The Critical Response to Katherine Mansfield

By Jan Pilditch | Go to book overview

of which she had more than a streak in certain moments. But these are few, and far outweighed by her best stories, which are many. Her celebrated "Prelude" and "At the Bay," "The Doll's House." "The Daughters of the Late Colonel" keep their freshness and curious timelessness. Here is not her view of life but her many views of many kinds of lives, and there is no sign of even a tacit acquiescence in these sufferings, these conflicts, these evils deep-rooted in human nature. Mr Murry writes of her adjusting herself to life as a flower, etc.; there is an elegiac poesy in this thought, but--and remember I am judging by her pages here under my eye--I see no sign that she ever adjusted herself to anything or anybody, except at an angle where she could get exactly the slant and the light she needed for the spectacle.

She had, then, all her clues; she had won her knowledge honestly, and she turned away from what she knew to pursue some untenable theory of personal salvation under a most dubious teacher. "I fail in my personal life," she wrote in her journal, and this sense of failure infected her life as artist, which is also personal. Her decision to go to Fontainebleau was no whim, no accident. She had long been under the influence of Orage, her first publisher and her devoted friend, and he was the chief disciple of Gurdjieff in England. In her last finished story, "The Canary," a deep parable of her confusion and despair, occurs the hopeless phrase: "Perhaps it does not so much matter what one loves in this world. But love something one must." It seems to me that St. Augustine knew the real truth of the matter: "It doth make a difference whence cometh a man's joy."

"The Canary" was finished in July, 1922. In the October following she deliberately abandoned writing for a time and went into retirement at Fontainebleau, where she died suddenly and unexpectedly on the night of January 9, 1923. And so joined that ghostly company of unfulfilled, unhappy English artists who died and are buried in strange lands.

The Nation, October 23, 1937, vol. 145, p. 435.


Anonymous review of Katherine Mansfield's Stories

On January 9, 1923, Katherine Mansfield, in her thirty-fifth year, died at Fontainebleau. In the course of the following ten years there were published two posthumous collections of stories, her Journal, her letters, a collection of her reviews of novelists and a biography of her early life up till 1911. She had gained an assured position among English writers in her all too short lifetime, and the publication of her letters and Journal focused, at the time, a good deal of attention on this revelation of a remarkable personality. Now, for the first time, we have a complete collection of her stories, including In a German Pension-- her first book ( 1911) which she refused to republish--without any comment except the original introductory notes to the two posthumously published volumes "The Doves' Nest" and "Something Childish," written by her husband, Mr. Middleton Murry. Her work as a whole is laid before today's public of

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