Katherine Jones Bellamann, novelist and poet, was born on 7 October 1877 in Carthage, Mississippi, to Ephriam and Emma Williams Jones. On 30 September 1907, she was married to Henry Bellamann, a writer, musician, and music educator from Fulton, Missouri. Throughout the thirty-eight years of their marriage, the Bellamanns resided in many places in this country, including Columbia, SC, Philadelphia, and New York City. They also made many long trips abroad where Dr. Bellamann pursued his musical studies. Following her husband's death in 1944, Mrs. Bellamann returned to Mississippi and lived in Jackson until she died on 8 November 1956.
It is at once both sad and fitting that Mrs. Bellamann is remembered primarily as the author of Parris Mitchell of Kings Row (1948), a sequel to her husband's majestic Kings Row (1940). It is sad because Mrs. Bellamann was a woman whose many artistic accomplishments generally were overshadowed by those of her husband. It is fitting, however, that she should be remembered for Parris Mitchell of Kings Row because the unique creative association that grew between the couple was a source of much pride to Mrs. Bellamann. In the Foreword to Parris Mitchell of Kings Row, she describes vividly this professional closeness. The combined papers and manuscripts of Henry and Katherine Bellamann, which are housed in the University of Mississippi's Department of Archives and Special Collections, testify to the fact that the work of the two writers is closely entwined: they often shared notebooks and sometimes even single pages. Because Henry Bellamann is the more famous writer, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that Mrs. Bellamann published two novels in her own right, one seventeen years before Parris Mitchell of Kings Row and one several years later.
Mrs. Bellamann's literary efforts, however, were not limited to novels. Her sketch books reveal that throughout her life she wrote poetry continuously. Hundreds of her poems, both published and unpublished, exist. Besides the poetry that appeared in journals, two small volumes were published, one in 1956 and one posthumously in 1958. Many of Mrs. Bellamann's verses can be classified as romantic Southern nature poems. Although she will never be remembered as a great poet, Mrs. Bellamann did take seriously poetic form, especially the sonnet, and experimented much with it.
During the last years of her life, she devoted herself almost exclusively to poetry and became actively involved with several poetry societies and journals. She may never be considered a great American writer, or even a great regional one, but Katherine Bellamann's few contributions, especially her novels, are worthy pieces of art, and Mississippi may well be proud of this woman whose life exemplifies a devotion to literature and the arts.
Mrs. Bellamann's first novel My Husband's Friends (1931) received reviews that are surprisingly favorable for a first novel. Probably only those people closest to the Bellamanns at that time could say with any certainty what degree of autobiography, if any, is present in My Husband's Friends. In any case, Mrs. Bellamann writes this strange tale in the first person of her commanding heroine, Nina Perryfond. Nina's problem is that her beloved scientist husband Gene is so singlemindedly committed to his work that he leads his marital and social lives almost as an afterthought. For some reason, however, other people, both men and women, are strangely drawn to Gene and involve themselves deeply with him. Nina desperately watches the inevitable chains of events that time after time threaten to displace her in Gene's life. But Nina is a fighter; she waits and watches and quietly maneuvers her husband out of awkward involvements with his friends. A constant parade of bizarre characters moves through the pages of the novel, and Nina Perryfond must contend with each one of them as she struggles to protect her marriage against what she perceives to be their parasitic encroachments. As Nina gradually reveals her own character, however, one begins to wonder who the real parasite is. Should the reader accept unquestioningly Nina's interpretations of events? The strength of the novel lies in this complexity of character that Mrs. Bellamann carefully constructs. Her heroine Nina Perryfond is not the cardboard character she first appears to be.
Cardboard characterization is a charge that several reviewers leveled against Mrs. Bellamann's third novel The Hayvens of Demeret (1951). A careful reading of this romance of the ante-bellum South, however, reveals its distinctly allegorical overtones. For the novel's setting, Mrs. Bellamann turned to the rich Delta land of her native Mississippi. The main characters, twin brothers Jeffrey and Noel Hayven and Jeffrey's beautiful wife Laure, are personifications of the ideals and conflicting attitudes that led the South to the Civil War. In June 1847, Noel, a states' rights idealist, returns home from the Mexican campaign to find his twin married to the beautiful but dangerously discontented Laure from New Orleans. Jeffrey, the more sober-minded of the twins, has a deep love of the land and is wary of Noel's radical political leanings which Jeffrey feels would threaten the South's prized stability. The deep affection between the twins is further strained when Noel and Laure become infatuated with each other. Laure is presented less as a woman than she is as an unreal vision. Resentful of carrying Jeffrey's child, Laure, in an attempt to destroy Demeret by weakening a levee, drowns. Noel, away in New Orleans and unaware of her death, fights a duel to protect her honor. When he returns to Demeret, he and Jeffrey nearly kill each other before realizing that what they loved was a fleeting and unreal vision that was both their strength and ruination. Their feelings about Laure, the bitch-goddess, exactly parallel their conflicting political attitudes about the South. Yet they ally themselves in an effort to protect a common ideal. Out of such pacts, the novel implies, was the Confederacy born. Again, as in My Husband's Friends, the strength of The Hayvens of Demeret is a gracefully understated complexity.