Katherine Mansfield

Introduction

Katherine Mansfield (born Kathleen Beauchamp, 1888-1923) is arguably New Zealand's most significant and enduringly famous writer. This guide will help you to research Katherine Mansfield and the collections held at the National Library of New Zealand and the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.

The library is an integral component for researchers wishing to engage with Katherine’s life and work. The Alexander Turnbull Library is home to a diverse collection relating to Katherine Mansfield including:

  • photographs
  • monographs
  • unpublished letters and journals
  • translations of published stories
  • curios, and
  • personal belongings.

The Mansfield collections at the Alexander Turnbull Library were founded when a bound set of Katherine’s complete works were donated by her father, Harold Beauchamp, following her death in 1923. Since then the library has sought to develop a comprehensive collection of Mansfield’s life and work.

Katherine Mansfield sitting in a chair outdoors with a magazine or book in her lap
Katherine Mansfield, 1916. Ref: 1/2-002594-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Who was Katherine Mansfield?

Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp was born on 14 October 1888 in Wellington, New Zealand, to banker, businessman and philanthropist Sir Harold Beauchamp and Lady Annie Beauchamp. Known by her pen name, Katherine Mansfield, she moved to England aged 19 to engage with the literary world and develop expanding horizons beyond the colonial New Zealand she knew as a child.

Katherine achieved international acclaim as a modernist short story writer and poet. She was a prolific writer, and this extended to correspondence, poetry, personal notebooks, reviews, editing journals in London, and of course writing short stories. Mansfield had many friends, lovers and trials in her short life.

She was diagnosed with extrapulmonary tuberculosis in 1917 and died in 1923, aged 34. Interest and scholarship around Mansfield’s life and writing continued to grow after her death.

For more information about Katherine Mansfield’s life you might be interested in consulting some published biographies. The library holds over 150 published biographies about Katherine Mansfield.

Katherine Mansfield reclining beside rocks with a friend, both under an umbrella to keep out of the sun.
Katherine Mansfield reclining beside rocks [ca 1912-1920]. Murry, John Middleton, 1889-1957: Photographs relating to Katherine Mansfield. Ref: PA1-o-1791-28. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Starting your research?

Consulting published works is a good way to start your research as much scholarship has already been produced on Katherine Mansfield. Consulting secondary sources can help you understand the context in which Mansfield was living and writing and lead you to further primary resources that might be useful to your research:

  • Alpers, Anthony (1980). ‘The Life of Katherine Mansfield’, Viking.
  • Boddy, Gillian (1988). ‘Katherine Mansfield: The Woman and the Writer’, Penguin.
  • Harris, Laurel et al (2008). ‘The Material Mansfield: Traces of a Writer’s Life’. Random House.
  • Jones, Kathleen (2010). ‘Katherine Mansfield: The Storyteller’. Edinburgh University Press.
  • Kimber, Gerri (2016) ‘Katherine Mansfield – The Early Years’, Edinburgh University Press.
  • Mansfield, Katherine (1981). ‘The Collected Stories of Katherine Mansfield’, Penguin.
  • Moore, James (1980). ‘Gurdjieff and Mansfield’, Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd
  • O’Sullivan, Vincent, ed., (1997). ‘Katherine Mansfield’s New Zealand Short Stories’, Penguin.
  • Vincent O’Sullivan, ed., (1988). ‘The Poems of Katherine Mansfield’, OUP.
  • Scott, Margaret, ed., (1997). ‘The Katherine Mansfield Notebooks’, 2 vols, Lincoln University Press and Daphne Brasell Associates Ltd.
  • Scott, Margaret (2001) ‘Recollecting Mansfield’. Random House.
  • Stead, C.K., ed., (1977). ‘Katherine Mansfield: Letters and Journal’, Penguin.
  • Claire Tomalin, (1988). ‘Katherine Mansfield: A Secret Life’, Penguin.
  • Yska, Redmer (2017) ‘A Strange Beautiful Excitement: Katherine Mansfield's Wellington’, Otago University Press.
MansfieldGuide-3a
L: Adelphi Studios Ltd. Pickthall, Mrs. Katherine Mansfield, 1914. Ref: 1/4-017274-F R: Katherine Mansfield's British passport issued in the name of Mrs Kathleen Mansfield Murry, 4 September 1919. It remained valid until 4 September 1923. Entries in it show evidence of her last years of travel through Europe, searching for a cure for her tuberculosis. Ref: MS-Papers-11326-070

Finding published works

Katherine Mansfield was well-known for her short stories. She was a contemporary of T.S. Elliot, James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf, who all shaped English literature in the early 20th century. To find Katherine Mansfield’s published works you can search the National Library Catalogue or search Te Puna, a database for all libraries in New Zealand:

Mansfield’s short stories appear in several anthologies and a small selection has been included below:

Other published works can be found on the National Library catalogue and include literary scholarship produced by a range of authors and societies including Katherine Mansfield Societies from around the world and websites dedicated to Katherine Mansfield that have been archived by the library. Works have been published in over twenty languages.

Katherine Mansfield Societies

Websites dedicated to Katherine Mansfield

The National Library catalogue and Index New Zealand (our index to articles published in New Zealand after 1987) are great places to start. Searching Index New Zealand for Katherine Mansfield returns a range of results including newspaper articles and peer-reviewed journal articles.

National Library Catalogue

Index New Zealand

There is a large collection of periodicals which include national and international titles such as ‘Rhythm’, ‘The New Republic’, and ‘The Literary Digest’ as well as articles, reviews and poems relating to Katherine Mansfield.

The Alexander Turnbull Library also has a Mansfield Collection of over 1,000 items. These are all catalogued and have a call mark preceded by ‘Mansfld’. Materials include collected stories, bibliographies, periodicals and translations. The collection includes 19 books owned by Katherine during her life. You can search for these books on our catalogue using the search term “Library of Katherine”.

Mansfield and Murry sitting side by side for their portrait together
Portrait of Katherine Mansfield and John Middleton Murry, [ca 1920]. Ref: PA1-o-1791-35. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Finding unpublished materials

The library holds large collections of unpublished materials. These are searchable and requestable through the library’s unpublished catalogue, Tiaki.

Searching for unique material associated with or owned by Katherine Mansfield can be difficult because the collections are associated with many different organisations and individuals. Katherine’s works were collected by many people including friends, family and societies which were acquired by the library.

For a broad overview of the collections relating to Katherine Mansfield, you can see the library’s thesaurus term for her name linking to all unpublished collections. This search can be generated by searching for “Katherine Mansfield” in the person or name field in Tiaki:

Mansfield, Katherine, 1888-1923

There are hundreds of unique collection items where Katherine Mansfield is mentioned as the creator, subject, contributor, previous owner, author or related subject. John Middleton Murry is listed as a spouse and by clicking on his name you can see further materials relating to Katherine’s life and works.

Screenshot of the name record for Katherine Mansfield on Tiaki catalogue of unpublished collections
The library’s name record for Katherine Mansfield, linking to all her material in the unpublished collections available on Tiaki.

Katherine Mansfield’s manuscripts

The Alexander Turnbull Library is home to many of the Katherine Mansfield manuscripts. These papers have been donated and purchased by the library to build one of the most prominent collections of original works by the writer.

There are two major collections of Katherine Mansfield’s work, held in two institutions, the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington, and the Newberry Library in Chicago.

Side by side images of pages from her notebook showing her characteristically messy handwritting
Pages from one of Katherine Mansfield’s many notebooks, including this page with her vignette called ‘Leves amores’. Notebook 2, 1907. Ref: qMS-1244_074a

Finding aids

Katherine’s handwriting is known for being difficult to decipher. For this reason, inventories and transcripts are valuable to researchers wanting to engage with the collections. A significant resource for researchers using the Alexander Turnbull Library collections is the finding aid Katherine Mansfield: Manuscripts in the Alexander Turnbull Library (1988), which is a published list of all materials about and by Katherine Mansfield.
Finding aid — Katherine Mansfield: Manuscripts in the Alexander Turnbull Library (1988)

The text is divided into three series which reflect the three tranches of materials held at the library:

  • The collection: an alphabetical listing of all collections relating to Katherine Mansfield.
  • The letters: contain two sequences, letters from and letters to Katherine Mansfield. They are arranged chronologically.
  • The papers: a chronological listing of all prose, poetry and fragments of prose, including the Notebooks.

Access to this inventory can be facilitated in the Wellington reading rooms or by using our Ask a Librarian service for further information.

Ask a Librarian

Katherine Mansfield notebooks

As well as the Turnbull Library’s finding aid there have been other useful resources such as Margaret Scott’s ‘The Katherine Mansfield notebooks’ which are published versions of Mansfield’s private notebooks.

In the notebooks, Katherine has written diary entries, letters, unpublished and unfinished works, poems, published stories, recipes and shopping lists among other things. Volume One covers Katherine Mansfield's childhood and adolescence, and Volume Two covers her adult life.

You can see Katherine’s extensive, original handwritten notebooks held by the library: 1 Notebooks: Writings and personal papers of Katherine Mansfield. Ref: Series-1456

Katherine Mansfield's letters

Another text of value is ‘The collected letters of Katherine Mansfield’ which brings together letters written by Mansfield to her husband, family, lovers, friends and fellow writers before the onset of her tuberculosis.

Mansfield was a prolific letter writer and the library holds much of her correspondence. One of the largest collections of her letters are those written by Mansfield to John Middleton Murry. These have been collected, and sometimes annotated, by Murry:

Material can also be found in groups donated by Katherine’s friends and family. For example, Ida Baker (known as L.M.) was a close friend of Katherine Mansfield and Ida’s collection contains correspondence and notebooks and unpublished stories from Katherine Mansfield:

The following collections also contain significant references to Katherine Mansfield:

This is not an exhaustive list, try searching the library’s unpublished catalogue, Tiaki, for further results. Microfilm copies of some manuscript collections held at the library may be interloaned to your local public or tertiary library. Use the Ask a Librarian service to find out more.

Mansfield Collections

We hold a range of material relating to Mansfield that may surprise you. Did you know that the library holds Katherine’s passport, a lock of her hair, her Corona portable typewriter, and various clothing items? You can search our website to find further interesting materials.

Search the National LIbrary website

Images

We have a number of photographs of Mansfield at various stages in her life, as well as her friends and family, taken both in New Zealand and overseas. Most of these images have been digitised and can be viewed on our website.

There are also images of Wellington at the time that Katherine and her family were living there as well as memorial locations and heritage sites.

Images of Wellington in our collections

Many of these locations influenced Katherine’s writing and these landmarks are referenced in her short stories. There are also some personal photographs such as the family’s album and images taken by Ida Baker (L.M.) held by the library.

Images taken by Ida Baker in our collections

Beauchamp family children seated outside on the lawn in formal dress
Children from the Beauchamp family and others at 75 Tinakori Rd, Wellington. Ref: PAColl-3320-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Curios

Curios are small household items valued as curiosities or rarities. The library has several curios related to Katherine. Some of these have been digitised so you can see them on the website.

Digitised images of Katherine Mansfield curios

We've included some of photos of the curios that we hold.

Deep green pounamu blade and silver handle bookmark that doubles as a letter opener
Katherine Mansfield's silver and greenstone bookmark. Ref: Curios-018-005. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Below is Katherine’s typewriter, shawl and chair, which are some of the curios that we hold.

MansfieldGuide-8
Katherine Mansfield's chair, shawl and typewriter. [ca 1890, ca 1900 and ca 1920]. Ref: KM-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Search tips

Subject headings

Subject headings help you find relevant results. Searching the National Library website for materials relating to Katherine Mansfield can be improved by including the following subject headings:

Subject headings can get very specific and will be helpful as you narrow down your topic.

See all the subject headings relating to Katherine Mansfield.

Format type

You can also filter by type of material on the National Library website by using the filters on the left-hand side of the page. These will take you to specific collection items grouped by format.

These format categories are useful for limiting your search to specific results. For example, if you just wanted to view digitised images of Katherine Mansfield you can click on the “Images” filter, then move to the “Gallery” tab where you will see that the library has many interesting collection items relating to Mansfield.

View Katherine Mansfield gallery

Screenshot of gallery view from NLNZ website of Mansfield images

How do I access the library’s collections?

Original materials can be viewed in the aptly named Katherine Mansfield reading room, the library’s secure reading room for Alexander Turnbull Library collection items. You will need to register and request the material in advance of your visit.

A view of inside the Katherine Mansfield reading room at the Alexander Turnbull Library
Inside the secure Katherine Mansfield reading room at the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington.

How do I use the collections?

The collections are kept safe in climate-controlled storage, but they can be retrieved at your request. You will need to register as a reader with our published or unpublished catalogues.

Find more information about registering and requesting.

Published materials

Published materials (articles, books, journals) appear across both the Alexander Turnbull Library and the National Library collections. Published items can be requested through the National Library catalogue to be consulted in the Reading Rooms.

National Library catalogue

Unpublished materials

Unpublished materials can be accessed through Tiaki.

Tiaki

Katherine Mansfield and John Middleton Murry sitting inside their flat in the study with rows of books behind them.
Katherine Mansfield and John Middleton Murry sitting inside their flat at Chaucer Mansions, Kensington, London. Taken by an unknown photographer in October 1913. Ref: 1/2-028643-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Restrictions and Permissions

Some materials relating to Katherine Mansfield are restricted.

To protect the collections the library has made surrogates that can be used in place of the originals. The library has microfilmed some materials which are available in the Katherine Mansfield Reading Room. Some materials have been digitised and are available on our website in the "View Gallery" tab.

Katherine Mansfield digitised items on the National Library website.

If you have special conditions where you would like to be able to see the originals please contact the library in advance through our Ask A Librarian service and our Curators will decide if an exception can be made.

Ask A Librarian

Making copies

For personal use, you can make research copies of the collections at the Alexander Turnbull Library and National Library of New Zealand. You can use your own device (phone, tablet, camera) or by using the Reading Room resources. The library also offers an Imaging Service where you can purchase high-resolution digital images or research copies.

Making copies.

Further resources

A worn brown leather suitcase with the letters "K.M. Murry" on the outside.
Large brown leather suitcase dated 1918-1923, because Katherine Mansfield married Murry in 1918, and the inscription is ‘K M Murray’. Ref: Curios-032-027. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.