Journal of Katherine Mansfield
The ‘Life’ of Life
The ‘Life’ of Life.
I bought a book by Henry James yesterday and read it, as they say, ‘until far into the night.’ It was not very interesting or very good, but I can wade through pages and pages of dull, turgid James for the sake of that sudden sweet shock, that violent throb of delight that he gives me at times. I don't doubt this is genius: only there is an extraordinary amount of pan and an amazingly raffiné flash—
One thing I want to annotate. His hero, Bernard Longueville, brilliant, rich, dark, agile, etc., though a witty companion, is perhaps wittiest and most amused when he is alone, and preserves his best things for himself…. All the attributive adjectives apart I am witty, I know, and a good companion—but I feel my case is exactly like his—the amount of minute and delicate joy I get out of watching people and things when I am alone is simply enormous—I really only have ‘perfect fun’ with myself. When I see a little girl running by on her heels like a fowl in the wet, and say ‘My dear, there's a gertie,’ I laugh and enjoy it as I never would page 30 with anybody. Just the same applies to my feeling for what is called ‘nature.’ Other people won't stop and look at the things I want to look at, or, if they do, they stop to please me or to humour me or to keep the peace. But I am so made that as sure as I am with anyone, I begin to give consideration to their opinions and their desires, and they are not worth half the consideration that mine are. I don't miss J. at all now—I don't want to go home, I feel quite content to live here, in a furnished room, and watch. It's a pure question of weather, that's what I believe. (A terrific Gertie has just passed.) Life with other people becomes a blur: it does with J., but it's enormously valuable and marvellous when I'm alone, the detail of life, the life of life.