Study Guide

Katherine Mansfield

Katherine Mansfield Biography

Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Katherine Mansfield played an important role in the modernization of short-story technique. Born Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp, on October 14, 1888, she was the daughter of a successful Wellington businessman, Harold Beauchamp, and his wife, Annie Burnell, a sickly woman who was somewhat detached from her children. With three sisters and one brother, Mansfield was reared without physical want (her father eventually became a director of the Bank of New Zealand) in and around Wellington. She traveled to England in 1903 and spent four years there attending Queen’s College in London, thoroughly enjoying the intellectual stimulation and new friends. It was at this time that she met Ida Baker, the girl who became her lifelong close friend and who appears in various guises in some of Mansfield’s stories. Mansfield returned unwillingly to New Zealand in 1906 and resigned herself to living with parents from whom she felt increasingly alienated. She began to practice writing by experimenting with stories and sketches, and in 1908 she returned to London alone, determined to become a literary artist. She dropped her surname in 1910 and settled on Katherine as her first name.{$S[A]Beauchamp, Kathleen Mansfield;Mansfield, Katherine}

She immediately plunged into a bohemian lifestyle, found herself pregnant, married a man (not the baby’s father) and left him on the same day, and was sent to Germany by her family to have the baby. She had a miscarriage and, during her half-year there, wrote her first published stories, a series of satirical sketches of German people which already showed themes of female subjection and domination by the male. Returning to England, she met John Middleton Murry, who became her lover and later her husband. From 1912 to 1917 she continued her close relationship with Baker and later became acquainted with the Bloomsbury group of socialites and artists, including Virginia Woolf. Mansfield wanted to be considered as an equal by this group, but they generally looked on her as an interesting provincial type. She worked for several years as an assistant editor of Rhythm, a literary magazine, at the same time...

(The entire section is 876 words.)

Katherine Mansfield Biography (Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Almost everything Katherine Mansfield wrote was autobiographical in some way. It helps a reader to know about Mansfield’s life because she often does not identify her stories’ locations. For example, readers may be puzzled by her combining English manners and exotic flora in her New Zealand stories.

The author was born Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp in Wellington, New Zealand, on October 14, 1888. (In her lifetime, she used many names. Her family called her “Kass.” She took “Katherine Mansfield” as her name in 1910.) Her father, Harold Beauchamp, was an importer who became chairman of the Bank of New Zealand and was knighted in 1923. In 1903, the Beauchamps sailed for London, where Kass was enrolled at Queen’s College, an institution for young women much like a university. She remained at Queen’s until 1906, reading advanced authors such as Oscar Wilde and publishing stories in the college magazine. Her parents brought her back to Wellington in 1906, where she published her first stories in a newspaper. She left New Zealand for London in 1908, never to return.

Her next decade was one of personal complexities and artistic growth. She was sexually attracted to both women and men. At Queen’s College, she met Ida Baker, her friend and companion for much of her life. Back in London, she fell in love with a violinist whom she had known in New Zealand. After she learned that she was pregnant by him, she abruptly married George C. Bowden on March 2, 1909, and as abruptly left him. At her mother’s insistence, she traveled to Germany, where she had a miscarriage. The Bowdens were not divorced until April, 1918.

In Germany she met the Polish translator Floryan Sobieniowski, who, in the...

(The entire section is 707 words.)

Katherine Mansfield Biography (Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

For at least thirty years after her death, the public’s interest in Katherine Mansfield’s tragic, short life overshadowed what little critical attention her literary works attracted. Born to a large, upper-middle-class Wellington family, at age fourteen Mansfield traveled to England to attend Queen’s College. In England, her contemporaries viewed her as a colonial, and as a result, as somewhat of an outsider. Upon graduating at age eighteen, she returned to New Zealand, only to find that she was equally out of place in what she now viewed as a provincial and cultureless New Zealand. Her two-year stay in New Zealand did prove fruitful, however: During this time she developed a taste for the writings of Oscar Wilde and the other aesthetes, and she began to experiment with a series of pseudonyms, identities, and sexualities. She also traveled around New Zealand, collecting impressions of colonial and family life that would surface in her some of her best stories.

After returning to England, getting pregnant, suffering a miscarriage, and marrying and leaving a man she hardly knew, Mansfield began her career as a writer, publishing her first collection of stories, In a German Pension. The same year she met John Middleton Murry and embarked on a tempestuous romantic and literary relationship that would continue until her death. With Murry, Mansfield wrote for and helped edit Rhythm, The Signature, and The Athenaeum...

(The entire section is 440 words.)

Katherine Mansfield Biography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Katherine Mansfield was born Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp in Wellington, New Zealand, on October 14, 1888. During her life she used many names: her family called her “Kass,” and she took “Katherine Mansfield” as her name in 1910. Her father, Harold Beauchamp, was a businessman who rose to become chairman of the Bank of New Zealand. He was knighted in 1923.

In 1903, the Beauchamps sailed for London, where Kass enrolled at Queen’s College, a school for young women. She remained at Queen’s until 1906, reading authors such as the Irish novelist and playwright Oscar Wilde and the Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen. She played the cello and published several stories in the college magazine. After her parents insisted that she come back to Wellington in 1906, she published her first stories in a newspaper. In 1908, when she was nineteen, she left New Zealand for London, never to return.

Her next decade was characterized by personal problems and artistic growth. She was sexually attracted both to women and to men. At Queen’s College, she met Ida Baker, who would become her friend and lifelong companion. After she returned to London, she fell in love with a violinist named Garnet Trowell, whom she had met in New Zealand. Then on March 2, 1909, she abruptly married a man she hardly knew, George C. Bowden, and just as abruptly left him. At her mother’s insistence, she traveled to Germany, where she suffered a miscarriage. The Bowdens were not divorced until April, 1918.

In Germany she met the Polish translator Floryan Sobieniowski. In the opinion of her biographer Claire Tomalin, it was his fault that she became infected with venereal disease. Mansfield would suffer from many medical problems for...

(The entire section is 710 words.)

Katherine Mansfield Biography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

In her short stories, Katherine Mansfield exemplifies innovative literary techniques that have influenced many later short-story writers. Her stories do not depend upon showing a chain of actions or upon explanations by the author. Rather, they dramatize webs of personal thoughts and interrelationships and evoke these relationships in descriptive, suggestive, and even symbolic details. Her stories often lead the reader to moments of revelation. Her themes are those of her time and were also taken up by later writers: joy in beauty, yearnings for happiness (particularly by women), disappointment, callousness, and cruelty.

Katherine Mansfield Biography (Short Stories for Students)

Katherine Mansfield Beauchamp was born to a wealthy family in Wellington, New Zealand, on October 14, 1888. She was educated in London and...

(The entire section is 462 words.)

Katherine Mansfield Biography (Short Stories for Students)

Katherine Mansfield was born Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp in Wellington, New Zealand, October 14, 1888. She began writing at a young age, and...

(The entire section is 461 words.)

Katherine Mansfield Biography (Short Stories for Students)

Katherine Mansfield Published by Gale Cengage

Katherine Mansfield was born Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp to a wealthy family in Wellington, New Zealand, on October 14, 1888. She was educated in London, deciding early on that she wanted to be a writer. She studied music, wrote for the school newspaper, and gained her intellectual freedom by studying Oscar Wilde and the other English "decadent" writers of the early twentieth century. Three years later she returned to New Zealand, where her parents expected her to find a suitable husband and lead the life of a well-bred woman. However, Mansfield was rebellious, adventurous, and more enamored of the artistic community than of polite society. She began publishing stories in Australian magazines in 1907 and shortly thereafter returned to London. A brief affair left her pregnant, and she consented to marry a man, George Bowden, whom she had known a mere three weeks and who was not the father of her child. She dressed in black for the wedding and left him before the night was over. Upon receiving word of the scandal and fueled by rumors that her daughter had also been involved with several women, Mansfield's mother immediately sailed to London and placed her daughter in a spa in Germany, far away from the Bohemian artists' community of London and her best friend, Ida Baker, whom Mansfield's mother considered a bad influence. During her time in Germany, Mansfield suffered a miscarriage and was cut out of her parents' will. After returning to London, Mansfield moved in with Baker, continuing to write and conduct various love affairs.

In 1911, Mansfield published her first volume of stories, In a German Pension, most of which had been written during her stay at the German spa. That same year she met John Middleton Murry, the editor of a literary magazine. Although they lived together on and off for many years, her other affairs continued, most notably with Baker. Together Mansfield and Murry published a small journal, The Blue Review, which folded after only three issues. However, the experience gained them entrance into the literary community of the day, and one of their newfound friends was D. H. Lawrence. In 1918 Mansfield was finally granted a divorce from Bowden, and she and Murry married. Stricken with tuberculosis in 1917, Mansfield became increasingly ill. She continued to write, publishing her two most well-known collections, Bliss and Other Stories and The Garden Party and Other Stories in 1920 and 1922 respectively. The collections received favorable critical attention, and she continued to write even after her health forced her to move to Fontainebleau. Though she was separated from Murray for long periods towards the end of her life, it was he who saw that her literary reputation was established by publishing her last stories and her collections of letters after her death in January 1923 at the age of thirty-four.

Katherine Mansfield Biography (Short Stories for Students)

Katherine Mansfield Published by Gale Cengage

Katherine Mansfield was born Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp to a wealthy family in Wellington, New Zealand, on October 14, 1888. She was educated in London, deciding early on that she wanted to be a writer. She studied music, wrote for the school newspaper, and read the works of Oscar Wilde and other English writers of the early twentieth century. After three years in London she returned to New Zealand, where her parents expected her to find a suitable husband and lead the life of a well-bred woman. However, Mansfield was rebellious, adventurous, and more enamored of the artistic community than of polite society.

Mansfield began publishing stories in Australian magazines in 1907, and shortly thereafter returned to London. A brief affair left her pregnant and she consented to marry a man, George Bowden, whom she had known a mere three weeks and who was not the father of her child. She dressed in black for the wedding and left him before the night was over. Upon receiving word of the scandal and spurred on by rumors that her daughter had also been involved with several women, Mansfield's mother immediately sailed to London and placed her daughter in a spa in Germany, far away from the Bohemian artists' community of London. During her time in Germany, Mansfield suffered a miscarriage and was disinherited. After returning to London, Mansfield continued to write and conduct various love affairs.

In 1911, Mansfield published her first volume of stories, In a German Pension, most of which had been written during her stay at the German spa. That same year she met John Middleton Murry, the editor of a literary magazine. Although they lived together on and off for many years, her other affairs continued. Together Mansfield and Murry published a small journal, the Blue Review, which folded after only three issues. However, the experience led to friendships with members of the literary community of the day, including D. H. Lawrence and Frieda von Richthofen Weekly. In 1918 Mansfield was granted a divorce from Bowden, and she and Murry married.

Stricken with tuberculosis in 1917, Mansfield became very ill. She continued to write, publishing her collections Bliss and Other Stories and The Garden Party and Other Stories in 1920 and 1922 respectively. The latter collection includes both "The Garden Party" and "Miss Brill." The collections received favorable critical attention, and she continued to write even after her health forced her to move to Fontainebleau in France. Though she was separated from Murry for long periods towards the end of her life, it was he who saw that her literary reputation was established by publishing her last stories and her collections of letters after she died of a massive pulmonary hemorrhage in January, 1923, at the age of thirty-four.

Katherine Mansfield Biography

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Introduction

Katherine Mansfield lived an unorthodox life, especially considering the times she lived in. She grew up in New Zealand but later moved to England where she met, married, and left her first husband in the span of three weeks. During the same period, she got pregnant by a family friend but soon had a miscarriage. In 1911, she contracted gonorrhea, which left her wracked with arthritis for the rest of her life. Her first short-story collection was not as successful as she hoped, so she wrote a much darker story, “The Woman at the Store,” which helped her achieve some of the success she so desired. It was not, however, until the end of her life that her writing matured and won her the respect of critics and the public.

Essential Facts

  1. Mansfield was born in a well-to-do family and was first cousin to the author Countess Elizabeth von Arnim, who wrote The Enchanted April.
  2. Before beginning her writing career, Mansfield was a cellist and at first sought her fortune as a professional musician.
  3. Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary that Mansfield’s work was “the only writing I have ever been jealous of.”
  4. Mansfield almost died of pleurisy after getting tuberculosis in 1917. In 1918, she had a major hemorrhage. She sought different treatments, many of which left her in worse shape than when she started.
  5. New Zealand’s most prestigious short-story competition is named after Katherine Mansfield.