April 17, 2016

Books as drink...

The only writer for whom {Virginia Woolf|} felt acute jealousy was Katherine Mansfield. They were attempting to transform fiction in the same sort of way, and Virginia sometimes suspected that Katherine was the more successful. ... While courteous to each other when they met, they were highly critical when apart. In reviewing Night and Day, Katherine called it 'old-fashioned,' 'reeking with snobbery,' which deeply hurt Virginia, and she decided, but only in the privacy of her diary, that their friendship was 'almost entirely founded on quicksands.'  She admitted her jealousy ('the more she is praised, the more I am convinced she is bad'), but when Katherine died of tuberculosis in 1923, aged thirty-four, Virginia wrote movingly about her, expressing relief that she had 'a rival the less,' but, 'it seemed to me there is no point in writing:   Katherine won't read it.'  They had stimulated, angered, each other, flint against stone. When Joanne Trautman and I were editing Virginia's letters, we searched despairingly for her letters to Katharine, as their correspondence would probably be the most important in both their lives, but we found only one letter of three lines, a false note of congratulations on Katherine's Bliss.  When Professor Trautman was editing the one-volume edition of the letters which she called Congenial Spirits, she was able to include one other, much longer letter, in which Virginia complemented Katherine on her style:  'You seem to be to go so straightly and directly — all clear as glass — refined, spiritual,' while to Janet Case, a year later, she castigated it:  'I read Bliss, and it was so brilliant — so hard, and so shallow, and so sentimental that I had to rush to the bookcase for something to drink,' by which she meant Shakespeare.

from Virgina Woolf, by Nigel Nicolson 

{photo from Pinterest}

1 comment:

Karen K. said...

So, Virginia stored her drink in the bookcase? That's very telling!!

I tried reading Clair Tomalin's biography of Mansfield last year and just could not get through it. Mansfield seemed like a really selfish and unpleasant person. But the idea of them as frenemies is really intriguing.