Katherine Mansfield's Corona 3
The discovery of four previously unknown stories by the great New Zealand writer Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923) raises what I think is an interesting question.
Mansfield’s long-lost manuscripts date from 1908-09. I haven’t yet been able to ascertain whether they are typewritten, but Mansfield was most certainly using a typewriter from at least 1912.
Mansfield’s Corona 3 portable typewriter is on display in her former home in Wellington, New Zealand (where the curators think it was made in "Crofton"!).
Katherine Mansfield's Corona 3
The question that springs to my mind with this wonderful find is this: Imagine a modern-day writer committing his or her work to, say, Word Document on a PC. He or she becomes disenchanted with whatever they are writing, or decides it is “too close to the bone” to publish, and discards the 2500 words already written. It’s easily ditched. The document is simply deleted, erased from existence.
Now, fast forward 104 years, to 2116. The modern-day writer has become internationally famous and much acclaimed, and a young university scholar is researching his or her early works. Will the scholar be able to find those 2500 words?
Richard Polt, in an editorial in ETCetera not so long ago, briefly speculated on this subject: will words written in “hard copy” be more secure for future generations to read, and prove to have greater longevity than works written with software on word processors/PCs and published online (such as on blogs)?
Already some early forms of electronic media are outdated. In the 1980s, I wrote a long manuscript, using an Amstrad word processor. The words, substantially more than 2500, are on a number of 3 ¼-inch disks. I doubt that modern technology could now transfer those words onto CD ROM, for instance.
Anyway, enough of such thoughts: the unearthing of Mansfield manuscripts is exciting in the extreme.
PhD student Chris Mourant, 23, found the four stories in London’s King’s College archives. They include a short story titled A Little Episode, which recounts one of the most painful chapters of Mansfield’s life. It mirrors Mansfield’s own affairs with Garnet Trowell, a musician who got her pregnant and then rejected her, and George Bowden, whom she wed out of convenience and then rejected on their wedding night. Mansfield also lost the baby.
A Little Episode reveals the bitter disillusionment of a love triangle, the memory of which Mansfield tried to erase by destroying all her personal papers from that year – to the exasperation of biographers, reports London's The Independent.
Mourant found the material among documents relating to ADAM International Review, a 20th-century literary monthly. The Mansfield stories were given to its founding editor, Miron Grindea, by her close friend Ida Baker, in the 1960s.
Such is Mansfield's popularity that she has never been out of print. Her best-known writings include The Garden Party, from 1922, with its classic story "The Daughters of the Late Colonel", an exploration of genteel frustration.