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Journal of Katherine Mansfield

[An unposted letter.]

[An unposted letter.]

Your letters sounded insincere to me; I did not believe them. People don't write such things; they only think they do, or they read them in books. But real life is on quite another plane. If I were not ill, I still would have withdrawn from the world because of my hatred of insincerity. It makes me dreadfully uncomfortable and unhappy. I could have answered your letter just in your vein and ‘accepted’ it, you knowing how I accepted it and I knowing that you knew—but it wouldn't have lasted. It would have been another cul de sac relationship. What good would that have been to either of us?

You see—to me—life and work are two things indivisible. It's only by being true to life that page 175 I can be true to art. And to be true to life is to be good, sincere, simple, honest. I think other people have given you a wrong idea of me, perhaps. I like to love only my friends. I have no time for anything less precious. Friendship is an adventure; but do we agree about the meaning of the word ‘adventure’? That's so important! That's where I feel we would quarrel. If you came on to our boat should we have understood one another?

You must not think I am ‘prejudiced’ or unfair. I am not. I still wish it were possible; but I cannot, and I won't pretend. Let us really and truly know where we are first. Let us be open with each other and not concealing anything.

January 14. “To be happy with you seems such an impossibility! It requires a luckier star than mine! It will never be…. The world is too brutal for me.” [Keats to Fanny Brawne, August 1820.]

[February?] Le travail, même mauvais, vaut mieux que la rêverie.

“But I can't see why you should mind, so much,” she said for the hundredth time. “I can't see what it is you object to. It isn't as though people would notice you even. Goodness me! I'm always meeting them since … since …” She broke off. “And it seems such a waste, too. There it is, standing in the hall, doing nothing. It seems so ungrateful, after it's been lent to you, page 176 not to give it a trial at least. Why don't you say something?”

She was pinning on her hat in front of the mirror in the sitting room. Her outdoor jacket and gloves lay across a chair. And when he still didn't answer her she made a little weary hopeless face at the mirror which meant: “Oh dear, we're in one of our moods again!”

“If it's me you're thinking of by any chance,” she said quickly, snatching at the jacket——

Here is Marie with the supper. And I shall have to endure her until it is over. But that is not important: what is, is that I have not written anything to-day worth a sou. I have passed the day in a kind of idleness. Why? Does it take so long to begin again? Is it my old weakness of will?

Oh, I must not yield! I must this evening, after my supper, get something done. It's not so terribly hard after all. And how shall I live my good life if I am content to pass even one day in idleness? It won't do. Control—of all kinds. How easy it is to lack control in little things! And once one does lack it the small bad habits—tiny perhaps—spring up like weeds and choke one's will. That is what I find.

My temper is bad; my personal habits are not above reproach; I'm ungracious—mentally untidy. I let things pass that I don't understand (unpardonable!) and I excuse myself, invent pretexts for not working. Yet is my desire to be idle greater than my desire to work? Is my page 177 love of rêverie greater than my love of action. Treacherous habit! Habit above all others evil and of long standing! I must give it up at once or lose my self-respect…. He that faileth in little things shall not succeed in great things. Even my handwriting. From this moment it too must change. After supper I must start my Journal and keep it day by day. But can I be honest? If I lie, it's no use.

[I joined K.M. at Mentone in February 1921, when The Athenæum ceased separate publication. At the beginning of May K.M. left Mentone for Switzerland, while I returned to England to lecture at Oxford, rejoining her at Sierre at the end of May. After a little while we went up to Montana to a furnished chalet (“Chalet des Sapins”). For some weeks the action of K.M.'s heart in the high altitude gave her great pain.]

May 5. Genève: Salle d'attente. The snow lay like silver light on the tops of the mountains.

In the chill, greenish light, the wide motionless rivers looked as though they were solid, and the pale furrowed earth, with white fruit-trees like coral branches, looked as if it were water.

Later. The station clock.