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Journal of Katherine Mansfield

“Je me repose.”

Je me repose.

April 25. “Well sit down, Mansfield, and reposez-vous,” said F., “and I'll get on with my dressing.”

So he went into his bedroom and shut the door between, and I sat on the end of the sofa. The sun came full through the two windows, dividing the studio into four—two quarters of light and two of shadow, but all those things which the light touched seemed to float in it, to bathe and to sparkle in it as if they belonged not to land, but to water; they even seemed, in some strange way, to be moving.

When you lean over the edge of the rock and see something lovely and brilliant flashing at the bottom of the sea it is only the clear, trembling water that dances—but—can you be quite sure? … No, not quite sure, and that little Chinese group on the writing table may or may not have shaken itself awake for just one hundredth of a second out of hundreds of years of sleep.

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Very beautiful, O God! is a blue tea-pot with two white cups attending; a red apple among oranges addeth fire to flame—in the white bookcases the books fly up and down in scales of colour, with pink and lilac notes recurring, until nothing remains but them, sounding over and over.

There are a number of frames, some painted and some plain, leaning against the wall, and the picture of a naked woman with her arms raised, languid, as though her heavy flowering beauty were almost too great to bear. There are two sticks and an umbrella in one corner, and in the fireplace, a kettle, curiously like a bird.

White net curtains hang over the windows. For all the sun it is raining outside. The gas in the middle of the room has a pale yellow paper shade, and as F. dresses he keeps up a constant whistling.

Oui, je me repose….

April 26. If I had my way I should stay in the Redcliffe Road until after the war. It suits me. Whatever faults it has it is not at all bourgeois. There is ‘something a bit queer’ about all the people who live in it; they are all more or less ‘touched.’ They walk about without their hats on and fetch and carry their food and even their coal. There are nearly four bells to every door— the curtains are all ‘odd’ and shabby. The charwomen, blown old flies, buzz down each other's basements…. “No. 56 'ad a party last night. You never seen anything like the stite of page 80 'is room this morning….” “… 'Igh time 'e did get married, I say. 'Is fiangse spends the night with 'im already. 'E says she 'as 'is bed and 'e sleeps on the table. You don't tell me a great stick of a fellow like 'im sleeps on 'is table!”

Question: But do you like this sort of talk? This kind of thing? What about the Poets and —flowers and trees?

Answer: As I can't have the perfect other thing, I do like this. I feel, somehow, free in it. It has no abiding place, and neither have I. And —and—Oh well, I do feel so cynical.

[Since it was out of the question that K.M. should remain in my two dark ground-floor rooms in Redcliffe Road, she went on May 17 to Looe in Cornwall, while I searched for a house in Hampstead.]

May 21. [Looe, Cornwall.] … I positively feel, in my hideous modern way, that I can't get into touch with my mind. I am standing gasping in one of those disgusting telephone boxes and I can't ‘get through.’

“Sorry. There's no reply,” tinkles out the little voice.

“Will you ring them again—Exchange? A good long ring. There must be somebody there.” “I can't get any answer.”

Then I suppose there is nobody in the building —nobody at all. Not even an old fool of a watchman. No, it's dark and empty and quiet … above all—empty.

Note: A queer thing is that I keep seeing it— this empty building—as my father's office. I page 81 smell it as that. I see the cage of the clumsy wooden goods lift and the tarred ropes hanging.

May 22. The sea here is real sea. It rises and falls with a loud noise, has a long, silky roll on it as though it purred, seems sometimes to climb half up into the sky and you see the sail boats perched upon clouds—like flying cherubs.

Hallo! here come two lovers. She has a pinched in waist, a hat like a saucer turned upside down— he sham panama, hat guard, cane, etc.; his arm enfolding. Walking between sea and sky. His voice floats up to me: “Of course, occasional tinned meat does not matter, but a perpetual diet of tinned meat is bound to produce …”

I am sure that the Lord loves them and that they and their seed will prosper and multiply for ever and ever….

[Those of the following phrases which are marked K.M. (by herself) are her own. One or two of the rest may be quotations.]

… to meet, on the stopping of the chariot, the august emergence.

The jewel wrapped up in a piece of old silk and negotiable one day in the market of misery.

Luxuriant complications which make the air too tropical….

The sense of folded flowers … as though the night had laid its hand upon their hearts and they were folded and at peace like folded flowers. (K.M.)

… plucked her sensations by the way, detached, nervously, the small wild blossoms of her dim forest.

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The high luxury of not having to explain….

The ostrich burying its head in the sand does at any rate wish to convey the impression that its head is the most important part of it. (K.M. Good.)

Though she did in a way, simply offer herself to me she was so cold, so rich, so splendid, that I simply couldn't see a spoon silver enough to dare help myself with…. (K.M.)

If there were going to be large freedoms she was determined to enjoy them too. She wasn't going to be perched, swaying perilous in the changing jungle like a little monkey dropped from a tree on to an elephant's head—and positively clinging to some large ear. (K.M.)

She was the same through and through. You could go on cutting slice after slice and you knew you would never light upon a plum or a cherry or even a piece of peel.

Our friends are only a more or less imperfect embodiment of our ideas….

June. Looe. Feature Extraordinary: Shoes that have never squeaked before start up a squeaking.

A cold day—the cuckoo singing and the sea like liquid metal. Everything feels detached—uprooted—flying through the hurtling air or about to fly. There's almost a sense of having to dodge these unnatural rudderless birds…. To use a homely image, imagine the world an immense drying ground with everything blown off the lines…. It is very nervously exhausting.

And the day spent itself…. The idle hours blew on it and it shed itself like seed….

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[Mrs. Honey, in the following note, was the chambermaid in the hotel at Looe, and like most of her servants, devoted to Katherine Mansfield.]