24. May 2023 20:00
Dr. Gerri Kimber
From the mid-nineteenth century up to the Second World War, the French Mediterranean coast was perceived as a health-restoring refuge for sufferers of tuberculosis, with its mild climate and proximity to the sea. In addition, for writers and artists in particular, the beauty of the Mediterranean landscape frequently provided creative inspiration.
Katherine Mansfield, D.H. Lawrence and Aldous Huxley were three writers all of whom had, intermittently, shared a close friendship. All three would travel to the south of France, in Bandol, staying at the same hotel – the Beau Rivage – at different times, and for different reasons. Mansfield’s first visit to Bandol was in October 1915, before the diagnosis of the tuberculosis that would eventually kill her aged just 34. She had simply needed to escape London and England, where memories of her brother, recenetly killed in the Great War, were too overwhelming. Her subsequent visit in 1918, tubercular and ill, saw a much-altered, inhospitable town, now ravaged by war.
Five years after Mansfield’s death, Lawrence and his wife Frieda travelled to the south of France in the autumn of 1928, firstly to the tiny, almost deserted Mediterranean island of Port Cros, just across the bay from Hyères, eventually moving to the Hotel Beau Rivage in Bandol the following winter, and subsequently renting the Villa Beau Soleil in the little town. Aldous and Maria Huxley, close friends of the Lawrences, initially made their way to Bandol to see the ailing Lawrence, staying at the Hotel Beau Rivage after his death in 1930, before taking up residence in the Villa Huley in the then small village of Sanary-sur-Mer, just a short drive away along the coast, where they would remain for several years. “Here all is exquisitely lovely”, Huxley would write to his sister-in-law: “Sun, roses, fruit, warmth, we bathe and bask”. They soon found themselves at the centre of a group of expat writers in residence there, including many notable German authors, fleeing their homeland.
This talk will explore the time spent by all three writers on the Mediterranean coast, and asses the influence the area had on their creativity.
Dr. Gerri Kimber is a Visiting Professor in the Department of English at the University of Northampton. She is co-editor of Katherine Mansfield Studies, the peer-reviewed annual yearbook of the Katherine Mansfield Society, published by Edinburgh University Press.
She is the author of Katherine Mansfield: The Early Years (2016), Katherine Mansfield and the Art of the Short Story (2015), and Katherine Mansfield: The View from France (2008). She is the Series Editor of the 4-volume Edinburgh Edition of the Collected Works of Katherine Mansfield (2012-16). Together with Claire Davison, she is currently editing a new 4-volume edition of Katherine Mansfield’s complete letters for EUP (2020-24).
Gerri is co-editor of a further thirty books, and has contributed chapters to many other volumes, in addition to numerous journal articles and reviews, notably for the Times Lit-erary Supplement (TLS) and the Los Angeles Review of Books. She was President of the Katherine Mansfield Society for ten years (2010-2020). Gerri has made several media appearances on national radio and television in both New Zealand and the UK, and has been invited as a keynote speaker all over the world, including Japan, the USA, New Zealand, Switzerland, Slovakia, Belgium, France, Germany and the UK. She is currently writing a new critical biography of Mansfield to be published in 2024