Tuesday, November 3, 2009
What do you know about Katherine Mansfield?
Katherine Mansfield stares out of her photographs with a direct gaze that challenges the observer. Courageous, contradictory, self-willed, single-minded, argumentative, elusive, in both her life and her work, she has always defied the attempts of posterity to pin down the qualities that fascinated her contemporaries. Bertrand Russell admired her brain and would have liked to seduce her; Virginia Woolf said she ‘stank like a civet cat that has taken to street walking’ but admitted that she loved her ‘I suppose in my own way’, and that Katherine was the only writer whose writing she was jealous of. Christopher Isherwood and Aldous Huxley were among a number of writers who borrowed not only her words, but also her character for their novels. D.H. Lawrence used her as the model for Gudrun in ‘Women in Love’. He and his wife lived in a ‘menage a quatre’ with Katherine and her husband which ended in such animosity that he afterwards sent her a postcard saying ‘You are a loathsome reptile; I hope you will die’. His wife Frieda also disliked Katherine but acknowledged that she ‘knew more of the truth than anyone else’.