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First portraits sketches of men and women whose lives illustrate times and places south of the equator in the Pacific. The looming you know to write something that will be worthy of the rising life to be simple enough as one would be simple before the earth. Catherine Mansfield. Program known in a series of Pacific portraits produced by radio station WAGA of the University of Wisconsin under a grant from the
Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. Now speaking to you from Auckland New Zealand. Here is the planner and writer of the series Professor John Reed. The last flower to spring from the soil of a new land is an indigenous art. The blooms of a native literature flourish in tilled fields but frontier society is conquering a fresh environment. I have little Asia for that contemplation which is the seed of literature in the Pacific as in early America the settlers borrowed their literature from Europe and when I did write books they imitated nostalgically the moods of their distant homelands. Only when the communities of the South Seas had passed their adolescence could they record the special quality of living in the antipathy. But the way of transition from old world to new is so with effort and paying the cost of rebirth comes high. Before the Pacific
societies could speak with a distinctive voice more than one personality had to venture and dare to suffer and to sacrifice. Writers breaking from cultural cages left Australia and New Zealand to seek freedom and completion in Europe. But both they and those who remained needed a light to follow a model to show that significant literature could come from the Pacific. And this was given to them by the first great writer of the Southern Ocean. Catherine Mansfield in the portrait that follows Catherine Mansfield's words are taken from her writings and recorded say. Each year the god words leave the shores of New Zealand to visit their ancestral home far across the sundering sea. As soon as their wings are strong enough the young birds take flight toward the tall trees of a race memory called by a primitive instinct stronger the urge to beat and sleep in earlier days. New Zealand's artists and writers were God with us too.
There isn't much place for arty things in this country yet there's too much else to do with all this Bush to break in a hundred cows to milk my fields to plough and plant I haven't time for reading let alone writing anything save a letter a year to the folks at home. So spoken early settler. Samuel Butler contemplating the bastions of Erawan from his Canterbury sheep station saw little sign of spiritual vitality in this farthest flung part of the British Empire. New Zealand seems far better adapted to develop the physical then the intellectual nature effect is people here are busy making money. If a mountain is good for sheep it is beautiful and magnificent and all the rest. If not it is not worth looking at. This was the typical front to society. What had been the home of sealers whalers and a few adventurers became in 1839 a planned colony for these pioneers. So long as the umbilical cord was on severed Britain remained home.
But forty years after there was a new generation of New Zealanders born men whose hearts were still in Britain but who were an attitude in life. New Zealanders to this generation belong to Harold Beecham the father of Catherine Mansfield. I knew Harold Beecham from the time he joined the importing firm of Benetton and company. He was a bright eyed lad with a will to succeed a strong believer in the future of his country. I watched him grow into the merchant on the make high on the prosperity of the 80s. He had the pride of the self-made man and material things. Nobody was surprised then when in 1898 he was appointed director of the Bank of New Zealand or later chairman or when he was knighted for his services to his country to Harold Beecham in 1888 was born a daughter Kathleen and Wellington the capital of the country at that time. Wellington was a little seaport of 14000 people in the crook of a landlocked harbor with blue water ahead steep hills crowding the water's edge and the forest clad mountains
beyond. And through it all blue the wind the raging restless wind. By the window panes rattled a little pudgy faced bespectacled girl looked out across Wellington harbor with solemn. Waving gardens the absurd little city square built in American style the wharves the broad wash and then the deep brimming Harbor shaped like a crater in a curving just broken in the jagged place to let the big ships through. At school and at the various beach and homes. The young Kathleen's mind like a prism broke the light of her environment into delicate colors. There were as trade strips across the harbor to picnic a day's Bay which he was later to immortalize in her story. Here the Beecham children played in the midst of the New Zealand stillness an almost palpable quiet. The sound of the sleepy sea and from the bush there came the sound of little streams
flowing quickly lightly slipping between the smooth stones and there was the splashing of big drops on large leaves and something else. What was it. Our fate. Stirring and shaking the snapping of a twig and then such silence that it seemed someone was listening as the Beecham children played around the base of Wellington. Kathleen was storing up a treasure of impressions in her later life. This childhood was to become the sun center of her experience the symbol of a lost Eden. The casket of a recollected tranquility and inner peace as absolute as the silence of the forest. The harmony she was never to know again. Do you know the smell of wet sand. Does it make you think of going down to the beach in the evening light. Right after a rainy day and gathering the damp driftwood it be drying on the top of the stove and picking up for a moment the long branches of seaweed that the waves have tossed and listening to the gulls who stand reflected in the gleaming sand and just fly a little way off as you come and then settle again.
But do these have New Zealanders. The gravitational pull of England was still strong. Only an English finishing school would satisfy the prosperous merchant for his daughters. So at 13 the young Kathleen with her sister Marie set out for London the fledglings skimming across the seas. I was in my second year at Queen's College when Kathleen Beecham joined us. She was a novelty for us this but was rather grand solemn faced girl from a far off land which which we had imagined to be peopled by savage Maoris and crude farmers. A touch of hauteur and and the rather formidable beach Amanda made her somewhat less than popular. She flashed bewilderingly from mood to mood with a ballot of a tea which disconcerted the more pedestrian go. But even then I suspected that beneath the fervent adolescent poses was a shy and sensitive spirit the adolescent girl was finding herself and one of the potent influences was that of a German teacher. Well to reprimand a gifted and dynamic writer.
God made him. I want to look at your books right. I'm well I'm quite exceptional. I'm very well advanced. Are you now. Don't think of what I look like as Mr. Shaw says you never can tell. And the sweet wench I do believe you are exceptional. Come along then I'll show you my books. Oscar Wilde. Ernest Dawson water Peter the lilies and languages of the nineties the roses and raptures of the streets revealed to her by RIP man sat Kathleen's own pan driving across the paper creating impressionistic vignettes in which the first stirrings of the creative writer could be sensed a way beyond the line of dark houses. There's a sound like the call of the sea after a storm passionate solemn strong. I leaned far out the window in the warm still night air down below in the mews a little lamp is singing a silent song is
the only glow of light in all this darkness. Men swilling the carriages with water their sharp sudden exclamations the Finke cry of a very young child. The chime in of a bell from the church close by. These are the only other sounds impersonal vague intensely agitating London nourished her spirit and extended her soul. New Zealand same by comparison immature and provincial. But at the end of 1600 father wanted to take her back to return passage for us all on the Korean think this morning. We'll be home by Christmas but we're surely not going back to New Zealand yet. Course whatever else do you think could London is home to me no I can't go back to Wellington the wind in the great great people. What nonsense is this. You surely don't expect me to leave you alone in London are you not a party not a child any longer. Here I can write and write I've never heard anything like it. Well you must be out of your mind I don't want to go I
don't have no option might you. Your passage is booked very well. When I get to New Zealand I'll make myself so objectionable the joy I have to send you away. It was misery for Kathleen to return to her community of Palestinians to a secret city where nobody saw the 18 year old girl believed ever heard of Rossetti and while she shut herself in her room and retreated in stories and sketches now signed Catherine Mansfield her grandmother's name stories which reflected her bleak mood. Oh this monotonous terrible. The don't study hopeless sound of it. I've drawn the curtains across the window to shut out the weeping face of the world. The trees swaying softly in their grief and dripping silver tears on the brown earth. All life seems to be crying out drearily and the groping to and fro when a fellow nameless darkness but she was to find unexpected depths in her native land
things of beauty and power which were to stab movable into her heart. The bewildered Harold Beecham seeking to distract his melancholy child sat around a six weeks caravan trip through the heart of the North Island a wild volcanic country here in lonely villages and farms. Katherine Mansfield saw the Maoris for the first time recognised the primitiveness still lurking behind the frontiers forced by the pioneers and the starkness of life in remote country towns. Always through the bush this hushed sound of water running on brown pebbles. It seems to breathe a full deep bygone essence of it all. Then rounding a curve we passed several little huts deserted and gray. They looked very old and desolate almost haunted. On one door there's a horse collar a scribbled notice a young Maori girl climb slowly up the hill. She does not see me. I do not move. She reaches a little knoll and suddenly sits down native fashion. The legs crossed her hands clasped in her lap. She is
dressed in a blue skirt in a soft white blouse round her neck as a piece of twisted flax a long piece of green stone is suspended from it. Her black hair is twisted softly at her neck. She sits silently utterly motionless her head thrown back all the lines of her face a passionate violent savage but in her slumbers a tragic illimitable piece. Any. Tragic illimitable piece. This was to be Katherine Mansfield scoring for the rest of her life. For now her New Zealand experience was coming to an end. The primitive life
of the King Country stirred her imagination but confirmed her belief that the unpolished environment men like her father had created left little room for her literary wings to spread in. At last her father agreed to give her allowance and let her return to London. She was speaking with a passionate intensity that elusive thing. Experience Life is wonderful a wonderful bittersweet and anguish and a joy and oh I don't want to be resigned. I want to drink deeply. Shall I ever be able to express it. Experience came generously to generously unhappy love affairs by hasty almost despairing marriage a stillborn child. This was part of the price London exacted offer but at the same time she was writing like an angel. I knew Katherine Mansfield was born out of the pangs. A new texture was added to English prose. The precious cities of the estates gave way to delicate moods. Cries were isolated from the heart to represent human crises.
True. And sensitivity were married in her stories. How are we to convey these overtones have tones quarter tones those hesitations doubts beginnings. If we go at them directly it's most devilishly difficult but I do believe that there is a way of doing it. And that's by trying to get as near the exact truth as possible. Her stories began to be published. She met the young critic John Middleton Murry lived with him quarreled with him left him for others and after many years of tigerish love hate married him. She suffered continual illnesses and pursued hell through Bavaria Switzerland and Cornwall. Her life became a dual search for emotional security and for perfection as an artist. New Zealand seemed very remote now. From the other side of the world. From a little island cradled in the giant sea. From a little land with no history making its own history slowly piecing together the pattern and solving the problem. Like a child with a
box of bricks. My people had not to contend with. They worked in the broad light of day and handled the clay with a rude life a thing of blood and muscle. A shuffling underground of waste material. What would they know. Yep she was enclosed in New Zealand as a child in the womb. Her husband Middleton Murry knew of this. The candor and transparency of Catherine Mansfield the most perfect stories are the product of an incessant process of self procreation. This process was intimately connected with our memories of New Zealand. She had suffered there silently as a little child resentfully as an adolescent girl her reaction against New Zealand was a symbol of her resentment against life itself. If she could overcome in herself this resentment if she could cease to feel that she personally had been
wronged then the truth and beauty of New Zealand would emerge through her. It was her young soldier brother Leslie who supplied the pattern she needed who turned her back from her poverty illness loneliness and neurotic moods to the memory of a childhood innocence. Let's play a cheerful lot of twenty came to England in 1015 to join a British regiment chummy as she called him and Kathleen walked together in a London garden and Leslie picked the pair. Katie do you remember the enormous number of pairs that used to be on that old tree down by the violin. And how after there had been a southerly buster we used to go out with clothes baskets to pick them up. And while it's where we stoop they were still falling bouncing on our backs and hair and her father used to be scattered every so far under the violet leaves down the steps right down the lily lawn. Do you remember how we used to sit on the pickguard seat swinging our legs in the air isn't it extraordinary how deep our happiness was how positive deep and shining and warm. I remember the way we used to look at each other and smile do you. Sharing a
secret wish I'll go back there one day when it's all over. We should go back together and find everything everything but the dream remains a dream almost as soon as he landed in France. Leslie was killed. Eh. My brother is lying in the middle of a little wooden friends and I am still walking upright feeling the sun in the wind from the sea. I am just as dead as my brother and my little boy brother. My heart yearns over you tonight. Now I will come quite close to you and we shall tell the story to each other. Leslie became a symbol of that New Zealand that Catherine was striving to remember in purity of soul out of her grief came a resolution which was to give a new direction to her art. Now I want to write about my own country like exhaust my store not only because it is a sacred debt that I pay because my brother and I were born there but also because in my
thoughts I range with him all over the remembered places. All I want for one moment to make our Undiscovered Country leap into the eyes of the Old World. It Must Be mysterious as though floating it must take the breath it must take the breath. And so it did with the stories into which he distilled her memories of her home now purged of all bitterness and island emerging from the waters of its own Pacific with the bloom of a new creation. The veil of words becomes rare and translucent the subtle troubled inwardness of life is most purely conveyed. The dreaming viewpoint of a child over there on the weed hung rocks that looked at low tide like Shaggy beasts come down to the water to drink the sunlight seemed to spin like a silver coin dropped into each of the small rock pools they danced. They quivered and the new ripples lave the porous shores looking bending over each pool was like a lake with pink and blue houses plastered on the shores and all the vast mountainous country behind those houses the
ravines the passes the dangerous creeks the fearful tracks that led to the water's edge in her New Zealand stories each incident implies its significance and each moment is a life with her new found inward clarity Katherine Mansfield with surprising deep human truth behind the facade of the ordinary nature became a picture of moods. The half lights hints an emotional gliding Zz caught with delicious tenderness her integrity was unfaltering to write something that will be worthy of that rising that pale light. To be simple enough as one would be simple before God. Despite poverty self torment moods of despair and estrangement from her husband she kept undeviating Lee at her self-imposed task of creating a new world of beauty. But in 1918 a heavy blow fell. She found she was suffering from tuberculosis cough and cough and at each breath the dragging piling bubbling sound is heard.
I feel with my whole chest is boiling. I feel I must break my heart and I can't expand my chest. It's as though it had collapsed. She sobbed frantically for health in France and Switzerland in Cornwall. As the disease squeezed her tighter and tighter it had on her that affected often has underwriters. She wrote at a pace and with an intensity that astonished her. Memories came flooding back. She relived her childhood as an image of peace and limpid security. New Zealand is in my very bones. I can't say how thankful I am to have been born. Do you know Wellington as I do and don't have it to arrange about how I wish I could return there for a year at least. The garden party the doll's house the voyage story after story imprisoned her new vision of her homeland its remoteness and her suffering allowed her to see beneath the coarseness and the brashness the sun has not yet
risen and the whole Crescent was hidden under a white sea mist. The big bush covered here at the backs was smothered. It looked as though the sea had beaten up softly in the darkness as though an immense wave would come rippling rippling. Oh Katherine Mansfield had done something no other New Zealand writer had. She had caught the absence of the others. The strange quiet of the New Zealand landscape the stillness of the forest the silence of the encircling seas the monumental hush of the mountains towering over the little packet of settlers. But she was not satisfied. I do not think I'm a good writer. I realize my faults better than anyone could realize them. I know exactly where I feel. Calm yourself clean yourself. Anything I wrote in this mood should be no good. It would be full of sediment. She live now not for the struggle for health but for the struggle to attain perfection in her
work where she might have devoted her reserves to fighting her disease. She spent them refining her vision to purge her soul of affectation and her style of preciousness. She decided to enter an institute run by a crazy Russian George Gurdjieff at Fontainebleau. Here doing kitchen work dancing in the lodges around the pigsty and sleeping on a platform about the cow byre which Gurdjieff said would be good for our lungs. Catherine Mansfield felt that she had reached that harmony between body and mind between herself as a woman and herself as a writer. It's only now that I am beginning to see again and to recognise again the beauty of the world. I feel happy deep down. All is well. On January 9 one thousand twenty three. Middleton Murry came to visit her. She seemed a being transfigured by love by risking losing me she said she had found her love for me. About ten o'clock she said she was tired and began to go to her room. As she slowly climbed the big
staircase she was seized with a fit of coughing. Suddenly a great gush of blood poured from my mouth. She gasped out. I believe I'm going to die. I put her on the couch and rushed out of the room calling for a doctor who came almost immediately but in a few minutes she was dead. Yeah. Katherine Mansfield was 34 when she was buried in a cemetery near Fontainebleau. What had she achieved in the years of illness despair and stern struggle for integrity. There are some who have said that none of it was worthwhile. Katherine Mansfield was a neurotic ill balanced personality with a fragile talent.
She was an egotist guarding the most trivial impression as if it were a precious insight. She used people both her husband her friends her family for her own narrow ends. Her range of feeling and her knowledge of human nature were extremely limited. Perhaps perhaps. But her husband should have the last word. Compared to D.H. Lawrence who's Katherine's achievement was tiny indeed. Yet there is in it a quality which included Lauren's till the end. It is serious and we know that if Serenity comes from the heart at peace in spite of all. Catherine could look back on her life with all its miseries and all its brevity and declare that in spite of all it was good in spite of all the little lamp glows gently and eternally in the doll's house in spite of all the sleeping face in the garden party murmurs that all is well in spite of
all she wrote to me in a letter to be opened only after her death. No truer lovers ever walked the earth than we were in spite of all oh in spite of or. Win the. Win. Win. And win. Win. Will. Win. And here is Professor Reed the author of this program to say a closing word although Katherine Mansfield writing was important in adding a new luminosity to the short story. It was important in another way for her fellow New Zealand as she gave our writers carried and an example of dedicated struggle
towards personal and literary integrity by a paradox her beautiful capturing of aspect of New Zealand life and landscape was performed in exile by another paradox. Her achievement inspired many writers to remain in this country to record surroundings and a way of life that she had shown well worth recording. The God which became domesticated. The vision of innocence became the inspiration for a truly native Pacific literature that still yon. But sharing a little of her dedication. Some artists were to follow her to England but more and more met the challenge of their birth place remembering that that is most true of all men which is true of a particular man at a particular time in a particular place and caring in their hearts. Catherine Mansfield wood I thank God I was born in New Zealand a young country is a real heritage though it takes one time to recognise it.
This is portraying us radio sketches of men and women whose lives illustrate times and places south of the equator in the Pacific Ocean. These programmes are produced by radio station WAGA of the University of Wisconsin under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center. Professor John C. REED of Auckland University Auckland New Zealand is the writer and planner of the series. These programs are distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the national educational radio network.
Pacific portraits
Katherine Mansfield
Producing Organization
University of Wisconsin
WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
The recent literature of the area and the "homing" instinct of the Dominion-born.
Series Description
This series explores various aspects of the Pacific region through dramatization, narration, commentary and music.
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Producing Organization: University of Wisconsin
Producing Organization: WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
Production Manager: Schmidt, Karl
Speaker: Rains, Claude, 1889-1967
Writer: Reid, J. C. (John Cowie), 1916-1972
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 58-41-9 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:14
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Chicago: “Pacific portraits; Katherine Mansfield,” 1965-05-07, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 4, 2023,
MLA: “Pacific portraits; Katherine Mansfield.” 1965-05-07. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 4, 2023. <>.
APA: Pacific portraits; Katherine Mansfield. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from