Short Stories

By Katherine Mansfield


Born in New Zealand in 1888, Katherine Mansfield left for London at the age of 20 to embark on a literary career and a life that was to be saturated with a great intensity of emotion. Educated at Queen's College in London, at a young age she wrote articles in the school magazine and began writing a novel, which she would never complete. The following year heralded her marriage of no more than a few months to a man with whom she was not in love and who was not the father of the child that she was carrying, which was stillborn later that year. She fled to Germany where, in her disillusionment and sadness, she wrote bitter sketches on German life, published under In a German Pension. In 1911 she met John Middleton Murry whom she was later to marry. The death of her brother in World War I afflicted her deeply and turned her thoughts back to her New Zealand childhood. She escaped to the south of France for consolation, the result being a series of stories which contain her finest work - "The Aloe", which was later to become "Prelude". Among her literary friends were Virginia Woolf, who considered her work to be over-praised, and D. H. Lawrence, who turned against Mansfield and Murry in later years.

In 1917 she moved back to London but lived apart from Murry and was surrounded by the misery of war and the bleak winter season. Here she developed tuberculosis from a chill and became terminally ill. In 1918 she began writing Bliss and that same year, she and Murry, the trappings of her divorce finally lifted, were married. Illness isolated her and she joined a French institute where she persuaded herself she would find freedom of mind, body and soul. In the last three years of her life, the five separate short story collections - In a German Pension; Bliss; The Garden Party; The Dove's Nest; and Something Childish, were to be published. She died alone in her room at the Institute in January 1923.