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The Letters of Katherine Mansfield: Volume II

January 1922

To Lady Ottoline Morrell

I tremble to think of the time we spend in bed un-happily. It is out of all proportion. I am fleeing to Paris on Monday next to see if that Russian can bake me or page 177 boil me or serve me up in some more satisfying way—I suppose the snow is very good for one. But it's horrid stuff to take and there's far too much of it. Immense fringes of icicles hang at our windows. Awful looking things like teeth—and every Sunday the Swiss fly into the forest on little sledges shrieking Ho-jé ! Ho-jé positively makes my blood curdle. So off I go on Monday with the Mountain very breathless carrying two large suitcases and begging the suitcases' pardon when she bumps them into things. I shall only go to spy out the land and buy some flowers and wallow in a hot bath. But if the Russian says he can cure me, M. and I shall go to Paris in the Spring and live there for a time. One writes the word ‘cure’—but—but I don't know.

I must ask you if you have read Congreve lately. I have just finished The Way of the World. Do read it! for the sake of the character Mrs. Millamant. I think she is so exquisitely done when she first appears “full sail” and tells the others how she curls her hair. The maid is marvellous in that little scene, too, and the other scene is where she decides finally to have Mirabel. That little conversation between the two seems to me really ravishing in it's own way—It's so delicate—so gay—But it's much best read aloud. What a brilliant strange creature Congreve was—so anxious not to be considered a writer, but only a plain gentleman. And Voltaire's shrewd reply, “If you had been only a gentleman I would not have come to see you”… I love reading good plays; and so does M. We have such fun talking them over afterwards. In fact, the pleasure of all reading is doubled when one lives with another who shares the same books. It is one of the many pleasures of our solitary life. Pleasures we have—ever increasing. I would not change this kind of life for any other. There are moods of course when we long for people. But they pass, leaving no regret, no disillusionment, no horrid remembrance—And one does have time to work. But I wish my new book were a better one. I am terrified of it. But it can't be helped now. M. is page 178 writing hard, and I am in the middle of what looks like a short novel.

I am so glad you liked The Veil.1 There is one poem:

Why has the rose faded and fallen
And these eyes have not seen…

It haunts me. But it is a state of mind I know so terribly well—That regret for what one has not seen and felt—for what has passed by—unheeded. Life is only given once and then I waste it. Do you feel that?

1 See The Veil and Other Poems, by Walter de la Mare.