The Journal of the DH Lawrence Society of Australia
ISSN No: 1039-9658


A Literary Discovery



© 2009

Though founded on mutual recognition and respect, the relationship between Katherine Mansfield and D.H. Lawrence was a fraught and fractured one. From the time they first met in 1913, Lawrence found Katherine interesting and intelligent - and also a potential literary object. It is well-known that he drew on her for part of the character of Gudrun in Women in Love. A major point of this essay is my finding that he portrayed her, more significantly, in another novel: The Lost Girl.

ON AUGUST 11, 1922, D.H. Lawrence and his wife Frieda left Sydney aboard RMS Tahiti en route to America, New Mexico and Taos. Their first port-of-call was Wellington, New Zealand…'four days over a cold dark, inhospitable sea'1. Lawrence, after he arrived in Taos, composed a cursorily-fictionalised account of this brief stop-over. He appended it at the end of the first typescript (TS1) of Kangaroo (later discarded, but now referred to as the TS1R ending):

At Wellington a great fuss filling in papers for the Immigration Authorities, even though the boat was staying only a day. And another insult from a fat individual who came aboard as chief official. He looked at Harriett's form, saw she was not born in England - or the Empire - and did not give her a landing card. "Why haven't you given me a landing card?" she said….Richard was livid with rage at the fellow's insolence. They waited until the whole gang was through, and he was prepared to have it out with the person. But, having kept them hanging about for an hour, the person was satisfied with himself. He handed Harriett her landing card, saying suavely: "You are going on by this boat, Mrs. Somers?" "I am. I've no desire to stay in New Zealand." After a day in Wellington, cold and stormy, they had less desire than ever to stay in this cold, snobbish, lower middle-class colony of pretentious nobodies […] 2

This incident offered Lawrence little reason to like New Zealanders. However, there was one New Zealander he had a high regard for: Katherine Mansfield, to whom he sent a postcard from Wellington.

He had not seen Katherine for four years, and did not know her current whereabouts, so the postcard went via Lady Ottoline Morrell. Convalescing with tuberculosis in Italy, Katherine reported to her husband Middleton Murry: 'I had a card from Lawrence today - just the one word (Ricordi) - how like him. I was glad to get it though.' 3 The 'memories' Lawrence was looking back to was the friendship the four of them - Katherine, Lawrence, Murry, and Frieda - had shared for five eventful years between 1913 and 1918. While on the boat from Perth to Sydney - just over a week into his antipodean



adventure - he had written to their mutual friend, the Russian exile Koteliansky: 'If you were here you would understand Katherine so much better. She is very Australian - or New Zealand. I wonder how she is.' 4

Before examining the significance and fruits of Mansfield's and Lawrence's relationship, it is useful to recall the course of their interaction, for it was out of this that the literary produce came.5 They met at a critical moment in their all-too-truncated lives. Although both had shown promise as writers, as individuals they were outsiders in the post-Victorian London literary and social scene. Lawrence had risen out of the coal-dusted mining tenements of Nottinghamshire; she had, quixotically, fled distant, provincial New Zealand to try to establish herself as a writer in London. They shared a number of things, as Katherine later acknowledged: 'I am more like Lawrence than anybody. We are unthinkably alike, in fact.' 6

The year 1912 was a turning point for both of them. Katherine and Murry became lovers that year; at the same time 7 Lawrence had run off with Frieda Weekley (nee von Richthofen), the wife of his French teacher. A year later, living with Frieda and revising proofs of Sons and Lovers in Italy, Lawrence received a letter from Katherine, whom at that time he did not know. She was working with Murry on a literary journal, Rhythm, and looking for contributions from promising young writers 8. Lawrence offered to contribute a short story, without payment. This led to Lawrence calling in to the office of what had been renamed The Blue Review on his return to England a few months later. An immediate friendship was struck up between 'the Lawrences' and 'the Murrys'. As well as their common literary interests, there were social bonds, for both couples were 'living in sin', and thus potential social outcasts, too.

That summer of 1913 the two couples saw a lot of each other, before they all returned to France and Italy later that year. The following summer, however, the foursome was back in London, and renewing their friendship. Katherine and Murry attended, and witnessed, Lawrence and Frieda's Kensington

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