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Thursday, October 14, 2021

‘You Can Try All Sorts of Lives’


“Looking back, I imagine I was always writing. Twaddle it was too. But better by far to write twaddle or anything, anything, than nothing at all.” – Katherine Mansfield

Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp was a modernist short story writer, born on this date in 1888 and raised in colonial New Zealand.  She wrote under the pen name of Katherine Mansfield both there and after emigrating to Great Britain.       Her first published stories appeared in the High School Reporter, a New Zealand-wide journal, and the Wellington Girls' High School magazine, including stories about the repression of the native Maori people, a stand that got her in trouble with some of the New Zealand elite. 

She left New Zealand at age 19 and settled in Britain, where she became close friends with modernist writers D.H. Lawrence (author of Lady Chatterley’s Lover) and Virginia Woolf.

Just when she was getting into her most prolific writing period – in the 19-teens – she was diagnosed with tuberculosis.  It was also during this time that she met then married John Middleton Murry, editor of the Avant-garde magazine Rhythm.  Murry was responsible for publishing many of her works both then and after her death in 1923.
In 1973, Mansfield was the subject of a BBC             
miniseries A Picture of Katherine Mansfield starring Vanessa Redgrave, and in 2011 the film Bliss focused on her early beginnings as a writer. 

She always said that writing not only was her life but her chance to experience other lives.  “Would you not like to try all sorts of lives?” she asked.  “That is the satisfaction of writing - one can impersonate so many people.”

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