Biography of Katherine Mansfield

Kathleen Mansfield Murry (née Beauchamp; 14 October 1888 – 9 January 1923) was a New Zealand writer, essayist and journalist, widely considered one of the most influential and important authors of the modernist movement. Her works are celebrated across the world, and have been published in 25 languages.Born and raised in a house on Tinakori Road in the Wellington suburb of Thorndon, Mansfield was the third child in the Beauchamp family. After being raised by her parents and her beloved grandmother, she began school in Karori with her sisters before attending Wellington Girls' College. The Beauchamp girls later switched to the elite Fitzherbert Terrace School, where Mansfield became friends with Maata Mahapuku, who became a muse for early work and with whom she is believed to have had a passionate relationship.Mansfield wrote short stories and poetry under a variation of her own name, Katherine Mansfield, which explored anxiety, sexuality and existentialism alongside a developing New Zealand identity. When she was 19, she left New Zealand and settled in England, where she became a friend of D. H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, Lady Ottoline Morrell and others in the orbit of the Bloomsbury Group. Mansfield was diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis in 1917, and she died in France aged 34.


Early life

Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp was born in 1888 into a socially prominent Wellington family in Thorndon. Her grandfather Arthur Beauchamp briefly represented the Picton electorate in parliament. Her father Harold Beauchamp became the chairman of the Bank of New Zealand and was knighted in 1923. Her mother was Annie Burnell Beauchamp (née Dyer), whose brother married the daughter of Richard Seddon. Her extended family included the author Countess Elizabeth von Arnim, and her great-granduncle was Victorian artist Charles Robert Leslie.

Mansfield had two elder sisters, a younger sister and a younger brother. In 1893, for health reasons, the Beauchamp family moved from Thorndon to the country suburb of Karori, where Mansfield spent the happiest years of her childhood. She used some of those memories as an inspiration for the short story "Prelude".The family returned to Wellington in 1898. Mansfield's first printed stories appeared in the High School Reporter and the Wellington Girls' High School magazine in 1898 and 1899. Her first formally published story "His Little Friend" appeared the following year in a society magazine, New Zealand Graphic and Ladies Journal.She wrote in her journals of feeling alienated in New Zealand, and of how she had become disillusioned because of the repression of the Māori people. Māori characters often are portrayed in a sympathetic or positive light in her later stories, such as "How Pearl Button Was Kidnapped".In 1902 Mansfield became enamoured of Arnold Trowell, a cellist, but her feelings were for the most part not reciprocated. Mansfield was herself an accomplished cellist, having received lessons from Trowell's father.

London and Europe

She moved to London in 1903, where she attended Queen's College with her sisters. Mansfield recommenced playing the cello, an occupation that she believed she would take up professionally, but she began contributing to the college newspaper with such dedication that she eventually became its editor. She was particularly interested in the works of the French Symbolists and Oscar Wilde, and she was appreciated among her peers for her vivacious, charismatic approach to life and work.Mansfield met fellow student Ida Baker at the college, and they became lifelong friends. They both adopted their mother's maiden names for professional purposes, and Baker became known as LM or Lesley Moore, adopting the name of Lesley in honour of Mansfield's younger brother Leslie.Mansfield travelled in Continental Europe between 1903 and 1906, staying mainly in Belgium and Germany. After finishing her schooling in England she returned to New Zealand, and only then began in earnest to write short stories. She had several works published in the Native Companion (Australia), her first paid writing work, and by this time she had her heart set on becoming a professional writer. This was also the first occasion on which she used the pseudonym K. Mansfield. She rapidly grew weary of the provincial New Zealand lifestyle and of her family, and two years later, headed back to London. Her father sent her an annual allowance of 100 pounds for the rest of her life. In later years, she expressed both admiration and disdain for New Zealand in her journals, but she never was able to return there because of her tuberculosis.

Mansfield had two romantic relationships with women that are notable for their prominence in her journal entries. She continued to have male lovers and attempted to repress her feelings at certain times. Her first same-sex romantic relationship was with Maata Mahupuku (sometimes known as Martha Grace), a wealthy young Māori woman whom she had first met at Miss Swainson's school in Wellington and again in London in 1906. In June 1907, she wrote:"I want Maata—I want her as I have had her—terribly. This is unclean I know but true."She often referred to Maata as Carlotta. She wrote about Maata in several short stories. Maata married in 1907, but it is claimed that she sent money to Mansfield in London. The second relationship, with Edith Kathleen Bendall, took place from 1906 to 1908. Mansfield professed her adoration for her in her journals.

Return to London

After having returned to London in 1908, Mansfield quickly fell into a bohemian way of life. She published one story and one poem during her first 15 months there. Mansfield sought out the Trowell family for companionship, and while Arnold was involved with another woman, Mansfield embarked on a passionate affair with his brother Garnet. By early 1909, she had become pregnant by Garnet, but Trowell's parents disapproved of the relationship, and the two broke up. She then hastily entered into a marriage with George Bowden, a teacher of singing 11 years her senior; they were married on 2 March, but she left him the same evening before the marriage could be consummated.After Mansfield had a brief reunion with Garnet, Mansfield's mother Annie Beauchamp arrived in 1909. She blamed the breakdown of the marriage to Bowden on a lesbian relationship between Mansfield and Baker, and she quickly had her daughter dispatched to the spa town of Bad Wörishofen in Bavaria, where Mansfield miscarried. It is not known whether her mother knew of this miscarriage when she left shortly after arriving in Germany, but she cut Mansfield out of her will.Mansfield's time in Bavaria had a significant effect on her literary outlook. In particular, she was introduced to the works of Anton Chekhov. Some biographers accuse her of plagiarizing Chekhov with one of her early short stories. She returned to London in January 1910. She then published more than a dozen articles in Alfred Richard Orage's socialist magazine The New Age and became a friend and lover of Beatrice Hastings, who lived with Orage. Her experiences of Germany formed the foundation of her first published collection In a German Pension (1911), which she later described as "immature".


In 1910, Mansfield submitted a lightweight story to Rhythm, a new avant-garde magazine. The piece was rejected by the magazine's editor John Middleton Murry, who requested something darker. Mansfield responded with a tale of murder and mental illness titled "The Woman at the Store". Mansfield was inspired at this time by Fauvism.Mansfield and Murry began a relationship in 1911 that culminated in their marriage in 1918, but she left him in 1911 and again in 1913. The characters Gudrun and Gerald in D. H. Lawrence's Women in Love are based on Mansfield and Murry.Charles Granville (sometimes known as Stephen Swift), the publisher of Rhythm, absconded to Europe in October 1912 and left Murry responsible for the debts the magazine had accumulated. Mansfield pledged her father's allowance toward the magazine, but it was discontinued, being reorganised as The Blue Review in 1913 and folding after three issues. Mansfield and Murry were persuaded by their friend Gilbert Cannan to rent a cottage next to his windmill in Cholesbury, Buckinghamshire in 1913 in an attempt to alleviate Mansfield's ill health. The couple moved to Paris in January the following year with the hope that a change of setting would make writing easier for both of them. Mansfield wrote only one story during her time there, "Something Childish But Very Natural", then Murry was recalled to London to declare bankruptcy.Mansfield had a brief affair with the French writer Francis Carco in 1914. Her visit to him in Paris in February 1915 is retold in her story "An Indiscreet Journey".

Impact of World War I

Mansfield's life and work were changed by the death of her younger brother Leslie Beauchamp, known as Chummie to his family. In October 1915, he was killed during a grenade training drill while serving with the British Expeditionary Force in Ypres Salient, Belgium, aged 21. She began to take refuge in nostalgic reminiscences of their childhood in New Zealand. In a poem describing a dream she had shortly after his death, she wrote:

By the remembered stream my brother standsWaiting for me with berries in his hands..."These are my body. Sister, take and eat."

At the beginning of 1917, Mansfield and Murry separated, but he continued to visit her at her apartment. Ida Baker, whom Mansfield often called, with a mixture of affection and disdain, her "wife", moved in with her shortly afterwards. Mansfield entered into her most prolific period of writing after 1916, which began with several stories, including "Mr Reginald Peacock's Day" and "A Dill Pickle", being published in The New Age. Virginia Woolf and her husband Leonard, who had recently set up the Hogarth Press, approached her for a story, and Mansfield presented to them "Prelude", which she had begun writing in 1915 as "The Aloe". The story depicts a New Zealand family moving house.

Diagnosis of tuberculosis

In December 1917, at the age of 29, Mansfield was diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis. For part of spring and summer 1918, she joined her friend Anne Estelle Rice, an American painter, at Looe in Cornwall with the hope of recovering. While there, Rice painted a portrait of her dressed in red, a vibrant colour Mansfield liked and suggested herself. The Portrait of Katherine Mansfield is now held by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.Rejecting the idea of staying in a sanatorium on the grounds that it would cut her off from writing, she moved abroad to avoid the English winter. She stayed at a half-deserted, cold hotel in Bandol, France, where she became depressed but continued to produce stories, including "Je ne parle pas français". "Bliss", the story that lent its name to her second collection of stories in 1920, was also published in 1918. Her health continued to deteriorate and she had her first lung haemorrhage in March.By April, Mansfield's divorce from Bowden had been finalised, and she and Murry married, only to part again two weeks later. They came together again, however, and in March 1919 Murry became editor of The Athenaeum, a magazine for which Mansfield wrote more than 100 book reviews (collected posthumously as Novels and Novelists). During the winter of 1918–1919, she and Baker stayed in a villa in San Remo, Italy. Their relationship came under strain during this period; after she wrote to Murry to express her feelings of depression, he stayed over Christmas. Although her relationship with Murry became increasingly distant after 1918 and the two often lived apart, this intervention of his spurred her, and she wrote "The Man Without a Temperament", the story of an ill wife and her long-suffering husband. Mansfield followed Bliss (1920), her first collection of short stories, with the collection The Garden Party and Other Stories, published in 1922.

In May 1921, Mansfield, accompanied by her friend Ida Baker, travelled to Switzerland to investigate the tuberculosis treatment of the Swiss bacteriologist Henri Spahlinge. From June 1921, Murry joined her, and they rented the Chalet des Sapins in the Montana region (now Crans-Montana) until January 1922. Baker rented separate accommodation in Montana village and worked at a clinic there. The Chalet des Sapins was only a "1/2 an hours scramble away" from the Chalet Soleil at Randogne, the home of Mansfield's first cousin once removed, the Australian-born writer Elizabeth von Arnim, who visited Mansfield and Murry often during this period. Von Arnim was the first cousin of Mansfield's father. They got on well, although Mansfield considered her wealthier cousin—who had in 1919 separated from her second husband Frank Russell, the elder brother of Bertrand Russell—to be rather patronising. It was a highly productive period of Mansfield's writing, for she felt she did not have much time left. "At the Bay", "The Doll's House", "The Garden Party" and "A Cup of Tea" were written in Switzerland.

Last year and death

Mansfield spent her last years seeking increasingly unorthodox cures for her tuberculosis. In February 1922, she went to Paris to have a controversial X-ray treatment from the Russian physician Ivan Manoukhin. The treatment was expensive and caused unpleasant side effects without improving her condition.From 4 June to 16 August 1922 Mansfield and Murry returned to Switzerland, living in a hotel in Randogne. Mansfield finished "The Canary", the last short story she completed, on 7 July 1922. She wrote her will at the hotel on 14 August 1922. They went to London for six weeks before Mansfield, along with Ida Baker, moved to Fontainebleau, France, on 16 October 1922.At Fontainebleau, Mansfield lived at G. I. Gurdjieff's Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man, where she was put under the care of Olgivanna Lazovitch Hinzenburg (who later married Frank Lloyd Wright). As a guest rather than a pupil of Gurdjieff, Mansfield was not required to take part in the rigorous routine of the institute, but she spent much of her time there with her mentor Alfred Richard Orage, and her last letters inform Murry of her attempts to apply some of Gurdjieff's teachings to her own life.Mansfield suffered a fatal pulmonary haemorrhage on 9 January 1923, after running up a flight of stairs. She died within the hour, and was buried at Cimetiere d'Avon, Avon, near Fontainebleau. Because Murry forgot to pay for her funeral expenses, she initially was buried in a pauper's grave; when matters were rectified, her casket was moved to its current resting place.Mansfield was a prolific writer in the final years of her life. Much of her work remained unpublished at her death, and Murry took on the task of editing and publishing it in two additional volumes of short stories (The Dove's Nest in 1923, and Something Childish in 1924); a volume of poems; The Aloe; Novels and Novelists; and collections of her letters and journals.


The following high schools in New Zealand have a house named after Mansfield: Whangarei Girls' High School; Rangitoto College, Westlake Girls' High School, and Macleans College in Auckland; Tauranga Girls' College; Wellington Girls' College; Rangiora High School in North Canterbury, New Zealand; Avonside Girls' High School in Christchurch; and Southland Girls' High School in Invercargill. She has also been honoured at Karori Normal School in Wellington, which has a stone monument dedicated to her with a plaque commemorating her work and her time at the school, and at Samuel Marsden Collegiate School (previously Fitzherbert Terrace School) with a painting, and an award in her name.

Her birthplace in Thorndon has been preserved as the Katherine Mansfield House and Garden, and the Katherine Mansfield Memorial Park in Fitzherbert Terrace is dedicated to her.

A street in Menton, France, where she lived and wrote, is named after her. An award, the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship is offered annually to enable a New Zealand writer to work at her former home, the Villa Isola Bella. New Zealand's pre-eminent short story competition is named in her honour.Mansfield was the subject of a 1973 BBC miniseries A Picture of Katherine Mansfield, starring Vanessa Redgrave. The six-part series included depictions of Mansfield's life and adaptations of her short stories. In 2011, a television biopic titled Bliss was made of her early beginnings as a writer in New Zealand; in this she was played by Kate Elliott.Archives of Katherine Mansfield material are held in the Turnbull Collection of the National Library of New Zealand in Wellington, with other important holdings at the Newberry Library in Chicago, the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas, Austin and the British Library in London. There are smaller holdings at New York Public Library and other public and private collections.



In a German Pension (1911), ISBN 1-86941-014-9

Bliss and Other Stories (1920)

The Garden Party and Other Stories (1922) ISBN 1-86941-016-5

The Doves' Nest and Other Stories (1923) ISBN 1-86941-017-3

Poems (1923) ISBN 0-19-558199-7

Something Childish and Other Stories (1924), ISBN 1-86941-018-1, first published in the U.S. as The Little Girl

The Journal of Katherine Mansfield (1927, 1954) ISBN 0-88001-023-1

The Letters of Katherine Mansfield (2 vols., 1928–29)

The Aloe (1930), ISBN 0-86068-520-9

Novels and Novelists (1930), ISBN 0-403-02290-8

The Short Stories of Katherine Mansfield (1937)

The Scrapbook of Katherine Mansfield (1939)

The Collected Stories of Katherine Mansfield (1945, 1974) ISBN 0-14-118368-3

Letters to John Middleton Murry, 1913–1922 (1951) ISBN 0-86068-945-X

The Urewera Notebook (1978), ISBN 0-19-558034-6

The Critical Writings of Katherine Mansfield (1987) ISBN 0-312-17514-0

The Collected Letters of Katherine Mansfield (4 vols., 1984–96)

Vol. 1, 1903–17, ISBN 0-19-812613-1

Vol. 2, 1918–19, ISBN 0-19-812614-X

Vol. 3, 1919–20, ISBN 0-19-812615-8

Vol. 4, 1920–21, ISBN 0-19-818532-4

The Katherine Mansfield Notebooks (2 vols., 1997) ISBN 0-8166-4236-2

The Montana Stories (2001, a collection of all the material written by Mansfield from June 1921 until her death) ISBN 978-1-903155-15-8

The collected poems of Katherine Mansfield, edited by Gerri Kimber and Claire Davison, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, [2016], ISBN 978-1-4744-1727-3

Bliss & other stories (2021), PROJAPOTI, India ISBN 978-81-7606-276-3

Short stories


Katherine Mansfield: The Early Years, Gerri Kimber, Edinburgh University Press, 2016, ISBN 9780748681457

Katherine Mansfield, Antony Alpers, A.A. Knopf, NY, 1953; Jonathan Cape, London, 1954

LM (1971). Katherine Mansfield: The Memories of LM. Michael Joseph; reprinted by Virago Press 1985. ISBN 0-86068-745-7. LM was "Lesley Morris", which was the pen name of Mansfield's friend Ida Constance Baker.

Katherine Mansfield: A Biography, Jeffrey Meyers, New Directions Pub. Corp. NY, 1978; Hamish Hamilton, London, 1978

The Life of Katherine Mansfield, Antony Alpers, Oxford University Press, 1980

Tomalin, Claire (1987). Katherine Mansfield: A Secret Life. Viking. ISBN 0-670-81392-3.

Katherine Mansfield: A Darker View, Jeffrey Meyers, Cooper Square Press, NY, 2002, ISBN 9780815411970

Katherine Mansfield: The Story-Teller, a biography by Royal Literary Fund Fellow Kathleen Jones, Viking Penguin, 2010, ISBN 9780670074358

Kass a theatrical biografie, Maura Del Serra, "Astolfo", 2, 1998, pp. 47–60

Kimber, Gerri; Pégon, Claire (2015). Katherine Mansfield and the Art of the Short Story. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9781137483874. OCLC 910660543.

Film and television about Mansfield

A Picture of Katherine Mansfield, a 1973 BBC television drama series starring Vanessa Redgrave

Leave All Fair (1985), directed by John Reid

A Portrait of Katherine Mansfield: The Woman and the Writer (1987), directed by Julienne Stretton

The Life and Writings of Katherine Mansfield (2006), directed by Stacy Waymack Thornton

Bliss (2011), produced by Michele Fantl, directed by Fiona Samuel

Fiction featuring Mansfield

Mansfield, A Novel by C.K. Stead, Harvill Press, 2004, ISBN 9781843431763

In Pursuit: The Katherine Mansfield Story Retold, 2010, a novel by Joanna FitzPatrick

Katherine's Wish by Linda Lappin, Wordcraft of Oregon, 2008, ISBN 9781877655586

Dear Miss Mansfield: A Tribute to Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp, 1989, a short story collection by Witi Ihimaera

Spring by Ali Smith, Penguin, 2019, ISBN 978-0-241-97335-6

Plays featuring Mansfield

Katherine Mansfield 1888–1923, premiered at the Cell Block Theatre, Sydney in 1978, with choreography by Margaret Barr and script by Joan Scott, which was spoken live during performance by the dancers, and by an actor and actress. Two dancers played Mansfield simultaneously, as "Katherine Mansfield had spoken of herself at times as a multiple person".

The Rivers of China by Alma De Groen, premiered at the Sydney Theatre Company in 1987, Sydney: Currency Press, ISBN 086819171X

Jones & Jones by Vincent O'Sullivan, a Downstage commission for the Mansfield centenary in 1989: Victoria University Press, ISBN 0864730942

Adaptations of Mansfield's work

"Chai Ka Ek Cup", an episode from the 1986 Indian anthology television series Katha Sagar was adapted from "A Cup of Tea" by Shyam Benegal.

Mansfield with Monsters (Steam Press, 2012) Katherine Mansfield with Matt Cowens and Debbie Cowens

The Doll's House (1973), directed by Rudall Hayward

Vera (2019), adaptation of Dill Pickle short story, directed by Krzysztof Pietroszek

See also

New Zealand literature

New Zealand Post Katherine Mansfield Prize

List of Bloomsbury Group people


External links

Quotations related to Katherine Mansfield at Wikiquote

Works by or about Katherine Mansfield at Wikisource

Media related to Katherine Mansfield at Wikimedia Commons

Katherine Mansfield Society

Katherine Mansfield House and Garden

Katherine Mansfield Papers at the Newberry Library

Katherine Mansfield biography from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

"Archival material relating to Katherine Mansfield". UK National Archives.

Works by Katherine Mansfield at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)

Audio discussion about Katherine Mansfield and her female lovers,

Katherine Mansfield at the British Library

Write your comment about Katherine Mansfield

Poem of the day

Elizabeth Stoddard Poem
The House Of Youth
 by Elizabeth Stoddard

The rough north winds have left their icy caves
To growl and grope for prey
Upon the murky sea;
The lonely sea-gull skims the sullen waves
All the gray winter day.

The mottled sand-bird runneth up and down,
Amongst the creaking sedge,

Read complete poem

Popular Poets