Katherine Mansfield

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Ida Baker: LM

“Let’s be friends,” said Katherine when she met Ida Baker at Queens college in 1903.  Twenty years later just weeks before her death, it was: “If you'd like me for a friend as from this Xmas I'd like to be your friend.  But not too awfully serious ma chère.”

 

Constance was Ida’s middle name and constant she was: as Katherine’s confidante, doormat, devotee, housekeeper, and ultimately nurse.  Katherine called her ‘LM’, ‘Jones’, ‘the faithful one’, ‘the mountain’, ‘the slave’, ‘Albatross’.

Cooped up in foreign guest-houses and villas, Katherine flew into rages: “Meal times and walk times are quite enough to exasperate me and lash me into fury beyond measure. ‘Katie mine, who is Wordsworth? Must I like him?  It’s no good looking cross because I love you, my angel, from the little tip of that cross eyebrow to the all of you.  When am I going to brush your hair again?’   I shut my teeth and say ‘Never!’ but I really do feel that if she could she’d EAT me…  It is impossible to describe to you my curious hatred and antagonism to her – gross, trivial, dead to all that is alive for me, ignorant and false.”

 

Ida needed to be needed.  But that was not the whole story.  Katherine later wrote: “I am simply unworthy of friendship, as I am.   I take advantage of you - demand perfection of you - crush you - And the devil of it is that even though that is true as I write it I want to laugh.”

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