Title: Recollecting Mansfield

Author: Margaret Scott

Publication details: Random House

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Part of: New Zealand Texts Collection

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Recollecting Mansfield


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Nineteen eighty-nine was my fellowship year, and 1990 I spent in the Turnbull's Reference workroom, continuing my task. In that year, too, now that my money had stopped, I applied to the Arts Council for a grant to help me to get to Chicago to do a few weeks' work there. To my amazement they awarded me their 1991 Non-Fiction Bursary, worth $36,000. No longer could I feel that my work was under-acknowledged and under-supported. I was now able to do whatever the work required. So I went to Chicago. Habits of frugality die hard, however, and I took a cheap hotel room that was extremely uncomfortable and not very clean. But it was a short, pleasant walk from the Newberry where I worked every day for three weeks. The Newberry people were brisk, efficient and helpful. The Curator of the Mid-West Manuscripts (and therefore of the Mansfield ones), Diana Haskill, was extremely busy but managed to find time to talk to me about my work and page 151to take me to lunch and tell me useful things about Chicago. When she heard about my contract with Indiana University Press she put through a call to them from her office for me to talk to Joan Catapano, with whom I had been corresponding.

Joan Catapano arranged for me to spend the following weekend in Bloomington, and told me that the best way to get there was by train from Chicago to Indianapolis, where she would meet me and drive me to Bloomington. I was given a fascinating weekend that included a tour of the prestigious Indiana University Press where I discovered, among other things, that they were the original publishers of Gene Stratton Porter's Girl of the Limberlost series that had enchanted me when I was growing up. I was also shown the University and the famous Lilly Library, both extraordinarily attractive institutions.

Back in Chicago, my habit of not spending money unless I really had to was still with me — a permanent feature by this time — so I did not want to eat in restaurants. An occasional quick lunch, yes, but not a twice-daily routine. It was a great piece of good fortune that I found, just around the corner from the hotel, a small supermarket with a most wonderful salad bar. The food was varied, fresh, delicious and cheap. I selected a meal from it every night and took it back to my room. I did a bit of wandering around in the weekends, familiarising myself with the lakefront (shades of Sara Paretsky!) and took a bus tour of the city, but otherwise I just worked until I had finished. Then I managed to make the most of being in the Northern Hemisphere by spending a week with Canadian friends from my Montreal days in their lakeside cottage at Lake Opinicon, and then visiting my son Jonathan in England.