed that Mansfield had, in fact, given up all hope of a cure for her disease.16 And yet, although he felt unable to stand by her or to sympathise with her interest in Gurdjieff, perhaps he perceived indirectly that she was concerned with the last things, that in spite of the reassurances of her letters, her intention was to look for the conditions that would enable her to make a good death. Accompanied by the faithful Ida Baker, Mansfield arrived at the Prieuré on 17 October 1922. According to James Moore’s biography of Gurdjieff, her host ‘proved consideration itself’ towards his new guest.17 Mansfield knew only that she would be allowed to stay overnight, but discovered the following day that she could remain for at least two weeks; shortly thereafter she was invited to remain indefinitely. Her first challenge was to discover the presence of hope within herself, to dare to hope in the possibility of what the Prieuré had to offer her. She wasted no time in re-establishing her connection with Orage – and in acknowledging what she owed him particularly, a measure of the approval that she had sought in vain from her father. He had published her first stories in the New Age and encouraged her to continue to write for the magazine. But most of all Mansfield felt that he had been a model of integrity and literary judgement that she was not always able to live up to. The atmosphere of the Institute, the emphasis on ‘inner’ work, the sense of urgency about such work fostered by Gurdjieff, enabled her to see her relationship with Orage in a new light: it was necessary for her to thank him first of all for encouraging her to come to the Institute, and then to acknowledge the role he had played in her development as a writer and to assure him that she was still searching for her literary 128
Criticism ideal, for a form of writing that would do justice to the direction he had indicated to her. In ‘Talks with Katherine Mansfield’, Orage describes their encounters and Mansfield’s search for a new rationale for her work. In literature, she was no longer content to find a formal perfection: The greatest literature of all – the literature that scarcely exists – has not merely an esthetic object, nor merely a didactic object, but, in addition, a creative object; that of subjecting its readers to a real and at the same time illuminating experience. Major literature is in short an initiation into truth.18
Orage makes the connection between Mansfield’s desire to develop her art and the work of the Institute: For she realized that it is not writing as writing that needs criticism, correction, and perfection so much as the mind, character, and personality of the writer. (One must become more to write better.) [. . .] when, as in KM’s case, the improvement of one’s technic by the ordinary means has ceased to be possible or fallen under the law of diminishing returns [. . .] then the adoption of entirely new means, such as special self-training, becomes imperative.’19
She had set aside writing for the time being in order to devote herself to ‘self-training’, and her hope was that this discipline would reveal to her a new direction for her art. She did not yet see her way clearly, but her conception of the function of literature had crystallised: it was to produce in its readers a definite and carefully prepared experience that, although dependent upon the capacity of each, would be essentially the same for all: ‘an initiation into truth’.20 One of her companions at the Institute was Adèle Kafian, a young Lithuanian woman who had followed Gurdjieff from Russia. Adèle was assigned to take care of Mansfield, to whom she felt an immediate attachment: ‘I gladly took care of her and tried to anticipate what might give pleasure to this Englishwoman who was so modest in her requirements.’21 To Mansfield she confessed that she felt a little guilty about the pleasure she took in her assignment since the work of the Institute required that students willingly take on unpleasant tasks. This companionship with Adèle was part of Mansfield’s initiation into this work: she was struck by the sacrifices the younger woman had made in order to work with Gurdjieff, and Adèle’s enthusiasm helped to strengthen her own need to hope that her limited participation in the activities could lead to a real inner change. Writing in 1946, Adèle Kafian described herself as having been ‘full of faith in the great possibilities of human achievement’.22 She alludes 129
Katherine Mansfield and Russia to the special balcony in the cowshed that Gurdjieff commissioned so that ‘Mrs Murry’ could have a place of refuge and quiet; Adèle was assigned to milk the goats while Mansfield lay upon a divan. She reported Mansfield’s reaction to the ongoing work: ‘I like to see how much all the people here work and do what they have never done in their lives before, and do it quite well. When I get better, I shall also work.’23 The work referred to here is undoubtedly the physical work that was carried out upon house and grounds, but Mansfield was also becoming aware of an inner work, part of which entailed the attainment and maintenance of her fragile hope. Her closest friend at the Institute was undoubtedly Olgivanna (Olga Ivanovna) Hinzenberg, another young woman who had followed Gurdjieff from Russia, an active participant in the so-called Movements (or dances) that were a part of Gurdjieff’s system, and the future wife of Frank Lloyd Wright (who in later years hosted Gurdjieff at Taliesin). At their first meeting, Olgivanna was struck by Mansfield’s eyes: ‘sharp, intense, dark eyes’ which ‘burned with the desire and hunger for impressions’.24 The two women were able to converse in English and quickly became close. Olgivanna reports that Mansfield was very weak, to such an extent that she could not fully participate in the physical work of the Institute and was obliged to eat in a separate dining room: ‘Katherine [. . .] had expressed her deep wish to eat in the Russian dining-room with the others, but, to her great disappointment, she never did.’25 Like Adèle, Olgivanna had been instructed by Gurdjieff to take care of Mansfield, a measure, Olgivanna felt, of his humanity and compassion. She was moved by the invalid’s predicament since it was manifestly clear that Mansfield did not have long to live. But Mansfield’s spirits were lifted by this friendship – and by the work, both outer and inner (which she still only dimly intuited), going on around her. The life her illness had denied her seemed suddenly to be hers, and she told Olgivanna that she felt ‘a life within me which death will not destroy’.26 The occasion for this insight was a slow walk in the Prieuré garden; for the moment, Mansfield’s experience of the weak October sunlight sufficed for all. Olgivanna was eager to nourish a new hope: ‘There is no death for one like you who perceives the possibility of sweeping death aside when the time comes.’27 There was no pretence between them in this moment, no talk of miraculous recovery, of a bright future. What Olgivanna confirmed in Mansfield’s experience was the timeless depth of the present moment and the glimpse of a life that would continue to encompass them both – and all beings – regardless of the body’s vicissitudes. Mansfield felt that she had attained something that could not be taken from her, echoing (in Olgivanna’s recollection of their conversa130
Criticism tion) the words of her notebook: ‘At last I have it clear; the only truth I really care about. It was flowing in my subconsciousness, it tortured me, but it never came up to the surface. Now I see the reality of it. I feel it as this sun that is warming my face and my hands.’28 Mansfield later wrote to Murry when she had a better understanding of what the Gurdjieff work entailed: ‘But the point is there is hope. One can and does believe that one will escape from living in circles and will live a CONSCIOUS life. One can, through work, escape from falsity and be true to one’s own self – not to what anyone else on earth thinks one is.’29 For perhaps the first time, Mansfield was participating fully in a communal life, and she delighted in the company of people who shared her sincere wish to change. She informed Murry: It is great happiness to be here. Some people are stranger than ever, but the strangers I am at last feeling near, and they are my own people at last. So I feel. Such beautiful understanding and sympathy I have never known in the outside world.30
Perhaps she was thinking of the early days of the Murrys’ friendship with D. H. and Frieda Lawrence when she wrote: There is another thing here – Friendship. The real thing that you and I have dreamed of. Here it exists between women and women and men and women, and one feels it is unalterable, and living in a way it never can be anywhere else. I can’t say I have friends yet. I am simply not fit for them. I don’t know myself enough to be really trusted, and I am weak where these people are strong. But even the relationships I have are dear beyond any friendships I have known.31
In spite of his lack of sympathy with the work of the Institute, Mansfield longed to share her life there with Murry: ‘I wish I could tell you of the people I live with . . .. But so many people come forward as I write. They are all very different; but they are the people I have wanted to find – real people, not people I make up or invent.’32 And there was real work to be done, work in which she could participate. It must have been Olgivanna Hinzenberg who introduced Mansfield to the practice of self-observation that lay at the core of Gurdjieff’s teaching, a practice that in order to be effective, had to be accompanied by a measure of ‘self-remembering’, the experience of being present in the here and now, to body, emotion, and thought. ‘One must inwardly stop and observe, observe without taking sides, impartially,’ Gurdjieff instructed. ‘And if you observe in this manner, paying from yourself, without selfpity, by giving up all your imaginary riches for one moment of reality, then you may suddenly see what you have never seen before.’33 In Olgivanna’s account, Mansfield continued to suffer from what 131
Katherine Mansfield and Russia she perceived as the gap between her aspiration and her current state. Olgivanna dramatises their relationship in dialogue, as though she were creating a short story; she causes Mansfield to say: ‘I am wicked, Olgivanna, terribly wicked. I shall never be able to change. Why should I dislike some people to such an extent that it is simply nauseating to me?’34 This was a conventional understanding of the Gurdjieff work: Mansfield was expressing the idea that it was necessary for her to overcome or put aside feelings that she regarded as ‘wicked’. But of course the judgement that a feeling was ‘wicked’ (or ‘saintly’) was a purely subjective one – and vitiated the practice of impartial self-observation that Gurdjieff called for. Olgivanna was quick to point this out in relation to her friend’s physical condition: ‘You will always have your physical functions; you cannot throw your body away, but your attitude toward your physical likes and dislikes has changed.’35 The implication was that the same separation could be achieved in regard to negative feelings towards others – or towards oneself. The practice of self-observation did not involve the eradication or suppression of negative feeling, but rather the raising of such feeling into an awareness which was its own action, which in itself constituted change. The goal, the ‘state to be looked for’, was self-acceptance: a deeply attentive and impartial looking that did not interpose categories like ‘wicked’ and ‘good’ between oneself and experience. And as Gurdjieff observed, ‘this is not easy – and it is not cheap. You have to pay dearly, [. . .] pay at once, pay in advance. Pay from oneself by sincere, conscientious, disinterested efforts.’36 This was the discipline that Mansfield had undertaken, in order to see what was in her, and she was willing to pay the price of the suffering that this kind of seeing entailed. Knowing that Mansfield could not sleep, Olgivanna had been sitting up with her until the early hours; coupled with the demanding work schedule of the Institute, this produced in Olgivanna a ‘weary and restless’ state. She gives a touching account of leaving her friend alone for an entire day and returning in the evening, ‘miserable’, to find that Mansfield had taken advantage of a ‘bad day for both of us’ to put Gurdjieff’s advice into practice, entertaining an unwelcome visitor, one whose presence ‘is enough to spoil my whole day’, and sitting with the unpleasant feelings, which had gradually dissipated of their own accord.37 For Mansfield, it was perhaps the actualisation of something she had already known. In an extraordinary notebook entry entitled ‘Suffering’, written at the Villa Isola Bella in Menton in December 1920, during the enforced isolation of a winter abroad in search of a more benign climate than England could offer, she began as follows: 132
Criticism I should like this to be accepted as my confession. I do not want to die without leaving a record of my belief that suffering can be overcome. [. . .] There is no question of what is called ‘passing beyond it’. This is false. One must submit. Do not resist. Take it. Be overwhelmed. Accept it fully. Make it part of life. Everything in life that we really accept undergoes a change. So suffering must become Love. This is the mystery. This is what I must do. I must pass from personal love to greater love. I must give to the whole of life what I gave to one.38
This is an anticipation of the work of the Institute as propounded by Gurdjieff. At an extreme pitch of personal isolation and suffering, Mansfield had divined what was required of her. With the guidance in a personal self-discipline that Gurdjieff could provide and the support of a compassionate community in which she felt fully at home, she was able to trust the reality of her own intuitions and to have faith that she would be able to live the ‘full, adult, living, breathing life’ she had imagined for herself. By his own account, Orage saw Mansfield ‘almost every day’ at the Institute, and he felt that, although she did not speak about it, she was seeking to produce work quite unlike what she had written to date, with which she professed herself to be profoundly dissatisfied. Yet according to Orage, she had put writing aside, ‘quite content not to be writing or even reading’.39 He imagined that a new conception of the function of her work, an ideal that new stories would embody, could only arise in an intuitive way from the unique circumstances in which she found herself: ‘It was in fact a conception to be brooded upon, and not written about – a conception that slowly arose from a new state of being and understanding; a conception, therefore, inexpressible in words until its inner metamorphosis had been completed.’40 It was not until a couple of days before her death that she confided to Orage what her new ideal would be. He remembered that she was very happy – ‘Her face shone as if she had been on Sinai’ – and she spoke of herself in the third person, employing a Russian pseudonym that she had adopted to express her affection for all things Russian: ‘Katya has felt something that she never felt in her life before, and Katya understands something she never understood before.’41 She began with a kind of indictment of her former method (and her former self): ‘I’ve been a selective camera, and it has been my attitude that has determined the selection; with the result that my slices of life [. . .] have been partial, misleading, and a little malicious.’42 She and the writers of her time had brought to their work a ‘passive, negative, or 133
Katherine Mansfield and Russia indifferent’ attitude and succeeded only in reproducing this attitude in their readers. Mansfield proposed to bring a ‘creative attitude’ to her new work which would undertake ‘to make the commonplace virtues as attractive as ordinarily the vices are made’43 and to stimulate the reader to insight and action by the depiction of characters who are engaged in a courageous attempt to confront their difficulties. Thus the reader would be presented with a vision of the possibilities inherent in a particular human predicament, rather than with the limited and frequently jaundiced view of an individual literary persona. She did not feel that she was ready to actualise her new ideal, but she provided Orage with the outline of a projected story, a fictional situation in which a loving couple attempts to lay aside the ghosts of their respective pasts. Thanks to some change in me since I have been in [the] institute, I see any such situation as an opportunity for the exercise and employment of all the intelligence, invention, imagination, bravery, endurance and, in fact, all the virtues of the most attractive hero and heroine.44
She reassured Orage that this approach did not necessarily mean that the story must have a happy ending: ‘The problem might prove to be too big. Heroes and heroines are not measured either by what they passively endure or by what they actually achieve, but by the quantity and quality of the effort they put forth.’45 He claims that, until the end, she was ‘still radiant in her new attitude’.46 Knowing what we do of her literary skill and courage in confronting technical difficulties, it is hard to imagine that she would not have been able to actualise her new ideal. There was a moment in which Mansfield’s faith in the inner work she had undertaken seemed to waver. Although she confessed to Olgivanna that she felt ‘marvellous’, she sought her friend’s reassurance: ‘what if I tell you that I am back again with all my old feelings, habits and desires, all those which only a month or two ago I pushed away as worthless? [. . .] Would you still believe I am on the right way?’ Olgivanna was quick to reiterate the principle of the work: ‘Yours are not “old feelings, habits and desires”; they are all new, the same in expression, but born of a different quality [. . .] You did not believe in anything you possessed.’47 Mansfield’s refusal to believe in or to identify with the ‘old feelings, habits and desires’ was the basis of her well-being and, paradoxically perhaps, gave rise to the acceptance and transformation of all that she had described as ‘worthless’. She would never be other than Katherine Mansfield, the writer, the detached critic of life and art, the exile, the restless seeker of love and reassurance, but her attitude towards that 134
Criticism persona had changed. In expounding Gurdjieff’s teaching, Ouspensky writes about a parade of small-minded ‘I’s that in turn attempt to usurp authority in the house of self; the trick was not to identify with any one of them in order to allow the real master to emerge. Mansfield had already perceived the real state of affairs, though she had lacked the means and the opportunity to confirm her observation. In an undated notebook entry, she explores her experience of this house divided against itself: ‘True to oneself! Which self? [. . .] [T]here are moments when I feel I am nothing but the small clerk of some hotel without a proprietor who has all his work cut out to enter the names and hand the keys to the willful guests.’48 But she goes on to imagine: a self which is continuous and permanent, which, untouched by all we acquire and all we shed, pushes a green spear through the leaves and through the mould, thrusts a sealed bud through years of darkness until, one day, the light discovers it and shakes the flower free and – we are alive – we are flowering for our moment upon the earth.49
The self as bud and flower recalls the Shakespearean epigraph of her story, ‘This Flower’: ‘But I tell you, my lord fool, out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety.’50 It may not be too much to say that the extremity of her illness and the opportunity for a special kind of ‘self-training’ that the Institute provided nourished Mansfield’s new faith in the emergence of this self that would not be a straw for every wind. In the last weeks, she seemed aware that her time was short and made haste to settle her accounts from the place of hope and faith she had attained. On Ida Baker’s copy of Bliss and Other Stories, Mansfield had written: ‘In spite of what I have said – and shall say – you have been a “perfect” friend to me.’51 In a farewell letter to her father – once the representative of all that was vulgar and provincial – she wrote to celebrate the New Year, and closed with a poignant valediction: ‘God bless you, Darling Father. May we meet again.’52 To Murry she wrote: ‘Would you care to come here on January 8 or 9 to stay until 14–15? Mr. Gurdjieff approves of my plan and says will you come as his guest? On the 13th our new theatre is to be opened. It will be a wonderful experience.’53 Mansfield’s decision to invite Murry to the Prieuré was also an acknowledgement of the change that had taken place in her. Her letters to Murry from the Institute provide a view of her external circumstances, largely omitting the story of her struggle to understand and engage in the inner work. She had written a few days after her arrival to assure him that all was well and to try to describe the change that had taken place in her, or rather her hope for change: 135
Katherine Mansfield and Russia I have been through a little revolution since my last letter. I suddenly made up my mind [. . .] to try and learn to live by what I believed in, no less, and not as in all my life up till now to live one way and think another [. . .] in the deepest sense I’ve always been disunited. And this which has been my ‘secret sorrow’ for years, has become everything to me just now.54
In spite of their separation, she wishes to reassure him: ‘Only you matter – more and more, if that is possible, for now that I am not so ‘identified’ with you, I can see the real tie that holds us.’55 A week later, she expresses her enthusiasm for her new life by impetuously inviting him to share it: Suppose you throw up every single job in England, realize your capital, and come over here to work for Gurdjieff. Burn every single boat at once! Do you like the idea? [. . .] Do you like that old mechanical life at the mercy of everything? And just living with a little tiny corner of yourself?56 [. . .] Let us speak the new truth. What present relationship have we? None. We feel there is the possibility of one. That is deep-down truth.57
A couple of days later, she regrets her tone: ‘I always think all can be changed and renewed in the twinkling of an eye [. . .] And whenever I am intense [. . .] I am a little bit false.’58 She is referring here not only to herself, but to their relationship. Reaffirming her decision to separate from him in order to come to the Institute, she reassures him that they still have a life together, although she must have felt that that life could not be long: ‘Oh my dearest Bogey, just wait and see how you and I will live one day – so happily, so splendidly.’59 This is to set aside her own fears about death, to resist the temptation to involve him in her personal struggle, and to find the courage to express her love and commitment: ‘Essentially, you and I are together. I love you and feel you are my man. It’s that I want to build on and realize and live in, one of these days.’60 In a letter of 1 December, Mansfield insists that Murry cannot come to the Prieuré for Christmas because ‘I make “efforts” of a certain kind all day and live an entirely different life. But I have no life to share at present [. . .] I cannot see you until the old Wig has disappeared.’ She worries that he will take this amiss, but her resolve does not waver: ‘I must get better alone.’61 Neither does her expression of love for ‘my man’ waver in her remaining letters. And perhaps her guide in this development is Orage, who in his essay on conscious love explains the phenomenon as follows: It is rare among humans because in the first place the majority are children who look to be loved but not to love; secondly, because perfection is seldom conceived as the proper end of human love – though it alone distinguishes adult human from infantile and animal love; thirdly, because
Criticism humans do not know, even if they wish, what is good for those they love; and fourthly, because it never occurs by chance, but must be the subject of resolve, effort, self-conscious choice.62
In her separation from Murry, Mansfield had found that it was possible to love him without being overwhelmed by her own need for love and care. She now determined to put this state to the test. Murry arrived on 9 January, in time for the grand opening of Gurdjieff’s Study House. The accounts of Mansfield’s last evening at the Prieuré are unanimous in suggesting the transformation that had taken place. Murry’s final note in his edition of her Journal reads: I have never seen, nor shall I ever see, any one so beautiful as she was on that day; it was as though the exquisite perfection which was always hers had taken possession of her completely. To use her own words, the last grain of ‘sediment’, the last ‘traces of earthly degradation’, were departed for ever. But she had lost her life to save it.63
‘Katherine was very pale, but radiant,’ he wrote later; ‘she seemed a being transfigured by love, absolutely secure in love.’64 She introduced him to her friends at the Institute, and that night they watched a performance of sacred dances together. But when she went to climb the stairs to her room, she suffered a fatal haemorrhage and despite the attentions of two doctors, died within the hour. By many accounts, the Prieuré was a kind of crucible. The conditions created by Gurdjieff provided his students with a unique opportunity for insight and transformation, though some of them undoubtedly wilted in the hothouse atmosphere. In a later talk, ‘Remain Apart’, Gurdjieff presents an uncompromising view of the work that these conditions facilitated: One needs fire. Without fire, there will never be anything. This fire is suffering, voluntary suffering, without which it is impossible to create anything. One must prepare, must know what will make one suffer and when it is there one must make use of it. Only you can prepare, only you know what makes you suffer, makes the fire which cooks, cements, crystallizes, does. Suffer by your defects, in your pride, in your egoism. Remind yourself of the aim. Without prepared suffering there is nothing, for by as much as one is conscious, there is no more suffering, no further process, nothing. That is why with your conscience you must prepare what is necessary.65
During her time at the Prieuré, Katherine Mansfield grew in the confidence that her decision to ‘throw in her lot with Gurdjieff’ had been a sound one: ‘I know I shall never grow strong anywhere in the world except here.’66 No one would doubt that she suffered, but her intuition 137
Katherine Mansfield and Russia had allowed her to perceive that the work of the Institute gave her the opportunity to transform that suffering into hope, faith and love. Mansfield’s deepest and most heartfelt plea at the last was, ‘I want to be REAL.’67 She wished to cut through the pretences and prejudices of the ‘false self’ bemoaned by Beryl in the story ‘Prelude’ (‘Shall I ever be that Beryl for ever. Shall I? How can I?’).68 Mansfield understood that such an aspiration entailed suffering, and she was willing to pay the price, committing herself to the light, like her child alter-ego Kezia in ‘The Doll’s House’, re-imagining herself as a ‘child of the sun’. Who is to say that she did not achieve her wish? Notes 1. Letters, 5, p. 305 (to John Middleton Murry, 21 October 1922). 2. A. R. Orage, ‘Talks with Katherine Mansfield’, Century Magazine, 87 (November 1924), pp. 36–40. 3. John Middleton Murry, Journal of Katherine Mansfield, Definitive Edition (London: Constable, 1954), p. 330. 4. P. D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1949), pp. 117–18. 5. Ibid. p. 151. 6. Murry, Journal, Definitive Edition, p. 333. 7. Ibid. pp. 333–4. 8. Ibid. p. 331. 9. G. I. Gurdjieff, Meetings with Remarkable Men (New York: Dutton, 1969). 10. P. D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1949). 11. G. I. Gurdjieff, ‘First Initiation: A Talk by Mr. Gurdjieff to a Paris Group, September 16, 1941’ (Charles Town, WV: American Society for Continuous Education, 1983), pp. 1–2. 12. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous, pp. 385–6. 13. Antony Alpers, The Life of Katherine Mansfield (New York: Viking, 1980), p. 370. 14. Quoted in Louis Pauwels, Gurdjieff (New York: Weiser, 1972), p. 244. 15. Quoted in ibid. p. 244. 16. Letters, 5, p. 301 (to Dorothy Brett, 15 October 1922). 17. James Moore, Gurdjieff: The Anatomy of a Myth (Rockport, MA: Element, 1991), p. 178. 18. Orage, ‘Talks’, p. 37. 19. Ibid. p. 37. 20. Ibid. p. 37. 21. Adèle Kafian, ‘The Last Days of Katherine Mansfield’, Adelphi (October–December 1946), (pp. 36–9). 22. Ibid. p. 36. 23. Ibid. p. 36 24. Olgivanna [Mrs. Frank Lloyd Wright], ‘The Last Days of Katherine Mansfield’, Bookman (March 1931), pp. 6–13. 25. Ibid. p. 6. 26. Ibid. p. 8. 27. Ibid. p. 8. 28. Quoted in ibid. p. 8.
Criticism 29. Letters, 5, p. 320 (to Murry, 10 November 1922). 30. Letters, 5, p. 309 (to Murry, 24 October 1922). 31. Letters, 5, p. 319 (to Murry, 10 November 1922). 32. Letters, 5, p. 327 (to Murry, c. 27 November 1922). 33. Gurdjieff, ‘First Initiation’, p. 3. 34. Olgivanna, ‘Last Days’, p. 9. 35. Ibid. p. 9. 36. Gurdjieff, ‘First Initiation’, p. 2. 37. Olgivanna, ‘Last Days’, pp. 10–11. 38. Murry, Journal, Definitive Edition, pp. 166–7. 39. Orage, ‘Talks’, p. 37. 40. Ibid. p. 37. 41. Ibid. p. 38. 42. Ibid. p. 38. 43. Ibid. p. 38. 44. Ibid. p. 38. 45. Ibid. p. 40. 46. Ibid. p. 40. 47. Olgivanna, ‘Last Days’, p. 12. 48. Notebooks, 2, pp. 203–4. 49. Notebooks, 2, p. 204. 50. The Complete Plays and Poems of William Shakespeare (Cambridge, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1942), p. 643. 51. Ida Baker, Katherine Mansfield: The Memories of L.M. (London: Michael Joseph, 1971), p. 20. 52. Letters, 5, p. 344 (to Harold Beauchamp, 31 December 1922). 53. Letters, 5, pp. 341–2 (to Murry, 31 December 1922). 54. Letters, 5, pp. 304–5 (to Murry, 21 October 1922). 55. Letters, 5, p. 308 (to Murry, 23 October 1922). 56. Letters, 5, p. 311 (to Murry, 27 October 1922). 57. Letters, 5, p. 313 (to Murry, 28 October 1922). 58. Letters, 5, p. 314 (to Murry, 2 November 1922). 59. Letters, 5, p. 314 (to Murry, 2 November 1922). 60. Letters, 5, p. 314 (to Murry, 2 November 1922). 61. Letters, 5, p. 330 (to Murry, 1 December 1922). 62. Quoted in Pauwels, Gurdjieff, p. 261. 63. John Middleton Murry, Journal of Katherine Mansfield (New York: Knopf, 1927), pp. 255–6. 64. Quoted in Pauwels, pp. 310–11. 65. G. I. Gurdjieff, ‘Remain Apart: Questions and Answers by Mr. Gurdjieff to a Paris Group, December 7, 1941’ (Charles Town, WV: American Society for Continuous Education, 1984), p. 3. 66. Letters, 5, p. 314 (to Murry, 2 November 1922). 67. Letters, 5, p. 341 (to Murry, 26 December 1922). 68. Katherine Mansfield, ‘Prelude’, in The Collected Stories of Katherine Mansfield (London: Wordsworth, 2006), p. 43.
Katherine Mansfield and Russia
Figure 1. G. I. Gurdjieff arriving in New York, January 1924. Photo: The Gurdjieff Foundation of New York. All rights reserved.
Figure 2. A. R. Orage, New York, 1930. Photo: Collection of Martha Welch de Llosa. All rights reserved.
Katherine Mansfield and Russia
Figure 3. G. I. Gurdjieff with A. R. Orage, Katherine Mansfield’s most significant mentor, likely late 1920s; detail from the only known photograph of the two men together. Photo: The Gurdjieff Foundation of New York. All rights reserved.
Figure 4. An animated departure (or arrival?), Prieuré, likely 1924, G. I. Gurdjieff at the wheel. Photo: The Gurdjieff Foundation of New York. All rights reserved.
Katherine Mansfield and Russia
Figure 5. Booklet cover and multi-purpose graphic announcing The Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man, likely 1923; the work of Alexandre de Salzmann. Photo: The Gurdjieff Foundation of New York. All rights reserved.
Figure 6. An early stage of construction of the Study House, 1923, described by Katherine Mansfield as a ‘theatre’; Gurdjieff at left, Alexandre de Salzmann in foreground. Photo: The Gurdjieff Foundation of New York. All rights reserved.
Katherine Mansfield and Russia
Figure 7. A corner of the Study House as completed, 1923–4, for the study and performance of the Sacred Dances. Residents sat in the inner ring, guests in the outer ring. The decoration includes a wealth of Oriental carpets and inscriptions in the specially devised Prieuré script. Photo: The Gurdjieff Foundation of New York. All rights reserved.
Figure 8. Prieuré des Basses Loges, Fontainebleau-Avon, rear view, overlooking the gardens c. 1910. Bernard Bosque Collection.
Figure 9. The ‘French garden’, Prieuré des Basses Loges, Fontainebleau-Avon, showing ornamental pond and fountain, c. 1910. Bernard Bosque Collection.
Figure 10. The gardens, with ornamental pond, Prieuré des Basses Loges, Fontainebleau-Avon, c. 1910. Bernard Bosque Collection.
Katherine Mansfield and Russia
Figure 11. First-floor corridor in the Prieuré des Basses Loges, FontainebleauAvon, c. 1910. Bernard Bosque Collection.
Figure 12. Principal gates of the Prieuré (on left), showing the tramway linking the station of Fontainebleau-Avon with Vulaines-sur-Seine, c. 1910. Bernard Bosque Collection.
Figure 13. The cemetery, Fontainebleau-Avon, showing Katherine Mansfield’s grave, front left, and G. I. Gurdjieff’s, back right (two standing stones). Bernard Bosque Collection.
The English Visitor Owen Marshall
On Thursday morning he walked again from his apartment in Palais Lutetia to the Villa Isola Bella. The quickest way was the low road through the tunnel and past the marina, but he preferred the climb up to the old cemetery where William Webb Ellis was buried, and then the stroll along the Garavan boulevard, past the Pian olive grove park with hunched, ancient trees set against the blue sea, on to the ornate villas of Garavan, some lacking love, but all with wonderful faded colours of green, yellow and rose. He walked slowly because of the heat, and carried the small backpack from his hand, rather than having it in contact with his shirt. On his way home he would buy the few supermarket items that are all a guy living on his own needs. He was glad to be above the clatter of the seafront, to pass the pepper and carob trees and hear the doves. The distinctive calls reminded him of his time in England. There were plenty of pigeons in New Zealand, but there he never heard the very different voices of doves. The sky was criss-crossed with vapour trails like chalk streaks on the clear arch of blue, another reminder that he was a long way from his isolated homeland. Through the narrow streets of Garavan he descended to the Villa Isola Bella, opened the gate to the enclosed garden of the writing room and entered quietly, hoping to see lizards on the wall, or the door frame, sunning themselves. Sometimes, when returning to his apartment at night, he would find one or two close to the external light, seeking warmth he supposed. It intrigued him that they could hold so easily to perpendicular walls, like suction toys. There were no lizards at the room that morning, no letters, no notes slipped under the door. He went inside, opened the window and sat down with his journal. Mansfield had been a journal writer, hadn’t she: 153
Katherine Mansfield and Russia all writers were, surely. Writing in the journal lessened anxiety and guilt concerning lack of progress on his novel. Journal entries would be the basis for fiction in due course, he reassured himself: a restocking of the creative larder. What the hell was he doing in Menton, on the Côte d’Azur, trying to write a novel set during the Maori land wars? The dislocation was surely too great. He didn’t want to confront those doubts again and so he wrote of his visit to Ventimiglia only days before. The market by the seafront with its stalls of local produce, the cobbled and sloping alleys of the old town, the cemetery with its fresh flowers, oddly tiered repositories and occasional crypts. Many of the graves had photographs embalmed in glass, people looking out as in life to greet their families. People in their best clothes and standing, or sitting, erect in awareness of formality. In contrast to the ruinous neglect of so many cemeteries in his own country, those in France and Italy were embraced by their community, cared for and visited. In Ventimiglia there had been two women singing at a graveside. They looked like mother and daughter, but neither was young, and as he’d passed they had smiled and held up their hands without ceasing the song. He wrote about the women singing, their dark clothes and the way they held up their hands as he passed. The heavily lined face of the older woman, almost masculine with its bold features and black eyebrows. He wrote about the wonderful paella he had later in a family café next to a dental surgery, and of the Algerian hawker’s attempts to sell him a belt when he left. They were no good, those belts. They looked shiny and had smart buckles, but they weren’t leather and the holes soon stretched and tore. Menton, so close to the border, had much of Italy in its complexion: the names in its own graveyard were proof of that. He was thinking of writing something of this in his journal, when through the window he saw the street gate open and a woman come in. She came to the window, not the door, and stood with confidence to look in. Smiled. A tall woman, elderly, with a long, pleasing face and a lot of grey hair piled in a rather haphazard bun. Previous Fellows had told him about visitors who came to the room, some as unwelcome distraction, but he’d been bothered little, and he got up and opened the door. He was transient himself with no right to deny access to others, but was wary nevertheless. ‘I’m here at last,’ the woman said cheerfully, as if she had been long implored to come. She put out her hand in greeting, already looking past him into the interior. She wore a loose blue dress that came well down her legs, and new sandals like those he had seen at the 154
Creative Writing Ventimiglia market. ‘Brenda Beauchamp,’ she said, switching her gaze to him to gauge reaction. The accent was English, but not pronounced. ‘Ah, a relative,’ he said. ‘Who knows. At one stage I did a bit of digging. Nothing came of it and now I prefer to leave the possibility open, rather than continue research and be disappointed. I love her stories; I love her life, I’ve always wanted to come to Isola Bella. I couldn’t find the place she lived in at Ospedaletti, but then she was unhappy there anyway, not like here in Menton.’ He introduced himself rather than responding to mention of Ospedaletti. He knew nothing of it. Because he was on the Fellowship, people assumed that he was familiar with everything concerning Katherine Mansfield and strongly influenced by her work. He knew and valued the stories, of course, was aware in outline of her brief and rather tragic arc of life, but he wasn’t a devotee, claimed no special insight. If pushed he would probably say he was a Sargeson man. ‘Would you like to have a quick look at the room?’ he said with conscious generosity, yet containment. ‘How kind of you,’ said Brenda, and matched his backward steps with forward ones of her own. The room was not large, and she was the sort of woman who seems to fill a greater space than that which just her body occupies. Large feet and lifting hands, a swaying torso as she moved, and the loose, long blue dress. ‘How marvellous,’ she said, and taking glasses from her bag she bent to examine the bookcase, while he closed his journal on the desk. ‘You don’t live here, though, even though there’s a bed. Is that right?’ ‘Some of the early writers who came did, but it’s not allowed now. The rest of the villa is privately owned. This used to be the gardener’s room, or the wine cellar, so I’ve been told.’ ‘K.M. spent a lot of the time on the terrace just above us. Right above our heads. There are photographs showing her sitting there. She loved this place even though she was so sick and couldn’t get around much. She said she became conscious of it as she used to be conscious of New Zealand.’ He had remained standing, but when Brenda rested on the edge of the bed he knew she wasn’t ready to leave, so he sat down at the desk. He was aware of her enthusiasm and the long way she had come, and wished to make no rebuff. She asked if he’d mind if she took some snaps, and brought a small camera from her bag. She wanted to take one of him at the desk, and afterwards he encouraged her to sit there herself while he took a photograph. ‘I can’t get you into the villa. You can’t even see the terrace properly from down here, but you’ll have this one of you sitting at the desk in the Mansfield room.’ 155
Katherine Mansfield and Russia ‘Am I being a nuisance?’ she asked after the camera was put away. ‘Not at all, but I am meeting someone later in the old town for lunch. How long are you here in Menton?’ ‘Just today. I fly out of Nice tomorrow morning to London.’ She was back at the bookcase again, her head angled awkwardly to read the titles, the grey second head of heavy hair catching the light. Most of the previous Fellows had left a copy of at least one of their books behind as evidence of passing presence, some with a brief rhapsody within as well as a signature. He wondered what Katherine would have made of them all, this string of different personalities with only their nationality and a devotion to words in common. ‘She wrote some of her best stories here,’ said Brenda. Her large feet in open sandals were pale; small blurred veins crossed the rise of an ankle bone. ‘“Miss Brill”, “The Life of Ma Parker”, “The Daughters of the Late Colonel”, all written at Isola Bella,’ she said. She had finished with the books and took off her glasses, stood looking out of the window to the courtyard garden, her gaze drawing his own. ‘She will have looked down on this from the terrace,’ she said. ‘When I first came the garden was neglected,’ he said. ‘There was mould in here too and the room had a musty smell. The place must have been shut up for months. I had my formal meeting with the mayor and afterwards gardeners turned up. I haven’t much French, and the kind wife of an acquaintance came along as a translator. The mayor called the English les boeufs I remember, but seemed better disposed to Kiwis.’ The enclosed garden had pale gravel, seats, a palm tree. Brenda gazed at it almost fiercely. ‘What’s your favourite?’ she asked. ‘Out there?’ ‘I mean your favourite story.’ It could have been annoying, interpreted as a test or display of superiority, but her tone and expression held only a disarming conviction of shared enthusiasm. He did know many of the stories. He had studied some at university, and sought out others for himself. He mightn’t know a lot about Mansfield’s life, but he knew her work. ‘“A Dill Pickle”,’ he said. ‘I know others get the limelight, but I guess I like it best.’ ‘Oh, what a good choice,’ said Brenda in a sudden softening, and she smiled, lowered her eyes a moment, as if he had paid her compliment. ‘Tell me why,’ she said. They remained looking into the garden, she still nodding her head in affirmation of his choice, so that the long wisps of pale hair free of her hair tie wafted in the light. ‘It starts just when it has to,’ he said. ‘The guy’s trick of interruption, 156
Creative Writing the scenes within scenes like Russian dolls, their differing memories of the same moments. Most of all though, for me, is the evening picnic by the Black Sea and the coachman offering the dill pickle. Just a paragraph, but what colour and emotional power. The yearning dream, and the stripping of the dream away.’ ‘She sees the red chilli like a parrot’s beak through the green glass of the jar. She loved Russia, of course. Well, she loved a Russia that she created for herself.’ Brenda held both hands before her, palms uppermost, as if presenting proof of what she said. A train went past in the line just below the villa, just as trains must have passed when Katherine lived there, and they waited as the noise faded. ‘Once when I’d been here late and was going back to the apartment, I saw three African men walking along the railway line from Italy. They come in illegally that way, I’m told. They went past silently in the dusk with their heads turned away, as if that made them invisible.’ ‘I’m going on too much, aren’t I,’ said Brenda. ‘It’s being here in her place, and you knowing the stories. But you’re meeting someone for lunch, so I’ll be off.’ ‘I lied,’ he said. ‘Just to give me an out. I don’t have to be anywhere. I’ve just got sensitive about privacy and writing time. The more solitary I’ve become, the more accustomed I am to it. It’s a form of selfishness.’ ‘Necessary, though, if you want to get work done.’ ‘Pretty much.’ ‘Well, you’ll be relieved to hear that I’m being picked up on the seafront road at one. Friends are taking me on to Nice, where I’ll stay with them. I’ll be out of your hair.’ He suggested they go out to the garden seats. There was more space for her to occupy there. He brought out tumblers and a bottle of lukewarm cheap wine. When he apologised for it she smiled, but offered no rebuttal and drank little. She had no hat, and he gave her his own, and sat with a hand towel on his head. ‘Enough of K.M. for now,’ she said, ‘tell me about your own work.’ Her interest was genuine, and he gave a dutiful account of himself. Brenda had never been to New Zealand, but she knew something of the literature. Then he asked about her own life. Brenda was a doctor. Well, she had been – a specialist in Bristol and now retired. A widow of two husbands and a grandmother of seven children. He was surprised, but kept that to himself. He thought a retired English oncologist would be more contained, more groomed, rather than a woman in a loose cotton dress, with roughly bundled grey hair and large feet in Ventimiglian sandals. There seemed no shortage of money, however, and she spoke of a holiday home in the Lake District. Both her husbands had died of cancer. ‘My life has been spent 157
Katherine Mansfield and Russia in the company of illness,’ she said, ‘but I’ve been blessed with robust health myself.’ But they were in Katherine’s place, weren’t they, who knew all about illness. Katherine was the reason they were there together, sitting in the walled garden of Isola Bella. As if to signal the irrelevance of their own stories, a small lizard scampered up the wall and posed on the top. ‘I see them here sometimes,’ he said, ‘and at my apartment. For some reason I get a bit of a lift when I see lizards. They remind me of my Marlborough boyhood. Skinks especially.’ ‘K.M. loved them. She wrote about them, and the grasshoppers and the tiny frogs on the path. She described one lizard as a miniature crocodile and said it winked at her.’ ‘How is it that you’re so drawn to her, that you know so much about her, when you must have been extremely busy in a professional career that had nothing to do with writing? The Beauchamp name?’ The lizard had posed for brief time with its head raised, and then in a flicker was gone. They were left looking at a point of emptiness. ‘The Beauchamps originated in Aquitaine and had an aristocratic history in the Middle Ages. They’re all over the place now in all manner of spellings. I don’t imagine I’m any traceable relation, but it’s just that point of connection, isn’t it. If she were alive I could use it as a way of introducing myself, perhaps. No, I came to her work through a book group. Very suburban, but a necessary distraction for me. K.M. would be scathing, wouldn’t she. I thought of her this morning when my friends and I had an early espresso by the sea front. There was a man close by with a broad hat and white trousers, and as he smoked he cut the hair on his knuckles with a small pair of black-handled scissors. She would have noticed that.’ ‘She died so young. That’s what I always remember about her. Just thirty-four, wasn’t she. Imagine what she could have written if she’d been given more time.’ ‘That’s why she never missed anything,’ said Brenda. ‘At Ospedaletti she had a dream of death. There was shock and noise of breaking glass, bodily disintegration amid green, flashing light. She died in that dream, she said, and was never the same afterwards. There’s something about the colour green and K.M., isn’t there. So often it’s in the journals and the stories.’ How interesting Brenda was, with her enthusiastic familiarity with Mansfield’s life. He felt at a disadvantage, almost embarrassed at his own ignorance, but he knew that Brenda didn’t intend, or wish, either response. He’d been invited to give a talk about Mansfield at the university in Nice, and had delayed giving an answer partly because he 158
Creative Writing felt his knowledge of her was insufficient. He told Brenda about the lecture and encouraged her to talk. The books about Mansfield were on the shelf in the room only a few steps away, as they both knew, but he wanted to hear the things that were dear to his visitor. So she talked of the early love of Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde, the maid Katherine hired in Menton, Mme Reveilly, a police inspector’s sister. She talked of the lovers and the haters, the selfishness and the compassion. She talked of atheism, black depression and laughter. She talked of raindrops as big as marguerite daisies and the fur coat of Fontainebleau. As Brenda spoke, a single filament fell across her face from the empty sky with a tiny spider clinging to the end, and she instinctively brushed it aside and continued talking. The spider glided to the knee of her blue dress as she sat, then, like an agitated full stop, scuttled out of sight. She would be in her late sixties, maybe more. She had an attractive face still, no set lines of dissatisfaction, though his hat was oddly perched above it on the stack of hair. There was confidence without assertion in her manner, and he could imagine her in comforting discussion with her patients. She broke off her animated talk suddenly when she realised it was almost one o’clock. ‘My god, the time. I almost forgot. So now I’ll go, and you will have K.M.’s place to yourself again. Lucky you. Thank you for letting me come in and stay a while. It means a lot to me. I couldn’t pass Menton by without coming here.’ ‘I’ll walk down with you,’ he said, and he took the towel and glasses into the room, returned to go with her across the railway line and towards the sea road. They stopped on the way so that she could buy a bunch of clementines for her friends, still attached to the leafy sprig as was the way in Menton. The waspish crescendos of passing scooters forced pauses in their easy conversation, and after one brief silence she said, ‘You won’t make her ethereal, will you? In your talk, I mean: you won’t be fooled by surface girlishness as some readers are. She was a great mimic, a complete player of parts to chosen audiences, but my god she was tough beneath it all. Remember the Graham Greene comment about the splinter of ice at the heart of a writer? That’s K.M. alright.’ Had he ever thought of Mansfield as ethereal? Perhaps he had. There was no time to discuss her any more, however, for Brenda’s friends were waiting at the corner in a large red Audi, and they showed good manners by getting out to meet him. A couple, well-dressed and affable, who had been to the Basilica of St Michel and the beach while Brenda was at Isola Bella, and who were eager to be off for lunch at the Hotel Riva. The woman had the tanned desiccation common on the Côte d’Azur 159
Katherine Mansfield and Russia and the man wore pale shoes and no socks. ‘Come with us,’ said Brenda. In the company of her friends she seemed older, larger, more English. It was no longer polite to talk of Katherine Mansfield, and the general conversation had no real significance, just guff about Queen Victoria loving Menton and Churchill coming to paint there. At the end he leant down at Brenda’s open window and they shook hands, which was at once a conscious formality yet perfectly natural. ‘Good luck,’ she said. ‘Yes, good luck,’ he replied. They knew they would never see each other again, and they knew that each held that thought in the same moment, though neither spoke of it. In the front seat her friends started to talk of the Hotel Riva, and Brenda smiled and held her large hands palm uppermost as she had in the room at the Villa Isola Bella, and then she was driven away. He walked on to his accustomed café, where he would have the cheap rosé and frites before returning to the writing room. In the late afternoon he would take the Mansfield books and walk back to his apartment, sit on the small half balcony, endure the brief rain of dust from the mats being beaten on the balcony above him, and prepare a lecture for the university in Nice. A talk on K.M., as Brenda liked to call her, and there would be no emphasis on the ethereal.
Tinakori Road A house-sized box of atmosphere, complete with authentic fittings, repro wallpaper and the creepy photograph of the dead baby: the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace, my choice for an outing in my granddaughter’s car on this drenched morning. OK, Julia? Cool. Heading back we pass our own family shrine, the house where your father spent his infancy: not literally the birthplace – he and Andrew were born in St Helen’s hospital – but the ‘Gregory Campbell Learns-to-walk-and-talk, rides-a-tricycle, falls-out-of-a-tree-place’. In between that house, number 245, and the Birthplace at the far end of the road, there used to stand the ‘Garden-Party’ house: number 75, an even grander KM residence, background to her teens and a cherished focus for Mansfield scholars. I wasn’t there when they demolished it for the motorway, but Prof Gordon was – eighty years old, fizzing like a rocket, bouncing in front of the bulldozers, crushing the impulse to snatch a souvenir plank (what, after all, could he have done with it?)
Katherine Mansfield and Russia The same fate befell her old school – my school: not the charmless Lego that’s replaced it but the creaky wooden structure where I sat in what was reputed to have been her classroom, gazing into the distance, being her. . . Well, that’s it, Julia. If we had more time we could drive to where you spent your own childhood – and there she’d be again, preceding us to Karori, to another of her homes and her first school. Was it your first school too? No, yours was Karori West. Still, pretty close. A kind of phantom stalker, that KM. FLEUR ADCOCK
Remedy For KM
Alone in the Jardin du Luxembourg, watching pigeons pick and pry in the pall of Paris days, you feud with your furies among the endless round of gritty coffee trays, tisanes, and a surfeit of promised cures. Imprisoned by your heart’s altitude your losing left lung is X-rayed out of life. You find false hope beyond the doctor’s curtain, dazzled by duplicitous rays. You feverishly buy a hat you’ll never wear, on one of your elusive ‘better days’. Stories bloom and bliss unwritten; you write letters lying down. Accustomed to invalid ways, the furies dance sans mercy in the city haze. From your sickbed you learn that becoming ‘real’ is the only antidote to breathlessness. JESSICA WHYTE 162
Chez Monsieur Gurdjieff A reading for three voices from the letters of Katherine Mansfield Edited and introduced by Roger Lipsey
Close readers of Katherine Mansfield will recall her bold decision in the autumn of 1922 to become a resident at the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man, founded by George Ivanovich Gurdjieff (?1866–1949), not far from Paris, just weeks before her death. Mansfield could have some confidence in the adventure: she would share it with A. R. Orage, her trusted mentor, who had set aside his prominent literary and journalistic career in London to also join Gurdjieff and his circle. The new home of the Institute was Le Prieuré des Basses Loges, a manor house at Fontainebleau-Avon, adjoining the storied forest where kings had hunted. Gurdjieff was – and has remained – a controversial figure, deeply appreciated by some, maligned by others. We should content ourselves here with Mansfield’s vision of the man as a wise, multi-talented and kind teacher, willing to number her among the Institute’s participants despite the fact that he knew her to be mortally ill. She had come to remake her life: if not her health – though there is always hope – then her inner life, her sense of herself. ‘At 34 I am beginning my education,’ she wrote with conviction after some weeks at the Prieuré. It did not take long for her to know that she belonged, frail as she was. How touching to hear her write about ‘the new theatre that we are building. I must go.’ Gurdjieff’s establishment in France marked the end of a long, often ferociously trying emigration from Moscow and St Petersburg, where he had begun to teach a new embodiment of traditional spirituality, cosmology and ethics during the period 1912–17. Greek-Armenian by birth, Russian by education, he and his companions had searched for some twenty years in Central Asia, India, North Africa and the worlds of Orthodox Christianity for hidden sources of knowledge. The Russian revolution and civil war prompted him to move with a handful of students, first to the temporary safety of the Caucasus, later to Istanbul, on to Dresden, then an exploratory look at England – and finally France, which became his home. It asks too much to evoke here the outlines of Gurdjieff’s teaching, the 163
Katherine Mansfield and Russia dances and music, and his novel approach to what he called work on oneself, but much is implicit in Mansfield’s letters from the Prieuré. No one typically thinks of Mansfield’s writings as suited to oral performance – to being voiced for audiences, however large or small – but some years ago a number of friends and I, attending a conference that needed an evening’s real entertainment, thought to try it. We discovered the stunning orality, the intimate sense of voice and address, in a selection of letters from the Prieuré. It was as if Mansfield was speaking to us, turning from her desk for a moment to share insights. Mansfield’s letters from the Prieuré are her last, great short story. In a conversation reported some years later, she told Orage that the stories she hoped one day to write would evoke the persevering intelligence of people who wish to live deeply and well despite obstacles. This reading shows what she meant; she was already there. The text that follows derives from Vincent O’Sullivan and Margaret Scott, eds, The Collected Letters of Katherine Mansfield, Vol. 5, 1922–1923 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). Permission is gratefully acknowledged for its use here. Where the letters start, Mansfield is living in Paris, poised to go to the Prieuré. She is reflecting on, among other things, her impressions from talks on Gurdjieff’s teaching given by P. D. Ouspensky in London, which she had recently heard. A few weeks later she would speak of the ‘wonderful clarity’ of the autumnal air at the Prieuré. There was another wonderful clarity: she herself – observing, learning, participating, forming friendships, finding herself. She was fortunate to be there. Gurdjieff was fortunate to have the company of one of modern literature’s keenest witnesses. This text is suited to three readers, surely women. To John Middleton Murry in the first weeks of October 1922, Select Hotel, Paris I don’t feel influenced by Ouspensky. [. . .] I merely feel Ive heard ideas like my ideas but bigger ones, far more definite ones. And that there really is Hope – real Hope – not half-Hope . . .1 A new way of being is not an easy thing to live. Thinking about it preparing to meet the difficulties and so on is one thing, meeting those difficulties another. I have to die to so much; I have to make such big changes. I feel the only thing to do is to get the dying over – to court it, almost (Fearfully hard, that) and then all hands to the business of being reborn again. [. . .] Were we positive, eager, real – alive? No, we were not. We were a nothingness shot with gleams of what might be. But no more. Well, I have to face everything as far as I can & see where I stand – what remains. For with all my soul I do long for a real life, for truth, and for real 164
Creative Writing strength. Its simply incredible, watching KM, to see how little causes a panic. Shes a perfect corker at toppling over.2 I am going to Fontainebleau next week to see Gurdjieff. I will tell you about it. Why am I going? From all I hear he is the only man who understands there is no division between the body and the spirit, who believes how they are related. You remember how I have always said doctors only treat half. And you have replied ‘Its up to you to do the rest’? It is. Thats true. But first I must learn how. I believe Gurdjieff can teach me.3 * * * Mansfield moved from Paris to the Prieuré on 17 October 1922. The first letter to her husband dates to the very next day. All letters that follow were written at the Prieuré. I have been through a little revolution since my last letter. I suddenly made up my mind (for it was sudden, at the last) to try and learn to live by what I believed in, no less, and not as in all my life up till now to live one way and think another. I don’t mean superficially of course, but in the deepest sense Ive always been disunited. And this, which has been my ‘secret sorrow’ for years has become everything to me just now. I really cant go on pretending to be one person and being another any more [. . .]. It is a living death. So I have decided to make a clean sweep of all that was ‘superficial’ in my past life and start again to see if I can get into that real living simple truthful full life I dream of. I have been through a horrible deadly time coming to this. You know the kind of time. It doesn’t show much, outwardly, but one is simply chaos within! So – my first Leap into the Dark was when I came here and decided to ask Mr Gurdjieff if he would let me stay for a time. ‘Here’, is a very beautiful old chateau in glorious grounds. It was a Carmelite monastery then one of Madame de Maintenons ‘seats’. Now it is modernised inside I mean chauffage centrale, electric light and so on. But its a most wonderful old place in an amazing lovely park. About 40 people, chiefly Russians, are here working, at every possible kind of thing. I mean, outdoor work, looking after animals, gardening, indoor work, music, d ancing – it seems a bit of everything. Here the philosophy of the ‘system’ takes second place. Practice is first. You simply have to wake up instead of talking about it, in fact. You have to learn to do all the things you say you want to do. [. . .] Mr Gurdjieff is not in the least like what I expected. Hes what one wants to find him, really. But I do feel absolutely confident he can put me on the right track in every way, bodily and t’other governor. I haven’t talked money to Mr Gurdjieff yet. [. . .] The fact is Ive hardly talked with him at all. Hes terribly busy just now and he only 165
Katherine Mansfield and Russia speaks a few words of English – all is through an interpreter. I cant say how ‘good’ some of the people seem to me here – its just like another life. I start Russian today, and my first jobs which are eat, walk in the garden, pick the flowers, and rest much. Thats a nice calm beginning, isn’t it. But its the eat much which is the job when its Gurdjieff who serves the dish.4 * * * Ill tell you what this life is more like than anything; it is like Gulliver’s Travels. One has, all the time, the feeling of having been in a wreck & by the mercy of Providence, got ashore . . . somewhere. Simply everything is different. Not only languages but food, ways, people, music, methods, hours – all. It’s a real new life. At present this is my day. I get up at 7.30, light the fire (with kindling drying overnight) wash in ice cold water (Id quite forgotten how good water is to wash in & to drink) & go down to breakfast – which is coffee, butter, bread, gorgonzola cheese & quince jam & eggs. After breakfast, make my bed, do my room, rest, & then go into the garden till dinner which is 11 A.M. Which is a very large meal with things like beans minced with raw onions, vermicelli with icing sugar & butter, veal wrapped in lettuce leaves & cooked in cream. After dinner, in the garden again till 3 o’clock teatime. After tea, any light job that is going until dark. When all knock off work, wash, dress & make ready for dinner again at 7. After dinner most of the people gather in the salon round an enormous fire and there is music, tambourines, drums and piano, dancing & perhaps a display of all kinds of queer dance exercises. At ten we go to bed. Doctor Young, a real friend of mine, comes up and makes me up a good fire. In ‘return’ I am patching the knee of his trousers today. [. . .] At present the entire Institute is devoted to manual work, getting this place in order, out and inside. Its not, of course, work for the sake of work. Every single thing one does has a purpose, is part of a ‘system’. Some of the English ‘arty’ & theosophical people are very trying, too. But one can learn to use them, I am sure. Though Im not much good at it yet. On the other hand some of the advanced men and women are truly wonderful. I am still on my fortnight’s probation, simply spending a fortnight here. Mr Gurdjieff hardly ever speaks a word to me. He must know me pretty well. But even if he won’t let me stay here I am finished for the time being with old circumstances. They have just not killed me, and thats all there is to be said for them.5 * * *
Creative Writing Day after day of perfect sunshine. Its like Switzerland. An intense blue sky, a chill in the air, a wonderful clarity so that you see people far away, all sharp cut and vivid. I spend all the sunny time in the garden. Visit the carpenters, the trench diggers (we are digging for a Turkish Bath – not to discover one but to lay the pipes). The soil is very nice here, like sand with small whitey pinky pebbles in it. Then there are the sheep to inspect & the new pigs that have long golden hair very mystical pigs. A mass of cosmic rabbits & hens – and goats are on the way, likewise horses & mules to ride & drive. The Institute is not really started yet for another fortnight. A dancing hall is being built & the house is still being organised. But it has started really. If all this were to end in smoke tomorrow I should have had the very great wonderful adventure of my life. I have learnt more in a week here than in years of life la-bas. As to habits! My wretched sense of order for instance which rode me like a witch. It did not take long to cure that. Mr Gurdjieff likes me to go into the kitchen in the late afternoon & ‘watch’. I have a chair in a corner. Its a large kitchen with 6 helpers. Madame Ostrovsky the head, walks about like a queen exactly. She is extremely beautiful. She wears an old raincoat. Her chief helper, Nina, a big girl in a black apron – lovely, too – pounds things in mortars. The second cook chops at the table, bangs the saucepans, sings; another runs in and out with plates & pots, a man in the scullery cleans the pots, the dog barks & lies on the floor worrying a hearth brush. A little girl comes in with a bouquet of leaves for Olga Ivanovna. Mr Gurdjieff strides in, takes up a handful of shredded cabbage & eats it . . . There were at least 20 pots on the stove & its so full of life and humour and ease that one wouldn’t be anywhere else. Its just the same all through – ease after rigidity expresses it more than anything I know. [. . .] I would like you to see the dancing here. There again you see its not to be described. One person sees one thing; one another. I have never really cared for dancing before but this – seems to be the key to the new world within one. To think that later on I shall do it is great happiness. There may be a demonstration in Paris in a month or two. If so I wish you could see it. But would it just look like dancing? I wonder! Its so hard to tell.6 * * * Last night [. . .] in the salon we learnt to make rugs from long pieces of corn. Very nice ones. Very easy to make, too. I have been in the carpenters shop all the morning. The small forge is alight, Mr Gurdjieff is planing, a Mr Salzmann is making wheels. Later on I shall learn carpentry. We are going to learn as many trades as possible, also all kinds of farm 167
Katherine Mansfield and Russia work. The cows are being bought today. Gurdjieff is going to build a high couch in the stable where I can sit & inhale their breath! I know later I shall be put in charge of those cows. [. . .]7 I am fearfully busy. What do I do? Well, I learn Russian, which is a terrific job, have charge of the indoor carnations – no joke, & spend the rest of the day paying visits to places where people are working. Then every evening about 50 people meet in the salon and there is music and they are working at present at a tremendous ancient Assyrian Group Dance. I have no words with which to describe it. To see it seems to change ones whole being for the time. [. . .] In three weeks here I feel I have spent years in India, Arabia, Afghanistan, Persia. That is very odd, isn’t it. And oh, how one wanted to voyage like this – how bound one felt. Only now I know! There is another thing here. Friendship. The real thing that you and I have dreamed of. Here it exists between women & men & women & one feels it is unalterable, and living in a way it never can be anywhere else. I cant say I have friends yet. I am simply not fit for them. I don’t know myself enough to be really trusted, and I am weak where these people are strong. But even the relationships I have are dear beyond any friendships I have known. But I am giving the impression that we all live together in brotherly love & blissful happiness. Not at all. One suffers terribly. If you have been ill for 5 years you cant expect to be well in 5 weeks. If you have been ill for 20 years & according to Mr Gurdjieff we all of us have our ‘illness’ it takes very severe measures to put one right. But the point is there is hope. One can & does believe that one will escape from living in circles & will live a CONSCIOUS life. One can, through work, escape from falsity & be true to ones own self – not to what anyone else on earth thinks one is. I wish you could meet some of the men here. You would like them very very much, especially Mr Salzmann, who speaks very little. I must stop this letter. Is it a rigmarole?8 * * * I must say the dancing here has given me quite a different approach to writing. I mean some of the very ancient Oriental dance. There is one which takes about 7 minutes & it contains the whole life of woman – but everything! Nothing is left out. It taught me, it gave me more of woman’s life than any book or poem. There was even room for Flaubert’s Coeur Simple in it & for Princess Marya . . . mysterious. By the way I have had a great talk about Shakespeare here with a man called Salzmann, who is by ‘profession’ a painter. He knows & understands the plays far better 168
Creative Writing than anyone I have met except you. His wife is the chief dancer here – a very beautiful woman with a marvellous intelligence. [. . .] I must sit down to a Russian lesson. I wish you knew Russian. I have also been learning mental arithmetic beginning 2 x 2 = 1 3 x 3 = 12 4 x 4 = 13 5 x 5 = 28 and so on at great speed to the accompaniment of music. Its not as easy as it looks especially when you start from the wrong end backwards. In fact at 34 I am beginning my education.9 * * * 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. 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 . . . 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. [. . .] 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 appalled 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.10 * * * 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 169
Katherine Mansfield and Russia 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.11 * * * [O]n Saturday afternoon when I was in the stable [Mr Gurdjieff] came up to rest, too, and talked to me a little. First about cows and then about the monkey he has bought which is to be trained to clean the cows. Then he suddenly asked me how I was and said I looked better. ‘Now,’ he said ‘you have two doctors you must obey. Doctor Stable and Doctor New Milk. Not to think, not to write . . . Rest. Rest. Live in your body again.’ I think he meant get back into your body. He speaks very little English but when one is with him one seems to understand all that he suggests. The next thing I heard was that I was to come into here for the rest of the winter. Sometimes I wonder if we ‘make up’ Mr Gurdjieff’s wonderful understanding. But one is always getting a fresh example of it. And he always acts at precisely the moment one needs it. That is what is so strange . . .12 Here we are to have great doings. The Russian Christmas is not due for another fortnight so Mr Gurdjieff has decided the English shall have a real old fashioned English Xmas on their own. There are so few of them but that makes no difference to his ideas of hospitality. We are to invite all the Russians as our guests. And he has given us a sheep, a pig, two turkeys [. . .] an immense tree & carte blanche with which to decorate it. Tomorrow night we have our tree followed by the feast. We shall sit down to it about 60. Whoever gets the coin in the pudding is to be presented with our newborn calf – a perfect angel. Would that it were mine! [. . .] I attended the obsequies of the pig this morning. I thought I had better go through with it for once & see for myself. One felt only horribly sad . . . and yesterday I watched Madame Ouspensky pluck singe & draw our birds. In fact these have been 2 gory days, balanced by the fairy like tree. There is so much life here that one feels no more than one little cell in a beefsteak – say. It is a good feeling.13 * * * Our pudding was made in a babys bath, stirred by everybody & Mr Gurdjieff put in a coin. Who gets the coin gets our darling new born 170
Creative Writing calf for a present. The calf – 1 day old – was led into the salon to the beating of tambourines & to a special melody composed for it. It took it very quietly. But two minute baby pigs which were also brought in & allowed to play squealed & shrieked terribly. I have been v. interested in the calf. The cow didn’t seem to mind the affair. [. . .] I wish we gave our cows apples. Some of the names are Equivoqueveckwa, Baldaofim, Mitasha, Bridget. Our mule is Drabfeet. My existence here is not meagre or miserable. Nothing is done by accident. [. . .] To live among so many people knowing something of them, sharing something, that is for me very great change & ça donne beaucoup.14 How is the old Adam revived in you, I wonder? What aspect has he? There is nothing to be done when he rages except to remember that its bound to be – it’s the swing of the pendulum – ones only hope is when the bout is exhausted to get back to what you think you really care for aim for wish to live by as soon as possible. It’s the intervals of exhaustion that seem to waste so much energy. You see, my love, the question is always ‘Who am I’ and until that is discovered I don’t see how one can really direct anything in ones self. ‘Is there a me.’ One must be certain of that before one has a real unshakeable leg to stand on. And I don’t believe for one moment these questions can be settled by the head alone. It is this life of the head, this formative intellectual life at the expense of all the rest of us which has got us into this state. How can it get us out of it? I see no hope of escape except by learning to live in our emotional & instinctive being as well and to balance all three. You see [. . .] if I were allowed one single cry to God that cry would be I want to be REAL. Until I am that I don’t see why I shouldn’t be at the mercy of old Eve in her various manifestations for ever. But this place has taught me so far how unreal I am. It has taken from me one thing after another (the things never were mine) until at this present moment all I know really is that I am not annihilated and that I hope – more than hope – believe.15 * * * This letter is as usual written in a tearing hurry. I am supposed to be at the new theatre that we are building. I must go. This morning I made breadcrumbs for 60 people – mountains of them.16 Very much is happening here. We are in the throes of theatre building which ought to be ready by the New Year (Russian style) on January 13th. Its going to be a most marvelous place. Mr Gurdjieff has bought 63 carpets for it & the same number of fur rugs. The carpets which were displayed one by one in the salon last night are like living things – 171
Katherine Mansfield and Russia worlds of beauty. And what a joy to begin to learn which is a garden, which a café, which a prayer mat, which l’histoire de ses troupeaux and so on. My thoughts are full of carpets and Persia and Samarkand and the little rugs of Baluchistan.17 * * * I am living with about fifty to sixty people, mainly Russians. It is a fantastic existence, impossible to describe. One might be anywhere – in Bokhara or Tiflis or Afghanistan (except alas! for the climate!). But even the climate does not seem to matter so much when one is whirled along at such a rate. For we do most decidedly whirl. But I cannot tell you what a joy it is to me to be in contact with living people who are strange and quick and not ashamed to be themselves. It’s a kind of supreme airing to be among them. [. . .] Lovingly yours, Katherine.18 Notes The following quotes are all from Vincent O’Sullivan and Margaret Scott (eds), The Collected Letters of Katherine Mansfield, Vol. 5, 1922–1923 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), reprinted by permission of Oxford University Press. Mansfield’s original idiosyncratic punctuation has been preserved. Each excerpt is separated from the next by an asterisk to enable allocation to the readers. 1. Mansfield to John Middleton Murry (hereafter JMM), 4 October 1922, p. 285. The one departure in this text from Mansfield’s spelling is here: she wrote Youspensky rather than the now-standard Ouspensky. 2. To JMM, 11 October 1922, p. 294. 3. To JMM, 13 October 1922, p. 296. 4. To JMM, 21 October 1922, pp. 304–6. 5. To JMM, 23 October 1922, pp. 307–8. 6. To JMM, 27 October 1922, p. 310. 7. To JMM, 2 November 1922, p. 315. 8. To JMM, 10 November 1922, pp. 319–20. 9. To JMM, 12 November 1922, pp. 322. 10. To JMM, 6 December 1922, p. 331. 11. To JMM, 9 December 1922, p. 332. 12. To JMM,?17–20 December 1922, pp. 336–7. 13. To JMM, 23 December 1922, p. 338. 14. To Ida Baker, 24 December 1922, p. 339. 15. To JMM, 26 December 1922, pp. 340–1. 16. To Dorothy Brett, 31 December 1922, p. 343. 17. To Ida Baker, early January 1923, pp. 347–8. 18. To Elizabeth, Countess Russell, 31 December 1922, p. 346.
The Tree of Knowledge: New Insights on Katherine Mansfield, Oscar Wilde and ‘A Woman’ Giles Whiteley
The story of how Katherine Mansfield’s journals were eventually disseminated into the public domain is well known. She left some fiftythree notebooks and a mass of loose papers upon her death in the hands of her husband, John Middleton Murry, who first published a selection of material four years later under the title Journal of Katherine Mansfield (1927). Because of its success an inevitable sequel followed, entitled The Scrapbook of Katherine Mansfield (1939), before the publication of the Journal of Katherine Mansfield: Definitive Edition (1954), which incorporated the material from both the 1927 Journal and the 1939 Scrapbook, as well as adding further material not previously published. But this ‘definitive’ edition was still highly selective, and it was not until Margaret Scott’s The Katherine Mansfield Notebooks: Complete Edition (1997) that the full unexpurgated versions were available to the reading public, and not until Gerri Kimber and Claire Davison edited them as The Diaries of Katherine Mansfield (2016) for the Edinburgh Collected Works of Katherine Mansfield, that a critical edition has been available. In the twelve years between the publication of the Journal and the Scrapbook, however, more material from the journals appeared in the pages of The Life of Katherine Mansfield (1933), co-written by Murry and Ruth Elvish Mantz. Mantz had published her Critical Biography of Katherine Mansfield in 1931, and Murry, needing assistance in transcribing the journals, wrote to Stanford University, where Mantz had graduated and worked as a librarian, to ask for help. An exercise in hagiography, the Life deals with Mansfield’s early years up to 1912, and here new material from the notebooks surfaced, either in epigraphs or as substantial interludes. It is one of these substantial interludes that concerns this present essay. Some time between 1907 and 1908, the young Mansfield noted down memorable quotations from her reading. These entries appear in c hapter 175
Katherine Mansfield and Russia ten of the Life, entitled ‘White Gardenia’. Murry and Mantz give the extract the subtitle ‘Reading Notes 1905–1907’, and preface it as follows: Kathleen’s reading notes [. . .] are filled with passages and epigrams copied from her reading. Wilde predominates, and his maxims were taken and absorbed into her, accepted as ethics, as the gospel of living. She said in those days, ‘I would rather have the highest heights and the lowest depths – anything rather than the placid middle line of life.’ In her first introduction to literature, she gave herself utterly to absorbing from it what she believed was ‘experience of life’.1
These prefatory remarks circumscribe the journal entries, proleptically framing their reading. They tell us that Wilde predominates, yet a number of these epigrams have resisted definitive attribution, not only by Murry and Mantz, whose editorial standards were not rigorous, but even after the exhaustive labours of seasoned editors such as Scott, Kimber and Davison. This essay will address a series of these entries, which I quote and number at the outset in order to facilitate ease of discussion:  Realise your Youth while you have it. Don’t squander the gold of your days listening to the tedious, trying to improve the hopeless failure, or giving away your life to the ignorant, the common or the vulgar, which are the aims, the false ideals of our Age. Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you. Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always reaching for New Sensations. Be afraid of nothing. O.W.  Ambition is a curse if you are not armour-proof against everything else, unless you are willing to sacrifice yourself to your ambition. A Woman.  It cannot be possible to go through all the abandonment of music and care humanly for anything human afterward. A Woman.  All Musicians, no matter how insignificant, come to life emasculated of their power to take life seriously. It is not one man or woman but the complete octave of sex that they desire . . . A.W.  You feel helpless under the yoke of creation. A.W.  Nature makes such fools of us! What is the use of liking anyone if the washerwoman can do exactly the same thing? Well, this is Nature’s trick to ensure population. A.W.
Critical Miscellany  To have courage of your excess – to find the limit of yourself! A.W.  Most women turn to salt, looking back. A.W.  Big people have always entirely followed their own inclinations. Why should one remember the names of people who do what everyone else does? To break a law with success is to be illustrious. A.W.  And wealth is for brains & the brave; for those who can get it its there to be got. Those who haven’t got it are – generally speaking – fools. O.W.  I do not want to earn a living, I want to live. O.W.  You suspend yourself from the heights of an inspiration and rebound in sickening jolts from cathedral pinnacles to the mud on the street. A.W.  It will be a hideous world when everything is permitted. Our nerves can’t supply all the dynamics. We need laws to break in order to give our vitality exercise. A.W.  A woman really cannot understand music till she has the actual experience of those laboriously concealed things which are evidently the foundation of them all. A.W.  The translation of an emotion into an act is its death – its logical end . . . But [. . .] this way isn’t the act of lawful things. It is the curiosity of our own temperament, the deliberate expression of our own tendencies, the welding into an Art of act or incident some raw emotion of the blood. For we castrate our minds to the extent by which we deny our bodies. O.W.2
The first of the entries originates in Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890/1891), constituting Lord Henry’s speech on the importance of realising one’s youth.3 But if the first passage originated in Mansfield’s reading of Wilde, none of the following fourteen entries have previously been sourced. In this essay, I will address this gap in our knowledge of Mansfield’s early reading and reconsider the critical heritage with respect to the signatures ‘O.W.’, ‘A.W.’ and ‘A Woman’.
Katherine Mansfield and Russia
Reading Mansfield’s Journals Let us begin with the final entry , which is by far the longest passage remaining unsourced. Signed ‘O.W.’, this signature has been taken to refer to Wilde, and a number of other entries ascribed to ‘O.W.’ (pp. 29, 34, 35, 36) have been sourced in Wilde. But if the phrasing seems Wildean, with the idea of Art ‘translating’ into ‘raw emotion of the blood’ reminiscent of the materialist theory of ‘influence’ drawn in Dorian Gray, the quote itself has not been located.4 In particular, the final line, ‘we castrate our minds to the extent by which we deny our bodies’, gives cause for interest, not simply because it suggests the idea of psychic castration, not formulated by Freud until his essay ‘On the Sexual Theories of Children’ in 1908,5 but also because the phrase occurs in a notebook from 1906, no longer within the context of a quotation attributed to ‘O.W.’ but now incorporated into Mansfield’s own prose: ‘We deny our minds to the extent that we castrate our bodies. I am wondering if that is true? & thinking that it most certainly is’ (p. 25). Sydney Janet Kaplan is circumspect as to the ‘true’ author of these passages but seems to suggest, if not openly pronounce, the passage as Mansfield writing as Wilde: ‘O.W.’ is really ‘K.M.’.6 This would be a very Mansfieldian thing to do, just as it would have been a very Wildean thing to do: conceiving of art as the truth of masks. But the idea, attractive as it might be, does not bear scrutiny since the passage in question includes two ellipses. One is an editorial addition by Scott, marked by square brackets, acknowledging a missing word illegible in Mansfield’s hand, but the other is Mansfield’s own, indicating that she is quoting selectively and leaving out part of the material. If it were simply ‘O.W.’, the mask of ‘K.M.’, then why the ellipsis? The quote in question is in fact taken from a work of fiction that seemed to have impressed the young Mansfield deeply, the anonymous novel The Tree of Knowledge: A Document by a Woman. Published in New York by Stuyvesant Press in 1908, there is no doubt that this is Mansfield’s source in spite of its publication date. Mansfield has taken a series of lines here from quite some distance apart in the source text, which reads as follows: The translation of an emotion into act is its death, its logical end. [. . .] But Sin in this way isn’t the act of lawful things. It is the curiosity of our own temperament, the deliberate expression of our own tendencies, the welding into an Art of act or incident some raw emotion of the blood. For we castrate our minds to the extent by which we deny our bodies.7
Critical Miscellany The illegible word in Mansfield’s hand, marked by an ellipsis by Scott and successfully resisting the scrutiny of successive editors Mantz and Murry, Scott, Kimber and Davison, is revealed to be the word ‘Sin’. We also discover that it is originally the mind, and not the body, which is castrated, remembering Mansfield’s reworking of the quotation in the entry of 1906. But perhaps more interesting is the fact that Mansfield’s own ellipsis represents the span of some nine pages of the source text: the quote begins in the midst of one chapter and concludes three chapters later. There can be no question, then: ‘O.W.’ is not Wilde but the anonymous author of The Tree of Knowledge. Moreover, it is not only this passage on psychic castration and bodily ascesis that originated in Mansfield’s reading of this novel; looking closely, we see the same slip in attribution also occurs in the two earlier quotations ( and ) attended by the initials ‘O.W.’. Both phrases occur on the same page, earlier in the novel: And wealth is for brains and the brave; for those who can get it, it’s there to be had. Those who haven’t got it are, generally speaking, fools. But all the things I want are barricaded in by money. Life is no use to me unless I have them. Life indeed in itself is of no value to anyone. Why should one spend existence in earning money, merely to eat and to have a roof under which to sleep? I do not want to earn a living, I want to live.8
All three quotations attributed to ‘O.W.’ therefore originate in the same text. This was clearly a work of significance for the young Mansfield. The novel gives itself to read as a ‘Document’, a text, written by ‘A Woman’. In this context, ‘O.W.’ may not be ‘K.M.’, as has been assumed by a number of Mansfield scholars, but rather ‘A Woman’, and we recall that the signatures ‘A Woman’ and its abbreviation ‘A.W.’ attend the other quotes in the series in question. Now it is widely accepted that these entries are examples of Mansfield herself trying out her masks. As Scott writes, ‘“K.M.”, “A Woman”, and “A.W.” are all KM herself’, and Kimber and Davison come to a similar conclusion.9 Scott further speculates that ‘KM probably enjoyed the similarity of the attributions “A.W.” and “O.W.”’.10 Likewise, Kaplan, in her discussion of the passages, contends that ‘Mansfield even interspersed her quotations from Wilde with some epigrams of her own,’ before quoting one of these passages alongside two other epigrams attributed in the journals to ‘K.M.’.11 ‘A.W.’ has been accepted as a mask of ‘K.M.’ Precisely why this assumption has been made – or rather, has remained unchallenged – is less clear, however. It seems that the root of this critical commonplace lies in the work of Murry and Mantz, who give the first of the quotations in the series as follows: ‘“Ambition is a curse if 179
Katherine Mansfield and Russia you are not armour-proof against everything else, unless you are willing to sacrifice yourself to your ambition.” – A Woman (K.M.).’12 I quote exactly, with Murry and Mantz substituting an ellipsis for a presumably illegible word, one which is deciphered and restored to its place by Scott, Kimber and Davison (the phrase should read ‘armour-proof’). But there is something else important here – not what is missing but what has been added: after Mansfield’s attribution ‘A Woman’, there is in parenthesis the additional attribution, ‘K.M.’ This is remarkable precisely since the authoritative editions by Scott, Kimber and Davison give no such attribution, nor do they indicate its presence in Mansfield’s manuscripts. Murry and Mantz do the same thing again, at the beginning of the following page, after the attribution to the entry nine entries later: ‘A.W. (K.M.)’.13 Since it is not in those manuscripts, the idea that ‘K.M.’, ‘A Woman’, and ‘A.W.’ are all Mansfield herself seems to have originated in Murry and Mantz. Indeed, Murry makes the point more strongly in the 1954 Journal, writing in a footnote: ‘A Woman (afterwards A.W.) is no doubt K.M.’.14 There can be no doubt, he states plainly, although he gives us no evidence to support his claim or reason to explain his certainty.15 The equation of the three signatures has thenceforth become critical commonplace: it is a hypothesis become accepted fact. Sure enough, on closer inspection, we discover that at least eight of the ten passages attributed to either ‘A Woman’ or ‘A.W.’ in the series in question are not Mansfield at all, but are once again direct quotations from that ‘document’ by ‘A Woman’, The Tree of Knowledge. ‘A.W.’ is the anonymous narrator/author of The Tree of Knowledge. Passage  on ambition that begins the sequence comes from the third part and last pages of the novel, the narrator’s final return to ‘London’ (the chapter heading),16 and the remaining passages signed ‘A.W.’ which can be definitively pinned down are all drawn from the first part of the novel. In the first and the third parts of the book, each chapter is named after a city the narrator is currently visiting, with the second part instead divided into chapters which are titled by a series of eight numbered ‘Days’ of her ‘Voyage’ across the Atlantic. In Mansfield’s notebooks, passages , on the ‘yoke of creation’, and , on ‘Nature’s trick to ensure population’, are drawn from the protagonist’s first visit to ‘London’,17 with passages , on being suspended from ‘the heights of inspiration’, and , on the ‘vitality’ of transgression, drawn from the second visit to ‘London’ (as were passages  and , discussed above and attributed to ‘O.W.’).18 Passage , exhorting women ‘to have the courage of their excess’, and , the Biblical allusion to Lot’s wife turning to a pillar of salt (Genesis 19: 16–26), are drawn from ‘Stockholm’.19 180
Critical Miscellany Passage , on breaking the law with success, is drawn from ‘Moscow’,20 with passage , on what it takes to understand music, drawn from ‘Monte Carlo’.21 Moreover, one of the two remaining entries, quotation  on ‘the abandonment of music’, takes phrasing directly from The Tree of Knowledge.22 In other words, only one of the entries attributed to ‘A.W.’, quotation  on the ‘octave of sex’, does not originate from Mansfield’s reading of this novel, and even that is thematically germane to the narrative of The Tree of Knowledge, which begins with the failure of the narrator to forge a career as a musician.23 Regardless, it is only this one quotation that can still be classified by any measure as being Mansfield’s ‘own’ epigram. Let us return to Mantz and Murry’s prefatory remarks to their selection of Mansfield’s reading notes: ‘Wilde predominates, and his maxims were taken and absorbed into her, accepted as ethics, as the gospel of living.’24 While certainly a major influence on the Mansfield of 1907, as Kaplan has demonstrated, we can now see that Wilde does not actually ‘predominate’, particularly once the new discoveries are factored in. There are sixteen further entries signed O.W., including another lengthy selection of quotations from Dorian Gray which Mansfield left unattributed (p. 29), but four of these are not from Wilde: three, as we have seen, are direct quotations from The Tree of Knowledge, with one further quotation yet to be identified definitively, although similarities in terms of phrasing suggests the possibility that once again it originates from this same source.25 Regardless, there are only thirteen entries sourced from Wilde and at least thirteen, and possibly as many as fifteen, entries sourced from The Tree of Knowledge. This text was, speaking quantitatively, as significant to the young Mansfield in 1907 as Wilde. If any attempt to understand the development of Mansfield’s modernism within the context of her early reading of aesthetes and decadents must contend with her reading of Wilde, as Kaplan has argued, it must also pay equally close attention to her reading of The Tree of Knowledge.
The Tree of Knowledge The Tree of Knowledge follows an unnamed female protagonist on her quest for art and beauty, her desire to live the decadent life of art for art’s sake, and her eventual failure to live this life. It gives itself to be read as a ‘document’, a kind of journal or diary. Beginning in Dresden, presumably sometime in 1902–3,26 the protagonist is an aspiring musician, but apparently lacking talent. Her hopes dashed by a friend named Gericke, perhaps based on Wilhelm Gericke, the Austrian composer, she resolves to turn her own life into a work of art. 181
Katherine Mansfield and Russia The n arrative meanders with her on a journey across Europe accompanied by a number of lovers, most significantly the married Member of Parliament, Oscar Elliott, in London. He asks her to be his mistress, but when she refuses he attempts to force himself on her in a garden in Hyde Park. Disillusioned, she continues her journey, and the second part of the novel constitutes her ‘Voyage’ across the Atlantic. On the boat she arrives at some epiphanies, rejecting the ‘laws of so-called morality’, religion, and the sexual strictures placed upon women, to assert her independence. When she arrives in America she apparently begins work in a high-class bordello, and her sexuality becomes more adventurous, developing masochistic desires. After sleeping with a number of clients she needs an ‘operation’, presumably an abortion, before she travels back to Europe. Suicidal, she meets Oscar again, seriously entertaining his offer before finally rejecting it. A final but inconclusive affirmation ends the narrative: ‘I am stronger after all than the disaster of being human.’27 The first problem that confronts us is one of dates. The Tree of Knowledge was published in 1908, but Mansfield’s quotations are headed by a clear date, March 30th 1907 (p. 29). Gerri Kimber, one of the most recent editors, has told me that ‘there are huge difficulties with dating KM’s diaries and notebooks as she kept reusing them, months, sometimes years, after their first use’,28 and these passages are taken from a notebook Mansfield was using up to April 1908. On that basis, therefore, she may have been reading the 1908 edition. However, her earlier use of the quotation (CW4, p. 25) is datable to her voyage to New Zealand in November 1906, some two years before The Tree of Knowledge was published. How, then, had she read the text? This proves a difficult problem. The novel was published by Stuyvesant Press, also known as Rosswaag’s Stuyvesant Press, which held offices at 43 West 27th Street, New York, and published mainly popular fiction titles during the first decade or so of the twentieth century, although it also published some works associated with the decadent movement, such as Octave Mirbeau’s Le Journal d’une femme de chambre (1900; translation 1911). Stuyvesant Press no longer exists, however, and the whereabouts of its archives, which may have copies of contracts, are unknown. Given that many of their books were American reprints of British titles, perhaps the 1908 title published by Stuyvesant was a reprint for the American market, and Mansfield was reading an earlier print run from 1906. For instance, in 1908, Stuyvesant also published Hubert Wales’s Cynthia in the Wilderness, Mr and Mrs Villiers and The Yoke. All of these titles had been published in 1906–7 by John Long in London, but no record of any earlier edition of The Tree of Knowledge published by them 182
Critical Miscellany exists. In addition, John Long was bought up by Hutchinson & Co., whose offices and records were destroyed in the Blitz on 29 December 1940.29 Again, should The Tree of Knowledge have been a reprint of a John Long title, all evidence has since disappeared. When searching the holdings of the copyright libraries of the UK or more further afield, no earlier edition than that of the 1908 Stuyvesant edition seems to exist. Yet Mansfield read the text somewhere. If we assume there was no earlier imprint than the 1908 edition, we are left with two alternatives: a) The text was originally published in periodicals. b) Mansfield somehow saw a manuscript version of the novel. It is of course possible that the novel was serialised, and with this in mind the dates of the order in which the quotations appear in Mansfield’s journals would make sense.30 Unfortunately, however, I have been unable to identify a periodical version of the novel. Having checked those periodicals currently digitised by the Modernist Journals Project, there are no matches, although this invaluable resource is still being updated and is by no means comprehensive in its current range. But the possibility that there existed somewhere an earlier edition, and particularly a different version of the text, is particularly appealing since it may explain those two quotations which nestle amongst those found in the 1908 edition, but which cannot be located in full therein: quotations  and . The famous line that ‘it is not one man or woman but the complete octave of sex that [musicians] desire . . .’ () may well therefore originate from an earlier version of The Tree of Knowledge. This passage, which also returns in Mansfield’s own text in 1906, is both stylistically coherent with the text of The Tree of Knowledge and in keeping with its protagonist’s interest in music, and the ellipsis with which it concludes suggests that a portion of text is missing and that this may also be a quotation.31 The idea that Mansfield knew the author and saw a manuscript is tantalising, if unlikely. She did not, in 1906, have the sort of literary connections she would establish upon her return to London two years later. The issue is compounded by the anonymous authorship of the novel; if we knew the author’s name, we might be able to tie the writer to Mansfield, but determining this author has proven difficult. Looking at Stuyvesant’s other titles of the period, two names recommend themselves. In 1909, they published The Woman Herself, also anonymously. This title was later established to have been written by Ruth Holt Boucicault, the second wife of Aubrey Boucicault, son of Dion Boucicault, the influential and popular Victorian actor, manager and playwright. Herself an 183
Katherine Mansfield and Russia actress, Ruth performed regularly on both sides of the Atlantic but was based in London, and so Mansfield may have met her, but we have no evidence of such a meeting and, regardless, there is little stylistically to suggest that The Tree of Knowledge was also by her hand. Another figure proves more intriguing, however: Ethel Colburn Mayne. Mayne had translated Margarete Böhme’s Tagebuch einer Verlorenen (1905), published first in London then reprinted by Stuyvesant, but had withdrawn her name from the text for fear of the controversy it aroused. This novel was the story of Thymian Gotteball, who was raped by her father’s assistant and who subsequently became an unwed mother, dying of lung disease after having worked as a high-class prostitute. The story is supposedly Thymian’s diary, purporting to be a real document, with Böhme claiming only to have lightly edited the text for publication. There are clear similarities in the plot of The Tree of Knowledge, with its implications of the protagonist’s prostitution and abortion, the latter an aspect of both texts which foreshadows Mansfield’s own probable abortion of 1911. More significant still, however, are the similarities in terms of the form and the manner in which Tagebuch einer Verlorenen purports to be a real diary, suggesting at least that if Mayne was not the author, then this text was certainly an influence on whoever wrote The Tree of Knowledge.32 Mayne, then, removed her name from her translation of Böhme. And Mayne, an Irishwoman (recalling the prominent Celtic heritage of the protagonist),33 would have had the range to write The Tree of Knowledge. Two of the major differences between it and Böhme’s Tagebuch lie in the breadth of its allusions and the agency of the lead character. With respect to the latter, Mayne was a writer associated with the New Woman movement, and with the former, she had started her career writing short stories in The Yellow Book. Indeed, there is little question that one of the things that would have attracted Mansfield to The Tree of Knowledge, beyond the agency of its lead character, is its cornucopia of allusions and references to decadence in literature and the arts, since she was busily reading many of the same authors during the period, as the evidence testifies. Having cut her teeth on The Yellow Book, and being familiar both aesthetically and often personally with these figures, Mayne could certainly boast the range of allusions demonstrated in the text, and she was also well travelled in Europe.34 Moreover, given that the preface to the text is signed ‘F.H.’, it is perhaps of interest that Mayne’s nom de plume in The Yellow Book was Frances E. Huntley. The influence of the New Woman movement is equally keenly felt in the novel. From the title onwards, what is at stake is clearly a question of female subjectivity at the turn of the century and the possibilities and 184
Critical Miscellany social limits upon the expression and realisation of a woman’s agency. The Biblical story, where Eve eats the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge against the wishes of God (Genesis 2–3), is consistently alluded to in various ways throughout the text. South of Nice, presumably in Cannes, the narrator and her current lover, Tom, visit the appropriately named Eden Hotel, and she speaks of ‘getting back for a couple of hours to the Garden of Eden’.35 Throughout the novel, her life has been characterised as postlapsarian, but she maintains the constant desire to return to an Edenic state where ‘the coarseness and brutality of Nature’ are excluded, the kind of life which the wealth and power of Oscar Elliott, the central antagonist of the narrative, could guarantee: ‘a refuge and a Paradise of Man’.36 But it is Oscar who functions as both her first and final temptation: ‘You cannot forget my kisses in the garden,’ he proclaims, ‘for they awakened you to life.’37 Indeed, anguine imagery of snakes and the serpentine is recurrent throughout the text, as is imagery of gardens.38 And the title, The Tree of Knowledge, also makes clear the sympathies of the author, Mayne or otherwise, with the New Woman. As Mary Jeune wrote in 1894 in her assessment of the New Woman: ‘Women, like their Mother Eve, will not be content with a little knowledge but will probe as deeply as possible and will eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge to their fill.’39 That same year, the New Review published a symposium dealing with questions such as the status of marriage in post-Darwinian society entitled ‘The Tree of Knowledge’, including contributions from Walter Besant, Mona Caird, Blanche Crackenthorp, Thomas Hardy and Max Nordau.40 It is in this context that we should understand the protagonist of The Tree of Knowledge who is ‘sick of being clay for the gods’ and desires ‘forbidden things’.41 As the author of the preface to the novel puts it, as ‘a woman steeped in the poisonous juices that distil from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge’, she was ‘abnormal, a decadent’.42 Regardless, all of those readings of Mansfield’s gardens and trees which often return to the assertion of Biblical significance – readings of ‘The Garden Party’, for instance, or of the pear tree in ‘Bliss’ – must from now on take into consideration the way in which The Tree of Knowledge was formative on the younger Mansfield: after reading this text, she would associate the Biblical narrative not simply with the ideas of female agency and transgression, but with a literary history with its roots in the New Woman movement. These are insights which may offer the potential to shed new light on dominant imagery in Mansfield’s fiction.43 Whatever we make of Mansfield’s interest in The Tree of Knowledge – whether it was a formative influence or an ephemeral one, a constitutive or a mimetic one – one thing is certain: any reading which seeks to 185
Katherine Mansfield and Russia understand the young Mansfield, or to draw a genealogy of her development in those years, will now have to take into account seriously her reading of The Tree of Knowledge and reckon its influence. Notes 1. Ruth Elvish Mantz and John Middleton Murry, The Life of Katherine Mansfield (London: Constable, 1933), pp. 211–12. 2. CW4, pp. 36–8. All further page numbers within the text refer to this volume. 3. For the original passage, see Joseph Bristow (ed.), Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray: The 1890 and 1891 Texts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 25 in the 1890 version and p. 187 in the 1891 version. 4. For a reading of Wilde’s materialism, see my Oscar Wilde and the Simulacrum: The Truth of Masks (London: Legenda, 2015), esp. pp. 64–91, and for Wilde on the body and art, pp. 166–99. 5. Sigmund Freud, ‘On the Sexual Theories of Children’, in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, trans. James Strachey, 24 vols (London: Vintage, 2001), Vol. 9, p. 207. 6. See Sydney Janet Kaplan, Katherine Mansfield and the Origins of Modernist Fiction (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991), p. 23. After quoting the passage, Kaplan writes: ‘throughout this period of Mansfield’s greatest admiration for Wilde, she delighted in outrageous and flamboyant assertions of sexual and artistic independence, sometimes expressed in Wildean epigrammatic phrasing’ (pp. 23–4), thereby suggesting, if not stating outright, that ‘O.W.’ here is Mansfield writing as Wilde. 7. Anon., The Tree of Knowledge: A Document by a Woman (New York: Stuyvesant Press, 1908), pp. 124, 143. Wherever the original diverts from Mansfield’s quotation, I either discuss it, or give the original in a footnote. 8. Anon., The Tree of Knowledge, p. 83. 9. CW4, p. 37, n. 1. 10. Notebooks, 1, p. 94, n. 82. 11. Kaplan, Mansfield and the Origins of Modernist Fiction, p. 19. One of these we now know not to be Mansfield: see ‘A Note on Some Unidentified Sources in Mansfield’s Reading from 1907’, in the present volume. 12. Mantz and Murry, Life, p. 214. 13. Ibid. p. 215. This is twelve entries later in the editions of Scott, Kimber and Davison. 14. John Middleton Murry (ed.), Journal of Katherine Mansfield: Definitive Edition (London: Constable, 1954), p. 10 n. These are not passages, incidentally, which made it into the Scrapbook, and so Murry’s inclusion of them in the 1954 Journal was the first opportunity to contextualise them within their immediate surroundings in Mansfield’s notebooks since the 1933 Life. 15. Perhaps the reason for Murry’s professed and erroneous certainty lies in the journals of 1908. There we find quotation  returns: ‘It cannot be possible to go through all the abandonment of music and care humanly for anything human afterwards.’ This time, Mansfield does not sign the quotation ‘A Woman’, but instead signs and dates it: ‘K. Mansfield. 1908’ (CW4, p. 93). But if this is where the equation of ‘K.M.’ with ‘A.W.’ originated, Murry does not make this explicit. 16. See Anon., The Tree of Knowledge, p. 303. 17. See ibid. p. 35. The original  reads: ‘we are helpless under the yoke of creation’. Passage  reorders and reconstructs material from The Tree of Knowledge which imme-
Critical Miscellany diately contextualises passage : ‘And this was the climax of being young, the climax of love – this brutal trick of Nature’s to insure population, this tremour of ice-flame madness. [. . .] What is the use of loving any one if passion transforms him and my washerwoman’s “bloke” into the identical animal with the identical ruthless appetites?’ 18. For , see Anon., The Tree of Knowledge, pp. 89–90. The original reads: ‘You suspend yourself by elastic to the height of an inspiration, and rebound in sickening jolts from cathedral pinnacles to the mud on the street.’ The immediate context is a discussion of the problems of the aestheticist position of treating life in the spirit of art, the protagonist thinking of how we see Turner’s Rain, Steam and Speed (1848) (although not named, this seems likely to be the painting described) ‘in every sooty suburban train’ (p. 89). For , see The Tree of Knowledge, pp. 95–6. Mansfield gives two sentences for the original’s one, substituting a comma with a full stop. 19. See Anon., The Tree of Knowledge, pp. 54, 55. 20. See ibid. p. 66. 21. See ibid. p. 108. The original is less specifically about music: ‘A woman really cannot understand painting or music or books, till she has the actual experience of those laboriously concealed things which are evidently the foundation of them all.’ Mansfield’s editing of the passage is in keeping with her own predominant interest in music during this period. 22. The phrase ‘the abandonment of music’ is a direct quotation from The Tree of Knowledge, p. 304: ‘But I protest against death because I see and enjoy and love the good of life so utterly, the delight of things that others accept as usual or pass by unnoticed; the rapture of perfume, of dawns and twilights, the abandonment of music, the transformation of Art, the mere delight of being human and the gifts of the trained senses.’ 23. When giving quotation , Murry and Mantz in the Life humorously mistranscribe ‘emasculated’ as ‘emancipated’. The error is corrected by Murry in the 1954 Journal (p. 11). Emasculation, of course, reminds us of castration, and thence to The Tree of Knowledge, in which the term is used once, but significantly, within a Paterean context of a philosophy of life as movement: ‘To change – a change at a risk perhaps – but anything, only change! To stay still is to die. To desire to stay still is to be emasculated before you die’ (p. 92). 24. Mantz and Murry, Life, p. 211. 25. Mansfield’s (‘O.W.’’s) line reads: ‘Push everything as far as it will go’ (CW4, p. 34). This may originate in the following from The Tree of Knowledge: ‘A woman is a fool who lets one man dominate her life when once he is her lover. [. . .] Take his plan of life – live as far as you can his life, and get his unprejudiced point of view’ (p. 162). 26. No dates are given in The Tree of Knowledge, but circumstantial evidence suggests that the text is set in the period 1902–5. I base this hypothesis on a reference to the protagonist attending the Salon d’Automne in Paris (p. 78). The first Salon was held in 1903 and I assume the reference is either to the first or the second Salon, since the descriptions of the works (‘chrome-white bodies against hard pastels of vermillion and sepia’) suggests those displayed in these two years. In 1905, the Salon was dominated by a new movement in art: Fauvism. On this basis, assuming that she is at the Salons of 1903 or 1904, the narrative begins in either 1902 or 1903 in Dresden. We know nothing of her background at this point, but as the narrative progresses we come to learn that she is of Irish-Canadian descent, born in New York. Additionally, a later reference to ‘the Zarathustra at Queen’s Hall’ (p. 251) may put us at this point in 1904, although Strauss’s opera played there in February, not in the summer.
Katherine Mansfield and Russia 27. Anon., The Tree of Knowledge, p. 307. 28. In a personal correspondence, 6 May 2016. I take this opportunity to thank Gerri for her endless patience with my Mansfield questions. 29. I thank David Thomas at the Archive of British Publishing and Printing, Reading University Library, for his help in attempting to track down these records. 30. Assuming that it was serialised in a quarterly periodical (usually published in March, June, September and December each year), the three parts of the text would likely have been published in the June, September and December numbers of 1906: this is based on the reworking of quotation , from the second part of the novel, which appears in the body of Mansfield’s notebooks in November 1906, suggesting the text was fresh in her mind then. The further quotations, assuming the dating of late March 1907, begin with a passage from part three of the novel, quotation ; those before then (from  onwards) are quoted in a chronological manner through the first part of the novel. 31. In 1906, the line reads: ‘It is not one man or woman that a musician desires – it is the whole octave of the sex’ (CW4, p. 24). Murry takes the phrase, ‘The Octave of the Sex’, as a header to the relevant page in the 1954 Journal (p. 5), and its implications have become significant to readings of Mansfield’s sexuality: see for instance Kaplan, Mansfield and the Origins of Modernist Fiction, pp. 25, 39, and Vincent O’Sullivan, ‘The Magnetic Chain: Notes and Approaches to K.M.’, in Jan Pilditch (ed.), The Critical Response to Katherine Mansfield (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996), pp. 129–53 (p. 144). 32. Another influence on the author of The Tree of Knowledge was Marie Bashkirtseff’s diary, also significant to Mansfield during this period. The text of The Tree of Knowledge is preceded by a preface which asserts the diary is real, as in Böhme’s Tagebuch, and the author of this preface, signing themselves with the initials ‘F.H.’, compares the novel with Bashkirtseff (p. vii). This explains the echoes of Bashkirtseff noted by Kimber and Davison in their notes to passage  in their edition of Mansfield’s Diaries, which they compare to a Bashkirtseff quotation jotted down earlier in the notebooks (p. 37 n. 1, referring to p. 30). 33. For her Irish heritage, see Anon., The Tree of Knowledge, pp. 50, 230, and for her situation as a ‘colonial’ subject, pp. 90–2. But the protagonist’s background is uncertain: she states she was born in New York (p. 206), and apparently also has Canadian heritage (pp. 81, 95, 196). 34. Precisely how well travelled the author of The Tree of Knowledge was is open to some doubt, however. In the first chapter, set in Dresden, the geography seems wrong, with the protagonist sitting outside the Royal Library, SLUB, looking at the Cathedral and Palace on the opposite side of the Elbe (p. 22): in actuality, all three lie on the same bank. 35. Anon., The Tree of Knowledge, p. 275. 36. Ibid. p. 29. 37. Ibid. p. 39. 38. For anguine imagery, see ibid. pp. 8, 57, 172, 237. Major incidents occur throughout the text in various gardens: the garden in Dresden where she rejects Egon (p. 16), the garden in London where she rejects Oscar (pp. 33–6) and the garden in Moscow where she meets a prostitute, an incident foreshadowing her own ‘fall’ (pp. 68–9). 39. Mary Jeune, ‘The Revolt of the Daughters’, Fortnightly Review, 55 (1894), pp. 267–76 (p. 275).
Critical Miscellany 40. Such a post-Darwinian context is manifestly that of The Tree of Knowledge: see, for instance, p. 129. 41. Anon., The Tree of Knowledge, pp. 214, 152. 42. F.H., preface to Anon., The Tree of Knowledge, pp. vii–viii. 43. One final point perhaps deserves a brief mention: the immediate impact of Mansfield’s reading of The Tree of Knowledge on her diaries. We have already seen how quotations from the text become reworked and incorporated into her prose in her description of her journey back to New Zealand in 1906. The context here is the relation of Mansfield’s crush on ‘R.’, a cricketer. After writing that ‘we deny our minds to the extent that we castrate our bodies. I am wondering if that is true? & thinking that it most certainly is’, misquoting The Tree of Knowledge, she remarks: ‘Oh, I want to push it as far as it will go.’ This reworks another of Mansfield’s unidentified quotations in the journals, attributed to ‘O.W.’ (p. 34), before she muses: ‘Am I to become eventually une jeune fille entretenue. It points to it. O God, that is better far than the daughter of my parents’ (p. 25). This is the fate which the protagonist of The Tree of Knowledge also fears throughout the novel. But more significant would be the young Mansfield’s comments four paragraphs earlier, in the passage where she interpolates quotation  on the ‘octave of [the] sex’. From here, Mansfield’s thoughts develop sensuously. She eroticises R.’s statuesque facial features, his Greek mouth and the way his clothes ‘drape the lines of his figure’ before expressing her desire to be hurt by him (p. 24). Given the way in which the text of The Tree of Knowledge is interwoven into Mansfield’s own prose in these passages, we can contextualise her professed masochistic desire alongside those of the protagonist of that novel. In particular, the young Mansfield’s comments compare to those of the protagonist on the sixth day of her Voyage across the Atlantic. There, she considers Shakespeare’s Othello and theatrical catharsis from a feminist perspective, wondering how so-called civilised society can ‘call the strangling of a woman Art’ (p. 144). From art imitating life to life imitating art, she continues: I remember I tried it once. It was that afternoon when the blankness of usual things was beginning to flow around me again. We stood ready to go, and he had put my long white boa around my neck, then, smiling at me with sudden meaning, he twisted it a second time about my throat like a chain, a muffler. (The Tree of Knowledge, pp. 144–5)
She tried it, she states plainly: it was her decision, a performance of her desire. The young Mansfield’s desire was perhaps less viscerally realised, but no less clear in its object. ‘When I am with him’, she wrote, ‘a preposterous desire seizes me. I want to be badly hurt by him. I should like to be strangled by his firm hands’ (p. 24).
A Note on Some Unidentified Sources in Mansfield’s Reading from 1907 Giles Whiteley
In my earlier article on Katherine Mansfield’s notebooks in this volume, I examine in detail a number of unattributed quotations taken from a 1907 notebook and discuss the importance to Mansfield of the hitherto unknown source, the novel The Tree of Knowledge, by an anonymous author. In so doing, I call into question the critical heritage on Mansfield’s use of the signatures ‘O.W.’, ‘A Woman’ and ‘A.W.’. I will also discuss a number of other entries from the same notebook.1 All of these entries have remained previously unidentified and all are drawn from her reading of popular contemporary fiction. The first is one of Mansfield’s well-known lines: ‘Happy people are never brilliant. It implies friction’ (p. 33). This phrase is signed ‘K.M.’, and distinguished Mansfield scholars such as Claire Tomalin and Sydney Janet Kaplan have taken it at face value, reading the aphorism as her own.2 In fact, however, it comes from Henry Seton Merriman, writing under the pseudonym Hugh Stowell Scott, in From One Generation to Another (1892). Speaking of the character of Dora, the narrator comments: ‘At times she was brilliant; which her father noticed with grave approval, ignorant or heedless of the fact that brilliancy means friction. Happy people are not brilliant.’3 Mansfield credited Merriman for the entry immediately preceding this one in her notebook, another quotation from this same novel to which Mansfield added her voice in underlining a word in Merriman’s original: ‘It is only men who can hear of death without thinking of mourning and the blinds’ (p. 33). That this quotation was attributed to Merriman but not the other is interesting – it could suggest that Mansfield considered the latter to be so much her own that she laid claim to it. Of course, who wrote the passage originally is perhaps something of a moot point, since the important thing is that the phrase is noted down at all and what that tells us about Mansfield. 190
Critical Miscellany Nor is this the only example in the notebooks of her attaching her initials to someone else’s ideas; for instance, she quotes (without quotation marks) Arthur Symons’s phrase that Oscar Wilde was ‘a philosopher in masquerade’ (p. 99). However, the fact that she found herself drawn to these Merriman passages suggests that scholars of Mansfield’s early years may profit from reading From One Generation to Another in seeking to understand her development during 1907. Four entries after Mansfield quotes and appropriates Merriman as ‘K.M.’, we find the following aphorism: ‘Sound can create colour and atmosphere’ (p. 33). Mansfield attributes this to ‘H.V.’, and Gerri Kimber and Claire Davison suggest Henry Vaughan, the metaphysical poet, as a possible candidate, but it is in fact from Horace Annesley Vachell’s The Face of Clay: An Interpretation (1903). Vachell, who is today relatively unknown, was a prolific and popular Edwardian novelist, playwright and man of letters. The narrative tells the story of the artist, Michael Ossory, and his would-be lover, Téphany Lane. Michael has constructed the face of clay in question: a death mask of a woman he had asked to pose nude for him. But this mask – linking to themes of mesmerism in a manner clearly also at work in Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890/1891), a seminal influence on Mansfield during this period – seems to be impossibly mimetic, altering its countenance to reflect the mood of the individual gazing on it. The passage from which Mansfield quotes is situated within an exchange between Téphany and Michael on the power of music, with Téphany singing first Richard Strauss’s ‘Allerseelen’ (1885), then ‘Har-Dyal’s Love Song’, which I take to refer to Kipling’s ‘The Love-song of Har-Dyal’ (1888).4 In response to this latter rendition, the narrator comments: ‘It is an inexplicable fact that sound can create colour and atmosphere. In particular, a perfect voice would seem to have power to bear the listener whither it pleases.’5 The passage is in keeping with Mansfield’s particular interest in music as an art form during this period of her development, and Vachell’s novel is surely another significant source in the genesis of ‘The Man, the Monkey and the Mask’ (1907). This short story follows an ‘astonishingly vague’ man who keeps a mask in his lodgings, hidden behind ‘a black velvet curtain’.6 The man is ‘tall and thin – emaciated even – but in his face shone that divine, never-to-be-mistaken light of Youth’. Gazing out of his window as a voyeur, the man sees a young girl kissing her lover, and reacts: ‘He staggered across the room, wrenched the black velvet curtain from the mask.’ As he curses the mask, it ‘crashed down upon the floor in a thousand pieces and the man fell too, silently. He looked like a bundle of worn out rags.’7 With the focus on the protagonist’s youth and the way in which his life is tied to an inanimate object, 191
Katherine Mansfield and Russia the echoes of Wilde’s Dorian Gray are obvious. The specific nature of this object, a death mask, also suggests that Mansfield’s story takes in Vachell. Seven entries later lies the final entry I will discuss: ‘People who learn only from experience do not allow for intuition.’ This quotation is signed with the initials ‘A.H.H.’ and in a footnote, Kimber and Davison suggest the enticing prospect that Mansfield might possibly refer here to Arthur Henry Hallam. In fact, however, the line is drawn from Anthony Hope Hawkins’ The King’s Mirror (1899), published under the name Anthony Hope. We know that Hope had been on Mansfield’s reading lists in 1904 with The Dolly Dialogues (1894) and Rupert of Hentazau (1898) both noted under the heading ‘Books I have read’ (pp. 16–17). Both these titles were additionally marked by an asterisk, indicating that Mansfield had enjoyed them, a point particularly significant given that the works of some novelists who still retain their reputation today, such as Charlotte Brontë, are not so marked. The King’s Mirror constitutes the narrative of a young prince’s loneliness, and Mansfield draws from a passage in which the narrator, the eponymous prince Augustin, is in conversation with his future brotherin-law, William Adolphus: ‘Girls are rather difficult to manage,’ he [William] used to say to me ruefully. ‘You’ll know more about them in a few years, Augustin.’ I knew much more about them than he did already. I am not boasting; but people who learn only from experience do not allow for intuition.8
Of all these three quotes discussed, this one is perhaps the least easy to pin down with respect to the young Mansfield. Appearing out of context as it is quoted in the notebooks, the line ‘people who learn only from experience do not allow for intuition’ constitutes a very different phrase there than in its original incarnation in The King’s Mirror. In its privileging of intuition over experience, the line as read in the notebooks seems to tap into a certain strain of post-Romantic philosophy and to the earliest form of that aestheticism which was a touchstone for the young Mansfield during the period: the aestheticism of a Walter Pater, for instance. But by contextualising the quotation, we see it domesticated, as it were, revealing it as a statement formulated within the confines of a standard patriarchal structure, and taken from a conventional and, arguably, misogynistic narrative.
Critical Miscellany Notes 1. All page references are to CW4. 2. See Claire Tomalin, Katherine Mansfield: A Secret Life (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1987), p. 29, and Sydney Janet Kaplan, Katherine Mansfield and the Origins of Modernist Fiction (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991), p. 19. 3. Hugh Stowell Scott [Henry Seton Merriman], From One Generation to Another (London: Smith & Elder, 1892), p. 145. 4. ‘The Love-song of Har-Dyal’ was first published as part of Kipling’s short story ‘Beyond the Pale’ in the collection Plain Tales from the Hills (1888); later it was reprinted as a stand-alone poem. In the short story, the song is sung by Bisesa, the young woman at its centre, who is welcoming her lover; in its turn, the song itself is supposedly one which a ‘Panthan girl’ had sung to her own lover, Har-Dyal. Téphany’s singing this song to Michael is thus an event which seems to rehearse or imitate the narrative of ‘Beyond the Pale’, which in turn rehearses or imitates the narrative which is the song itself: in each case, additionally, what is at stake is a question of an aesthetic (musical) effect. In ‘Beyond the Pale’, the narrator comments that ‘the song is really pretty in the Vernacular. In English you miss the wail of it,’ before offering a purported translation of the song (Plain Tales from the Hills, ed. Kaori Nagai [Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2011], pp. 134–9 [p. 136]). Whether or not there was a real song in the Hindi (or any of the other possible regional dialects) is an unresolved question to the best of my knowledge, since no original source has yet been identified. This is the poem, incidentally, whose title inspired T. S. Eliot’s ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ (1915), as Eliot himself admitted in an address to the Kipling Society, transcribed in The Kipling Journal, 26 (1959), pp. 6–12. 5. Horace A. Vachell, The Face of Clay: An Interpretation (London: John Murray, 1903), pp. 290–1. 6. CW1, p. 100. 7. CW1, p. 101. 8. Anthony Hope, The King’s Mirror (London: Methuen & Co, 1899), p. 65.
Addicted to Mansfield: A Glimpse at the Ruth Elvish Mantz Collection in Texas Gerri Kimber
Aside from the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington, NZ, which houses the world’s largest collection of material relating to Katherine Mansfield, there are two libraries in the USA which also contain significant collections of Mansfield material. The Newberry Library in Chicago contains substantial deposits of Mansfield manuscripts collected by Jane Warner Dick, a prolific collector from Chicago, who bequeathed her collection to the Newberry. The other main repository of material pertaining to Mansfield is the Ruth Elvish Mantz Collection, held in the Harry Ransom Research Center (HRC) at the University of Texas at Austin. Mantz’s (1896–1978) early enthusiasm for Mansfield led to a dissertation at Stanford University in the late 1920s, followed by the publication of a Critical Biography of Katherine Mansfield (1931), to which Mansfield’s husband and editor, John Middleton Murry (in a gesture which must have appeared thrilling to the young researcher), contributed a brief biographical note.1 Buoyed up by this early publishing achievement, Mantz undertook an enormous amount of research for a new biography of Mansfield, The Life of Katherine Mansfield (1933), visiting New Zealand and England and interviewing many individuals who had known the writer, especially in her childhood home of Wellington. However, Mantz, young and inexperienced, found herself at the mercy of Murry’s editorial power. It was suggested by the publisher, Constable, that Murry rewrite parts of it; on 20 April 1933, he wrote to Mantz saying: I am working away at your MS. Sometimes, I confess, I find it pretty heavy going: and, in general, it is harder work than I thought it would be. [. . .] When I go into it closely I find that you have sometimes tended to throw
Critical Miscellany all the information together without considering overmuch the general shape. And I don’t find this easy to put right.2
In addition, more sensitive than Mantz to those people mentioned in the biography who were still alive, Murry suggested to the American publishers of the book, Knopf, that he should ‘“tone down” anything offensive’, to which Mantz added a pencilled footnote, many years later: ‘at that time [. . .] publishers feared any candid treatment of this material’.3 What, therefore, was originally intended to be a full biography of Mansfield, eventually became a rather fanciful, romantic, and in places inaccurate record of Mansfield’s life up to the spring of 1912, when she and Murry became a couple. For all biographical material after 1912, the reader was referred to the first editions of Mansfield’s Journal (1927) and Letters (1928), both severely edited by Murry. And even then, of Mansfield’s infamously troubled life from 1908–1911, much was left unsaid, or else speculation on the part of Mantz replaced hard facts. In Murry’s words, which end the book: The rest of Katherine Mansfield’s life – a bare eleven years – is written by her own hand in her Journal and her Letters. In the nature of things that record is not complete. Many of her letters have been published only in part, and some not published at all. And probably it will be many years yet before these can be published. But the publication, when it comes, will add little that is essential to the picture of herself that is contained in the Journal and Letters. What she was, what she became, is told in them with far greater truth than any biographer could hope to achieve.4
Thus, this first biography ended up as a sycophantic portrayal of an almost fictional character, so little does Mansfield, as portrayed in the book, resemble the Mansfield whose personality is suggested by her own writings.5 Murry knew very little of Mansfield’s early life before 1912 and was thus reliant on Mantz’s research. However, the original manuscript of this first biography, now in Texas, with Murry’s pencilled additions and deletions, reveals just how much the book was in fact a product of his pen, as much as Mantz’s. In the introduction, Murry played down his role: ‘I do not really deserve the position of collaborator [. . .] but since my contribution has been rather more than a mere revision [. . .] it has been thought best that we should share the responsibility for the work.’6 Adding weight and authority to his introduction, however, Murry plays his master card; it is he whom Mansfield married, he to whom she entrusted her life. The final sentence of the introduction ends thus: ‘“In spite of all”, she wrote to her husband in a letter found among her belongings, to be 195
Katherine Mansfield and Russia opened only after her death; “no truer lovers ever walked the earth than we were – in spite of all, in spite of all.”’7 Frank Lea, Murry’s biographer, explains how by the 1930s – at the height of Mantz’s collaboration with Murry – an opinion poll taken at Cambridge revealed him to be ‘the most despised literary figure of the time’. By the 1950s he was ‘either unmentionable or else forgotten’.8 This then was the co-author that Mantz found herself contracted to, a man whose personal agendas would more or less wreck her book. The biography that she had spent so many years researching ended up as something of a farce and left her very bitter in later years, when she would refer to the volume as ‘my so called biography’.9 But Mantz’s addiction to Mansfield – and addiction is not too strong a word, as anyone who has seen the collection in Texas will attest – continued unabated. She carried on rewriting the biography as she believed it should have been written. There were many drafts and many different titles, with the results becoming less strictly biographical and more creative with each new draft. Perhaps because of this approach, she was never again able to find a publisher. As the Harry Ransom finding aid for the Mantz collection notes: Essentially Ms Mantz spent her life writing one great book about Katherine Mansfield. All the books are the same; the titles vary according to the point of emphasis. Titles of the numerous unpublished typescripts include: The Garsington Group; Age Cannot Wither; The Mansfield Myth: A Biographical Commentary; Swing on the Garsington Gate; Stone Set in Silver, etc. [. . . C]omplete chapters were shuffled back and forth between books.
The poignant number of rejection slips in the collection attests to Mantz’s efforts to publish her ‘one great book’, but to no avail. Towards the end of her life, she did secure a contract with Texas University Press for a revised and updated Critical Bibliography on Mansfield, and much work was undertaken on this project, which, in the end, also came to nothing. Aside from these unpublished, semi-fictionalised accounts of Mansfield’s life, other material Mantz collected over the course of her lifetime remains of interest to scholars, particularly, as noted above, her transcripts of interviews with family, friends, and acquaintances of Mansfield’s, undertaken in Wellington and London in the early 1930s. As Mantz recollected in a pamphlet written for a Mansfield exhibition held in Austin in 1973: New Zealanders were astonished that anyone would come so far to talk of Kass Beauchamp, whom some saw simply as a photographer of people and places. ‘You think she is a writer; she simply described the things she knew here. Her own family, too! It caused a great stir, I can tell you,’
Critical Miscellany said amiable Mr. George Nathan, one of the ‘swarm’ of little Samuel Josephs of Prelude and The Aloe. ‘Maybe in America, so far away,’ wrote one female reporter, ‘Katherine Mansfield may seem a writer, but here in New Zealand she is a pain in the neck’.10
An item in the collection of interest to this present volume on the theme of Mansfield and Russia is a record of one of Mantz’s conversations with S. S. Koteliansky, where he recalled his friendship with Mansfield and her love of Chekhov’s stories. In 1915 Murry and Koteliansky had translated Chekhov’s collection, The Bet and Other Stories.11 Koteliansky told Mantz that one story in the collection – ‘A Tedious Story’ – p articularly resonated with Mansfield. The short story (actually the length of a novella), is narrated by a dying medical professor who chronicles his own decline. Rich and famous in old age, his stellar career has been achieved at the cost of intimate friends and family; his self-centred, egotistical life has left him isolated and alone. During the course of the narrative, the old professor details his past relationships with his family and especially his beloved stepdaughter, Katya, as he becomes reconciled to the consequences of his selfish actions. Chekhov’s story was in fact inspired by the death of his brother Nikolai in 1889 from tuberculosis, and it undoubtedly contained some personal reflections on his own life. Mansfield connected immediately with the character of Katya (translated as ‘Katy’ by Koteliansky and Murry), recognising many of her own character traits. In conversation with Mantz, Koteliansky recalled the moment when Mansfield read the translation for the first time: She read the tale of the old professor and the tragic confessions of the girl, ‘Katya’, and she laid down Kot’s careful script and sat silent, absorbed [. . .]. ‘I am Katya’, Katherine said at last. [. . .] Afterwards, Kot could comprehend that in their first translation, Katherine had found the story of her own life. ‘For years,’ said Kot, ‘Katherine called herself “Katya”.’12
Here is the description of Katya in the story, as translated by Koteliansky and Murry: She would sit in a corner somewhere with her face tied up, and would be sure to be absorbed in watching something. Whether she was watching me write and read books, or my wife bustling about, or the cook peeling the potatoes in the kitchen or the dog playing about – her eyes invariably expressed the same thing: ‘Everything that goes on in this world, everything is beautiful and clever.’ She was inquisitive and adored to talk to me. She would sit at the table opposite me, watching my movements and asking questions. She is interested to know what I read, what I do at the University, if I’m not afraid of corpses, what I do with my money.13
Katherine Mansfield and Russia In the outside world, the adult world, Katya’s life could be difficult, as the Professor reveals: Pretty often I happened to see how something was taken away from her, or she was unjustly punished, or her curiosity was not satisfied. At such moments sadness would be added to her permanent expression of confidence – nothing more. I didn’t know how to take her part, but when I saw her sadness, I always had the desire to draw her close to me and comfort her in an old nurse’s voice: ‘My darling little orphan!’14
As my new biography of her early years reveals,15 this was to be Mansfield’s fate in childhood, as it was to be that of her alter ego, Kezia, in so many New Zealand-based stories fictionalising her childhood – to be different and misunderstood. Notes 1. Ruth Elvish Mantz, The Critical Bibliography of Katherine Mansfield (London: Constable, 1931). 2. Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin: Ruth Elvish Mantz Collection, Box, ‘The Early Life of Katherine Mansfield’. 3. Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin: Ruth Elvish Mantz Collection, Box, ‘The Early Life of Katherine Mansfield’. 4. Ruth Elvish Mantz and John Middleton Murry, The Life of Katherine Mansfield (London: Constable, 1933), p. 349. 5. For a consideration of this hagiography, see Gerri Kimber, Katherine Mansfield: The View from France (Bern: Peter Lang, 2008). 6. Mantz and Murry, Life, p. 1. 7. Ibid. p. 15. 8. Frank Lea, The Life of John Middleton Murry (London: Methuen, 1959), p. 52. 9. Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin: Ruth Elvish Mantz Collection, Box, ‘The Early Life of Katherine Mansfield’. 10. Ruth Mantz (ed.), Katherine Mansfield: An Exhibition (Austin: Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin, 1975), pp. 5–6. 11. Anton Chekhov, The Bet and Other Stories, trans. S. S. Koteliansky and John Middleton Murry (London: Maunsel, 1915). 12. Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin: Ruth Elvish Mantz Collection, Box 3, ‘unidentified research notes’. 13. Chekhov, The Bet, pp. 38–9. 14. Ibid. p. 39. 15. Gerri Kimber, Katherine Mansfield: The Early Years (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016).
Katherine Mansfield in a Global Context Rishona Zimring
Claire Davison and Gerri Kimber (eds), Katherine Mansfield’s French Lives (Leiden: Brill Rodopi, 2016), 280 pp., £72. ISBN 978 90 04 28368 8 Kirsty Gunn, My Katherine Mansfield Project (Devon: Notting Hill Editions, 2015), 148 pp., £14.99. ISBN 978 1 910749 04 3 Andrew Harrison, The Life of D. H. Lawrence: A Critical Biography (Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2016), 472 pp., £60. ISBN 978 0 470 65478 1 Peter J. Kalliney, Modernism in a Global Context (London: Bloomsbury, 2016), 190 pp., £21.99. ISBN 978 1 4725 6965 3 Gerri Kimber and Claire Davison (eds), The Edinburgh Edition of the Collected Works of Katherine Mansfield, Volume 4: The Diaries of Katherine Mansfield Including Miscellaneous Works (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016), 520 pp., £175. ISBN 9780748685059 Caroline Maclean, The Vogue for Russia: Modernism and the Unseen in Britain 1900–1930 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015), 240 pp., £70. ISBN 978 0 7486 4729 3 Lucy McDiarmid, Poets and the Peacock Dinner: The Literary History of a Meal (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 240 pp., £25. ISBN 978 0 19 872278 6 All of the works gathered here contribute to conversations about transnational modernism. Some bear directly on Mansfield’s life and work, while others mention Mansfield or provide important contexts for her 201
Katherine Mansfield and Russia literary achievement. In Prose of the World: Modernism and the Banality of Empire, Saikat Majumdar, drawing on Claire Tomalin’s biography of Mansfield, writes of New Zealand as the ‘most extreme margin of empire’ (75).1 That position of extreme marginality helps shape recent understandings of Mansfield’s work as modernist in a ‘global context’. For Majumdar, the defining emotion and aesthetic qualities of that extreme margin are boredom and banality. Majumdar argues that the edge of empire produces dichotomies: between barrenness and plenitude, colonial backwater and metropolitan eventfulness. The infertile here produces longing for the promising there. ‘There’ would be the modern metropolis: in particular for Mansfield, London and Paris. The margins of Western modernity create subjects for whom the relentless drive is towards the city; Majumdar is hardly the first, nor will he be the last, to observe this metropolitan allure. The books under consideration here allow us to ponder a range of situations in which this dynamic plays out or needs to be rethought. Some modernists, of course, fervently sought out the margin, in reaction against the centre. Mansfield’s friend and antagonist D. H. Lawrence may represent the apotheosis of this opposite drive, which sometimes expresses itself as primitivism. His voracious hunger for the ‘other’ of European modernity took him to Italy, where in Sicily it was temporarily satiated by the feeling of being on the edge of Europe looking to Asia and Africa (Harrison 206). Sicily was not enough, however, as Lawrence’s journeys in Ceylon, Australia, New Mexico and Mexico amply demonstrate. His journeys back to London, capital of the country of his wartime despair and disgust, only served to reinforce the obsession. One paradigmatic example is recounted in Harrison’s new biography: on the occasion of one return to London’s Café Royal, Lawrence vomited on the table, apparently sickened in part by being back in this familiar milieu (272). The thrilling metropolitan experiences Mansfield embraced as a refugee from a colonial backwater, to paraphrase Majumdar, were the experiences Lawrence violently rejected. The books under consideration here provide many particulars of late-imperial colonial and metropolitan encounters and exchanges. At times, gender plays a key role in the comparisons that arise. Majumdar invokes Beryl Fairfield of ‘At the Bay’ to represent a feminine search for meaning outside of daily tedium through modernisation and Europeanisation; this suggests a stark contrast to Lawrence and the masculine subject’s vehement anti-modern, anti-Western impulses. For those interested in both Mansfield’s quotidian experiences and her travels, Volume 4 of The Edinburgh Edition of the Collected Works of Katherine Mansfield is a rich treasure trove for both Mansfield scholars 202
Review Essay and novice readers alike. Editors Gerri Kimber and Claire Davison have built on the late Margaret Scott’s work as previous editor and transcriber of Mansfield’s notebooks. Kimber and Davison extract what they define as ‘personal writing’, separating it from the fiction and poems Mansfield wrote in her notebooks, which are collected in previous volumes of the Collected Works. Thus readers can immerse themselves in what the editors celebrate as the materiality as well as the spontaneous, impulsive exuberance of journal keeping, with its remarkably vivid, unrevised observations, its experimentations with style and narrative, its occasionally profound musings on life, fragmentary quotations, and even grocery and packing lists. Lists are deeply alluring to contemporary readers whose sympathies are aligned with the modernist celebration of the quotidian. For such readers, to find vertically arranged next to ‘Friday’ the cost of items such as ‘metro, oranges, skirt, eggs, stamps, cigarettes, candles, coffee, milk’ (209) – most expensive: skirt and candles – is to luxuriate in the chance to imagine a ride on the underground, a shopping excursion, and the sublimity of smoking by candlelight at the end of the day. This invites reflection on the small satisfactions of the late imperial metropolitan modernity for which the young, restless Mansfield so ardently yearned from afar in distant Wellington. As the editors remark in their introduction, this is ‘nothing less than the poetry of everyday life’ (7). It is also deeply alluring to find other writers’ poetry mingling with the everyday in these notebooks. One might note the many fragments of Hardy poems throughout the journals. Sample a moment from 1920, for example. The editors’ chronology outlines for us that this was a year Mansfield shuttled between Hampstead and Menton; we find her in January in France observing ‘[w]omen walking across the fields to their men, idling in the swooning light, the sun trembling in the lemon-trees. [. . .] The trees at this hour look so full of leisure and inclined to the earth as though they were in love with the shape of their own shadows’ (302–3). Immediately following is the final stanza of Hardy’s 1910 poem ‘The Year’s Awakening’ – identified as are all literary sources by the scrupulous footnotes of this edition – which begins, ‘How do you know, deep underground. | Hid in your bed from sight and sound’ and ends, with a characteristically Hardyesque tone of ironic plaintiveness, ‘O crocus root, how do you know, | How do you know?’ This is just one of many glimpses we get of Mansfield’s experiences of wonder and perplexity at the marvellousness of the natural world, as well as of her signature meticulous devotion to detail. Nowhere is this wonder at the natural world more apparent than in the rather ecstatic writing the nineteen-year-old produced during her 203
Katherine Mansfield and Russia 1907 camping trip to the Ureweras, described in the editorial footnote as ‘largely uncharted Maori territory’ (59). This writing, also known as the Urewera Notebook, receives sustained critical attention from Majumdar, who reads it for its demonstration of ‘the tension [. . .] between the idyllic and romantic Maori culture painted by turn-of-the-century ethnology, and the colonial violence to which such cultures were subjected’ (127). For Majumdar, Mansfield’s Urewera experience describes the encounter of the Paˉkehaˉ (white settler) with the historical and cultural landscape of trauma and genocide. Majumdar’s interpretive framework for reading these journal entries suggests that the ‘thoroughly weary feeling’ of exhaustion and a headache (71) Mansfield experienced during her travels may be at least in part due to the accumulating emotions of white settler fear and guilt accompanying artistic curiosity and wonderment. Devotees of Mansfield’s work will also find fascinating the way that such weariness is countered in the notebooks by descriptions that allow not only observation of and engagement with her surroundings but also a kind of escape: The stones [. . .] blue hills. The great basins the birds – the wonderful green flax swamp, and always these briars – Mist over the distant hills – the fascinating valleys of toi toi swayed by the wind. Silence again, and a wind full of the loneliness and the sweetness of the wild Places – Kathie in the morning in the manuka paddock saw the dew hanging from the blossoms – & leaves – put it to her lips – & it seemed to poisen [sic] her with the longing for the sweet wildness of the plains – for the silent speech of the Silent Places. (71)
Here is the encounter between settler and landscape in all its complexity. The native place threatens to poison the intruder, and her anxiety is transformed into desire for an impossible knowledge and understanding of places that speak but are silent. The description is rich with local details such as the manuka paddock but at the same time generic in the mistiness of any and all ‘wild’ places. And the shift from first to third person suggests some longing to transcend the intimacy and immersive quality of this experience: to gain distance on it and observe it from afar, as someone else and not oneself, or talking to oneself. This is just one early example of Mansfield’s many experiments with multiple personae. It recalls T. S. Eliot’s escape from emotion into impersonality, but also represents an early experiment with modernist travel writing. Mansfield’s trajectory bears consideration in the context of so much scholarly attention to transnational, cosmopolitan, migratory or nomadic identity-formation among modernist writers. The detailed timeline of Mansfield’s life preceding the writings in Volume 4 provides 204
Review Essay a quick rendering of Mansfield’s travels and gives us pause to reflect on how limited they are. Having travelled at the age of 19 into territory many European modernist writers would regard as the epitome of exotic, Mansfield’s itinerary thence is apparently conservative: England, Belgium, Germany, briefly Italy, and, of course, France. Yet the curiosity evinced in the Urewera writings stays with her all her brief life. In the notebooks we find her transcriptions of Maori words (76, 78) and even notes that demonstrate, as the editors observe, her ‘sensitivity to regional differences in Maori pronunciation’ (78). In 1922, as the notebooks become more and more haunted by ‘the nearness of death and its inevitability’ (446), we find her keeping Russian vocabulary lists. So much reading and translating of Russian writers in collaboration with Koteliansky is now behind her, but the body parts featuring prominently in one vocabulary list poignantly suggest the study of language as a clinging to life: Groost=chest Jebot=stomach Talliir=waist Noge=legs Spina=spine [back] Bork=baka=ribs Korja=skin, leather (447)
If Mansfield’s post-New Zealand physical travelling was relatively limited, her metaphysical and intercultural wanderings were anything but. Mansfield’s notebooks remind us of the insistent value she placed on the imaginative possibilities of not (literally) travelling, of staying put within the smaller, more intimate circles of domesticity. No matter how fraught, contested, and hostile her intimacies and friendships, she articulates commandingly the creative potential of them in a journal entry from 1921: A sudden idea of the relationship between ‘lovers’. We are neither male nor female. We are a compound of both. I choose the male who will develop & expand the male in me; he chooses me to expand the female in him [. . .] And why I choose one man for this rather than many is for safety. We bind ourselves within a ring, and that ring is as it were a wall against the outside world. It is our refuge, our shelter. Here the tricks of Life will not be played. Here is safety for us to grow. (380)
The Maori and Russian vocabulary lists – demonstrating respect for linguistic difference and dedication to the slow, painstaking and scrupulously sensitive work of translation – raise questions about how the refuge of Mansfield’s intimate life provided safety to grow: whether 205
Katherine Mansfield and Russia isolated in Wellington or domestically ensconced in Europe in her complex marriage to Murry, Mansfield consistently dedicated herself to the study of foreign languages, up until the very end. Such dedication is also evident in the exciting appendix to Volume 4 containing previously undiscovered poems by Mansfield held in the collections of Chicago’s Newberry Library. Discovered by Kimber in 2015, they have been included in Volume 4 as ‘an incisive illustration of [Mansfield’s] ability to forge a new literary voice made from personal memory, intercultural experimentation and contextual echoes’ (461). That intercultural experimentation took place in Mansfield’s composition of a poem sequence dated 1909/1910 titled ‘The Earth Child’. An editorial footnote urges comparison of ‘The Earth Child’ with Heinrich Heine’s poem-cycle, ‘The North Sea’, and emphasises Mansfield’s translation-adaptations of Heine’s work (464). In all, the wealth of materials in Volume 4 of the Collected Works is a tremendous resource for students, scholars and common readers. Two case studies explore Mansfield’s transnational involvements, one with a focus on Mansfield’s life and work in France, the other placing Mansfield in the context of British modernists’ interest in Russia. In the essay collection Katherine Mansfield’s French Lives, Galya Diment warns against hazy constructions of foreignness, resulting in a tendency Diment sees in Mansfield herself as well as in modernist scholarship to lump together ‘the Russians’ without seeing individual personalities (55). Diment’s own contribution to French Lives sets about correcting this tendency by providing a densely detailed account of Mansfield’s Russian doctor in Paris, Ivan Manoukhin (1882–1958), which is based on archival research into Manoukhin’s papers and those of his wife. Unexpectedly in a book on France, we find a sharply drawn portrait of Mansfield and individual Russians. Here the cosmopolitan character of the modernist metropolis comes to life in particulars. H. G. Wells visited Lenin and Gorky in Petrograd and Moscow in 1920, discovered Manoukhin, and arranged to have his scientific abstracts on curing tuberculosis translated and published. He did so by collaborating with his own and his son’s Russian tutor, Mansfield’s friend and collaborator, S. S. Koteliansky, whose housemate’s brother, Zinovy Grzhebin, co-founded with Gorky a publishing house called ‘World Literature’ (42–3). The details in this account of intercultural encounters in Paris are at times overwhelming, but nonetheless informative, illuminating and also evocative: one wants to get inside that publishing house and spend a day there to find out what decisions were being made to make ‘world literature’. French Lives is rich with lavish details and evocative moments: no 206
Review Essay danger here of losing individual personalities in general statements about Mansfield and ‘the French’. The collection situates readers in specific interactions, contrasting Mansfield and Murry’s responses to their French travels, exploring Mansfield’s friendship and rivalry with The New Age co-editor and Paris correspondent Beatrice Hastings, and taking us to the Café Harcourt to find Murry meeting J. D. Fergusson for the first time circa 1910. Essays collected here also explore French literary influences, from French symbolism to Proust to Colette, and offer psychoanalytic interpretations of Mansfield’s writing. True to the spirit of an essay collection generated by a conference, the volume is not thesis-driven, and its somewhat eclectic gathering of highly specific accounts remains open-ended. Perhaps a fitting emblem for this quality is the haunting photograph of a street in Paris (aka ‘Paname’) in the essay on the life and works of Francis Carco, who, like Mansfield, was born and raised far from the Parisian centre for which he longed: Carco ventured to Paris from New Caledonia. In this image Carco, the poet of Paris’s underworld, hugs a lamppost next to a sign for ‘Service Medical de Nuit’ under a stormy sky; the noir drama of the photo speaks volumes about the ambiguous attractions, and dangers, of the city of ‘light’. The Vogue for Russia offers a more thesis-driven case study of transnational modernism. Maclean’s book belongs to those accounts of British modernism that see it less as a rupture with and more as a continuation of the Victorian past. She notes that British modernists sought to formulate a ‘new, authentic, unseen experience’ (5), and that a Russian ‘aesthetics of the unseen’ inspired them: Dostoevsky’s ‘world of inner psyches’, Kandinsky’s ‘spiritual synaesthesia’ or Ouspensky’s ‘theory of fourth-dimensional space’ (4). But she shows us that this ‘new [. . .] unseen experience’ was not so new: Maclean’s introduction goes back to 1848, when two sisters famously experienced table rappings in New York, to trace the history of spiritualism and occultism, then moves forward to the 1877 publication of Blavatsky’s Isis Unveiled, the 1882 founding of the Society for Psychical Research, and the founding of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in 1888. Maclean argues that the late Victorian popularity of both spiritualism and occultism provided an important basis for a British Russophilia entangled with the international theosophical movement, which ‘offered a synthesis of East and West’ (17). This context certainly offers another opportunity to revisit Mansfield’s final months at Gurdjieff’s institute in Fontainebleau, and it supplements Joanna Woods’ foundational narrative of Mansfield’s devotion to Russian culture. Especially thought-provoking is Maclean’s chapter on Rhythm in the context of modernist little magazines, which shows precisely how modernism transforms, without subverting, Victorian 207
Katherine Mansfield and Russia spiritualist aesthetics. Rhythm’s fourth issue introduced Kandinsky to the British public in 1912 (69), and Maclean makes an important point in underscoring how Kandinsky’s spiritualism was valued by Rhythm though rejected by Wyndham Lewis and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska of Blast (85). While Mansfield’s connection to theosophy through Orage, Ouspensky and Gurdjieff is important to Maclean, she is even more concerned with the subtle similarities and differences in how Mansfield and Murry defined their artistic visions in relation to Russian literature and art at the moment when Russophilia, Victorian spiritualism, the modernist move towards abstraction and avant-garde self-definition converge in the pages of Rhythm. Key here are Murry’s articulations of Rhythm’s aesthetic agenda in the ‘Aims and Ideals’ of the magazine’s first issue. The language of Maclean’s subtitle – ‘modernism and the unseen’ – resonates here with Murry’s declaration that modernism ‘penetrates beneath the outward surface of the world’ (69), becoming ‘an art that strikes deeper, that touches a profounder reality’ (86). Maclean goes on to distinguish between Murry’s championing of Dostoevsky as a mystic and Mansfield’s more diffuse embrace of Russian culture, recapitulating Woods’ account of Mansfield’s early encounters with Russian music and literature and her adult collaboration with Murry and Koteliansky on translations of Chekhov, without delving into Mansfield’s own responses to Dostoevsky. Maclean reads Mansfield’s fiction thematically for the dissolution of self which has, according to Maclean, an ambivalently Murryesque and Russian mystical quality. The Vogue for Russia inspires readers to explore further the dialogues that emerge out of British Russophilia. Maclean mentions Conrad, emphasises Woolf’s admiration for Dostoevsky and recounts Woolf’s own collaborations with Koteliansky. One is intrigued by the possibility of further investigating texts like The Secret Agent and Under Western Eyes and of exploring how Mansfield interacted not only with Murry but with Woolf on the topic of Russian language, culture, literary form and the inner life. To view Mansfield in a global context is to explore her involvement in French culture, Russian culture, and in general the European culture that magnetically drew her away from the routines and confinements of Wellington. It is also to consider literary modernism in the age of empire. In sharply different ways, Kalliney’s Modernism in a Global Context and McDiarmid’s Poets and the Peacock Dinner insist upon keeping empire centre stage. Kalliney’s book – part of Bloomsbury’s New Modernisms series – does so with a capacious time frame, addressing cultural phenomena from the nineteenth to the late twentieth centuries, while 208
Review Essay McDiarmid takes a microhistorical approach by focusing on a single episode of 1914. Like Majumdar, Kalliney emphasises the ennui, boredom and fatigue that fuel a modernist need to travel. He identifies an aesthetics of motion originating not at the edge of empire, but at its centre, in the Paris of Baudelaire (1–2). In five chapters on ‘An Aesthetics of Motion’, ‘Imperialism’, ‘Cosmopolitanism’, ‘Cultural Institutions’ and ‘Media’, Kalliney presents a generalised and highly theorised account of modernism that surveys recent scholarship and highlights enduring earlier texts that inform current debates in order to introduce students and scholars to the field. The chapter on ‘Cultural Institutions’ begins with a focus on the ‘privileged place’ of urban geographies – a preoccupation of recent scholarship, and of modernism for at least a century – in order to call that privileged place into question alongside the new modernist studies that seeks to ‘globalise modernism’. Paris and London thus come to be seen as ‘capitals of vast, disintegrating empires’ attracting talent from a ‘crumbling imperial system’ (89). Mansfield appears in a list of colonial writers attracted to London who shaped its pre-World War II intellectual community: the others are Mulk Raj Anand, C. L. R. James, Una Marson, Olive Schreiner and M. J. Tambimuttu (89–90). In the chapter on ‘Imperialism’ the questioning of earlier urban geographies is described as ‘a recalibration of the modernist canon’, and Mansfield is again listed, this time alongside newly prominent writers such as Claude McKay and Jean Rhys (25). Recalibration of the modernist canon requires not only giving prominence to previously marginalised writers but decentring authorship per se: hence a chapter on cultural institutions, rather than on major (or minor) writers. Little magazines are a cultural institution and an ‘archetypal space of modernist aesthetics’ explored in tandem with the Man Booker Prize, the 1966 World Festival of Black Arts in Dakar, highbrow publishers such as Gallimard and Grove, and international organisations such as PEN (91). Like Maclean, Kalliney emphasises that little magazines are essential to the modernist project, but questions whether they really emanate from metropolitan centres of imperial disintegration. There are so many little magazines that it would be impossible to discuss all of them in a summary such as Modernism in a Global Context; Kalliney describes just a few as representative examples. These examples are carefully selected to counter the cultural hegemony of London and Paris or even Chicago: Kalliney chooses Dada, Cabaret Voltaire (Zurich), Black Orpheus (Nigeria), and transition (Uganda); Rhythm and Poetry are left out. Rather than celebrate little magazines’ subversive possibilities, Kalliney reveals that both Black Orpheus and transition were supported by the Congress for Cultural Freedom, a front for the CIA (102). The hermeneutics of suspicion also 209
Katherine Mansfield and Russia thrives in the chapter on ‘Cosmopolitanism’, summarising as it does the work of ‘cosmo-skeptics’ who ‘routinely arraign cosmopolitanism on the charge of elitism’ (64). As with the reminders to be unsettled by the ethnocentrism of magazines like Dada, we are prodded to consider here the failures of liberal intellectuals to admit their own affluence and even how cosmopolitanism fronts, as Timothy Brennan is quoted as saying, ‘a kind of American patriotism’ (64). Yet Kalliney provides a fairly sympathetic view of Kwame Anthony Appiah’s ‘ethics in a world of strangers’ (66–8) and favours the complex cosmopolitanism of women caught up in the possibilities of imperial disintegration. Kalliney’s case studies of modernist cosmopolitans are all female: Nancy Cunard, Djuna Barnes, Nella Larsen and Eileen Chang. There are no women at the meal described in Lucy McDiarmid’s literary history of a singular, and singularly important, event. Her arresting first paragraph, one short sentence, demonstrates the author’s narrative flair: ‘On 18 January 1914, seven poets gathered to eat a peacock’ (1). Mansfield was certainly nowhere to be seen. But her close friend D. H. Lawrence would have been invited if he hadn’t been away in Italy, and the marble box in which the guests offered their host presentation poems was carved by another close friend, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska. Poets and the Peacock Dinner is engagingly written and fascinating; they ate a peacock? Can an entire book examine a single meal? The answer is a resounding yes. McDiarmid has written similarly elegant treatments of male poets, most notably in Saving Civilization: Yeats, Eliot and Auden Between the Wars (1984). Here, the male exclusivity of the peacock dinner is a central concern and source of critique. McDiarmid’s subject is, of course, the who (guests both famous and obscure: Yeats, Pound, Richard Aldington, F. S. Flint, Thomas Sturge Moore, Victor Plarr), the where (the Sussex home of poet and horse-breeder Wilfred Blunt), and the what (the peacock of the dinner), which was reported in publications large (The Times) and small (Poetry). But it is much more: this literary history traces the meal’s inheritance of a ‘tradition of dinners celebrating masculine achievement’ (5) and a ‘masculine poetic professionalism’ (175). Once again, the centrality of the modernist metropolis is apparent (in spite of the main event’s location in Sussex), and McDiarmid is careful to describe how similar intimate friendships and masculine professionalism depended on gatherings like the formal opening of Monro’s Poetry Bookshop in London in January 1913 (21). London is where ‘poetic infrastructure’ gets built, where ‘poets were in a continual state of collaboration and competition’ (23). In the metropolitan centre of a disintegrating empire, we find a white, male cast of characters. 210
Review Essay McDiarmid underscores Pound’s term – ‘the world of letters’ – for this ‘founding of bookstores, poetry readings, societies, and journals’ (17). She goes on to describe this world as ‘abstract, de-centered, transnational’, a world of letters in which ‘male poets gathered in small groups, gravitating to one another in friendship, admiration, and professional need’ (18). Rather than insisting on the absence of institutional authority at the beginning, McDiarmid displays her narrative panache by revealing it over the course of this short but richly detailed book. The epilogue insists that the friendships and rivalries of the world of poetry lacked schools, licences, or indeed a single dominant or any permanent institutions at all, working instead through ‘intimacies, visits, cohabitations, and provisional groupings like that of the seven men who assembled to eat the peacock’ (175). The importance of that absence is stunningly revealed in the sixth of eight lively chapters, whose ostensible topic is ‘The Naked Muse’ carved on the marble box containing poems by Blunt’s guests. Having hinted earlier at Blunt’s provocative anti-imperialism as one of the book’s core subjects (27), McDiarmid reveals its full force here. Pound’s presentation poem praised Blunt for detesting institutions. Pound had expressed to Yeats his proud hatred for the newspaper: one institution to despise. Blunt hated the British Empire: another institution to rail against. McDiarmid stresses that the two men were united in their anti-institutional hostilities. She underscores how Blunt’s hatred for the empire was inextricable from a staunchly anti-Semitic view published in Blunt’s Secret History of the English Occupation in Egypt (1907), which accused Disraeli, aided by the ‘too powerful Hebrew house’ of Rothschild, of creating a ‘Semitic invention’: the empire (here a striking conflation of empire and diaspora). McDiarmid suggests that the informal and explicitly anti-institutional sociability of the male-only peacock dinner fostered a bigoted camaraderie. The mapping of anti- imperialism onto anti-institutional hostility calls for some sceptical rethinking of the much-celebrated oppositional modernist persona and aesthetic. McDiarmid calls Blunt’s personality, praised by Pound, not only oppositional, but ‘swaggering’ and ‘macho’ (133). Rather than lament the male exclusivity of the peacock dinner, we may find ourselves relieved that female modernists like Mansfield could and did find other sources of creativity and means of publication. Kalliney and McDiarmid’s short, succinct accounts of modernism and empire reveal fraught cultural landscapes, one through institutions and isms, the other in a book that ‘does not see literary history in terms of the traditional isms, but in terms of intimacies’ (McDiarmid 10). Intimacies, not isms, dominate in Harrison’s new critical biography 211
Katherine Mansfield and Russia of Lawrence and in Gunn’s belles-lettristic essay, beautifully printed in a Notting Hill Editions volume, part of a series that ‘aims to reinvigorate the essay as a literary form’. In both cases, the world beckons, and travel remains a persistent theme. The most pressing context, though, is the writer’s personal experience, the individual’s life – not political, economic or social forces, nor cultural institutions. McDiarmid argues that those powerful contexts should be acknowledged without ignoring individual experience: ‘The dinner took place in many histories, erotic, literary, and political, and its meanings are embedded in the personal lives of its participants’ (171; emphasis added). Readers who seek out meanings embedded in personal lives will find Harrison’s biography and Gunn’s lyrical essay immensely satisfying. Mansfield scholars and admirers will be well acquainted with the contours of Lawrence’s biography and with the friendship and antagonism between Lawrence, Mansfield and Murry. Harrison’s biography pays close attention to the tensions between Lawrence and Murry especially, and treats their encounters with sharp sensitivity. Harrison emphasises Murry’s lavish praise of Aaron’s Rod as better than Ulysses, along with his other admiring reviews of Lawrence’s works, and one may be reminded of the circle of appreciation, praise and mutual celebration symbolised by the peacock dinner (259). But Harrison is careful also to underscore conflicts between Lawrence and Murry: the biography narrates Frieda’s attempts to initiate an affair with Murry (263–5), for example, and stresses that their growing intimacy drove a wedge between Lawrence and Frieda by virtue not only of the sexual threat, but because Murry’s enthusiasm for England fuelled a similar enthusiasm in Frieda (265). In such personal relationships, we encounter a recurrent theme in Harrison’s version of Lawrence’s life: antipathy towards England. The desire to escape was generated first by Nottingham’s narrow culture and Lawrence’s cultivation of aestheticism and rarefied tastes; later it was catalysed by war, crystallising Lawrence’s ideas about the destructiveness and entropy of English society tout court. Harrison’s account of Lawrence’s life is highly engaging and sensitive, creating a profound appreciation for the challenges and rewards of Lawrence’s restlessness. Harrison includes details of the arduousness of travel, frequently noting the number of hours, multiple modes of transportation and rough terrain involved in getting away from England, ‘the rotten spot in the empire’ (271), and then from ‘overcosmopolitanised’ and thus disillusioning escapes, such as Capri (202). Throughout, Harrison refrains from romanticising or demonising his subject, and succeeds in defending Lawrence from his detractors. His biographical method is encapsulated in this remark: ‘it takes a particularly close and sympathetic 212
Review Essay reading of the letters to recover confusion and naivety from the constant repetition of reactionary bitterness’ (140). Harrison’s sympathetic treatment of Lawrence’s life – and of his restlessness – shows how to tease out the meanings of modernist travel and transnational modernism from personal experience. Gunn’s book charms, delights and haunts. Like many modernist works, it invites one to linger, reread and reflect on form, and Gunn’s work brilliantly demonstrates how flexible the essay genre can be. Gunn’s Mansfield project is both a sustained memoir of her experiences upon returning home to Wellington and a highly engaging, candid and thoughtful account of the creative process. Its innovative interpretation of the essay form also allows it to be a collection of short stories embedded in sections of autobiography titled after Mansfield’s short fiction: ‘The Voyage’, ‘The Doll’s House’, and ‘Sun and Moon’. The volume ends with a slightly longer and deeply moving story by Gunn titled ‘Going Home’. We find here an acclaimed fiction writer and teacher of writing practice drawing lifelong inspiration from Mansfield’s art, life, New Zealand roots and desire to travel. A resident of London and Scotland who grew up in Wellington, Gunn writes out of deeply felt kinship. Blending memoir and fiction, her essay permits us to explore the intimacies of one writer’s complicated identification with another, along the way offering insights from recent writers such as the late Edward Said, who ‘talks about the writer as nomadic, belonging nowhere and so, by necessity making for himself a home of words’ (57), and Amit Chaudhuri, whose language of the ‘corridor’ connecting England and Calcutta Gunn rephrases as ‘that easy passage between the two places where your sense of “self” resides’ (121). Gunn’s beautiful tribute to Mansfield resides not only in her shared experience and appreciation of geography and her dual habitation of Wellington and London, but in the sheer power of her writing to remind us of the literary force that negotiates not only spatial boundaries, but temporal ones. If modernism was then (as most of the books gathered here will tell us), Gunn’s stylistic artistry and emotional depth make clear that it is adamantly and intimately now as well: thriving as a viable imaginative resource. Notes 1. Saikat Majumdar, Prose of the World: Modernism and the Banality of Empire (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013).
Notes on Contributors
Fleur Adcock was born in New Zealand but has lived in England since 1963. Her collections of poetry are published by Bloodaxe Books in the UK and Victoria University Press in New Zealand; the most recent title is The Land Ballot. She has also published translations and edited several anthologies. Pierce Butler is the author of three novels, a study of Seán Ó’Faoláin’s short fiction, and numerous stories and essays. He teaches writing and literature at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts. His novel about Katherine Mansfield’s time at the Gurdjieff Institute was published by Beech Hill in July 2016. Claire Davison is Professor of Modernist Studies at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris. Her research focuses on the intermedial borders and boundaries of modernism; translation and reception of Russian literature in the 1910s–20s; literary and musical modernism; modernist soundscapes; and broadcasting. She is the author of Translation as Collaboration – Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield and S. S. Koteliansky (2014). With Gerri Kimber, she is the co-editor of the fourth volume of The Edinburgh Edition of the Collected Works of Katherine Mansfield (2012–16), The Collected Poetry of Katherine Mansfield (2016) and Katherine Mansfield’s French Lives (2016). Galya Diment is Joff Hanauer Distinguished Professor in Western Civilization at the University of Washington in Seattle, where she is Professor in the Department of Slavic Languages & Literatures and Affiliate Professor in Jewish Studies. She is the author of three books, among them A Russian Jew of Bloomsbury: The Life and Times of Samuel Koteliansky (2011), editor or co-editor of another three, and has published more than forty articles. Aimee Gasston is a Wellcome Trust/Birkbeck ISSF Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Birkbeck College, University of London. She completed her PhD on modernist short fiction, reading and ‘things’ at Birkbeck and is currently working on a project about Elizabeth Bowen and literary stammering. She won the fourth Katherine Mansfield Essay 214
Notes on Contributors Prize in 2013 with her essay ‘Katherine Mansfield: Cannibal’ and is editorial assistant for Katherine Mansfield Studies. Gerri Kimber, Visiting Professor at the University of Northampton, UK, is co-editor of Katherine Mansfield Studies and Chair of the Katherine Mansfield Society. She is the deviser and Series Editor of the four-volume Edinburgh Edition of the Collected Works of Katherine Mansfield (2012–16). She is the author of Katherine Mansfield: The Early Years (2016), Katherine Mansfield and the Art of the Short Story (2015) and Katherine Mansfield: The View from France (2008). Roger Lipsey is the author of Hammarskjöld: A Life (University of Michigan Press, 2013) and most recently of Make Peace Before the Sun Goes Down: The Long Encounter of Thomas Merton and His Abbott, James Fox (Shambhala Publications, 2015). He is currently writing a book on G. I. Gurdjieff’s life, teachings, and reputation. Owen Marshall is a New Zealand author who has written or edited thirty books. Awards include the Montana NZ Book Awards Deutz Medal for Fiction, the American Express Short Story Award, fellowships at the universities of Otago and Canterbury and the Menton Fellowship. The University of Canterbury awarded him the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters in 2002, and in 2005 appointed him an adjunct professor. Recipient of the New Zealand Order of Merit, in 2000 he was awarded the ONZM for services to literature and in 2012, the CNZM. In 2013 he received the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Fiction. Todd Martin is Professor of English at Huntington University, where he currently holds the Edwina Patton Chair of Arts and Sciences. He teaches twentieth-century British and American literature and has published on such various authors as John Barth, E. E. Cummings, Clyde Edgerton, Sherwood Anderson, Julia Alvarez, Edwidge Danticat and Katherine Mansfield. Recently he was awarded the Lester J. Cappon Fellowship in Documentary Editing at the Newberry Library. He is co-editor of Katherine Mansfield Studies and serves as Membership Secretary of the Katherine Mansfield Society. Ira Nadel, Professor of English at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, is the author of biographies of Leonard Cohen, Tom Stoppard, David Mamet and Leon Uris. He has also published Biography: Fiction Fact & Form, Joyce and the Jews and Modernism’s Second Act, as well as 215
Katherine Mansfield and Russia essays on Joyce, Pound and Gertrude Stein. His critical life of Virginia Woolf has just appeared from Reaktion, and forthcoming is an essay on Beckett and the camera. David Rampton is Professor of English at the University of Ottawa, Canada. He served as Chair of the Department of English from 2002–7. A specialist in American and Comparative Literature, his publications include studies of the work of Vladimir Nabokov and William Faulkner. He has edited a number of anthologies, including The Government Inspector and Other Works (2014), and Notes From Underground and Other Stories (2015). Frances Reading is a PhD student in the School of English at the University of Kent. Frances’s thesis is titled ‘Olive Garnett and AngloRussian Cultural Relations from the Crimean War to the Russian Revolutions’. This interdisciplinary research aims to bring little-studied author Olive Garnett to the forefront of literary criticism. Giles Whiteley is Assistant Professor of English Literature at Stockholm University. He has published on late-nineteenth-century literature, particularly on the aestheticism and decadence movement. He is the author of Oscar Wilde and the Simulacrum (2015) and Aestheticism and the Philosophy of Death (2010), nominated for the Balakian Prize. Jessica Whyte is a freelance writer. She has published poetry, travel writing and short fiction and is writing a novel. Her short story ‘Sunday’, about Katherine Mansfield’s brief sojourn in Cornwall with D. H. Lawrence, was published in Katherine Mansfield Studies, vol. 4 (2012). She has a degree in English and Creative Writing and an MA in Modern and Contemporary Literature, for which she wrote her thesis on Katherine Mansfield’s Fauvist aesthetic. Rishona Zimring is Professor of English at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, where she teaches courses on modernism and postcolonial literature. She received her PhD in Comparative Literature from Yale University. She is the author of Social Dance and the Modernist Imagination in Interwar Britain (2013), and has published essays on Conrad, Gissing, Woolf, Rhys, Mansfield, Rushdie and the visual and performing arts.
Aaron’s Rod (Lawrence, D. H.), 212 ‘About Love’ (Chekhov, A.), 68, 72, 76 Adcock, Fleur, 7 ‘Tinakori Road’, 7, 161 Ailwood, Sarah, 4 Katherine Mansfield and Literary Influence, 4 ‘The Aloe’ (Mansfield, K.), 197 Alpers, Antony, 49, 51 The American Diary of a Japanese Girl (Noguchi, Y.), 43 Andreev, Leonid, 99 ‘The Present’, 99 Andreiech, Andrei, 73–4, 76, 80 Anna Karenina (Tolstoy, L.), 25, 79 ‘Anna on the Neck’ (Chekhov, A.), 81 Arnold, Matthew, 1 ‘At the Bay’ (Mansfield, K.), 96, 202 The Athenaeum, 28, 77, 79, 95 Auric, Georges, 93 Australia, 202 Bad Wörishofen, 90, 113–14 Baker, Ida Constance, 44, 50, 128, 135 Bakunin, Mikhail, 109 Ballets Russes, 2, 4, 6, 89–103 Banks, Georges, 99–100 Barnes, Djuna, 22n, 210 Nightwood, 22n Bashkirtseff, Marie, 5, 24–9, 34, 37–8 ‘The Bass Drum’ (Gerhardi, W.), 81 Bayley, John, 67 Beauchamp, Brenda (fictional character), 155–60 Beauchamp, Connie, 49, 158 Beauchamp, Leslie, 97, 158
Belgium, 205 Bell, Clive, 97–8, 102 Bennett, Arnold, 92 Beresford, J. D., 128 Besant, Walter, 185 Besnault-Levita, Anne, 14 The Bet and Other Stories (Chekhov, A.), 197 Bizet, René, 96 Blavatsky, Helena, 207 Isis Unveiled, 207 Blind, Mathilde, 27–9 ‘Bliss’ (Mansfield, K.), 46, 185 Bliss and Other Stories (Mansfield, K.), 135 Bloomsbury Group, 103 Blue Review, 43 Blunt, Wilfred, 210–11 Secret History of the English Occupation in Egypt, 211 Boddy, Gillian, 44 Boehmer, Elleke, 13 Böhme, Margarete, 184 Tagebuch einer Verlorenen, 184 Bolshevik, 3, 34–5, 54 The Book of Tea (Okakura, K.), 42, 44–5, 47, 49, 55–6, 62 Boucicault, Ruth Holt, 183–4 The Woman Herself, 183 Brett, Dorothy, 3, 7, 35–6, 52, 128 Brodsky, Joseph, 8n ‘Catastrophes in the Air’, 8n Brontë, Charlotte, 192 buddhism, 42–3, 82 Bunin, Ivan, 37 Burgan, Mary, 14 Butler, Pierce, 4, 7, 125
Katherine Mansfield and Russia Caird, Mona, 185 ‘Camomile Tea’ (Mansfield, K.), 45 Camus, Albert, 16 La Chute, 16 ‘The Canary’ (Mansfield, K.), 100 Carco, Francis, 98, 207 ‘Les Huit Danseuses’, 98 The Career of a Nihilist (Stepniak, S.), 110 Carnival (Mackenzie, C.), 97 ‘The Case of Vetrova’ (Garnett, O.), 107, 112, 114–16, 119 Catalano, Joseph, 17 ‘Catastrophes in the Air’ (Brodsky, J.), 8n Chaudhuri, Amit, 213 Chekhov, Anton, 1–6, 24, 26–35, 37–8, 66–8, 70–82, 90, 93, 96–7, 103, 107–8, 111–12, 120, 197, 208 ‘About Love’, 68, 72, 76 ‘Anna on the Neck’, 81 The Bet and Other Stories, 197 The Cherry Orchard, 31, 66, 77, 80, 91 ‘The Choristers’, 81 ‘Easter Eve’, 81 The Lady with the Dog, 112 The Three Sisters, 67, 70, 73, 80–1 ‘Chekhov and the Buried Life of Katherine Mansfield’ (Polonsky, R.), 3 Chernyshevsky, Nikolai, 6, 107, 112–17, 120 Chto delat?, 6, 113–16 The Cherry Orchard (Chekhov, A.), 31, 66, 77, 80, 91 Ch’ien, T’ao, 48 ‘Reading the Book of Hills & Seas’, 48 ‘The Child-Who-Was-Tired’ (Mansfield, K.), 112 ‘The Choristers’ (Chekhov, A.), 81 Christianity, 1, 3, 5, 41, 49, 125, 163 Chto delat? (What is to be Done?) (Chernyshevsky, N.), 6, 113–16 La Chute (Camus, A.), 16 Colette, 207
The Collected Letters of Katherine Mansfield, Vol. 5, 1922–1923 (O’Sullivan, V.; Scott, M.), 164 Collins, Mabel, 50 Light on the Path and Karma, 50 Conrad, Joseph, 107, 208 The Secret Agent, 208 Under Western Eyes, 107, 208 consumption, 5, 24–5, 27–8, 30, 112; see also tuberculosis Consumption and Literature: The Making of the Romantic Disease (Lawlor, C.), 25 Coral (Mackenzie, C.), 97 Corelli, Marie, 38n God’s Good Man: A Simple Love Story, 38n Cosmic Anatomy and the Structure of the Ego (Oxon, M. B.), 5, 41, 49–50, 55, 126 Côte d’Azur, 154, 159 Crackenthorp, Blanche, 185 Crime and Punishment (Dostoevsky, F.), 25 Crimean War, 108, 116 Critical Biography of Katherine Mansfield (Mantz, R.), 175, 194 ‘A Cup of Tea’ (Mansfield, K.), 45 Cynthia in the Wilderness (Wales, H.), 182 Daphnis et Chloé (Ravel, M.), 94 ‘The Daughters of the Late Colonel’ (Mansfield, K.), 67, 74, 78, 81–2, 156 Davie, Donald, 1 Slavic Excursions: Essays on Russian and Polish Literature, 1 Davison, Claire, 3–7, 66, 110, 175–6, 179–80, 191–2, 201, 203 The Diaries of Katherine Mansfield, 175, 201 The Edinburgh Edition of the Collected Works of Katherine Mansfield, Volume 4: The Diaries of Katherine Mansfield Including Miscellaneous Works, 175, 182, 201–3, 206
Index Katherine Mansfield’s French Lives, 4, 7, 201, 206 ‘De Juventute’ (Thackeray, W.), 117 Debussy, Claude, 94, 96 Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, 94, 99–100 The Devils (Dostoevsky, F.), 12 Diaghilev, Serge, 6, 90–3, 95–6, 102–3 The Diaries of Katherine Mansfield (Kimber, G.; Davison, C.), 175, 201 ‘A Dill Pickle’ (Mansfield, K.), 91, 107, 112, 114–16, 156 Diment, Galya, 1, 4, 24, 206 ‘Katherine Mansfield’s Russian Healers’, 4 ‘The Doll’s House’ (Mansfield, K.), 138, 213 The Dolly Dialogues (Hope, A.), 192 Donnet, Vera, 66 Dostoevsky, Fyodor, 1–2, 4, 11–12, 15–17, 19–21, 25, 67, 93, 97–9, 108, 207–8 Crime and Punishment, 25 The Devils, 12 Notes from Underground, 11, 16–17 ‘The Dove’s Nest’ (Mansfield, K.), 72 Dowson, Ernest, 44 dreams, 30, 62, 73, 79, 127, 131, 157–8, 165, 168 Duncan, Pamela, 14 ‘The Earth Child’ (Mansfield, K.), 206 earthly, 30, 137 ‘Easter Eve’ (Chekhov, A.), 81 The Edinburgh Edition of the Collected Works of Katherine Mansfield, Volume 4: The Diaries of Katherine Mansfield Including Miscellaneous Works (Kimber, G.; Davison, C.), 175, 182, 201–3, 206 ‘Eeldrop and Appleplex’ (Eliot, T. S.), 102 Eliot, T. S., 90, 102, 204 ‘Eeldrop and Appleplex’, 102
Eliot, Vivienne, 60 empathise, 56, 90, 102 England, 1, 3–5, 12, 24, 35–6, 38, 59, 67, 75–7, 109–10, 118, 127, 132, 136, 153, 163, 194, 205, 212–13 ‘The English Visitor’ (Marshall, O.), 7, 153 erotic, 74, 97, 212 Existential (Existentialist), 16–17 exotic, 1, 18, 80, 89, 96, 205 The Face of Clay: An Interpretation (Vachell, H.), 191 fairy tale, 47 false, 13–14, 21, 37, 60, 90, 126, 136, 138, 176 fantasy, 18, 96, 100 ‘Father and the Girls’ (Mansfield, K.), 75 Fergusson, John Duncan, 101, 207 The Firebird (Stravinsky, I.), 91, 93 First World War, 54, 108, 117 Fontainebleau, 3, 33, 41, 53–5, 59–60, 102, 120, 125–6, 159, 163, 165, 207 Ford, Ford Madox, 107 Forster, Edward Morgan, 97 France, 1, 4, 11, 25–6, 38, 41, 52, 89, 109, 127, 154, 163, 203, 205–6 Freud, Sigmund, 178 ‘On the Sexual Theories of Children’, 178 From One Generation to Another (Merriman, H.), 190–1 From the Eastern Sea (Noguchi, Y.), 44 Fry, Roger, 97 Fullbrook, Kate, 13 Fullerton, Jinnie, 49 Futility (Gerhardi, W.), 67, 73–6, 80–1 ‘The Garden Party’ (Mansfield, K.), 6, 46, 96, 100, 185 Garnett, Constance, 4, 6, 12, 28–9, 31–3, 38, 66, 109–11, 120
Katherine Mansfield and Russia Garnett, Olive, 4, 6, 107–12, 114–20 ‘The Case of Vetrova’, 107, 112, 114–16, 119 Petersburg Tales, 111–12, 114 ‘Roukoff’, 107, 118 ‘A Russian Girl’, 107, 112, 116, 118–19 Garnett, Richard, 108–9 Gaudier-Brzeska, Henri, 208, 210 Gerhardi, William, 4–6, 66–83 ‘The Bass Drum’, 81 Futility, 67, 73–6, 80–1 The Polyglots, 76 Gericke, Wilhelm, 181 ‘Germans at Meat’ (Mansfield, K.), 45, 47 Germany, 205 God’s Good Man: A Simple Love Story (Corelli, M.), 38n Gogol, Nikolai, 67, 108 ‘Going Home’ (Gunn, K.), 213 Gordon, Ian, 60 Gorky, Maxim, 5, 24, 34–8, 206 Greene, Graham, 159 Gunn, Kirsty, 201, 212–13 ‘Going Home’, 213 My Katherine Mansfield Project, 201 Gurdjieff, George Ivanovich, 3–5, 7, 28, 33–4, 38, 41, 52–61, 66, 89, 102, 125–33, 135–7, 163–71, 207–8 Meetings with Remarkable Men, 127 ‘Remain Apart’, 137
Head, Dominic, 47 Heidegger, Martin, 45 Heine, Heinrich, 206 ‘The North Sea’, 206 Heinemann, Francis, 91 Heinemann, William, 91 Henstra, Sarah, 22n, 23 ‘Her First Ball’ (Mansfield, K.), 100 Hinzenberg, Olga, 55, 58, 130–2, 134, 167 Hippius, Zinaida, 36–7 holistic, 52 Hope, Anthony (Anthony Hope Hawkins), 192 The Dolly Dialogues, 192 The King’s Mirror, 192 Rupert of Hentazau, 192 A House of Gentlefolk (Turgenev, I.), 110 Howarth, Jessmin, 59 ‘Les Huit Danseuses’ (Carco, F.), 98
Hallam, Arthur Henry, 192 Hamlet (Shakespeare, W.), 76–7 Hardy, Thomas, 185, 203 ‘The Year’s Awakening’, 203 Harrison, Andrew, 201–2, 211–13 The Life of D. H. Lawrence: A Critical Biography, 201 Harvey, Melinda, 4 Katherine Mansfield and Literary Influence, 4 Hastings, Beatrice, 50, 97, 207 Hawkins, Anthony Hope, 192
Illness as Metaphor (Sontag, S.), 25 impressionism, 43 In a German Pension (Mansfield, K.), 92 In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching (Ouspensky, P. D.), 127 Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man, 33, 41, 52, 125, 163 Isis Unveiled (Blavatsky, H.), 207 Italy, 69, 154, 157, 202, 205, 210 Japan, 5, 18, 42–7 ‘Je ne parle pas français’ (Mansfield, K.), 5, 11–14, 18, 20–1, 45–6, 74 ‘“Je ne parle pas français”: Reading Mansfield’s Underground Man’ (Rampton, D.), 4 Jeune, Mary, 185 Johnson, Barbara, 19 Jones, Kathleen, 42 Jones, Susan, 97
Index Journal of Katherine Mansfield (Murry, J. M.), 175 Journal of Katherine Mansfield: Definitive Edition (Murry, J. M.), 175, 180
Kropotkin, Peter, 6, 109–10, 114, 120 Kubasiewicz, Mirosława, 13, 16
Kafian, Adèle, 58, 129–30 Kalliney, Peter J., 201, 208–11 Modernism in a Global Context, 201, 208–9 Kandinsky, Wassily, 207–8 Kant, Immanuel, 20–1, 23n Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime, 20, 23n Kaplan, Sydney Janet, 13, 178–9, 181, 190 Karsavina, Tamara, 92 Kartoschinsky, Oscar, 77 Katerina: The Russian World of Katherine Mansfield (Woods, J.), 3 Katherine Mansfield and Literary Influence (Ailwood, S.; Harvey, M.), 4 The Katherine Mansfield Notebooks: Complete Edition (Scott, M.), 175 Katherine Mansfield’s French Lives (Davison, C.; Kimber, G.), 4, 7, 201, 206 ‘Katherine Mansfield’s Russian Healers’ (Diment, G.), 4 Keats, John, 19, 26 Kimber, Gerri, 4–5, 7, 41, 175–6, 179–80, 182, 191–2, 194, 201, 203, 206 The Diaries of Katherine Mansfield, 175, 201 The Edinburgh Edition of the Collected Works of Katherine Mansfield, Volume 4: The Diaries of Katherine Mansfield Including Miscellaneous Works, 175, 182, 201–3, 206 Katherine Mansfield’s French Lives, 4, 7, 201, 206 The King’s Mirror (Hope, A.), 192 Kokot, Joanna, 13 Koteliansky, Samuel, 2–4, 6, 12, 28–9, 31–2, 35–7, 66, 77, 79, 197, 205–6, 208
Lacan, Jacques, 19 The Lady with the Dog (Chekhov, A.), 112 Lawlor, Clark, 25–6 Consumption and Literature: The Making of the Romantic Disease, 25 Lawrence, D. H., 6, 12, 26, 49, 60, 90, 97, 107, 201–2, 210, 212–13 Aaron’s Rod, 212 Women in Love, 97 Lawrence, Frieda, 12, 131, 212 Lea, Frank, 196 Lenin, Vladimir, 35, 113, 206 Lewis, Wyndham, 208 The Life of D. H. Lawrence: A Critical Biography (Harrison, A.), 201 The Life of Katherine Mansfield (Mantz, R.; Murry, J. M.), 175–6, 194 ‘Life of Ma Parker’ (Mansfield, K.), 156 Light on the Path and Karma (Collins, M.), 50 liminal (space), 67, 74, 77 Lipsey, Roger, 7, 163 ‘The Little Governess’ (Mansfield, K.), 101 London, 4, 6, 18, 32, 36, 43–4, 52, 54, 67–9, 75, 90–4, 102, 108, 126–7, 156, 163–4, 180, 182–4, 196, 202, 209–10, 213 Lynd, Sylvia, 44 McDiarmid, Lucy, 201, 208–12 Poets and the Peacock Dinner: The Literary History of a Meal, 201, 208, 210 Saving Civilization: Yeats, Eliot and Auden Between the Wars, 210 Mackenzie, Compton, 6, 97 Carnival, 97 Coral, 97
Katherine Mansfield and Russia Maclean, Caroline, 4, 7, 201, 207–9 The Vogue for Russia: Modernism and the Unseen in Britain 1900–1930, 4, 7, 201, 207–8 Madame Butterfly (Puccini, G.), 5, 18–19 Majumdar, Saikat, 202, 204, 209 Prose of the World: Modernism and the Banality of Empire, 202 ‘The Man without a Temperament’ (Mansfield, K.), 77 Manoukhin, Ivan, 3–4, 28, 34–8, 52, 206 Mansfield, Katherine ‘The Aloe’, 197 ‘At the Bay’, 96, 202 ‘Bliss’, 46, 185 Bliss and Other Stories, 135 ‘Camomile Tea’, 45 ‘The Canary’, 100 ‘The Child-Who-Was-Tired’, 112 ‘A Cup of Tea’, 45 ‘The Daughters of the Late Colonel’, 67, 74, 78, 81–2, 156 ‘A Dill Pickle’, 91, 107, 112, 114–16, 156 ‘The Doll’s House’, 138, 213 ‘The Dove’s Nest’, 72 ‘The Earth Child’, 206 ‘Father and the Girls’, 75 ‘The Garden Party’, 6, 46, 96, 100, 185 ‘Germans at Meat’, 45, 47 ‘Her First Ball’, 100 In a German Pension, 92 ‘Je ne parle pas français’, 5, 11–14, 18, 20–1, 45–6, 74 ‘Life of Ma Parker’, 156 ‘The Little Governess’, 101 ‘The Man without a Temperament’, 77 ‘Marriage à la Mode’, 6, 94 ‘The Married Man’s Story’, 17 ‘Millie’, 101 ‘Miss Brill’, 6, 81, 94, 156 ‘Mr and Mrs Williams’, 72 ‘Pension Séguin’, 101
‘Poison’, 96 ‘Prelude’, 138, 197 ‘Psychology’, 6, 46, 95, 100 ‘Sea Song’, 100 ‘Second Violin’, 46 ‘The Secret’, 50 ‘The Singing Lesson’, 81 ‘Sun and Moon’, 213 ‘The Swing of the Pendulum’, 95 ‘Tales of a Courtyard’, 99, 107, 112, 118–19 ‘The Voyage’, 75, 213 ‘The Wind Blows’, 75, 100 ‘The Woman at the Store’, 93 Mantz, Ruth Elvish, 7, 41, 175–6, 179–81, 194–7 Critical Biography of Katherine Mansfield, 175, 194 The Life of Katherine Mansfield, 175–6, 194 Maori, 154, 204–5 ‘Marriage à la Mode’ (Mansfield, K.), 6, 94 ‘The Married Man’s Story’ (Mansfield, K.), 17 Marshall, Owen, 7, 153 ‘The English Visitor’, 7, 153 Maupassant, Guy de, 32 Mayne, Ethel Colburn, 184–5 Meetings with Remarkable Men (Gurdjieff, G.), 127 Menton, 49–50, 53, 132, 154–6, 159–60, 203 Merezhkovsky, Dmitry, 36 Merriman, Henry Seton (Hugh Stowell Scott), 190–1 From One Generation to Another, 190–1 Milhaud, Darius, 93, 96 ‘Millie’ (Mansfield, K.), 101 Mirbeau, Octave, 182 Mirsky, D. S., 70, 77 ‘Miss Brill’ (Mansfield, K.), 6, 81, 94, 156 Mitchell, J. Lawrence, 44
Index modernism (and Modernist), 13, 15, 73, 75, 92–4, 100, 102, 110, 181, 183, 201–11, 213 Modernism in a Global Context (Kalliney, P.), 201, 208–9 Modernist Journals Project, 183 Moore, James, 49–51, 54–5, 60, 128 Moorman, Lewis J., 25–6 Tuberculosis and Genius, 25 Moran, Patricia, 26–7 Morrell, Ottoline, 2, 33, 35 Moscow, 31, 54, 73, 77, 102, 116, 126, 163, 206 Mr and Mrs Villiers (Wales, H.), 182 ‘Mr and Mrs Williams’ (Mansfield, K.), 72 Murry, John Middleton, 6–7, 11–12, 15–16, 20, 28, 32–3, 44, 47–53, 56, 58–61, 66, 70, 73, 75, 89, 93–5, 97–9, 101, 125, 127–8, 130–1, 135–7, 164, 175–6, 179–81, 194–7, 206–8, 212 Journal of Katherine Mansfield, 175 Journal of Katherine Mansfield: Definitive Edition, 175, 180 The Life of Katherine Mansfield, 175–6, 194 The Scrapbook of Katherine Mansfield, 175 Still Life, 97 My Katherine Mansfield Project (Gunn, K.), 201 Nabokov, Vladimir, 8n Nadel, Ira, 4, 6, 89 La Nausée (Sartre, J.), 16 New, William, 14, 112 The New Age, 49–50, 52, 91, 112, 120, 128, 207 The New Review, 185 The New Statesman, 97–8 New York, 43, 178, 182, 207 New Zealand, 1, 7, 24, 27, 32–4, 37, 50, 93, 96, 108, 113–14, 153, 155, 157, 182, 194, 196–8, 202, 205, 213
Nietzsche, Friedrich, 50, 75 Nightwood (Barnes, D.), 22n Nijinsky, Vaslav, 90, 92, 94, 97–9, 101–3 Noguchi, Yone, 42–4, 47 The American Diary of a Japanese Girl, 43 From the Eastern Sea, 44 Nordau, Max, 185 ‘The North Sea’ (Heine, H.), 206 Notes from Underground (Dostoevsky, F.), 11, 16–17 Nuttall, A. D., 19 Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime (Kant, I.), 20, 23n occult, 50–1, 128, 207 Okakura, Kakuzo, 42, 44–5, 47, 55–6, 62 The Book of Tea, 42, 44–5, 47, 49, 55–6, 62 ‘On the Sexual Theories of Children’ (Freud, S.), 178 Orage, A. R., 5, 7, 32, 49–53, 56, 58–61, 125–6, 128–9, 133–4, 136, 163–4, 208 Oriental, 5, 41–2, 45, 50, 58, 93, 97, 168 Orton, William, 43–4 O’Sullivan, Vincent, 164 The Collected Letters of Katherine Mansfield, Vol. 5, 1922–1923, 164 Ouspensky, Pyotr Demianovich, 41, 52–3, 57, 59, 126–8, 135, 164, 207–8 In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching, 127 Oxon, M. B., 49–50, 126 Cosmic Anatomy and the Structure of the Ego, 5, 41, 49–50, 55, 126 Paris, 3, 12, 16, 18, 36–7, 41, 52–4, 57, 60, 69, 90–2, 94, 97, 99, 119, 126, 162–5, 167, 202, 206–7, 209 Pater, Walter, 44, 192 Pavlova, Anna, 90, 94, 97, 102 ‘Pension Séguin’ (Mansfield, K.), 101 Petersburg Tales (Garnett, O.), 111–12, 114
Katherine Mansfield and Russia Petrovsky, Boris, 100 ‘There was a Child Once’, 100 Petrushka (Stravinsky, I.), 93–4 The Picture of Dorian Gray (Wilde, O.), 177–8, 181, 191–2 plagiarism, 14, 112 Poets and the Peacock Dinner: The Literary History of a Meal (McDiarmid, L.), 201, 208, 210 ‘Poison’ (Mansfield, K.), 96 Polonsky, Rachel, 3 ‘Chekhov and the Buried Life of Katherine Mansfield’, 3 The Polyglots (Gerhardi, W.), 76 Poulenc, Francis, 96 Pound, Ezra, 45, 60, 101, 210–11 ‘Prelude’ (Mansfield, K.), 138, 197 Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (Debussy, C.), 94, 99–100 ‘The Present’ (Andreev, L.), 99 Prieuré, 3, 7, 53–7, 60–1, 125–8, 130, 135–7, 163–5 Prokofiev, Sergei, 96 Prose of the World: Modernism and the Banality of Empire (Majumdar, S.), 202 Proust, Marcel, 207 Prufrock, J. Alfred, 76–7 ‘Psychology’ (Mansfield, K.), 6, 46, 95, 100 Puccini, Giacomo, 5, 18 Madame Butterfly, 5, 18–19 Pushkin, Alexander, 1, 108 Rampton, David, 4–5, 11 ‘“Je ne parle pas français”: Reading Mansfield’s Underground Man’, 4 Ravel, Maurice, 93–4, 96 Daphnis et Chloé, 94 ‘Reading the Book of Hills & Seas’ (Ch’ien, T.), 48 Reading, Frances, 4, 6, 107 ‘Remain Apart’ (Gurdjieff, G.), 137 ‘Remedy’ (Whyte, J.), 7, 162
Rhys, Jean, 209 Rhythm, 6, 43, 89, 93, 98–101, 103, 207–9 Rice, Anne Estelle, 99–101 Rimsky-Korsakov, Nikolai, 94 Schéhérazade, 92, 94, 99–100, 102 romance, 13–14, 25–6, 28, 30, 33, 82, 192, 195, 204, 212 ‘Roukoff’ (Garnett, O.), 107, 118 Rubinstein, Ida, 97, 99–100 Rupert of Hentazau (Hope, A.), 192 Russell, Bertrand, 20 ‘A Russian Girl’ (Garnett, O.), 107, 112, 116, 118–19 Le Sacre du printemps (Stravinsky, I.), 93–4, 97–8 Sadler, Michael, 98 Said, Edward, 213 St Paul’s Cathedral, 41 St Petersburg, 67, 73, 75, 80, 91, 102, 110, 116, 118, 163 Sandley, Sarah, 13 Sargeson, Frank, 155 Sartre, Jean-Paul, 16–17 La Nausée, 16 Satie, Eric, 93, 96 Saving Civilization: Yeats, Eliot and Auden Between the Wars (McDiarmid, L.), 210 Schéhérazade (Rimsky-Korsakov, N.), 92, 94, 99–100, 102 Schiff, Sydney, 49, 102 Schiff, Violet, 49 Scott, Margaret, 50, 164, 175–6, 178–80, 203 The Collected Letters of Katherine Mansfield, Vol. 5, 1922–1923, 164 The Katherine Mansfield Notebooks: Complete Edition, 175 The Scrapbook of Katherine Mansfield (Murry, J. M.), 175 ‘Sea Song’ (Mansfield, K.), 100 ‘Second Violin’ (Mansfield, K.), 46
Index ‘The Secret’ (Mansfield, K.), 50 The Secret Agent (Conrad, J.), 208 Secret History of the English Occupation in Egypt (Blunt, W.), 211 Segal, William, 54 Sérénade Mélancholique (Tchaikovsky, P.), 2 Shakespeare, William, 1, 77, 135, 159, 168 Hamlet, 76–7 Shaw, George Bernard, 50 ‘The Singing Lesson’ (Mansfield, K.), 81 Slavic Excursions: Essays on Russian and Polish Literature (Davie, D.), 1 Smith, Anna, 14, 17 Sobieniowski, Floryan, 90, 113–14 Socialist Revolutionaries, 35 soma, 107–8, 120 Sontag, Susan, 25–6 Illness as Metaphor, 25 Sorapure, Victor, 32 Souvorin, Aleksey, 78–9 The Speaker: The Liberal Review, 116 Le Spectre de la Rose, 94 spiritual, 3, 5, 7, 16, 25, 41, 43, 48–9, 52, 54, 92, 98, 125, 128, 163, 207–8 Steiner, George, 110 Stepniak, Fanny, 6, 110 Stepniak, Sergey, 6, 109–11, 114, 120 The Career of a Nihilist, 110 Still Life (Murry, J. M.), 97 Stotz, Janna, 14 Strachey, Lytton, 97–8 Stravinsky, Igor, 91, 93–4, 96, 103 The Firebird, 91, 93 Petrushka, 93–4 Le Sacre du printemps, 93–4, 97–8 ‘Sun and Moon’ (Mansfield, K.), 213 Suvorin, Aleksei, 30–1 ‘The Swing of the Pendulum’ (Mansfield, K.), 95 Switzerland, 49, 51–2, 69, 102, 109, 166 Symbolism, 207 Symons, Arthur, 44, 102, 191 ‘The World as Ballet’, 102
Tagebuch einer Verlorenen (Böhme, M.), 184 Tagore, Rabindranath, 45 ‘Tales of a Courtyard’ (Mansfield, K.), 99, 107, 112, 118–19 Tatler, 96 Tchaikovsky, Pyotr, 2 Sérénade Mélancholique, 2 Tchekhovitch, Tcheslaw, 3, 56–7, 60 tea ceremony, 41–2, 44–5 Thackeray, William Makepeace, 117 ‘De Juventute’, 117 Theosophical Society, 50 ‘There was a Child Once’ (Petrovsky, B.), 100 The Three Sisters (Chekhov, A.), 67, 70, 73, 80–1 The Times, 108–9, 111–12, 114, 210 The Times Literary Supplement, 67, 112 ‘Tinakori Road’ (Adcock, F.), 7, 161 Tolstoy, Leo, 1–2, 25, 29, 35, 91, 108 Anna Karenina, 25, 79 Tomalin, Claire, 57, 112, 190, 202 The Tree of Knowledge: A Document by a Woman, 175, 178–86, 190 tuberculosis, 2, 4–5, 11, 14, 24–7, 29–31, 33–7, 48–9, 52, 57–8, 125, 197, 206; see also consumption Tuberculosis and Genius (Moorman, L. J.), 25 Turgenev, Ivan, 77, 108, 110 A House of Gentlefolk, 110 Under Western Eyes (Conrad, J.), 107, 208 The Urewera Notebook (Plumridge, A.), 204 Vachell, Horace Annesley, 191–2 The Face of Clay: An Interpretation, 191 Vaughan, Henry, 191 Ventimiglia, 154–5, 157 Villa Flora, 49 Villa Isola Bella, 50, 132, 153, 155–6, 158–60
Katherine Mansfield and Russia Vladivostok, 75, 80 The Vogue for Russia: Modernism and the Unseen in Britain 1900–1930 (Maclean, C.), 4, 7, 201, 207–8 Volkhovsky, Felix, 6, 109–10 ‘The Voyage’ (Mansfield, K.), 75, 213 The Voyage Out (Woolf, V.), 91 Wagner, Wilhelm Richard, 93 Wales, Hubert, 182 Cynthia in the Wilderness, 182 Mr and Mrs Villiers, 182 The Yoke, 182 Wallace, Lewis Alexander Richard, 50–1, 55; see also Oxon, M. B. Webb Ellis, William, 153 Wellington, 41, 44, 75, 108, 194, 196, 203, 206, 208, 213 Wharton, Edith, 70 Whiteley, Giles, 7, 175, 190 Whyte, Jessica, 7 ‘Remedy’, 7, 162 Wilde, Oscar, 159, 175–9, 181, 191–2 The Picture of Dorian Gray, 177–8, 181, 191–2 ‘The Wind Blows’ (Mansfield, K.), 75, 100 ‘A Woman’, 175–7, 179–81, 190
‘The Woman at the Store’ (Mansfield, K.), 93 The Woman Herself (Boucicault, R.), 183 Women in Love (Lawrence, D. H.), 97 Woods, Joanna, 3, 108, 112, 207–8 Katerina: The Russian World of Katherine Mansfield, 3 Woolf, Leonard, 28, 32–3, 97 Woolf, Virginia, 6, 44, 68, 79, 90–1, 97, 208 The Voyage Out, 91 The Years, 97 ‘The World as Ballet’ (Symons, A.), 102 World War One, 34, 54 World War Two, 25, 209 Wright, Frank Lloyd, 58, 130 Yalta, 29, 31, 34 The Years (Woolf, V.), 97 ‘The Year’s Awakening’ (Hardy, T.), 203 Yeats, William Butler, 90, 210–11 The Yellow Book, 184 The Yoke (Wales, H.), 182 Young, James Carruthers, 52, 166 Zaurov, Mikael, 42–3 Zen, 5, 42–3, 54, 56 Zimring, Rishona, 7, 89, 201
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