Katherine Mansfield

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John Middleton Murry

“He stood at the hall door turning the ring, turning the heavy signet ring upon his little finger while his glance travelled coolly, deliberately, over the round tables and basket-chairs scattered about the glassed-in verandah. He pursed his lips – he might have been going to whistle – but he did not whistle – only turned the ring – turned the ring on his pink, freshly washed hands.”

The Man Without a Temperament

The editor of Rhythm was capable of provoking strong reactions. “I would like to throttle you but you are not worth murdering”, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska said. Virginia Woolf observed, “there was Murry squirming and oozing a sort of thick motor oil in the background – dinners with them were about the most unpleasant exhibitions, humanly speaking, I’ve ever been to.”

 

Murry’s flair for critical writing and sensitivity to literary talent won him brilliant friends such as D. H. Lawrence. He eclipsed his lower middle class beginnings with audacity, but was self-absorbed, out of his emotional depth. “O Tig, you were so sweet, and so like a little child that I feel like crying when I write it.  I adore you, darling…” he wrote to Katherine early in their relationship. To Lady Ottoline Morrell he confided: “Rarely do I feel towards persons any emotion more intimate than amusement or blank terror...”

 

Katherine gave a typically incisive view: “We are both abnormal. I have too much vitality and you have not enough.” Near the end of her life, she wrote: “Fear. Fear of what?  Doesn’t it come down to fear of losing J.?  I believe it does.  But, good Heavens!  Face things.  What have you of him now?  What is your relationship?  He talks to you-sometimes - and then goes off.  He thinks of you tenderly.  He dreams of a life with you some day when the miracle has happened.  You are important to him as a dream.  Not as a living reality.  For you are not one.  What do you share?  Almost nothing.  Yet there is a deep, sweet, tender flooding of feeling in my heart which is love for him and longing for him.  But what is the good of it as things stand? Life together, with me ill, is simply torture with happy moments.”

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