Images above: The Beauchamp children c.1898. Alexander Turnbull Library, PAColl-4488;
Katherine Mansfield 1914. Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/4-017274-F.
Katherine Mansfield was born Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp at 11 (later renumbered to 25) Tinakori Road, Thorndon on 14 October 1888.
The third daughter of Harold and Annie Beauchamp, Mansfield spent her childhood in Wellington where she attended Karori Normal School, Wellington Girls' High School (now known as Wellington Girls' College) and the private Fitzherbert Terrace School. She then travelled to London in 1903 with her two older sisters to attend Queen’s College. On her return home at the end of 1906, she felt stifled by colonial Wellington and her respectable, upper-class family and longed to escape.
A writer from an early age, Mansfield had stories published in newspapers and periodicals while still a teenager. After her time at Queen’s College, she was determined to make a career from her writing, especially once her initial dream of becoming a professional cellist was met with disapproval from her parents. In 1908, she convinced her father to let her return to London and left New Zealand in July that year.
Mansfield went on to become an internationally acclaimed writer best known for her Modernist short stories. She published three collections of short stories during her lifetime: In a German Pension (1911), Bliss and Other Stories (1920) and The Garden Party and Other Stories (1922). She also published poetry and reviews in literary journals. Her work was admired by fellow 20th-century writers, including Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, Thomas Hardy and Elizabeth Bowen. She spent time living in England, Germany, France, Italy and Switzerland and mixed with many progressive and well-known writers, artists, intellectuals and philosophers.
Her journals and letters evoke a passionate individual, dedicated to her craft, whose life was tragically cut short by tuberculosis on 9 January 1923, aged 34. She is buried in the Cimetière d'Avon in France. Following her death, her husband John Middleton Murry published two further collections of her short stories, The Dove's Nest and Other Stories (1923) and Something Childish and Other Stories (1924), as well as excerpts from her journals and selected letters.
The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography entry on Mansfield offers an excellent overview of her life, as does this 50-minute documentary A Portrait of Katherine Mansfield made in 1986 and available online in full through NZ On Screen. Many of her stories can also be found online.
If you're researching Katherine Mansfield, you may find the following resources useful.
Katherine Mansfield Researchers' Guide - National Library of New Zealand, 2019. This guide has been designed to help with researching Katherine Mansfield and includes an overview of Mansfield items held in the Alexander Turnbull Library and National Library collections.
Many of Katherine Mansfield's short story collections can be found online through the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre. Click on the title below to access the 'Contents' page of each collection. Once you're on the 'Contents' page, click on a page number, the story title, or one of the '+' symbols to go to a particular story, or click 'next section' to start on the first page and continue on through the pages of the online book:
Some popular individual ‘New Zealand’ stories you might like to start with are listed below, click on the title of the story to access it:
More individual stories can be found on the Katherine Mansfield Society's website here.
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