John Middleton Murry met Katherine Mansfield in December of 1911, when he was a callow twenty-one and she was a worldly and self-possessed twenty-two. Both were promising young writers whose careers were in their infancy (he had recently founded a small journal, Rhythm; she had published a book of stories) and whose lives revolved around their dedication to literary art (“An ideal of the good life,” Murry would write in his 1920 essay “The Function of Criticism,” “must inevitably be aesthetic”). A strong attraction developed, and in March of 1912 he moved into her London flat, thus beginning an intense, eleven-year-long relationship—which was not made official, by the way, till 1917.

Despite their genuine love for each other, however, the story of Murry and Mansfield is largely a story of separation. Because of his London commitments (after...


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