Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2019


The latter end of Katherine Mansfield’s life (1915-1923), a time considered by many to be the most fruitful years of her career, also marked a period of self-examination and introspection for the author. Much of this self-reflection focused on Mansfield’s long-standing frustration with her New Zealand heritage—which she had abandoned in favor of a bohemian life of writing and creativity—with an emerging desire for a more traditional sense of home and domestic life. Two letters written by Mansfield during this time reflect the dissonance caused by these desires. The first letter, written in 1915 to her husband, John Middleton Murray, expresses Mansfield’s unexpected longing for a life of more traditional domesticity. She writes, “Why haven't I got a real 'home', a real life—Why haven't I got a Chinese nurse with green trousers and two babies who rush at me and clasp my knees . . . Shall I ever have them?” (Letters 177). In a later letter, written in 1922 to her friend and South African writer Sarah Gertrude Millin, Mansfield’s recalls with a tone of regret her former renunciation of the middle-class values and domesticity of her life in colonial New Zealand. “I am a 'Colonial’ . . . I hated it. It seemed to me a small petty world. I longed for 'my' kind of people . . . And after a struggle I did get out of the nest finally and came to London, at eighteen, never to return, said my disgusted heart . . . It’s only in those years I’ve really been able to work and always my thoughts and feelings go back to New Zealand” (Letters 80).