Katherine Mansfield

Katherine Mansfield

New Zealand writer
Date of Birth: 14.10.1888
Country: France

Biography of Katherine Mansfield

Katherine Mansfield was a New Zealand and English writer, most famous for being the foremost writer of New Zealand. She was born in 1888 into the family of a New Zealand banker. Her father, Harold Beauchamp, was the chairman of the Bank of New Zealand and was knighted. In 1893, the family moved to Karori, where Mansfield spent her childhood. She remembered this time as the happiest of her life, and these memories later inspired her to write the story "Prelude" in 1918.

In 1902, Katherine moved to London and studied at Queen's College from 1902 to 1906. After completing her education in England, she returned home to New Zealand in 1906. Upon her return, she began writing short stories. Although she initially wanted to become a professional cellist, she did not dare to defy her father's prohibition and instead enrolled in Wellington Technical College. Growing tired of the provincial life in New Zealand, she returned to London in 1908.

In London, she quickly embraced the bohemian lifestyle lived by many writers and artists of that era. With very little money, she met, married, and left her first husband, George Bowden, all within three weeks. Around the same time, she became pregnant by a family friend from New Zealand, Garnet Trowell, a professional cellist, and her mother sent her to Bavaria.

She suffered a miscarriage in 1909. After returning to England, her work caught the attention of several publishers, and she adopted the pseudonym Katherine Mansfield (her grandmother's surname) for the publication of her first collection of short stories, "In a German Pension," in 1911. Around this time, she contracted gonorrhea, an incident that left her with arthritis pains for the rest of her life and made her view herself as a "dirty" woman. Disheartened by the lack of success of her collection, Mansfield offered a lightweight story to the new avant-garde magazine "Rhythm." The story was rejected by the editor and renowned literary critic John Middleton Murry, who demanded something more serious. Mansfield responded with the story "The Woman at the Store," a story about murder and mental illness, which Murry called "the best story they had ever received at 'Rhythm.'"

Her life and work were forever changed after the death of her brother, a soldier, during World War I. She was so shocked by this event and the associated emotions that her work began to shift towards nostalgic reminiscences of their childhood in New Zealand. During these years, she befriended writers such as D.H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, and Aldous Huxley. Despite continuing to write between her first and second collections, "Prelude" (1918), she rarely published her work and fell into depression. Her health further deteriorated due to a near-fatal bout of pleurisy when she contracted tuberculosis in 1917. She began writing her most famous works, struggling with illness after a serious internal hemorrhage.

In 1918, she married Murry. "Miss Brill," a story about a fragile woman living a fleeting life of observing the world around her and simple joys in Paris, made Mansfield one of the outstanding writers of the modernist era after its publication in 1920 in the collection "Bliss." The story after which the collection is named also received critical acclaim. This was followed by the collection "The Garden Party," published in 1922, which also received similar praise.

Mansfield spent her final years searching for unconventional methods to treat her tuberculosis. In February 1922, she consulted with Russian doctor Ivan Manukhin. His "revolutionary" treatment method, consisting of bombarding her spleen with X-rays, caused Mansfield to experience fever and numbness in her legs. In October 1922, she arrived at the "Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man," organized by G.I. Gurdjieff in Fontainebleau, France. In Fontainebleau, she continued to write despite her rapidly declining health. After the publication of two more volumes, one of poetry and one of short stories, Mansfield suffered a pulmonary hemorrhage in January 1923, leading to her death. She was buried in Avon cemetery.

In her final years, Mansfield proved to be a prolific writer, and much of her prose and poetry remained unpublished at the time of her death. Murry took on the task of editing and publishing her works. His efforts resulted in two more volumes of short stories in 1923 ("The Dove's Nest") and 1924 ("Something Childish"), a collection of poetry titled "The Aloe," and a collection of critical works ("Novels and Novelists"). Mansfield began publishing at the age of nine. Her first published stories appeared in the "High School Reporter" and the "Wellington Girls' High School magazine" in 1898 and 1899. Her work was greatly influenced by the prose of Anton Chekhov, whom Mansfield discovered in 1909.