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Katherine Mansfield

  • How idiotic civilization is! Why be given a body if you have to keep it shut up in a case like a rare, rare fiddle?

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • title story, Bliss ()
  • Why! Why! Why is the middle-class so stodgy — so utterly without a sense of humor?

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • title story, Bliss ()
  • I have made it a rule of my life never to regret and never to look back. Regret is an appalling waste of energy ... you can't build on it; it's only good for wallowing in.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • "Je Ne Parle Pas Français," Bliss ()
  • ... it was like living in a house that couldn't be cured of the habit of catching on fire, on a ship that got wrecked every day.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • "At the Bay," The Garden Party ()
  • Fancy cream puffs so soon after breakfast. The very idea made one shudder. All the same, two minutes later Jose and Laura were licking their fingers with that absorbed inward look that only comes from whipped cream.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • title story, The Garden Party ()
  • ... roses are the only flowers at garden-parties; the only flowers that everybody is certain of knowing.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • title story, The Garden Party ()
  • Josephine had had a moment of absolute terror at the cemetery, while the coffin was lowered, to think that she and Constantia had done this thing without asking his permission. What would father say when he found out? For he was bound to find out sooner or later. He always did. 'Buried. You two girls had me buried!'

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • "The Daughters of the Late Colonel," The Garden Party ()
  • ... he stands, smiling encouragement, like a clumsy dentist.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • "Bank Holiday," The Garden Party ()
  • But then, there comes that moment rare / When, for no cause that I can find, / The little voices of the air / Sound above all the sea and wind.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • "Voices of the Air," Poems ()
  • ... conversation is like a dear little baby that is brought in to be handed round. You must rock it, nurse it, keep it on the move if you want it to keep smiling.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • title story, The Doves' Nest ()
  • ... we cling to our last pleasures as the tree clings to its last leaves.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • "The Fly," The Doves' Nest ()
  • Perhaps it does not matter so very much what it is one loves in this world. But love something one must.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • "The Canary," The Doves' Nest ()
  • ... I love the evening star. Does that sound foolish? I used to go into the backyard, after sunset, and wait for it until it shone above the dark gum tree. I used to whisper 'There you are, my darling.' And just in that first moment it seemed to be shining for me alone. It seemed to understand this ... something which is like longing, and yet it is not longing. Or regret — it is more like regret.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • "The Canary," The Doves' Nest ()
  • ... there does seem to me something sad in life. It is hard to say what it is. I don't mean the sorrow that we all know, like illness and poverty and death. No, it is something different. It is there, deep down, deep down, part of one, like one's breathing.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • "The Canary," The Doves' Nest ()
  • ... if one really does try to find out why it is that people don't leave each other, one discovers a mystery. It is because they can't; they are bound. And nobody on earth knows what are the bonds that bind them except those two.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • "A Married Man's Story," The Doves' Nest ()
  • Do you remember your childhood? I am always coming across these marvelous accounts by writers who declare that they remember 'everything.' I certainly don't. The dark stretches, the blanks, are much bigger than the bright glimpses. I seem to have spent most of my time like a plant in a cupboard.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • "A Married Man's Story," The Doves' Nest ()
  • I love the night. I love to feel the tide of darkness rising, slowly and slowly washing, turning over and over, lifting, floating, all that lies strewn upon the dark beach, all that lies hid in rocky hollows.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • "A Married Man's Story," The Doves' Nest ()
  • Can one do nothing for the dead? And for a long time the answer had been — Nothing!

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • "Six Years After," The Doves' Nest ()
  • Winter is a terrible time for thin people — terrible! Why should it hound them down, fasten on them, worry them so? Why not, for a change, take a nip, take a snap at the fat ones who wouldn't notice? But no! It is sleek, warm, cat-like summer that makes the fat one's life a misery. Winter is all for bones ...

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • "Second Violin," The Doves' Nest ()
  • Children are unaccountable little creatures.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • "Sixpence" (1921), Something Childish ()
  • That's all life is — something childish and very natural. Isn't it?

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • "Something Childish and Very Natural" (1914), Something Childish ()
  • Courage is like a disobedient dog, once it starts running away it flies all the faster for your attempts to recall it.

  • Life is long since asleep in Bruges; fantastic dreams alone breathe over tower and mediaeval house front, enchanting the eye, inspiring the soul and filling the mind with the great beauty of contemplation.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • "A Truthful Adventure" (1910), Something Childish ()
  • In the shortest sea voyage there is no sense of time. You have been down in the cabin for hours or days or years. Nobody knows or cares. You know all the people to the point of indifference. You do not believe in dry land any more — you are caught in the pendulum itself, and left there, idly swinging.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • "The Journey to Bruges" (1910), Something Childish ()
  • For the last two weeks I have written scarcely anything. I have been idle. I have failed.

  • I want, by understanding myself, to understand others. I want to be all that I am capable of becoming ...

  • I feel I must live alone, alone, alone — with artists only to touch the door. Every artist cuts off his ear and nails it on the outside of the door for the others to shout into.

  • Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinions of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth.

  • I have just partaken of that saddest of things — a cup of weak tea.

  • A sudden idea on the relationship between 'lovers.' We are neither male nor female. I choose the male who will develop and expand the male in me; he chooses me to expand the female in him. Being made 'whole.'

  • And wind moving through grass so that the grass quivers. This moves me with an emotion I don't ever understand.

  • September is different from all other months. It is more magical. I feel the strange chemical change in the earth which produces mushrooms is the cause, too, of the extra 'life' in the air — a resilience, a sparkle.

  • What happiness it is to listen to rain at night; joyful relief, ease; a lapping-round and hushing and brooding tenderness, all are mingled together in the sound of the fast-falling rain. God, looking down upon the rainy earth, sees how faint are these lights shining in little windows, — how easily put out ...

  • Letters are the real curse of my existence. I hate to write them: I have to. If I don't, there they are — the great guilty gates barring my way.

  • I think I hate snow, downright hate it. There is something stupefying in it, a kind of 'You must be worse before you're better,' and down it spins.

  • There is no feeling to be compared with the feeling of having written and finished a story.

  • But warm, eager, living life — to be rooted in life — to learn, to desire, to know, to feel, to think, to act. That is what I want. And nothing less. That is what I must try for.

  • When we can begin to take our failures non-seriously, it means we are ceasing to be afraid of them. It is of immense importance to learn to laugh at ourselves.

  • Looking back, I imagine I was always writing. Twaddle it was, too. But better far write twaddle or anything, anything, than nothing at all.

  • Every time one leaves anywhere, something precious, which ought not to be killed, is left to die.

  • She was the same through and through. You could go on cutting slice after slice and you knew you would never light upon a plum or a cherry or even a piece of peel.

  • Oh dear — Oh dear — where are my people? With whom have I been happiest? With nobody in particular. It has all been mush of a mushness.

  • Tidied all my papers. Tore up and ruthlessly destroyed much. This is always a great satisfaction.

  • Whenever I prepare for a journey I prepare as though for death. Should I never return, all is in order. This is what life has taught me.

  • Why it should be such an effort to write to the people one loves I can't imagine. It's none at all to write to those who don't really count.

  • It is strange that there are times when I feel the stars are not at all solemn: they are secretly gay.

  • Such a cultivated mind doesn't really attract me. ... No, no, the mind I love must still have wild places, a tangled orchard where dark damsons drop in the heavy grass, an overgrown little wood, the chance of a snake or two (real snakes), a pool that nobody's fathomed the depth of — and paths threaded with those little flowers planted by the mind.

  • The leaves move in the garden, the sky is pale, and I catch myself weeping. It is hard — it is hard to make a good death ...

  • Everything in life that we really accept undergoes a change. So suffering must become Love.

  • ... I'd always rather be with people who loved me too little rather than with people who loved me too much.

  • Fairylike, the fire rose in two branched flames like the golden antlers of some enchanted stag.

  • If only one could tell true love from false love as one can tell mushrooms from toadstools.

  • Now who is to decide between 'Let it be' and 'Force it'?

  • In the woods where snow is thick, bars of sunlight lay like pale fire.

  • The icicles at dawn this morning were the color of opals — blue lit with fire.

  • To work — to work! It is such infinite delight to know that we still have the best things to do.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • letter to Bertrand Russell (1917), in J. Middleton Murry, ed., The Letters of Katherine Mansfield, vol. 1 ()
  • That is the fearful part of having been near death. One knows how easy it is to die. The barriers that are up for everybody else are down for you, and you've only to slip through.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • 1919, in J. Middleton Murry, ed., The Letters of Katherine Mansfield, vol. 1 ()
  • The wind is like a great bird tumbling over the sea with bright flashing wings.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • 1919, in J. Middleton Murry, ed., The Letters of Katherine Mansfield, vol. 1 ()
  • Yes, my mother's death is a terrible sorrow to me. I feel — do you know what I mean — the silence of it so. She was more alive than anyone I have ever known.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • 1918, in J. Middleton Murry, ed., The Letters of Katherine Mansfield, vol. 1 ()
  • C. came in yesterday to see me, carrying a baby Pekinese. Have you ever seen a really baby one about the size of a fur glove, covered with pale gold down, with paws like minute seal flappers, very large impudent eyes and ears like fried potatoes? Good God! What creatures they are. ... They are like fairy animals.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • 1920, in J. Middleton Murry, ed., The Letters of Katherine Mansfield, vol. 2 ()
  • I don't believe other people are ever as foolishly excited as I am while I'm working. How could they be? Writers would have to live in trees.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • 1920, in J. Middleton Murry, ed., The Letters of Katherine Mansfield, vol. 2 ()
  • But the more poetry one reads the more one longs to read!

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • 1921, in J. Middleton Murry, ed., The Letters of Katherine Mansfield, vol. 2 ()
  • In fact, isn't it a joy — there is hardly a greater one — to find a new book, a living book, and to know that it will remain with you while life lasts?

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • 1922, in J. Middleton Murry, ed., The Letters of Katherine Mansfield, vol. 2 ()
  • Don't think I underestimate the enormous power parents can have. I don't. It's staggering, it's titanic. After, all, they are real giants when we are only table high and they act according. But like everything else in life — I mean all suffering, however great — we have to get over it — to cease from harking back to it — to grin and bear it and to hide the wounds. More than that, and far more true is we have to find the gift in it. We can't afford to waste such an expenditure of feeling; we have to learn from it — and we do, I most deeply believe, come to be thankful for it. ... What I mean is. Everything must be accepted.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • 1921, in J. Middleton Murry, ed., The Letters of Katherine Mansfield, vol. 2 ()
  • ... the pleasure of all reading is doubled when one lives with another who shares the same books.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • 1922, in J. Middleton Murry, ed., The Letters of Katherine Mansfield, vol. 2 ()
  • I love the rain. I want the feeling of it on my face.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • last words (1923), in The Bookman ()
  • Could we change our attitude, we should not only see life differently, but life itself would come to be different. Life would undergo a change of appearance because we ourselves had undergone a change of attitude.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • in Alfred Richard Orage, Selected Essays and Critical Writings ()
  • There is no question of getting beyond it. ... The little boat enters the dark fearful gulf and our only cry is to escape — 'put me on land again.'

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • in J. Middleton Murry, ed., The Letters of Katherine Mansfield ()
  • It [life] never becomes a habit to me — it's always a marvel.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • in J. Middleton Murry, ed., The Letters of Katherine Mansfield ()
  • There can be no harm / In just remembering — that is all.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • "The Arabian Shawl," Poems ()
  • Why do people always put on such airs when they are saying Goodbye? They seem exquisitely glad to be staying. Are they? Or is it envy?

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • 1918, in J. Middleton Murry, ed., The Scrapbook of Katherine Mansfield ()
  • It was one of those days so clear, so still, so silent, you almost feel the earth itself has stopped in astonishment at its own beauty.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • 1928, in J. Middleton Murry, ed., The Scrapbook of Katherine Mansfield ()
  • If you wish to live, you must first attend your own funeral.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • in Antony Alpers, Katherine Mansfield ()
  • I must say I hate money, but it's the lack of it I hate most.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • in Antony Alpers, Katherine Mansfield ()
  • I always feel that the great high privilege, relief and comfort of friendship was that one had to explain nothing.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • in Antony Alpers, Katherine Mansfield ()
  • How hard it is to escape from places. However carefully one goes they hold you — you leave little bits of yourself fluttering on the fences — little rags and shreds of your very life.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • in Leslie Moore, Katherine Mansfield: The Memories of L.M. ()
  • I am treating you as my friend, asking you to share my present minuses in the hope that I can ask you to share my future pluses.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • in Leslie Moore, Katherine Mansfield: The Memories of L.M. ()
  • We can do whatever we wish to do provided our wish is strong enough ... What do you most want to do? That's what I have to keep asking myself, in the face of difficulties.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • in Leslie Moore, Katherine Mansfield: The Memories of L.M. ()
  • The truth is that friendship is to me every bit as sacred and eternal as marriage.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • 1921, The Collected Letters of Katherine Mansfield, vol. 4 ()
  • This is not a letter but my arms around you for a brief moment.

    • Katherine Mansfield

Katherine Mansfield, New Zealand-born English writer

(1888 - 1923)

Full name: Katherine Middleton Murry Mansfield. Born: Kathleen Beauchamp.