Katherine Mansfield's Fiction

By Patrick D. Morrow | Go to book overview

Basic KM Biography

(Katherine Mansfield used so many pseudonyms that KM is a standard reference to her.) KM was the third daughter of an overbearing colonial father and a prim and proper mother who left the loving of her children to her own mother. Of course, KM's family was actually not so cut and dried; there existed complex relationships between the four Beauchamp daughters, their only brother, their parents, their grandmother and their mother's sister. It is known that KM wanted desperately to leave her family and New Zealand, to travel, to be independent even from those people she loved dearly, like her brother, Leslie. KM was sent with her sisters to a finishing school in London in 1903, but this did not make her a cultured, quiet and male-supportive young lady; rather, KM was already a writer, and in 1908, she returned to New Zealand and persuaded her father to let her live in England on a yearly allowance of £ 100.

Katherine arrived back in London shortly before her 20th birthday. The first three years of her independence was the most disordered time of her life; her own letters and journals are fragmentary, and there is little positive information about this period. KM had studied music as a girl, and had played the cello; information about her expertise in this field is, typical of KM's life, surprisingly scarce. In 1908-09, KM renewed her friendship with Arnold Trowell, a young cellist, and fell in love with his brother, Garnet. KM had previous affairs, sexual experiences of some kind, with young men and women in New Zealand, but little is known about these relationships; they were, of course, kept quiet, being decidedly improper conduct for a well-off young lady of Victorian upbringing. Katherine wanted to try out her new independence from this kind of upbringing, and she became pregnant as a result, either by Garnet or someone else, either before or after her one day's marriage to George Bowden. KM traveled to Bavaria where she miscarried, and where she wrote In a German Pension, her first collection of short stories. There were

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