The Critical Response to Katherine Mansfield

By Jan Pilditch | Go to book overview

the threshold, by her own confession, of some vita nuova infinitely richer both in wisdom and in inspiration. "If I had gone on with my old life," she wrote in a letter, "I never would have written again, for I was dying of poverty of life." In face of that renunciation, practically a disavowal of all her previous work, criticism, even the most appreciative, seems inept. Here is her work in truth, and how, finding much to praise, can we reject it? Yet Katherine Mansfield, as she passed out of sight, seems to have shed it like her mortal garment, leaving, for the last time, no clue.

The Times Literary Supplement, March 2, 1946, p. 102.


John Middleton Murry, "Katherine Mansfield"

Compiler's Note: This study of Katherine Mansfield was delivered as a lecture in America in 1935 and re-cast in essay form. Although John Middleton Murry edited and published all Katherine Mansfield's works 'he very rarely wrote about her' (p.xiii) 'In fact, this study is his only full appreciation of her in existence.'

There are very few writers who have been put more fully into the possession of the public than Katherine Mansfield has been. Quite deliberately, as soon as possible after her death, I made it my duty to gather together and to publish her Journal and her Letters. It seemed to me a matter of cardinal importance that the world should know what manner of woman--or girl (for she wasn't much more when she died)--Katherine Mansfield was. If ever there were a writer whose life and work were one and inseparable, it was she. I can think only of Keats to compare with her in this respect, that her letters are essential to a real understanding of her work. They form a single whole with her stories: one naturally fulfils and completes the other. Indeed, there were moments when it seemed to me that her letters more completely expressed the nature of her genius than even the most remarkable of her stories. There have been moments when I have felt the same about the poetry and the letters of Keats.

When I set myself to publish the Lettersand Journal of Katherine Mansfield, I was acting, not in a personal capacity, as a man eager to erect a memorial to one whom he had loved and lost, but as a conscious literary critic deeply convinced of the peculiar quality of Katherine's genius and determined to establish it before the world. I disregarded completely all the expostulations of those who--a little over-weeningly--professed to be more sensitive than I and tried to represent my action as the violation of an intimacy. Perhaps they were sincere; but I had made up my mind that Katherine Mansfield no longer belonged to me, but to the world. Above all, I believed it my duty to pass on what she herself had called her 'legacy of truth', and I believed that the world would find it as precious as I did.

-53-

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