November 1, 2012

Katherine Mansfield’s Legacy

Posted in Susan's Blog tagged , , , , , , , , at 8:29 am by Susan

On October 14th, the day of Katherine Mansfield’s birthday, I took part in a celebration organised by the Katherine Mansfield Society in the Keynes Library in London’s Bloomsbury, with writers Ali Smith and Salley Vickers.

The theme of this year’s birthday lecture was Mansfield’s ‘legacy’, to which Sally Vickers responded by outlining the impact Mansfield has had on her and Ali Smith with a short story in which Mansfield repeatedly appears.

2012 has been an important year for Katherine Mansfield’s legacy. Chris Mourant, a Ph. D. student at King’s College London, came across four hitherto unknown stories while working in the archive of the college library. His find includes ‘A Little Episode’, which has already shed new light on Mansfield’s turbulent relationships with Garnet Trowell (with whom she became pregnant) and George Bowden (a singing teacher she married and left on the same day).

The Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington has acquired six boxes of materials purchased from the family of John Middleton Murry, Mansfield’s husband from 1918 until her death in 1923. These contain drafts and fragments of stories and poems, little known and unpublished letters, notes in Mansfield’s hand, many photographs, her passport, favourite recipes – even a clutch of flowers pressed while on holiday in France. The library’s commitment to making these publicly available should lay to rest the saccharine, saintly figure Middleton Murry tried to turn his wife into after her death. Even Mansfield’s biographers have had only limited access to the materials these boxes contain.

Finally, this month, to celebrate her birthday, Edinburgh University Press launch the publication of the two-volume The Collected Fiction of Katherine Mansfield edited by Gerri Kimber and Vincent O’Sullivan. This is the first chronologically presented and complete edition of the fiction, including many hitherto uncollected or rarely seen stories and prose fragments.

It was a privilege as well as a pleasure to hear Ali Smith and Salley Vickers pay tribute to the extraordinary legacy of Katherine Mansfield, and to participate in the lively discussion that followed.

The Katherine Mansfield Society has copies of a specially produced booklet from the Birthday Lecture for sale here