Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The Urewera Notebook: Scholarly edition

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posted on 2021-12-08, 18:33 authored by Plumridge, Rose Anna O'Rorke

This thesis is a scholarly edition of Katherine Mansfield’s Urewera Notebook. The General Introduction summarises the purpose to which the notebook has been put by previous editors and biographers, as evidence for Mansfield’s happiness or unhappiness in New Zealand throughout 1906-8. It then offers an overview of the historical context in which the notebook was written, in order to demonstrate the social complexity and geographical diversity of the terrain that Mansfield covered during her 1907 camping holiday. This is followed by an analysis of Mansfield’s attitudes towards colonials, Maori and the New Zealand landscape. Mansfield’s notebook is permeated by a sense of disdain for colonials, especially when encountered as tourists, but also a fascination with ‘back-block ’settlers and a sense of camaraderie with her travelling companions. Mansfield repeatedly romanticised Maori as a noble ‘dying race’ with a mythic past, but was also insightfully observant of the predicament of Maori incontemporary colonial society. Her persistent references to European flora, fauna and ‘high culture’, and her delight in conventionally picturesque English gardens, reveal a certain disconnect from the New Zealand landscape, yet occasional vivid depictionsof the country hint at a developing facility for evokingNew Zealand through literature.In the Textual Introduction I discuss the approaches of the three prior editors of the notebook: John Middleton Murry polished, and selectively reproduced, the Urewera Notebook, to depict Mansfield as an eloquent diarist; Ian A. Gordon rearranged his transcription and couched it within an historical commentary which was interspersed with subjective observation, to argue that Mansfield was an innate short story writer invigorated by her homeland. Margaret Scott was a technically faithful transcriber who providedaccuracy at the level of sentence structure but whoseminimal scholarly apparatus has madeher edition of the notebook difficult to navigate,and has obscured what Mansfield wrote. I have re-transcribed the notebook, deciphering many words and phrases differently from prior editors. The Editorial Procedures are intended as an improvement on the editorial methods of prior editors.The transcription itself is supported by a collation of all significant variant readings of prior editions. Arunning commentary describesthe notebook’s physical composition, identifies colonial and Maori people mentioned in the text, and explains ambiguous historical and literary allusions, native flora and fauna,and expressions in Te Reo Maori. The Itinerary uses historical documents to provide a factually accurate description of the route that Mansfield followed, and revises the itinerary suggested by Gordon in 1978. A biographical register explains the social background of the camping party. This thesis is based on fresh archival research of primary history material in the Alexander Turnbull Library, legal land ownership documents at Archives New Zealand, historical newspapersand information from discussions with Warbrick and Bird family descendants.A map sourced from the Turnbull Cartography Collection shows contemporary features and settlements, with the route of the camping party superimposed. Facsimiles of pages from the notebook are included to illustrate Mansfield’s handwriting and idiosyncratic entries. Photographs have been selected from Beauchamp family photograph albums at the Turnbull, from the Ebbett Papers at the Hawke’s Bay MuseumTheatre Gallery, and from private records.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

English Literature

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970120 Expanding Knowledge in Languages, Communication and Culture

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of English, Film, Theatre and Media Studies


Whiteford, Peter