KATHERINE MANSFIELD BEAUCHAMP (1888-1923)

by Olivier Veilleux

 

Katherine Mansfield Beauchamp was born in 1888 in Wellington, New Zealand. She was the third daughter of Harold Beauchamp, a successful banker, and Annie Beauchamp. Mansfield was raised by her determined mother, who wanted to prepare her for her future role as a wife. However, Mansfield was a rebel and an outsider which led her mother to write her daughter out of her will.  From 1903 to 1906, she attended Queen’s College in Harley Street, London, with her sisters, to study music. At her boarding school, she met Ida Constance Baker, her obedient friend whom she loved, but treated badly throughout her life. Her years in London as well as her friendship with Ida, permitted her to develop herself intellectually, artistically and psychologically especially because she was unable to remain in one place for long.

 

After school in 1906, Mansfield returned to New Zealand where she began writing short stories. She was bored with the provincial and dull life in Wellington. Thus, she went back to London two years later thanks to her father’s permission. Although she was not very rich, she met, married and left George Bowden, in a span of about three weeks. Around the same time, she became pregnant by her lover Garnet Trowell, who was a professional violinist, but then lost the baby through miscarriage.

 

Afterwards, she had an affair with a Polish refugee, Floryan Sobieniowski, which left her with gonorrhoea from which she suffered for the rest of her life. Thereafter, she took up a career in journalism at New Age, which slowly gave way to the writing of short fiction.

 

In 1911, she published her first volume of short stories In a German Pension. A year later, thanks to her association with New Age, she met her second husband, John Middleton Murry, but they only got married six years later. Their relationship was paradoxical; it was punctuated by long periods of separation as well as moments of perfect happiness. They were very often on the move throughout Europe because of Mansfield’s declining health and her fidgety mindset.

 

In 1917, Mansfield contracted tuberculosis and it might have been from D.H. Lawrence who was also infected by this disease. The latter was a friend of Murry’s and Mansfield’s from 1913 to 1916. Thereafter in 1918, Hogarth Press published Prelude. Afterwards in 1919, Murry and Mansfield worked for Athenaeum where they earned a good income thanks to Mansfield’s devotion for fiction and letter writing, and thanks to her husband’s connections.

 

From that moment on in Mansfield’s life, her health deteriorated. She suffered from tuberculosis, for which treatments were not successful, and from gonorrhoea (she was unaware of this disease until almost the end of her life). In 1923, she died at Fontainebleau in France. A year later, a volume of her short stories, Something Childish was published. 

 

 

 

 

WORKS CITED

 

Ø      H. Pickering, James. (2007). Fiction 100: An Anthology of Short Fiction Eleventh Edition. New Jersey, Prentice Hall.

Ø      Tomalin, Claire. (1989). Katherine Mansfield: A Secret Life. New York, Salem Press, Inc.

Ø      Wilkins, Damien. (2001). Katherine Mansfield. Short Story Moderniser. Copyright nzedge.com. From http://www.nzedge.com/heroes/mansfield.html#REFERENCES