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The Life of Katherine Mansfield



The Pa Men were a vigorous race. They were descended from characteristic English merchant stock. The Beauchamps were goldsmiths and silversmiths in the City of London for two centuries. It appears to have been the seventeenth-century head of the house, the great-great-great-great-grandfather page 19 of Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp, who had Samuel Pepys for a customer.

“I went into Cheepside to Mr. Beauchamp's, the goldsmith, to look out a piece of plate … and did choose a gilt tankard,”

Pepys recorded on November 14th of 1660. And on the 19th:

“So home, and there came Mr. Beauchamp to me with the gilt tankard, and did pay him for it £20.”

Three years later (June 1st, 1663) the goldsmith was involved in Pepys' more serious affairs:

“So to Mr. Beauchamp, the goldsmith, he being one of the jury to-morrow in Sir W. Batten's case against Field. I have been telling him our case, and I believe he will do us good service.”

And on November 23rd of that year:

“I went to Mr. Beauchamp's, one of our jury, to confer with him about our business with Field at our trial to-morrow.”

From this Master Beauchamp the business descended in the direct line, to Ralph (b. about 1670); to Robert (b. 1717); to Edward (b. 1750); until it came, in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, into the hands of John Beauchamp (b. 1781), who was—in the private language of Katherine Mansfield's family—“The Original Pa Man.” A “Pa Man,” it seemed, was a “character,” rugged, whimsical, vital, life-generating—paternal.

John Beauchamp,“The Original Pa Man,” was page 20 father of the pioneering generation. British New Zealand belonged to his era. Captain James Cook, sighting it on October 16th, 1769, was contemporary with John Beauchamp's father, Edward; and his sister, Jane Beauchamp, was one of those “ladies who appeared the most daring speculators” on July 29th, 1839, when Edward Gibbon Wakefield, in the face of Parliament's refusal of authorisation, arranged the London drawing of 100,000 acres of Wellington lots, prior to his colonisation of the Islands. It was John Beauchamp's sons: Arthur (Katherine Mansfield's grandfather), and Henry Herron (father of her cousin,“Elizabeth,” the Countess Russell), and Cradock of Anikiwa, who helped to push back the frontiers—first of Australia, then of New Zealand. If Katherine Mansfield found herself for ever and for ever part of “that Island,” there was reason enough.

Arthur Beauchamp, born in Hornsey Lane, Highgate, in 1827, was twelve years old when his Aunt bought her dozen sections of Wellington city land, besides two sections in Napier, and a farm in that vicinity. When these lands (which he, as “The True Original Pa Man,” was one day to possess) were purchased, they had not been seen even by Colonel William Wakefield, the founder's brother, who—at that very moment—was sailing toward Wellington in the first expeditionary ship, the Tory, with thirty-five souls, and high hopes of bartering land from the Maoris to meet his obligations to his London purchasers.

Jane Beauchamp's purchase had an odd history.

Had not Lady Laura Tollemache, youngest page 21 daughter of the Countess of Dysart (of Ham House, Richmond Park), entered into her unfortunate marriage, in 1808, with John Dalrymple (later, by the death of his cousin, the seventh Earl of Stair), the whole course of the Beauchamp line would, doubtless, have been different; for, had not Lady Laura's marriage been annulled the following year (1809)—“in consequence of prior contract in 1804′ incurred by John Dalrymple, who, forgetful of an episode in Scotland, was “not considering his previous marriage valid” —she would probably never have become the heirless recluse, dependent upon the friendship of her companion, Jane Beauchamp. As it was, Lady Laura at some twenty odd years, retired to Hamworth Park with her dogs and her parrot, her loyal companion, Jane Beauchamp, and the occasional company of some children, her youngest nieces and nephews. And evidently her disappointed affection was turned towards her companion and her favourite niece. When she made her last will, ten days before her death on July 11th, 1834, she left the following bequests:

“To my nephew the Honorable Algernon Tollemache Two thousand pounds sterling … to Miss Jane Beauchamp now or late of Enfield, in the County of Middlesex Twenty thousand pounds sterling and all my watches and I wish her to choose such of my Plate China Books and Furniture as she may wish to possess which I bequeathe to her accordingly I bequeathe to Trustees for my dear niece Maria Eliza Marchioness of Ailesbury Twenty thousand pounds sterling and all my Diamonds Jewels Trinkets and Ornaments of every description (except watches) and also all the remainder of my Plate Furniture Books page 22 and all other Chattels (except china) not chosen by Miss Beauchamp The said legacy and bequests to be for the sole and separate use of my said niece independent of her husband and to all intents and purposes as if she were a fem sole And I bequeathe the remainder of my china not chosen by the said Miss Beauchamp to my dear mother the Countess of Dysart to whom I also bequeathe my Horses Coach Dog Cows and other live stock And I give to the said Miss Beauchamp my favorite dogs Daphne and Zoe and also my Parrot and I bequeathe her an annuity of one hundred pounds per Annum during the life of each of my said Dogs and fifty pounds a year during the life of my said Parrot …
“And I appoint the said Niece the Marchioness of Ailesbury and the said Jane Beauchamp Executors of this my will …”

Subsequently, when the Hon. Algernon Tollemache (who was a younger son) grasped the opportunity for land speculation in an unexplored country, and bought so heavily in the Wakefield venture, he became “one of the largest landholders in New Zealand, both in the North Island and in the Wairau.” He was joined in his speculation by the two women. The Marchioness of Ailesbury purchased four sections; Miss Jane Beauchamp four times as much again.

In those years, one may conjecture, the destiny of the Beauchamp colonial line depended upon the temper of a woman. The natural thing would have been for Jane Beauchamp to have come to the rescue of the silversmith's business, which was tottering. This honourable house, now established in Holborn, had changed its character with the times. It had launched out into industrial manufacture. John page 23 Beauchamp had invented and patented an imitation silverware (named by him “British Plate”), but apparently he lacked the capital, and perhaps also the business enterprise, to push his new invention. One might have expected his sister Jane, now a wealthy woman, to back him: in which case the Beauchamp sons, like their forefathers, would have been manufacturers in London instead of adventurers in the Antipodes. But it is tempting to imagine that the companion of Lady Laura Tollemache felt implacable towards a brother who had descended to Brummagem. Whether for this cause or another, she and her brother were hostile—were, in fact, never reconciled, and her estate was left, some years later, to distant cousins. Except the New Zealand lands, which went to Arthur.

Or it may be that his sister was estranged not by his vulgar business concentration, but by his lack of it. For John Beauchamp,“The Original Pa Man,” is said to have preferred fox-hunting to business. A new strain—not commercial—seems to have appeared in him. He was fond of poetry, especially the verse of younger contemporary poets: Coleridge and Byron. It was with him that Arthur learned the hundreds of verses from Byron which he later employed to such advantage in the Colonies. John Beauchamp, himself, occasionally tried verse writing, and by the publication of The Rook in the local press, came to be known as “the Poet of Hornsey Lane.”

The Rook

“The morn dawned bright, the sun was high,
The Duke, went out his hawks to try,
page 24 Well trained, he judged, I ween:
The rook was circling high in air,
His new-fledged pinions to prepare,
No danger there was seen.
“The hood was cast, the bird up flew,
He missed the prey that was in view,
And pounded on the rock;
With broken wing he fell to ground,
The village boys were playing round,
And pity on him took.
“Pity, first germ of generous thought,
Young nature's impulse felt untaught,
Thy kindly spark I prize;
Prospective virtue, noble mind,
Justice, mercy, love of kind,
All that adorns the wise …” (etc.)

John Beauchamp's wife, Anne Stone (greatgrandmother of Katherine Mansfield), was one of six sisters known as “The Six Precious Stones.” Anne was a beautiful girl—one of the fadeless ones—“looking more beautiful than ever” as she grew older. She and a younger sister, Harriet Honour, who married C. R. Leslie, the artist, were so alike that it was difficult to tell whether the Royal Academician had painted his latest picture from his wife,“Harry,” or his sister-in-law, Anne.

Both women wore—under their huge poke bonnets—a deceptive look of gentle obedience (being “good wives” in the particular fashion of the period); but though the eyes were dark and dreamy, wide-set under broad brows, the mouth, full-lipped and bow-shaped, was yet very firm. And there was something more—a bit of the fay—in their look; probably from that slight, unexpected flare of page 25 nostrils of a longish, well-cut nose; or perhaps from the way the head was set to the shoulders. It is the face that appears in most of Leslie's better pictures, for “Harry” became his “Stunner” when she became his wife. When Anne Beauchamp sat for him (for instance as “The Widow Wadman,” one of his most popular tableau portraits), she appeared so like her sister as to be but a variation of the feminine type he was making so popular among his contemporaries.

Both women were more intellectual companions to their husbands than was usual in their era. Mrs. Beauchamp shared her husband's enjoyment of poetry; Mrs. Leslie supported hers in his heroworship of contemporary artists of whom (with his “well-intended reticence”) he preserved in his Memoirs“only the good.” It is significant that John Constable, R.A., who knew them so well, should have written to Leslie:“You are always right and if not, you and Mrs. Leslie together are never failing.” If Anne Beauchamp's relation to her husband was slightly different, in this particular respect, it must not be forgotten that she had married a “Pa Man.”

The Leslies were a part of the artistic coterie living in St. John's Wood, safely removed—like the Constables in Well Walk, Hampstead, and the Beauchamps in Hornsey Lane, Highgate—from the “unhealthy humours” of “the slimy marshes of Chelsea and Paddington and St. Pancras.” Though the trip between any two of these was “so much expense” (in a fly), and to have “safely made the journey” sufficient cause for a letter of congratula- page 26 tion, the families were close-knit in the bond of children of the same age, and exchanged frequent visits.

John Constable had met the Beauchamps through Leslie, and his two boys were thrilled by the Holborn workshop.

“I went with my boys to Mr. Beauchamp's last evng.” (Constable wrote to Leslie on January 20th, 1833)“their delight was great—not only at the very great kindness of Mr. and Mrs. Beauchamp and the boys, but at the sight of almost all that was to their heart's content—forges—smelting potts—metals—straps—and bellows—coals ashes dust—dirt—cinders —and everything else that is agreeable to boys.
“They want me to build them just such a place under my painting room—and had I not better do so—and give up landscape painting. Poor Mrs. Beauchamp was suffering with toothache—but her politeness made her assure me that I succeeded in ‘taking it off’.”

And on another day:

“John” (who was age eight)“set off alone to Holborn yesterday. Master Beauchamp has engaged him to ‘mind his carronade’—which he did very nicely.”

From these artistic circles—rather than from the Highgate Grammar School—Arthur Beauchamp probably derived those advantages in culture which, in colonial life later, placed him beside men of good birth and background. John Constable was not the only eminent acquaintance of Arthur's uncle, Leslie, for he frankly admitted the pleasure he found in “consorting with his superiors.” Turner was an associate of his; Edwin Landseer, the dark curly- page 27 headed“boy dog” was in the Academy when Leslie, in his first years over from America, was studying on a Philadelphia grant. Washington Irving was an intimate family friend. Leslie, despite his weakness for men of eminence, lived in closely-knit family ties; and Arthur's associations with the St. John's Wood family began very early.

In July, 1830, when his mother was posing for “The Widow Wadman,” Arthur (the sixth of nine sons) was three years old. Since he was the youngest Beauchamp at the time, it is probable that he was taken with her to the St. John's Wood studio, opening off a garden, from which his handsome young uncle “picked a honeysuckle or a rose” daily before breakfast for the glass “on the mantelshelf of his painting room,” hung, not with his own compositions, but with his copies of the masters. The oldest cousin, Robert Leslie, was four at the time; the boys were of an age to have begun the habit of intimacy, amusing each other while the artist (“keeping up a kind of whistling”) posed his sister-in-law, Anne Beauchamp, as the too refined captivator of Uncle Toby.