Journal of Katherine Mansfield
[January - February 1920]
January 1. J. prepares to go. Drying figs on the stove, and white socks drying from the mantel-piece. A dish of oranges and rain-wet leaves—a pack of cards on the table. It rains but it is warm. The jonquil is in bud. We linger at the door. L.M. sings.
January 2. J. left for London. The house very empty and quiet. I was ill all day—exhausted. In the afternoon fell asleep over my work and missed the post. My heart won't lie down. No post. During the night the cat picture became terrifying.
January 3. A load of wood. Sent review. Cold day. Miss S. called—deadly dull. Her yawn and recovery. Storm of wind and rain. I had nightmare about J. He and I ‘separated.’ Miss S. talked about tulips, but she makes all sound so fussy: the threads of her soul all ravelled.
January 4. Cold, wet, windy, terrible weather. Fought it all day. Horribly depressed. D. came to tea; but it was no good. Worked. Two wires from J. According to promise. I cannot write. page 138 The jonquils are out, weak and pale. Black clouds pull over.
Immediately the sun goes in I am overcome—again the black fit takes me. I hate the sea. There is naught to do but work. But how can I work when this awful weakness makes even the pen like a walking-stick?
January 5. Nuit blanche. Decided at 3 a.m. that D. was a homicidal maniac. Certain of this. Started my story, ‘Late Spring.’ A cold bitter day. Worked on Tchehov all day and then at my story till 11 p.m. Anna came. We talked about her to her face in English. No letters. Post Office strike. Anna's bow and velvet blouse.
January 6. Black day. Dark, no sky to be seen; a livid sea; a noise of boiling in the air. Dreamed the cats died of anti-pneumonia. Heart attack 8 a.m. Awful day. No relief for a moment. Couldn't work. At night changed the position of my bed. At five o'clock I thought I was at sea tossing—for ever. N.B.
January 7. On the verandah. I don't want a God to praise or to entreat, but to share my vision with. This afternoon looking at the primula after the rain. I want no one to dance and wave their arms. I only want to feel they see, too.
January 8. Black. A day spent in Hell. Unable to do anything. Took brandy. Determined not to weep—wept. Sense of isolation frightful. I page 139 shall die if I don't escape. Nauseated, faint, cold with misery. Oh, I must survive it somehow.
January 9. Black. Another of them. In the afternoon Foster came and agreed I must leave here. Somehow or other I wrote a column. Broke my watch glass. In the evening L.M. and I were more nearly friendly than we have been for years. I couldn't rest or sleep. The roaring of the sea was insufferable.
January 10. Spent the evening writing another column. Help me, God! And then L.M. came in to say I was half-an-hour slow. Just did it in time. Had talk with L.M. Our friendship is returning—in the old fashion. Thought out “The Exile.”1 Appalling night of misery.
January 11. Worked from 9.30 till a quarter after midnight only stopping to eat. Finished the story. Lay awake then until 5.30 too excited to sleep. In the sea drowned souls sang all night. I thought of everything in my life, and it all came back so vividly…. These are the worst days of my whole life.
January 12. Posted the story and a telegram. Very tired. The sea howled and boomed and roared away. When will this cup pass from me? Oh, misery! I cannot sleep. I lie retracing my steps—going over all the old life before….
1 Afterwards called “The Man without a Temperament”; see Bliss.
January 13. Bad day. A curious smoky effect over the coast. I crawled and crept about the garden in the afternoon. I feel terribly weak and all the time on the verge of breaking down. Tried to work; could not work. At six o'clock went back to bed. Had a dreadful nightmare.
January 14. Foster came: says my lung is remarkably better, but must rest absolutely for two months and not attempt to walk at all. I have got a “bigger chance.” Bell rang at night. My eye pains me. Cannot get a move on. Dreamed about B. She gave me her baby to mind.
January 15. Sat in my room watching the day change to evening. The fire like a golden stag. Thinking of the past always; dreaming it over. The cotton plant has turned yellow. To-night the sea is down. P.O. strike. No, no letters.
January 16. Wrote and sent reviews. Stayed in bed, worked. Had a bath. The day was very lovely. I had to work hard. In the evening began my new story “A Strange Mistake.”1 P.O. strike for letters and telegrams. At night I could not sleep. My life in London seems immeasurably far and all like a dream. L.M. talked of herself as a child.
1 Subsequently called The Wrong House: see “Something Childish, and Other Stories,” where it is wrongly dated 1919.
January 18. No letters: strike still on. A fine day. But what is that to me? I am an invalid. I spend my life in bed. Read Shakespeare in the morning. I feel I cannot bear this silence to-day. I am haunted by thoughts.
January 19. No letters or papers. V. came; and Mrs. V. and Miss S. in white. “The trouble I've had with you, Mrs. Murry, and the expense it's put me to—more fuss than if you'd died there.” The women against the flowers were so lovely—even Miss S. I had a dreadful crying fit about “noise and cleanliness.” It was horrible.
January 20. Washed my hair. L.M. out all day. Here alone—a perfect day. I wandered in the garden…. There was a ship, white and solid on the water. Overcoat disappeared. The fire in my room and the double light. All was exquisitely beautiful. “Good-bye.” It now believes we are going and it is safe.
January 21. A day like a dream. V.'s hair, stick, jacket, teeth, tie—all to be remembered. “To use a volgarism, I'm fed up.” The journey—the flowers—and these women here. Jinnie's black page 142 satin neckcloth and pearl pin. This exquisite cleanliness turns me into a cat.
[On this day K.M. finally left the Casetta for a nursing home in Mentone.]
January 22. Saw the doctor: a fool. The Casetta left to itself: the little winds blowing, the shutters shut, the cotton plant turning yellow. Spent a tiring morning. My heart hurts me. The meals downstairs are a fearful strain. But the people naïve.
January 23. Saw two of the doctors—an ass, and an ass. Spent the day at my window. It was very lovely and fair. But I was trying to work all day and could not get down to it. In the night had appalling nightmare.
January 24. Cousin C. brought the tiny dog to see me—a ravishing animal. The same despairing desire to work, and could not work. I suppose I started reviewing T. nine or ten times. Felt very tired as a result of this.
January 25. The meals here are a horror. I seem to be sitting hours and hours there, and the people are ugly. Nevertheless, thank God I am here, in sound of the train, in reach of the post.
January 26. Felt ill with fatigue and cold and my lungs hurt. It is because I am not working. All is a bit of a nightmare for that reason. My page 143 temper is so bad! I feel I am horrid and can't stop it. It's a bad feeling.
January 27. The woman who does the massage is not really any good. My life is queer here. I like my big airy room, but to work is so hard. At the back of my mind I am so wretched. But all the while I am thinking over my philosophy—the defeat of the personal.
January 28. I shall not remember what happened on this day. It is a blank. At the end of my life I may want it, may long to have it. There was a new moon: that I remember. But who came or what I did—all is lost. It's just a day missed, a day crossing the line.
January 30. I tried all day to work and feel dog-tired. Perhaps it's the massage. Jinnie came to see me and brought me a present from her little dog.
January 31. Changed my room for this other. I prefer it. It is more snug and there is only one bed.
February 1. My room is horrible. Very noisy: a constant clatter and a feeling as though it were doorless. French people don't care a hang how much noise they make. I hate them for it. Stayed in bed; felt very ill, but don't mind because of the reason. The food was really appalling: nothing to eat. At night old Casetta feelings, like madness. Voices and words and half-visions.page 144
February 2. Connie and Jinnie came and brought a notice of my book [“Bliss”]. I brought in more flowers. Saw the lovely palm. Love will win if only I can stick to it. It will win after all and through all.
February 3. Went for a little walk in the garden and saw all the pale violets. The beauty of palm trees. I fell in love with a tree. Japonica is a lovely flower, but people never grow enough of it.
February 4. Horrible day. I lay all day and half slept in this new way—hearing voices.
February 5. Went for a drive. All the way gay. The house and the girl. Couldn't work: slept again. Dreadful pain in joints. Fearfully noisy house! Saw an orange-tree, an exquisite shape against the sky: when the fruit is ripe the leaves are pale yellow.
February 6. Determined to review two books to-day and to get on with “Second Helping.” Saw the fool of a doctor to-day. Diddle-dum-dum-dee! Cod is the only word! Bad-in-age! Flat-ter-ie! Gal-ant-ter-ie! Frogs!!! Vous pouvez vous promener. Liar. The palm tree. Did not finish review; but no matter, it goes.
February 7. House in a perfect uproar. Dreadfully nervous. Dressmaker came and her little apprentice who gave me the flowers. Had a bath—but all was in a tearing hurry and clatter. Had page 145 a strange dream. “She is one with the moonlight.” George Sand—ma sœur.
February 8. To Villa Flora. In the garden with the unhappy woman lying on the hard bench. The Spanish brocade cloth—the piece of heliotrope. Jinnie's plan that I shall go and live there. Came back and wrote it all to J. in delight. I for the first time think I should like to join the Roman Catholic Church. I must have something.
[Shortly afterwards K.M. left the nursing home to stay at the Villa Flora with her cousin Miss Beauchamp and her friend Miss Fullerton, whose devoted care of her was rewarded by a rapid and remarkable improvement in her health.]