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Katherine Mansfield

One of New Zealand's most acclaimed writers, Katherine Mansfield (1888 - 1923) has been credited with 'revolutionising the English short story.' 

Katherine Mansfield

She was born Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp in Wellington, New Zealand, 14 October 1888. Her family was socially prominent and well-to-do, but perhaps not the most nurturing. Her mother upon returning from nine months abroad reportedly remarked to her young daughter, "Well, Kathleen, I see that you are as fat as ever." 

At 15 Mansfield was sent to school in London and spent three years in Europe, studying and travelling. She returned reluctantly to New Zealand in 1906 and left for good two years later for Europe, where she'd spend the remainder of her short but not uneventful life. She married and divorced twice, had romantic relationships with men and women, suffered a miscarriage, and after being diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1917 sought out cures for her illness.

Throughout it all, Mansfield wrote and built a reputation as a modernist storyteller. According to, Mansfield's "best work shakes itself free of plots and endings and gives the story, for the first time, the expansiveness of the interior life, the poetry of feeling, the blurred edges of personality." A key figure in the development of the short story, "She is also the great ghost of New Zealand cultural life, felt but not quite grasped." 

Her literary contemporaries could not deny her talents - try though they might. Virginia Woolf, admittedly quite jealous of Mansfield's writing abilities, once wrote, "... the more she is praised, the more I am convinced she is bad." 

Mansfield died 9 January 1923 at age 34. Her importance as a modernist writer may not be widely known, but her words live on. 

Unknown poems by Katherine Mansfield found in a Chicago library

Katherine Mansfield

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