‘Not being an intellectual’, Katherine Mansfield wrote to John Middleton Murry in 1920, ‘I always seem to have to learn things at the risk of my life.’ The remark suggests some of the dangers inherent in the enterprise of attempting to establish KM’s reputation as a critic. She is alluding here, with some hostility, to Murry’s book of critical essays The Evolution of an Intellectual (1920), and distancing herself from the kind of professional criticism produced by Murry, which did not often represent something learnt ‘at the risk of [one’s] life’. In an earlier letter she expressed her distaste for Murry’s intellectual approach: a note of conviction is sustained rather than undermined by her admission of feelings of vulnerability in writing as a (relatively) uneducated woman and as a colonial — the ‘little Colonial’ from Karori.

But this intellectual reasoning is never the whole truth. It’s not the artist’s truth — not creative. If man were an intellect it would do, but man ISN’T. Now I must be fair, I must be fair. Who am I to be certain that I understand? There’s always Karori to shout after me. Shout it.1


Sexual Ambivalence Woman Writer Modernist Writer Extended Metaphor Professional Criticism 
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  1. 4.
    Michael Holroyd, Lytton Strachey: A Critical Biography (1968) II, 538.Google Scholar
  2. 9.
    Leonard Woolf, Beginning Again: An Autobiography of the Years 1911–18 (1964) p. 204.Google Scholar
  3. 27.
    Anthony Alpers, The Life of Katherine Mansfield (1980) p. 353.Google Scholar
  4. 35.
    Elaine Showalter, A Literature of their Own (1978) p. 246.Google Scholar
  5. 38.
    See, in this respect, Alpers, The Life of Katherine Mansfield, and C. A. Hankin, The Confessional Stories of Katherine Mansfield (1983).Google Scholar
  6. 40.
    See, for example, Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar (authors of The Madwoman in the Attic, 1979) in their article ‘Sexual Linguistics: Gender, Language, Sexuality’, New Literary History, 16.3 (Spring 1985) 515–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of St. Paul and St. MaryCheltenhamUK

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