The Sisters of Kezia.

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The Sisters of Kezia: Katherine Mansfield remembered.

Introduced by author and producer Owen Leeming, who sets out what his intentions were at the start of the project to interview the three remaining daughters of Harold Beauchamp in London in 1962. He says he was asked to record their meeting for the NZBC Archives.

Vera [Bell], the eldest sister was aged seventy-seven and had travelled from Canada for the meeting. Only a single afternoon was permitted for the recording, in the house of the second sister, Mrs Pickthall [Charlotte], in Knightsbridge. He describes the appearance and manner of the three sisters. Jeanne [Renshaw], who is seventy, was the only one with a trace of New Zealand in her speech.

Each sister had prepared a written statement, which he says he let them read but chose to leave out of the finished programme.

The recording begins with all three in turn recalling their beloved grandmother Mrs Dyer, who featured in Mansfield's stories. They then discuss their mother who was 'delicate' but had a very young outlook and they saw her as a friend. They vehemently disagree that she was similar to the mother figure in the stories, who seemed to resent having children.

Their mother was a very good descriptive writer and they feel Kathleen (Katherine) inherited her gift from their mother. They feel Kathleen was selfish in her treatment of her parents, when she didn't communicate for months at a time. They describe her as self-centred and ruthless at times.

Owen Leeming discusses the contrast between the sisters' warm memories of their mother and the portrayal of her and her marriage as described by Kathleen and her biographer Anthony Alpers, who believed she was bitter and remote.

He asks them about Kathleen's childhood; the nightmares she suffered, the family who lived next door and the family's attitude to class and their servants.They say their parents were 'classless' and describe the attitudes shown by the family in 'The Garden Party' as simply 'very good copy.'

They move on to their memories of Days Bay where they spent their summers. Vera remembers Kathleen's increasing moodiness as she entered her teenage years. The sisters say their father was sympathetic toward the children but demanded respect. They never found him difficult and remember the tense time when Kathleen told her father she wanted to go overseas. Owen Leeming observes that Harold Beauchamp was a very complex character.

He says the sisters bear a resentment towards Anthony Alpers for his frank description of Kathleen's affair with a young violinist Arnold Trowell. They recall her musical ability on the cello.

Part 2. The sisters were enrolled at Queen's College, London and recall the trip to England. They remember Kathleen's obsession with a male literature teacher, her gift for languages and debating and her power over Ida Baker, her constant companion. Their feelings towards their sister's bohemian lifestyle are discussed.
Jeanne's refrain is that Kathleen 'embroidered' to make her stories more interesting and they are much less autobiographical than many critics believe.

On the return to New Zealand they moved to Fitzherbert Terrace and Kathleen began pressuring her parents who allowed her to return to England in 1908. She had begun to write and Owen Leeming summarises her brief marriage, affairs and miscarriage. He asks the sisters what the family back in New Zealand knew of these events. They talk about their mother's trip to Europe to try and help Kathleen and then their trip to England for the coronation of George V. They say they never met John Middleton Murray at that time.

Jeanne explains the circumstances surrounding the death of their brother Leslie Beauchamp in France in World War I, while testing a jam tin bomb. During the war, Charlotte (Chaddie) was the sister most in contact with Kathleen, visiting her in the south of France and she recalls the dangers involved in crossing the Channel in 1916 due to German torpedoes. She met Middleton Murray in 1916 in Cornwall and gives her impressions of him, Ida Baker and the couple's bohemian lifestyle and friendship with D.H. Lawrence and his wife.

Chaddie talks about Kathleen's failing health and the sisters describe her physical appearance in some details.

They recall her final years after the war ended and her visits to the sister's homes in the New Forest and London. Kathleen was stoic about her illness and still had a zest for life despite only being able to move slowly. She was always interested in remembering their childhood in New Zealand.

Jeanne and Chaddie both attended her funeral at Fontainebleau and describe the ceremony.

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Year 1962

Reference number 24160

Media type AUDIO

Collection Sound Collection

Genre Interviews (Sound recordings)
Sound recordings

Credits RNZ Collection
Leeming, Owen (b.1930), Producer
Pickthall, Charlotte Mary, 1887-1966, Interviewee
Renshaw, Jeanne, 1892-1989, Interviewee
Bell, Vera Margaret, 1885-1974, Interviewee
New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation (estab. 1962, closed 1975)

Duration 01:06:31

Date 1962

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