Mary Butts

A distinctive and original voice within the Modernism movement, the English novelist Mary Butts was a prodigy of style, learning, and energy, who wrote with powerful insight about the Lost Generation. She was born in 1890 in Dorset, England, a great-granddaughter of Sir Thomas Butts, William Blake’s patron. By the time of her premature death in 1937, her work had gained a formidable reputation; hailed for their brave originality and stylistic panache, her many stories, novels, and poems were compared with Katherine Mansfield, D.H. Lawrence, and T.S. Eliot. Her career was championed by Ezra Pound, Robert McAlmon, Ford Madox Ford, Charles Williams, and May Sinclair.

Her notorious lifestyle in London and France in the 1920s overshadowed the importance of her work. The last several decades, however, has seen a resurgence of interest in Mary Butts the writer, and, after being “lost” for more than 50 years, her work has joined that of her contemporaries H.D., Djuna Barnes, Virginia Woolf, and Mina Loy, for its centrality to literary Modernism.

Related Selections

  • Mary Butts: Scenes from the Life (C), a biography by Nathalie Blonde
  • A Sacred Quest: Essays on the Life and Writings of Mary Butts (C), edited by Christopher Wagstaff

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