To Be Withering Like Mansfield

   Here is a website to get you celebrity fiends excited: Letters of Note, where letters written by well-known names, to well-known names, or about well-known names are posted. And to the gratification of  literature fiends the website also includes many letters posted by the literary greats. A particularly cynical letter by Evelyn Waugh reviewing Joseph Heller’s “Catch 22” and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wisdom imparting letter to his young daughter. This is the kind of thing I yearn for. And admit it, you do, too. Don’t we all want to see into the minds of our favorite authors?

   Katherine Mansfield happens to be one of my favorite authors so I was very gratified to stumble across a little gem of hers (she wrote many gems, both fictional and non-fictional). In fact I’ll just copy the article straight from the website:

Thursday, 5 April 2012

 

 Katherine Mansfield

I do not like scolding people

In March of 1921, Katherine Mansfield wrote the following stern letter to fellow author Princess Elizabeth Bibesco, a woman who for some time had been having an affair with Mansfield’s husband of three years, the critic John Murry. Their marriage had been a turbulent one, and she had to some degree come to terms with the infidelity. What she couldn’t stand, however, were the love letters.

(Source: Katherine Mansfield: Selected Letters; Image: Katherine Mansfield, via.)

24 March, 1921


Dear Princess Bibesco,


I am afraid you must stop writing these little love letters to my husband while he and I live together. It is one of the things which is not done in our world.


You are very young. Won’t you ask your husband to explain to you the impossibility of such a situation.


Please do not make me have to write to you again. I do not like scolding people and I simply hate having to teach them manners.


Yours sincerely,


Katherine Mansfield

    Isn’t it brilliant? I cannot help but grin as I read that letter. Her withering tone just drips from it. If I were Princess Bibesco I would have been suitably miffed. Especially if I considered the fact that Mansfield herself wasn’t the most monogamous of people; she engaged in amorous affairs while she and Murry were still together. She seemed to have been one of those people who didn’t particularly appreciate her toys, but didn’t like others playing with them either.

  O, Mansfield, how you make me smile with exasperation and amusement.

Sincerely,
   Lady Disdain 

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