Katherine Mansfield (1888 to 1923)
Virginia saw Katherine as her main rival
Kathleen (sic) Mansfield and Virginia Woolf were contemporaries; Virginia being older by six years. Mansfield was born in New Zealand but studied at Queen’s College in London. She started using the pen name of Katherine as she became more successful as a writer. Mansfield had a prolific writing career, she wrote eighty eight stories, some of which remained unfinished; but around sixty of them made it to completion.
I wonder why she preferred Katherine to Kathleen?
The friendship between Katherine and Virginia was complicated. They had a mutual admiration for each other’s work but they shared a rivalry and there was something about Katherine that made Virginia wary of her. They were competitive and ‘liked’ it when the other received poor reviews. They loved that the other was passionate about writing and loved talking about work together but there were occasions of unfriendliness and insincerity that made for a very on-off friendship. Despite this there was always a ‘thing’ between them. The other’s mere existence was always an issue, regardless of whether they were in a friendly period, or not. Katherine suffered with tuberculosis and was very ill, very young. Due to her illness she had to spend many months abroad and this hampered the relationship further. Sometimes they would write to each other then there would be long gaps, but even the gaps were tangible.
When Katherine died in 1923, aged 35, Virginia wrote that there was
no point in writing any more … Katherine won’t read it.
If you fancy reading an essay of mine, relating to Mansfield’s short stories, then please see ‘my essays’ section. This is one of many essays that I submitted for my BA (Hons) Literature (1999 to 2005).