The Life of Katherine Mansfield
Mr. And Mrs. Trowell were sailing for London. They were her last tangible link with London; and it was breaking. Wellington without them seemed so disastrous that it didn't bear thinking about. Now had come the time to gather all forces for the one last desperate dash for freedom—into what? Kathleen Beauchamp longed to pierce through the inscrutable:
“2nd Sept., 1907.“O let me lift it, ever so slightly. It hangs before me—ever—heavy, motionless—this curtain which veils the future. Let me just hold a corner up and peep beyond. Then maybe I shall be content. They leave N.Z. all of them, my people—My Father—It has come, of course. I used to think—so long as they are here, I can bear it. And now—I shall somehow or other go too—You just see!”
She writes to him, just before he went:
“My dear Mr. Trowell—
“I cannot let you leave without telling you how grateful I am and must be all my life for what you have page 282 done for me and given me. You have shown me that there is something so immensely higher and greater than I had ever realised before in music, and therefore too, in life.
“Do you know, so many times when you have been with me, I have felt that I must tell you that when I came from England, friendless and sorrowful, you changed all my life. And music, which meant much to me before in a vague, desultory fashion, is now fraught with meaning.
“Please, I want you to remember that all my life I am being grateful and happy and proud to have known you. Looking back, I have been so stupid, and you so patient. I think of that little canon of Cherubini's as a gate, opened with so much difficulty and leading to so wide a road.
“I wish you everything with both hands and all my heart. What I look forward to as the greatest joy I can imagine is to share a program with you at a London concert.”
By the end of October (1907) her state of desperation was bearing her away on a flood tide beyond even her own control. She felt not only the division in her life, rendering both halves useless, but she was suffocated by the realisation that time was passing quickly, and all her powers, all her talents, lying dormant. That force within her, impelling her to take life quickly, to live it to its full before it was out of her grasp, goaded her, until she was “in a fever of living” :
“21. x. 07.“… I shall certainly not be here much longer. Thank Heaven for that! Even when I am alone in my room, they come outside and call to each other, discuss the butcher's orders or the soiled linen and—I feel—wreck my life. It is so humiliating. And page 283 this morning I do not wish to write, but to read Marie Bashkirtseff. But if they enter the room and find me merely with a book, their tragic, complaining looks upset me altogether.“Here in my room I feel as though I was in London—in London. To write the word makes me feel that I could burst into tears. Isn't it terrible to love anything so much? I do not care at all for men, but London—it is Life…. I am longing to consort with my superiors. What is it with me? Am I absolutely nobody, but merely inordinately vain? I do not know…. But I am most fearfully unhappy. That is all. I am so unhappy that I wish I was dead—yet I should be mad to die when I have not yet lived at all.“Well, I have sat here for two hours and read. My right hand is quite cold…. If she comes into the room I sit on the Marie Bashkirtseff and seize my pen. She leans against the door rattling the handle and says:—‘ Are you writing a colossal thing—or an ordinary thing—or any thing exciting?’ How completely inane! I tell her to leave the room at once. Now if this door would open and Mimi walk in, Mimi or Ida or my charming Gwen—how happy I should be—with all three I can be myself. Outside the window there is a lumbering sound of trams and a sound of birds’ song. Now here comes tea, and I fall to the temptation—as usual.“I am so damnably thankful that I did not allow J. to kiss me. I am constantly hearing of him, and I feel to meet him would be horrible. But why? It is ridiculous. I used him merely for copy. I am always 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 du grand monde, and to be the centre of interest. Yes, but quelquefois to my page 284 unutterable chagrin, unmistakable shyness seizes me. Isn't it ludicrous? I become conscious of my hands, and slightly inclined to blush.“22nd October.“I thank Heaven that at present, though I am damnable, I am in love with nobody except myself.”