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BOOK REVIEWS countryside around Exeter, though not his suburban neighbors. There is nothing in the letters about what his displaced Cockney wife does with herself while he labors long hours at the desk. The birth of their son on 10 December 1891, however, disrupts whatever harmony prevailed. In the last letter in the volume, to his brother Algernon on December 29, Gissing discloses that Edith has experienced a setback due to "biliousness ." (The diary expounds on her bad temper and quarrels with the nurse.) The infant thrives, however, "though it has to be thrown aside into holes & comers, just to be out of the way—poor little wretch." He notes, too, that the Times reports that the fog in London is "about the worst ever known." At least one motive for Gissing's move to Exeter seems justified. Martha S. Vogeler Professor Emeritus, California State University, Fullerton Mansfield Letters, III The Collected Letters of Katherine Mansfield. Volume 3: 1919-1920. Vincent O'Sullivan and Margaret Scott, eds. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993. xiii + 305 pp. $52.00 LF IT ACCOMPLISHES nothing else, this meticulously transcribed , annotated and edited collection of Katherine Mansfield's letters , the third in the series, will go a long way to dispel the illusion, or even explode the myth, that artists are "superior" human beings. It will serve another even more salubrious function, the rehabilitation of the frayed reputation of J. Middleton Murry, the much maligned husband of the artist and the recipient of most of these letters. A third benefit inherent in this volume covering a brief but difficult period in the life of the author is the glimpse it offers, in an otherwise relatively arid creative period, of the talent so abundantly evident in the best of her short stories, some of which were yet to be written in the short time left her. The letters in this volume cover an eight-month period Mansfield spent from December 1919 to April 1920 in Ospedaletti, Italy, and Menton in the South of France, in a desperate search for palliation of her worsening tuberculosis and its attendant ailments. Her chief correspondent during this trying year was Murry, whom Katherine had married in 1918 after a seven-year live-in relationship. That the separation was traumatic to both partners is amply demonstrated in Mansfield 's letters, but even granting her emotional deprivation, her fevers and aches, and the succession of doctors of varying ability and compas211 ELT 37:2 1994 sion, some aspects of her basic character come through in these needy letters, which are alternately cloying in their excesses of conjugal protestations, unreasonably demanding in their expectation, and highhanded towards those who served her. Particularly heartless are Majnsfield 's references to Ida Baker, her selfless companion during her unhappy sojourn. Renamed "L.M." by Mansfield in tribute to her adored deceased younger brother, Leslie, and in no small measure because Ida's name was too ugly for her ears, the hapless Baker bore the full brunt of the cumulative emotional violence Mansfield's enforced exile bred in her hyperactive psyche. Raw hatred is evident in outpourings such as this one to Murry: "You don't know what hatred is because you have never hated anyone. . . . When L.M. goes I don't know what I shall do. I Can only think of breathing—lying quite still and breathing. Her great fat arms, her tiny blind breasts, her baby mouth, the underlip always wet and a crumb or two or a chocolate stain at the corners—her eyes fixed on me.... Think what you would feel if you had consumption and lived with a deadly enemy!" In fairness to Mansfield, it should be noted that she ultimately softened towards L.M. and recognized her indebtedness to her friend's ministrations. D. H. Lawrence was another target of Mansfield's poisoned arrows, although from the evidence, he gave as good as he got. In a particularly agitated letter to Murry on 7 February 1920, she wrote: "Lawrence sent me a letter today: He spat in my face and threw filth at me and said, Ί loathe you. You revolt me stewing in your consumption.'" Her reaction to Lawrence...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 211-215
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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