Katherine Mansfield

"Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinion of others ... Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth."

Katherine Mansfield is New Zealand’s most internationally famous author. She was a writer of short stories, poetry, letters, journals and reviews, and changed the way the short story was written in the English language. She was a rebel and a modernist who lived her short life of 34 years to the full. Her life spanned a time when gender roles for women underwent a radical change.

Katherine Mansfield was among an emerging female professional class and saw herself as a writer first, a woman second. For more information about Katherine Mansfield, please visit our Resources page.

Katherine Mansfield Family portrait with siblings and mother

Life

‘I am also so supremely afraid of appearing ridiculous – the feeling is fostered by Oscar, who was so absolutely the essence of savoir faire. I like to appear in any society – entirely at my ease – conscious of my own importance, which in my estimation is unlimited, affable and very receptive. I like to appear slightly condescending, very much of le grand monde’

Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp was born on 14 October 1888 at Wellington, New Zealand, in a small wooden house on Tinakori Road in Thordon. She found the confines of colonial Edwardian life stifling and sought inspiration for a new way of living in the writings of Oscar Wilde and other decadents.

She had many voyages, several lovers and counted among her friends Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, Francis Carco and the American artist Anne Estelle Rice.  

Work

"I want so to live that I work with my hands and my feeling and my brain. I want a garden, a small house, grass, animals, books, pictures, music. And out of this, the expression of this, I want to be writing."

In 1911, Katherine Mansfield’s first published collection of short stories In a German Pension was received with success. Reviews spoke of ‘acute insight’ and ‘unquenchable humour’. She then contributed to the avant-garde publication Rhythm, with her partner and husband-to-be, literary critic John Middleton Murray. The Woman at the Store was her first story published in this magazine.

The death of her young brother, Leslie, in the First World War devastated her and she found solace in her remembrance of the country of their childhood. These remembrances were transformed into some of her finest writing such as At the BayThe Garden Party and Prelude. To find out more about this extraordinary talent, drop by and visit us.