Enid Bagnold Katherine Mansfield - Essay

Katherine Mansfield

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

If Miss Bagnold had chosen that her heroine [in 'The Happy Foreigner'] should lead the most sheltered and protected life that is left for a young woman to endure, we are confident that there would have blossomed within its narrow boundaries flowers as rich and as delicate as those which Fanny gathered on the strange roads of France. For she understands how it is vain to seek adventure unless there is the capacity for adventure within us…. 'The Happy Foreigner' exists for a proof of how she ventured, and to tell how great was her reward. (p. 232)

Fanny, an English girl, goes to France at the end of the war and drives a car for the French Army. She falls in love, but it comes to nothing, and the end might be the beginning. That is all. Who Fanny is, what her life has been up till the moment she is discovered for us 'stretched upon the table of the Y.W.C.A.' in Paris, on her way to Bar-le-Duc, we are not told. She remains from first to last an unknown young woman, secret, folded within herself, a 'happy foreigner.' She is almost without fear; nothing can overwhelm her or cast her down, because it is her nature, and unchangeable, to find in all things a grain of living beauty. We have the feeling that she is, above all, unbroken…. Praise be to Miss Bagnold for giving us a new heroine, a pioneer, who sees, feels, thinks, hears, and yet is herself full of the sap of life. (p. 233)

Katherine Mansfield, "A Hymn to Youth" (originally published in The Athenaeum, July 16, 1920, No. 4707), in her Novels and Novelists, edited by J. Middleton Murry (copyright 1930, copyright renewed © 1958 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.; reprinted by permission of The Society of Authors as the literary representative of the Estate of Katherine Mansfield), Knopf, 1930, pp. 232-34.