Reviews -- The Classical Novels

"In a series of ten scenes Miss Mary Butts has studied the personality of Alexander the Great, and more particularly his tendency to think himself a god or God... His practical ability as a general and administrator, traced to a parallel longing of his father, Philip, to beget a worthy king, is left in the background, except in so far as his astonishing success encouraged his notions of his own divinity. The crash of battle, the operations of siege, the regulation of armies, the rapidity of marches, which make up so large a part of the popular idea of Alexander's career, being here for the most part treated allusively and not directly, this book may seem a somewhat meagre representation of his short but crowded reign. But Miss Butts frankly disclaims the purpose of saying much about the public side of his activity, concentrating her attention on his inner life... Beginning with the unification of Greece under Macedonian leadership, with a view to the propagation of Hellenism over the East,...[Alexander's divine vision] changes into a fusion of Persia with Hellas... and ends with an absorption of all nations into a single kingdom of mankind... This is Butts' suggested justification of Alexander: of his belief in his own divinity, without which he could not have attempted an aim which requires and perhaps is not unworthy of a god... [The Macedonian is] a remarkable book."
-- Times Literary Supplement (1933)
"Cleopatra, as a thoroughly intelligent head of state, a warm and witty woman, mistress, muse, and mother of Caesar, a divinity in her own right (fully legalized in Egyptian law) and an incomparable companion, is here viewed in depth by one of the most expert writers of our century -- a compassionate evocation and a brilliant revival."
-- Virgil Thomson
"Miss Butts has debunked all the notions, or misconceptions, of Cleopatra as the most alluring 'vamp' in creation. She pens a portrait that appears even more probable than any preceding it of the queen as a well-bred Greek girl, the one strong character remaining of an ancient family that was toppling to disintegration, and who dedicated herself to the restoration of her family's power and glory. To this end, and not from any desire to seduce Caesar, she became the great Roman's mistress, and it was through no lack of courage and diplomacy on her part that she failed to secure for their son, Cesarion, the right to succeed when Caesar was done to death. Next follows her relationship with Mark Antony, whom she married, and of that marriage three children were born, to whom she was an excellent mother... The author's portraits of the three 'immortals' -- Caesar, Antony, and Cleopatra -- are arresting, and strike an entirely new note. If only because of that the book is wonderfully interesting, but in addition the re-creation of the times in which they lived is a notable achievement. ...Without question, the author's skill, research and artistry have resulted in a highly enjoyable and provocative book."
-- Edinburgh Evening News (1935)
"No modernist writer has explored with such accuracy the nacreous qualities of female aggression and power and the words for it all -- aggression between the sexes, yes of course, but, more interestingly and startingly, the schematics and schisms between mothers, daughters, and daughters-in-law, between girlfriend and girlfriend, and between girlfriends playing mother and daughter, playing sisters and more than sisters."
-- Voice Literary Supplement

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