K is for …

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).


4 thoughts on “K is for …

  1. Great post, as usual. I have a question unrelated to this post, though. I have noticed that when referring to the people of Bloomsbury you refer to them as Bloomsberries. Is this the accepted spelling? I had never seen it before.


    1. Hi Brenda. Thanks for your comment. When I started writing about the Bloomsbury Group I thought it was a bit playful to refer to them as Bloomsberries and it went some way to lightening what could be a too serious blog. So I became quite fond of it and thought it was my own interpretation and, as I started to get to know and become fond of the Bloomsberries, it seemed quite appropriate. Anyway, now I see it everywhere on the internet so I wasn’t being original at all! and …. it has a lovely sound to it (you say Bloomsberry quite differently to Bloomsbury don’t you think?) which could well be a consideration for your Wonderful Wordsday!


      1. Thanks for enlightening me. I think it’s a wonderful word, indeed. Maybe I’ll keep it for a post on words by amateur lexologists. Since I’ve been blogging I have discovered two other new words invented by my blogging friends – dressophile, someone who likes dressing up cats and dogs in costume, and ailurochat, to talk to or about your cat. I introduced the Bloomsbury group to a friend last year and she bought a book on Virginia’s garden at Monk’s house. She became a fan and we had a Bloomsbury party where everyone dressed as much as possible like the group. Lots of fun.


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