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Katherine Mansfield – a note

January 23, 2013

I just rather liked the way CK Stead introduced Katherine Mansfield in his essay, Katherine Mansfield: The Art of the ‘Fiction’:

“Katherine Mansfield became famous only after her death, and it was as much for the extraordinary talent and personality revealed in her letters and journals as for the qualities of her stories. I think the fame was deserved; but it rested on style rather than substance, and for that reason it has survived better in France than in England. In England art is seldom valued for its own sake; it is a vehicle, like a coal truck; and from Dr Johnson to Dr Leavis the English critics have almost without exception seen their primary task as being to check the quantity and quality of the coal.

In Katherine Mansfield’s letters and journals are displayed qualities of mind, imagination, sensibility, intelligence, wit – all finding verbal expression, coming to life on the page, running irresistibly day by day off the tip of the pen. This is not the same as saying that she is always revealed as a good person, a nice person, that she is always controlled, or fair minded, or strong, or sensible. She is afraid, defeated, hysterical, waspish as often as she is affirmative, joyful, witty, or wise. But whatever the state of her mind or soul, there is always distinction in the writing, distinction of intellect and of personality transmitted through all the rare and lovely skills of the natural writer. She has more than talent. She has genius – and only a part of that genius gets into the stories.” (p.8)

Ref: C. K. Stead (2002) Kin of Place: Essays on 20 New Zealand Writers. Auckland University Press.

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