Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Journal of Katherine Mansfield


page 41


January 22. [Villa Pauline, Bandol.] Now, really, what is it that I do want to write? I ask myself, Am I less of a writer than I used to be? Is the need to write less urgent? Does it still seem as natural to me to seek that form of expression? Has speech fulfilled it? Do I ask anything more than to relate, to remember, to assure myself?

There are times when these thoughts halffrighten me and very nearly convince. I say: You are now so fulfilled in your own being, in being alive, in living, in aspiring towards a greater sense of life and a deeper loving, the other thing has gone out of you.

But no, at bottom I am not convinced, for at bottom never has my desire been so ardent. Only the form that I would choose has changed utterly. I feel no longer concerned with the same appearance of things. The people who lived or whom I wished to bring into my stories don't interest me any more. The plots of my stories leave me perfectly cold. Granted that these people exist and all the differences, complexities and resolutions are true to them—why should I write about them? They are not near me. All the false threads that bound me to them are cut away quite.

page 42

Now—now I want to write recollections of my own country. Yes, I want to write about my own country till I simply exhaust my store. Not only because it is “a sacred debt” that I pay to my country because my brother and I were born there, but also because in my thoughts I range with him over all the remembered places. I am never far away from them. I long to renew them in writing.

Ah, the people—the people we loved there—of them, too, I want to write. Another “debt of love.” Oh, I want for one moment to make our undiscovered country leap into the eyes of the Old World. It must be mysterious, as though floating. It must take the breath. It must be “one of those islands….” I shall tell everything, even of how the laundry-basket squeaked at 75. But all must be told with a sense of mystery, a radiance, an afterglow, because you, my little sun of it, are set. You have dropped over the dazzling brim of the world. Now I must play my part.

Then I want to write poetry. I feel always trembling on the brink of poetry. The almond tree, the birds, the little wood where you are, the flowers you do not see, the open window out of which I lean and dream that you are against my shoulder, and the times that your photograph “looks sad.” But especially I want to write a kind of long elegy to you … perhaps not in poetry. Nor perhaps in prose. Almost certainly in a kind of special prose.

And, lastly, I want to keep a kind of minute page 43 notebook, to be published some day. That's all. No novels, no problem stories, nothing that is not simple, open.

K. M.

February 13. I have written practically nothing yet, and now again the time is getting short. There is nothing done. I am no nearer my achievement than I was two months ago, and I keep half-doubting my will to perform anything. Each time I make a move my demon says at almost the same moment: “Oh, yes, we've heard that before!” And then I hear R.B. in the Café Royal, “Do you still write?” If I went back to England without a book finished I should give myself up. I should know that, whatever I said, I was not really a writer and had no claim to “a table in my room.” But if I go back with a book finished it will be a profession de foi pour toujours. Why do I hesitate so long? Is it just idleness? Lack of will-power? Yes, I feel that's what it is, and that's why it's so immensely important that I should assert myself. I have put a table to-day in my room, facing a corner, but from where I sit I can see some top shoots of the almond-tree and the sea sounds loud. There is a vase of beautiful geraniums on the table. Nothing could be nicer than this spot, and it's so quiet and so high, like sitting up in a tree. I feel I shall be able to write here, especially towards twilight.

Ah, once fairly alight—how I'd blaze and burn! Here is a new fact. When I am not writing I feel my brother calling me, and he is not happy. Only when I write or am in a state of writing—a state page 44 of “inspiration”—do I feel that he is calm…. Last night I dreamed of him and Father Zossima. Father Zossima said: “Do not let the new man die.” My brother was certainly there. But last evening he called me while I sat down by the fire. At last I obeyed and came upstairs. I stayed in the dark and waited. The moon got very bright. There were stars outside, very bright twinkling stars, that seemed to move as I watched them. The moon shone. I could see the curve of the sea and the curve of the land embracing, and above in the sky there was a round sweep of cloud. Perhaps those three half-circles were very magic. But then, when I leaned out of the window I seemed to see my brother dotted all over the field —now on his back, now on his face, now huddled up, now half-pressed into the earth. Wherever I looked, there he lay. I felt that God showed him to me like that for some express purpose, and I knelt down by the bed. But I could not pray. I had done no work. I was not in an active state of grace. So I got up finally and went downstairs again. But I was terribly sad…. The night before, when I lay in bed, I felt suddenly passionate. I wanted J. to embrace me. But as I turned to speak to him or to kiss him I saw my brother lying fast asleep, and I got cold. That happens nearly always. Perhaps because I went to sleep thinking of him, I woke and was he, for quite a long time. I felt my face was his serious, sleepy face. I felt that the lines of my mouth were changed, and I blinked like he did on waking.

page 45

This year I have to make money and get known. I want to make enough money to be able to give L.M. some. In fact, I want to provide for her. That's my idea, and to make enough so that J. and I shall be able to pay our debts and live honourably. I should like to have a book published and numbers of short stories ready. Ah, even as I write, the smoke of a cigarette seems to mount in a reflective way, and I feel nearer that kind of silent, crystallised being that used to be almost me.

February 14. I begin to think of an unfinished memory which has been with me for years. It is a very good story if only I can tell it right, and it is called “Lena.” It plays in New Zealand and would go in the book. If only I can get right down to it.

Dear brother, as I jot these notes, I am speaking to you. To whom did I always write when I kept those huge complaining diaries? Was it to myself? But now as I write these words and talk of getting down to the New Zealand atmosphere, I see you opposite to me, I see your thoughtful, seeing eyes. Yes, it is to you. We were travelling—sitting opposite to each other and moving very fast. Ah, my darling, how have I kept away from this tremendous joy? Each time I take up my pen you are with me. You are mine. You are my playfellow, my brother, and we shall range all over our country together. It is with you that I see, and that is why I see so clearly. That is a great mystery. My brother, I have doubted these page 46 last few days. I have been in dreadful places. I have felt that I could not come through to you. But now, quite suddenly, the mists are rising, and I see and I know you are near me. You are more vividly with me now this moment than if you were alive and I were writing to you from a short distance away. As you speak my name, the name you call me by that I love so—“Katie!”—your lip lifts in a smile—you believe in me, you know I am here. Oh, Chummie! put your arms round me. I was going to write: Let us shut out everybody. But no, it is not that. Only we shall look on at them together. My brother, you know, with all my desire, my will is weak. To do things—even to write absolutely for myself and by myself—is awfully hard for me. God knows why, when my desire is so strong. But just as it was always our delight to sit together—you remember?—and to talk of the old days, down to the last detail—the last feeling—looking at each other and by our eyes expressing when speech ended how intimately we understood each other—so now, my dear one, we shall do that again. You know how unhappy I have been lately. I almost felt: Perhaps “the new man” will not live. Perhaps I am not yet risen…. But now I do not doubt. It is the idea (it has always been there, but never as it is with me to-night) that I do not write alone. That in every word I write and every place I visit I carry you with me. Indeed, that might be the motto of my book. There are daisies on the table and a red flower, like a poppy, shines through. Of daisies I will write. Of the page 47 dark. Of the wind—and the sun and the mists. Of the shadows. Ah! of all that you loved and that I too love and feel. To-night it is made plain. However often I write and rewrite I shall not really falter, dearest, and the book shall be written and ready.

February 15. I have broken the silence. It took long. Did I fail you when I sat reading? Oh, bear with me a little. I will be better. I will do all, all that we would wish. Love, I will not fail. To-night it is very wild. Do you hear? It is all wind and sea. You feel that the world is blowing like a feather, springing and rocking in the air like a balloon from Lindsay's. I seem to hear a piano sometimes, but that's fancy. How loud the wind sounds! If I write every day faithfully a little record of how I have kept faith with you—that is what I must do. Now you are back with me. You are stepping forward, one hand in your pocket. My brother, my little boy brother! Your thoughtful eyes! I see you always as you left me. I saw you a moment alone—by yourself—and quite lost, I felt. My heart yearned over you then. Oh, it yearns over you to-night and now! Did you cry? I always felt: He never, never must be unhappy. Now I will come quite close to you, take your hand, and we shall tell this story to each other.

February 16. I found “The Aloe”1 this morning. And when I had re-read it I knew that I was not page 48 quite “right” yesterday, No, dearest, it was not just the spirit. “The Aloe” is right. “The Aloe” is lovely. It simply fascinates me, and I know that it is what you would wish me to write. And now I know what the last chapter is. It is your birth—your coming in the autumn. You in Grandmother's arms under the tree, your solemnity, your wonderful beauty. Your hands, your head—your helplessness, lying on the earth, and, above all, your tremendous solemnity. That chapter will end the book. The next book will be yours and mine. And you must mean the world to Linda; and before ever you are born Kezia must play with you—her little Bogey. Oh, Bogey—I must hurry. All of them must have this book. It is good, my treasure! My little brother, it is good, and it is what we really meant.

February 17. I am sad to-night. Perhaps it is the old forlorn wind. And the thought of you spiritually is not enough to-night. I want you by me. I must get deep down into my book, for then I shall be happy. Lose myself, lose myself to find you, dearest. Oh, I want this book to be written. It Must be done. It must be bound and wrapped and sent to New Zealand. I feel that with all my soul…. It will be.

1 “The Aloe” was the original version of Prelude. It exists in its original and longer form, and will be published with the remaining fragments of Katherine Mansfield's writings.

A Recollection of Childhood.

Things happened so simply then, without preparation and without any shock. They let me go into my mother's room (I remember page 49 standing on tiptoe and using both hands to turn the big white china door-handle) and there lay my mother in bed with her arms along the sheet, and there sat my grandmother before the fire with a baby in a flannel across her knees. My mother paid no attention to me at all. Perhaps she was asleep, for my grandmother nodded and said in a voice scarcely above a whisper, “Come and see your little sister.” I tiptoed to her voice across the room, and she parted the flannel, and I saw a little round head with a tuft of goldy hair on it and a big face with eyes shut—white as snow. “Is it alive?” I asked. “Of course,” said grandmother. “Look at her holding my finger.” And—yes, a hand, scarcely bigger than my doll's, in a frilled sleeve, was wound round her finger. “Do you like her?” said my grandmother. “Yes. Is she going to play with the doll's house?” “By-and-by,” said the grandmother, and I felt very pleased. Mrs. Heywood had just given us the doll's house. It was a beautiful one with a verandah and a balcony and a door that opened and shut and two chimneys. I wanted badly to show it to someone else.

“Her name is Gwen,” said the grandmother. “Kiss her.”

I bent down and kissed the little goldy tuft. But she took no notice. She lay quite still with her eyes shut.

“Now go and kiss mother,” said the grandmother.

But mother did not want to kiss me. Very languid, leaning against the pillows, she was eating page 50 some sago. The sun shone through the windows and winked on the brass knobs of the big bed.

After that grandmother came into the nursery with Gwen, and sat in front of the nursery fire in the rocking chair with her. Meg and Tadpole were away staying with Aunt Harriet, and they had gone before the new doll's house arrived, so that was why I so longed to have somebody to show it to. I had gone all through it myself, from the kitchen to the dining-room, up into the bedrooms with the doll's lamp on the table, heaps and heaps of times.

When will she play with it?” I asked grandmother.

“By-and-by, darling.”

It was spring. Our garden was full of big white lilies. I used to run out and sniff them and come in again with my nose all yellow.

“Can't she go out?”

At last, one very fine day, she was wrapped in the warm shawl and grandmother carried her into the cherry orchard, and walked up and down under the falling cherry flowers. Grandmother wore a grey dress with white pansies on it. The doctor's carriage was waiting at the door, and the doctor's little dog, Jackie, rushed at me and snapped at my bare legs. When we went back to the nursery and the shawl was taken away, little white petals like feathers fell out of the folds. But Gwen did not look, even then. She lay in grandmother's arms, her eyes just open to show a line of blue, her face very white, and the one tuft of goldy hair standing up on her head.

page 51

All day, all night grandmother's arms were full. I had no lap to climb into, no pillow to rest against. All belonged to Gwen. But Gwen did not notice this; she never put up her hand to play with the silver brooch that was a half-moon with five little owls sitting on it; she never pulled grandmother's watch from her bodice and opened the back by herself to see grandfather's hair; she never buried her head close to smell the lavender water, or took up grandmother's spectacle case and wondered at its being really silver. She just lay still and let herself be rocked.

Down in the kitchen one day old Mrs. M'Elvie came to the door and asked Bridget about the poor little mite, and Bridget said, “Kep' alive on bullock's blood hotted in a saucer over a candle.” After that I felt frightened of Gwen, and I decided that even when she did play with the doll's house I would not let her go upstairs into the bedroom—only downstairs, and then only when I saw she could look.

Late one evening I sat by the fire on my little carpet hassock and grandmother rocked, singing the song she used to sing to me, but more gently. Suddenly she stopped and I looked up. Gwen opened her eyes and turned her little round head to the fire and looked and looked at, and then—turned her eyes up to the face bending over her. I saw her tiny body stretch out and her hands flew up, and “Ah! Ah! Ah!” called the grandmother.

Bridget dressed me next morning. When I went into the nursery I sniffed. A big vase of page 52 the white lilies was standing on the table. Grandmother sat in her chair to one side with Gwen in her lap, and a funny little man with his head in a black bag was standing behind a box of china eggs.

“Now!” he said, and I saw my grandmother's face change as she bent over little Gwen.

“Thank you,” said the man, coming out of the bag. The picture was hung over the nursery fire. I thought it looked very nice. The doll's house was in it—verandah and balcony and all. Gran held me up to kiss my little sister.

Recollections of College.

J.'s application is a perpetual reminder to me. Why am I not writing too? Why, feeling so rich, with the greater part of this to be written before I go back to England, do I not begin? If only I have the courage to press against the stiff swollen gate all that lies within is mine; why do I linger for a moment? Because I am idle, out of the habit of work and spendthrift beyond belief. Really it is idleness, a kind of immense idleness—hateful and disgraceful.

I was thinking yesterday of my wasted, wasted early girlhood. My college life, which is such a vivid and detailed memory in one way, might never have contained a book or a lecture. I lived in the girls, the professor, the big, lovely building,1 the leaping fires in winter and the abundant flowers in summer. The views out of the windows, all the pattern that was—weaving. Nobody saw

1 Queen's College, Harley Street, London.

page 53 it, I felt, as I did. My mind was just like a squirrel. I gathered and gathered and hid away, for that long “winter” when I should rediscover all this treasure—and if anybody came close I scuttled up the tallest, darkest tree and hid in the branches. And I was so awfully fascinated in watching Hall Griffin and all his tricks—thinking about him as he sat there, his private life, what he was like as a man, etc., etc. (He told us he and his brother once wrote an enormous poem called the Epic of the Hall Griffins.) Then it was only at rare intervals that something flashed through all this busyness, something about Spenser's Faery Queen or Keats's Isabella and the Pot of Basil, and those flashes were always when I disagreed flatly with H.G. and wrote in my notes—This man is a fool. And Cramb, wonderful Cramb! The figure of Cramb was enough, he was “history” to me. Ageless and fiery, eating himself up again and again, very fierce at what he had seen, but going a bit blind because he had looked so long. Cramb striding up and down, filled me up to the brim. I couldn't write down Cramb's thunder. I simply wanted to sit and hear him. Every gesture, every stopping of his walk, all his tones and looks are as vivid to me as though it were yesterday—but of all he said I only remember phrases—“He sat there and his wig fell off—” “Anne Bullen, a lovely pure creature stepping out of her quiet door into the light and clamour,” and looking back and seeing the familiar door shut upon her, with a little click as it were,—final.

But what coherent account could I give of the page 54 history of English Literature? And what of English History? None. When I think in dates and times the wrong people come in—the right people are missing.1 When I read a play of Shakespeare I want to be able to place it in relation to what came before and what comes after. I want to realize what England was like then, at least a little, and what the people looked like (but even as I write I feel I can do this, at least the latter thing), but when a man is mentioned, even though the man is real, I don't want to set him on the right hand of Sam Johnson when he ought to be living under Shakespeare's shadow. And this I often do.

Since I came here I have been very interested in the Bible. I have read the Bible for hours on end and I began to do so with just the same desire. I wanted to know if Lot followed close on Noah or something like that. But I feel so bitterly I should have known facts like this: they ought to be part of my breathing. Is there another grown person as ignorant as I? But why didn't I listen to the old Principal who lectured on Bible History twice a week instead of staring at his face that was very round, a dark red colour with a kind of bloom on it and covered all over with little red veins with endless tiny tributaries that ran even up his forehead and were lost in his bushy white hair.

1 On the opposite page is a long list of the chief figures in the history of English Literature, working backwards from the eighteenth century. Evidently, Katherine Mansfield had been trying to test her knowledge. In the final result, the list, though it is much corrected, is singularly accurate.

page 55 He had tiny hands, too, puffed up, purplish, shining under the stained flesh. I used to think, looking at his hands—he will have a stroke and die of paralysis…. They told us he was a very learned man, but I could not help seeing him in a double-breasted frock-coat, a large pseudoclerical pith helmet, a large white handkerchief falling over the back of his neck, standing and pointing out with an umbrella a probable site of a probable encampment of some wandering tribe, to his wife, an elderly lady with a threatening heart who had to go everywhere in a basket-chair arranged on the back of a donkey, and his two daughters, in thread gloves and sand shoes—smelling faintly of some anti-mosquito mixture.

As he lectured I used to sit, building his house, peopling it—filling it with Americans, ebony and heavy furniture—cupboards like tiny domes and tables with elephants' legs presented to him by grateful missionary friends…. I never came into contact with him but once, when he asked any young lady in the room to hold up her hand if she had been chased by a wild bull, and as nobody else did I held up mine (though of course I hadn't). “Ah,” he said, “I am afraid you do not count. You are a little savage from New Zealand”—which was a trifle exacting, for it must be the rarest thing to be chased by a wild bull up and down Harley Street, Wimpole Street, Welbeck Street, Queen Anne, round and round Cavendish Square….

And why didn't I learn French with M. Huguenot? What an opportunity missed! What page 56 has it not cost me! He lectured in a big narrow room that was painted all over—the walls, door, and window-frames, a grey shade of mignonette green. The ceiling was white, and just below it there was a frieze of long looped chains of white flowers. On either side of the marble mantelpiece a naked small boy staggered under a big platter of grapes that he held above his head. Below the windows, far below there was a stable court paved in cobble stones, and one could hear the faint clatter of carriages coming out or in, the noise of water gushing out of a pump into a big pail—some youth, clumping about and whistling. The room was never very light, and in summer M.H. liked the blinds to be drawn half-way down the window…. He was a little fat man.

The old man could not get over the fact that he was still strong enough to lift such a lump of a boy. He wanted to do it again and again, and even when the little boy was awfully tired of the game the old man kept putting out his arms and smiling foolishly and trying to lift him still higher. He even tried with one arm….

Saunders Lane.

March 12. Our house in Tinakori Road stood far back from the road. It was a big, white-painted square house with a slender pillared verandah and balcony running all the way round it. In the front from the verandah edge the garden sloped away in terraces and flights of concrete steps—down—until you reached the page 57 stone wall covered with nasturtiums that had three gates let into it—the visitors' gate, the Tradesman's gate, and a huge pair of old iron gates that were never used and clashed and clamoured when Bogey and I tried to swing on them.

Tinakori Road was not fashionable; it was very mixed. Of course there were some good houses in it, old ones, like ours for instance, hidden away in wildish gardens, and there was no doubt that land there would become extremely valuable, as Father said, if one bought enough and hung on.

It was high, it was healthy; the sun poured in all the windows all day long, and once we had a decent tramway service, as Father argued….

But it was a little trying to have one's own washerwoman living next door who would persist in attempting to talk to Mother over the fence, and then, just beyond her ‘hovel,’ as Mother called it, there lived an old man who burned leather in his back yard whenever the wind blew our way. And further along there lived an endless family of halfcastes who appeared to have planted their garden with empty jam tins and old saucepans and black iron kettles without lids. And then just opposite our house there was a paling fence, and below the paling fence in a hollow, squeezed in almost under the fold of a huge gorse-covered hill, was Saunder's Lane.

[K.M. seems to have made this the scene of her story, The Garden Party.]

March. Jinnie Moore was awfully good at elocution. Was she better than I? I could make page 58 the girls cry when I read Dickens in the sewing class, and she couldn't. But then she never tried to. She didn't care for Dickens; she liked something about horses and tramps and shipwrecks and prairie fires—they were her style, her reckless, red haired, dashing style.

[The following is an unposted letter written to Frederick Goodyear, a close friend of both Katherine Mansfield and myself. He was at this time serving in France in the Meteorological section of the Royal Engineers. A few months afterwards he applied for a commission in an infantry regiment in order to go to the fighting line. There he was killed, in May 1917. It should be put on record that no single one of Katherine Mansfield's friends who went to the war returned alive from it. This will explain the profound and ineradicable impression made upon her by the war, an impression which found utterance in the last year of her life in the story, “The Fly.”

Frederick Goodyear, who was three years my senior at Brasenose, was certainly the most brilliant undergraduate at Oxford in my time. He was the first of my friends to be introduced to Katherine Mansfield after I had made her acquaintance, and he became her friend. He accompanied us to Paris on our unfortunate expedition in the winter of 1913. His letters and literary remains, with a biographical memoir by Mr. F. W. Leith-Ross, were published in 1920. The concluding words of his letter to Katherine Mansfield, to which hers was a reply, are these:

“The fact is I'm simply in a chronic surly temper with life: and Nothing, if I can possibly help it, shall make me emerge.

We want a definition. If love is only love when it is resistless, I don't love you. But if it is a relative emotion, I do.

Personally, I think everything everywhere is bunkum.

Fredk. Goodyear

page 59

Sunday. Villa Pauline, Bandol (V ar). Mr. F.G. Never did cowcumber lie more heavy on a female's buzzum than your curdling effugion which I have read twice and won't again if horses drag me. But I keep wondering, and can't for the life of me think, whatever there was in mine to so importantly disturb you. (Henry James is dead. Did you know?) I did not, swayed by a resistless passion, say that I loved you. Nevertheless I am prepared to say it again looking at this pound of onions that hangs in a string kit from a saucepan nail. But why should you write to me as though I'd got into the family way and driven round to you in a hansom cab to ask you to make a respectable woman of me? Yes, you're bad tempered, suspicious, and surly. And if you think I flung my bonnet over you as a possible mill, my lad, you're mistook.

In fact, now I come to ponder on your last letter I don't believe you want to write to me at all, and I'm hanged if I'll shoot arrows in the air. But perhaps that is temper on my part; it is certainly pure stomach. I'm so hungry, simply empty, and seeing in my mind's eye just now a sirloin of beef, well browned with plenty of gravy and horseradish sauce and baked potatoes, I nearly sobbed. There's nothing here to eat except omelettes and oranges and onions. It's a cold, sunny, windy day—the kind of day when you want a tremendous feed for lunch and an armchair in front of the fire to boa-constrict in afterwards. I feel sentimental about England now—English food, decent English waste! How page 60 much better than these thrifty French, whose flower gardens are nothing but potential salad bowls. There's not a leaf in France that you can't ‘faire une infusion avec,’ not a blade that isn't ‘bon pour la cuisine.’ By God, I'd like to buy a pound of the best butter, put it on the window sill and watch it melt to spite 'em. They are a stingy uncomfortable crew for all their lively scrapings…. For instance, their houses—what appalling furniture—and never one comfortable chair. If you want to talk the only possible thing to do is to go to bed. It's a case of either standing on your feet or lying in comfort under a puffed-up eiderdown. I quite understand the reason for what is called French moral laxity. You're simply forced into bed—no matter with whom. There's no other place for you. Supposing a young man comes to see about the electric light and will go on talking and pointing to the ceiling—or a friend drops in to tea and asks you if you believe in Absolute Evil. How can you give your mind to these things when you're sitting on four knobs and a square inch of cane? How much better to lie snug and give yourself up to it.


Now I've eaten one of the omelettes and one of the oranges. The sun has gone in; it's beginning to thunder. There's a little bird on a tree outside this window not so much singing as sharpening a note. He's getting a very fine point on it; I expect you would know his name. page 61 … Write to me again when everything is not too bunkum.

Good-bye for now!
With my strictly relative love

K. M.

Notes on Dostoevsky.

March. Nastasya Filipovna Barashkov (“The Idiot”).

Page 7. She is first mentioned by Rogozhin in the train, and she is immediately ‘recognised’ by a man with a red nose and a pimpled face who ‘knows all about her’.

“Armance and Coralie and Princess Patsy and Nastasya Filipovna.”

“We'll go and see Nastasya Filipovna.”

Prophetic words.

Page 9. Why did she accept the ear-rings from a man she had never seen? She was not greedy for jewels. She had plenty, and she was extremely particular in her conduct towards other men. Is that a kind of Russian custom? To accept the ear-rings as a kind of recognition of her beauty?

Pages 26, 27. The Portrait: “Dark and deep, passionate and disdainful.”

Page 33. “Her face is cheerful, but she has passed through terrible suffering, hasn't she? … It's a proud face, awfully proud, but I don't know whether she is good hearted. Ah! If she were! That would redeem it all.”

Page 37. The Story of Nastasya. That change in her when she appears in Petersburg—her knowledge, almost ‘technical’, of how things page 62 are done in the world, is not at all impossible. With such women it seems to be a kind of instinct. (Maata was just the same. She simply knew these things from nowhere.) Her action, that Dostoevsky says is ‘from spite,’ is to shew her power, and that when he has jerked out the weapon with which he wounded her she feels the dreadful smart.

Having read the whole of “The Idiot” through again, and fairly carefully, I feel slightly more bewildered than I did before as regards Nastasya Filipovna's character. She is really not well done. She is badly done. And there grows up as one reads on a kind of irritation, a balked fascination, which almost succeeds finally in blotting out those first and really marvellous ‘impressions’ of her. What was Dostoevsky really aiming at?

Shatov and his Wife (“The Possessed”).

There is something awfully significant about the attitude of Shatov to his wife, and it is amazing how, when Dostoevsky at last turns a soft but penetrating and full light upon him, how we have managed to gather a great deal of knowledge of his character from the former vague side-lights and shadowy impressions. He is just what we thought him; he behaves just as we would expect him to do. There is all that crudity and what you might call ‘shock-headedness’ in his nature —and it is wonderfully tragic that he who is so soon to be destroyed himself should suddenly realise—and through a third person—through a little squealing baby—the miracle just being alive is.

page 63

Every time I read those chapters about his newborn happiness I cherish a kind of tiny hope that this time he will escape—he will be warned, he won't die.

How did Dostoevsky know about that extraordinary vindictive feeling, that relish for little laughter—that comes over women in pain? It is a very secret thing, but it's profound, profound. They don't want to spare the one whom they love. If that one loves them with a kind of blind devotion as Shatov did Marie, they long to torment him, and this tormenting gives them real positive relief. Does this resemble in any way the tormenting that one observes so often in his affairs of passion? Are his women ever happy when they torment their lovers? No, they too are in the agony of labour. They are giving birth to their new selves. And they never believe in their deliverance.

[After our return from Bandol in April 1916, we lived at Higher Tregerthen in North Cornwall, then at Mylor in South Cornwall. In September 1916 we came to London.]

[November. 3 Gower Street.] It is so strange! I am suddenly back again, coming into my room and desiring to write, Knock, goes Miss Chapman at the door. A man has come to clean the windows. I might have known it!

And so death claims us. I am sure that just at that final moment a knock will come and Somebody Else will come to ‘clean the windows’.

B. has given me his fountain pen. The room page 64 is full of smoke to-night, the gas bubbles as if the pipes were full of water. It's very quiet. I have rather a cold, but I feel absolutely alive after my experience of this afternoon.

December 8. I thought and thought this morning but to not much avail. I can't think why, but my wit seems to be nearly deserting me when I want to get down to earth. I am all right—sky-high. And even in my brain, in my head, I can think and act and write wonders—wonders; but the moment I really try to put them down I fail miserably.