The Most Inspiring Love Letters in the History of Literature (4): Katherine Mansfield to John Middleton Murry

Katherine Mansfield and John Middleton Murry at home, 1913

Katherine Mansfield and John Middleton Murry at home, 1913

The fourth in our Valentine’s Day selection of literary love letters, this erotically-charged piece was penned by New Zealand-born Modernist short story writer Katherine Mansfield and addressed to the man who would become her second husband, writer and magazine editor John Middleton Murry

In fact, it was Murry’s job as an editor that brought him in contact with Mansfield. In 1911, she submitted a short story to the London avant-garde magazine “Rhythm,” edited by Murry. While he rejected the story, he was impressed with the writer’s style and replied, asking for a darker piece. Not long after, they began a relationship.

Katherine Mansfield was bisexual and she also had a woman lover, Ida Baker. She and Murry had an intense, troubled relationship and separated and got back together several times.

This letter, written by Mansfield in 1917, a year before she married John Middleton Murry, is breath-taking through its sensual, tender description of physical intimacy, but at the same time emphasizes the emotional bond between the two.

“Last night, there was a moment before you got into bed. You stood, quite naked, bending forward a little, talking. It was only for an instant. I saw you — I loved you so, loved your body with such tenderness. Ah, my dear!

And I am not thinking of *passion*. No, of that other thing that makes me feel that every inch of you is so precious to me — your soft shoulders — your creamy warm skin, your ears cold like shells are cold — your long legs and your feet that I love to clasp with my feet — the feeling of your belly — and your thin young back. Just below that bone that sticks out at the back of your neck you have a little mole.

It is partly because we are young that I feel this tenderness. I love your mouth. I could not bear that it should be touched even by a cold wind if I were the Lord. We two, you know, have everything before us, and we shall do very great things. I have perfect faith in us, and so perfect is my love for you that I am, as it were, still, silent to my very soul. I want nobody but you for my lover and my friend and to nobody but you shall I be faithful. I am yours forever.”

Katherine Mansfield succombed to tuberculosis in 1923, at age 34. After her death, Murry edited her work. He survived her by over 30 years and died in March 1957.

Anca Rotar is a Romanian-born writer, over-thinker and caffeine addict. She is the author of two books, Hidden Animals and Before It Sets You Free, both available from Among her interests, which she finds it hard to shut up about, she counts fashion, yoga, city breaks and deadpan sarcasm. She is also currently studying Japanese, so wish her luck. You can sample bits of Anca’s creative writing here.

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