Sunday 9 October 2022


I have two copies of Katherine Mansfield's The Garden Party, one a British wartime edition, thin paper but clear printing, from 1942, the other a Knopf edition from 1923, the year after the stories were first published. The Knopf edition has wonderful endpapers, close relatives of the Omega workshop of Bloomsbury, as well as thick furry paper that tells you, before you've read a word, that you will be comfortable here. 

I re-read the Knopf edition, and I was comfortable, so much so that I came to the end of each story as you might come to the end of a nap. I have read Katherine Mansfield many times, and always found myself pleased with each story and then the next, till there were no more to read, and the leap to a book by someone else inconceivable for a while. 

Virginia Woolf, who knew KM quite well, envied a little her rise to fame, and distrusted her.

Ah, I have found a fine way of putting her in her place. The more she is praised the more I am convinced she is bad. After all, there's some truth in this. She touches the spot too universally for that spot to be of bluest blood.

This diary entry is from March 1922. Am I a Snob? was an essay she wrote in 1932. Yes, you might say. In another diary entry, from September 1921, we find VW dabbling in KM's stories and then needing to rinse her mind. In Dryden? she wonders. Still, if she were not so clever she could not be so disagreeable, she goes on.

There's an easy seduction to the stories of Katherine Mansfield. Her canvas is broad. VW stays in her own social stratum. The death of a cottager in KM's story The Garden Party is not equal to the death of the shell-shocked soldier in Mrs Dalloway. The soldier is also a poet. 

I will not read Dryden to rinse my mind after reading Katherine Mansfield. I might read Nietzsche.

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