So perfect is my love for you that I am, as it were, still, silent to my very soul
A love letter from Katherine Mansfield
By the time of her death in 1923, Katherine Mansfield had known fellow writer John Middleton Murry for eleven years and been married to him for five—an intense relationship complicated by affairs, periods of separation, and illness. Throughout it all they exchanged hundreds of letters, many of which were later published in the unambiguously titled book Letters Between Katherine Mansfield and John Middleton Murray, and some of which were quite beautiful. In 1917, months before she was diagnosed with the tuberculosis that would cut her life short, Mansfield sent this one. They wed the next year.
May 18th 1917
Do not imagine, because you find these lines in your private book that I have been trespassing. You know I have not — and where else shall I leave a love letter? For I long to write you a love letter tonight. You are all about me — I seem to breathe you — hear you — feel you in me and of me — What am I doing here? You are away — I have seen you in the train, at the station, driving up, sitting in the lamplight talking, greeting people — washing your hands — And I am here — in your tent — sitting at your table. There are some wallflower petals on the table and a dead match, a blue pencil and a Magdeburgische Zeitung. I am just as much at home as they. . .
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 now 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 & your feet that I love to clasp with my feet — the feeling of your belly — & 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 youth — 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 for ever
Originally reprinted in Letters Between Katherine Mansfield and John Middleton Murray, edited by Cherry Hankin. First published in 1951.
A German newspaper.