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The Aloe


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It Is Probable that Katherine Mansfield destroyed more than three-quarters of her manuscripts. She preserved only those to which she attached importance, as notes for future work. That is the reason why she so carefully kept the manuscript of The Aloe, which she wrote in the early spring of 1916.

The greater part of The Aloe, after much reshaping and rewriting, was incorporated into prelude, a year later, in 1917. But The Aloe contains much material that was page break not used in this way, as readers familiar with prelude will quickly discover.

It could not, however, fairly be included in the ordinary edition of Katherine Mansfield's work, because it repeats, in a less perfect form, the material of prelude. Nor was it possible to separate the additional matter, which needs the context in order to be properly understood. On the other hand there were two cogent reasons for printing it: first, because Kezia and Lottie and Linda and the Burnell family as a whole have become so dear to admirers of Katherine Mansfield's work that it would be ungenerous to withhold from them these further particulars-for instance, the account of Linda's father and her courting by Stanley Burnell, or the description of Linda's sister, Mrs. Trout, at the sewing party; secondly, because a comparison of The Aloe with prelude gives the more critically-minded a unique opportunity for studying Katherine Mansfield's methods of work.

On their account I have been careful to avoid tinkering with the structure of The Aloe, although it is clear that the narrative, as it stands, is inconsistent. At a certain point Katherine Mansfield changed her plan and went back on her narrative. She decided that the Grandmother should not take Linda's breakfast up to her. Instead Linda in her bedroom was forgotten, as she so often longed to be forgotten, and was thus able to make her sudden and beautiful appearance at the page break kitchen window. So that we can conceive the part of the story between p. 51 and p. 66 as representing a side track which Katherine Mansfield came to consider irrelevant to the purpose of her journey. She returned to the point where she had branched off, but she did not destroy the record of her exploration, because she intended to make use of the material in a third story after the fashion of prelude and at the bay. There is no other manuscript of Katherine Mansfield's which throws so clear a light upon her methods of work. And it is chiefly for the sake of those interested in them that I have retained three characteristic little notes which interrupt the course of the narrative.

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