The black fit

Born in Wellington, New Zealand in 1888, influential writer Katherine Mansfield was just 34 when she died from tuberculosis. Her career, though all-too-brief, was prolific, with most of her short stories, poems, and novels meeting with acclaim, but behind closed doors, particularly in her later years, Mansfield was struggling to stay afloat due to her increasingly poor health. This diary entry was written in the midst of a bout of depression at the beginning of 1920. This was the year in which her second short story collection, the masterful Bliss and Other Stories, would be published and celebrated.

The Diary Entry

January 4

Cold, wet, windy, terrible weather. Fought it all day. Horribly depressed. Dickinson came to tea; but it was no good. Worked. Two wires from J. According to promise. I cannot write. The jonquils are out, weak and pale. Black clouds pull over.

Immediately the sun goes in I am overcome—again the black fit takes me. I hate the sea. There is naught to do but WORK. But how can I work when this awful weakness makes even the pen like a walking-stick?

Further Reading

The Journal of Katherine Mansfield was first published in 1927, four years after her death, edited by her husband, John Middleton Murry. Then, in 1954, a Definitive Edition arrived, containing many entries which, according to Murry, “for various reasons were suppressed in the original edition.”

Diary entry excerpted from Journal Of Katherine Mansfield, edited by J. Middleton Murry. London: Constable & Co Ltd, 1962.

Photo of Katherine Mansfield in 1915: Adelphi Studios Ltd. Pickthall, Charlotte Mary, 1887-1966. Ref: 1/4-017274-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23032500

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