I had planned to write a post about Thanksgiving today and the search for pictures revealed an oddly similar theme to this one, people looking fondly and adoringly at turkeys. So I hope all U.S. visitors have got the feathers off them and have them roasting nicely in the oven this minute and a Happy and Peaceful Thanksgiving to you all, have a wonderful day.
Then I'm sorry but I'm going to be shallow and give thanks for a book which has arrived this week.
That might be against the rules. However it's such a covetously wonderful book, one that I have been yearning for so I'm hoping you can see it in your hearts to forgive my fickle nature. I doubt this day is about giving thanks for material possessions but a book like this is hardly so easily categorized.
The Collected Letters of Katherine Mansfield Volume 5 1922-1923 edited by Vincent O'Sullivan and Margaret Scott and published by Oxford University Press.
I go a bit woozy round the edges just looking at them.
I bought Volumes I & 2 in this series at a book sale several years ago, 3 & 4 are on their way to me but meanwhile 5 has arrived.
There is of course a Janet Frame connection to Katherine Mansfield too, apart from the obvious New Zealander one. Janet's mother Lottie worked as a maid servant for Mrs Mary Beauchamp, Katherine's grandmother in New Zealand and Janet also benefited from a year-long bursary from the Katherine Mansfield Memorial Fellowship which enabled her to travel abroad for the first time.
Then there's the Elizabeth von Arnim connection to Katherine as cousins, and so there are some obvious watering holes ahead for this particular reading journey.
I've been dipping into Katherine Mansfield's short stories again with a certain amount of awe and wonder, and reading the volumes of letters is a perfect route into reading the stories almost contemporaneously as she mentions their progress in letters to friends,
' Im deadly tired tonight. I wrote & finished a story for The Sketch. The day after that happens is always a day when one feels like a leaf on the ground - one can't even flutter. At the same time there is a feeling of joy that another story is finished. I put it in such a lovely place, too, the grounds of a Convent in spring with pigeons flying up in the blue and big bees climbing in and out of the freezias below.'
'A big bee, a golden furry fellow, crept into a freesia, and the delicate flower leaned over, swung, shook; and when the bee flew away it fluttered still as though it were laughing. Happy, careless flower! '
Unsurprisingly, being terminally ill with pulmonary tuberculosis seems to have offered an extraordinary focus to Katherine Mansfield's writing. This letter to Elizabeth von Arnim, written in January 1922, in what would prove to be the final year of her life, reveals the depths of her incapacity,
' And the idea of being well - haunts me. Ever since I have realised this possibility I dream of it at night - dream I am alone - crossing streams or climbing hills or just walking. To be alone again. That is what health means to me; that is freedom. To be invisible, not to be offered chairs or given arms! '
In her quest for health Katherine Mansfield is about to embark on what will prove to be a futile and expensive year of dubious and very uncomfortable treatments. First stop from Chalet des Sapins at Montana Crans in Switzerland to Paris, where Katherine will live an invalid's life in a hotel whilst placing her faith in seances. It will all culminate in her tragic and horrific death a year later and much of it likely to be conveyed in this final volume of letters. I think I have a truly memorable reading experience ahead.
And finally, on reflection, I think there's a great deal of genuine Counting Blessings and Thanksgiving to extract from all that.