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Very like Poole Harbour

Patricia Beer, 5 December 1991

With and Without Buttons 
by Mary Butts, edited by Nathalie Blondel.
Carcanet, 216 pp., £13.95, October 1991, 0 85635 944 0
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... This is a collection of 14 stories by Mary Butts, a dedicated and prolific writer who died comparatively young in the Thirties. She is one of the current victims of the fashionable drive to exhume ‘forgotten women writers’. The category is dreary. Mary Butts is not ...

Good Things: Pederasty and Jazz and Opium and Research

Lawrence Rainey: Mary Butts, 16 July 1998

Mary ButtsScenes from the Life 
by Nathalie Blondel.
McPherson, 539 pp., £22.50, February 1998, 0 929701 55 0
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The Taverner Novels: ‘Armed with Madness’, ‘Death of Felicity Taverner’ 
by Mary Butts.
McPherson, 374 pp., £10, March 1998, 0 929701 18 6
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The Classical Novels: ‘The Macedonian’, ‘Scenes from the Life of Cleopatra’ 
by Mary Butts.
McPherson, 384 pp., £10, March 1998, 0 929701 42 9
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‘Ashe of Rings’ and Other Writings 
by Mary Butts.
McPherson, 374 pp., £18.50, March 1998, 0 929701 53 4
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... For the first time since Mary Butts died more than sixty years ago, all her major work is available in Britain, together with a first, full-length biography by Nathalie Blondel. Their appearance promises an occasion to assay the limits of the canon, for Butts’s second novel, Armed with Madness, first published in 1928, is, I would say, a masterpiece of Modernist prose ...

Downland Maniacs

Michael Mason, 5 October 1995

The Village that Died for England 
by Patrick Wright.
Cape, 420 pp., £17.99, March 1995, 0 224 03886 9
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... the neo-paganism of Llewellyn Powys (brother of John Cowper), the symbolist nostalgia of Mary Butts, the Marxist version of village life offered by lesbians Valentine Ackland and Sylvia Townsend Warner, the Luddite organicism of Rolf Gardiner and the yeoman-patriotic creed of Sir Arthur Bryant (both the latter having shady pro-Nazi ...

Fast Water off the Bow-Wave

Jeremy Harding: George Oppen, 21 June 2018

21 Poems 
by George Oppen, edited by David B. Hobbs.
New Directions, 48 pp., £7.99, September 2017, 978 0 8112 2691 2
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... State University, he encountered Conrad Aitken’s Modern Anthology of Poetry, and took up with Mary Colby, the pair henceforth inseparable. He was suspended and she was expelled by the university after they spent the night out together, so they married and hitchhiked around America, with Oppen drafting poems on the road. In New York in 1928 they met Louis ...

Gloomy Sunday Afternoons

Caroline Maclean: Modernists at the Movies, 10 September 2009

The Tenth Muse: Writing about Cinema in the Modernist Period 
by Laura Marcus.
Oxford, 562 pp., £39, December 2007, 978 0 19 923027 3
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... to pursue his career and becomes instead a collector of china and stones. The British novelist Mary Butts harboured a life-long obsession with pebbles and stones: ‘The life, the potency that lives in the kind of earth-stuff that is hard and coloured and cold. Yet is alive and full of secrets, with a sap and a pulse and a being all to itself.’ Film ...

Adventures at the End of Time

Angela Carter, 7 March 1991

by Iain Sinclair.
Paladin, 407 pp., £14.99, March 1991, 0 586 09074 6
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... round a hat that once belonged to him after she does her strip. The scarlet-haired opium addict, Mary Butts, makes a brief guest appearance and Sinclair borrows a minatory quotation from her autobiography: ‘I heard the first wraths of the guns at the Thames’s mouth below Tilbury.’ With this mass of literary references, the sex magic, the ...

My Books

Ian Patterson, 4 July 2019

... contents, their history, their value, or their associations. My Wyndham Lewis, Ford Madox Ford or Mary Butts collections, 1930s stuff (though I sold my complete set of the Left Book Club many years ago), first editions by prewar writers, rarities, oddities, and books of poems given to me by their authors.Rose Macaulay lost all her books, along with the ...


Anne Stillman: Jean Cocteau, 13 July 2017

Jean Cocteau: A Life 
by Claude Arnaud, translated by Lauren Elkin and Charlotte Mandell.
Yale, 1024 pp., £30, September 2016, 978 0 300 17057 3
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... Isadora Duncan wanders around barefoot looking for sailors, a basket of lobsters in her arms; Mary Butts is writing her books in a room upstairs; Cocteau moulds figurines of wax and pipe-cleaners in a room full of opium smoke. An American passing through wonders, innocently, at the smell that fills the hallways. Once Cocteau’s relationship with ...

The poet steamed

Iain Sinclair: Tom Raworth, 19 August 2004

Collected Poems 
by Tom Raworth.
Carcanet, 576 pp., £16.95, February 2003, 1 85754 624 5
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Removed for Further Study: The Poetry of Tom Raworth 
edited by Nate Dorward.
The Gig, 288 pp., £15, March 2003, 0 9685294 3 7
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... observed behaviourist rants (trashing the proles), small revenges. The Modernist experiment (Mary Butts, Djuna Barnes, John Rodker) was discounted, along with the social realists (Robert Westerby, James Curtis, Alexander Baron), who remain trapped in a ghetto of unfashionable leftist politics and unfashionable locations. The locations ...

A Girl Called Retina

Tom Crewe: You’ll like it when you get there, 13 August 2020

British Summer Time Begins: The School Summer Holidays, 1930-80 
by Ysenda Maxtone Graham.
Little, Brown, 352 pp., £18.99, July 2020, 978 1 4087 1055 5
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... girl and the two foreigners who weren’t princesses.’ Mother Bridget, the headmistress of St Mary’s, Ascot, greeted some new-starters in 1976 by saying: ‘Now, hands up any of you whose house is open to the public.’The teachers could be extraordinary, mainly in the sense of not being ordinary. They were almost always women. ‘My ears pricked up ...

What the children saw

Marina Warner, 7 April 1994

Marpingen: Apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Bismarckian Germany 
by David Blackhourn.
Oxford, 463 pp., £40, December 1993, 0 19 821783 8
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... be used for healing. Crowds began gathering very quickly indeed, and miracles followed. The Virgin Mary had been declared immaculate in 1854, four years before Bernadette’s vision confirmed to her, in her local Pyrenean dialect: ‘I am the Immaculate Conception.’ The doctrine holds that Mary was conceived in the mind of ...


E.S. Turner, 1 December 1983

Just William, More William, William Again, William the Fourth 
by Richmal Crompton and Thomas Henry.
Macmillan, 215 pp., £5.95, October 1983, 0 333 35848 1
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... for adults, but child readers, both boys and girls, took over and the author had to go easy with butts like the Society of Ancient Souls and the Society for the Encouragement of Higher Thought (the Twenties spawned endless cults, from Couéism to Eurhythmics). Some truly excruciating literary poseurs arrive to stay in William’s village, among them a writer ...

Faith, Hope and Probability

Mary Douglas, 23 May 1991

The Taming of Chance 
by Ian Hacking.
Cambridge, 264 pp., £27.50, November 1990, 0 521 38014 6
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... with little jokes at the expense of some public monuments: Quetelet and Durkheim have been regular butts for this tour. Adolphe Quetelet, the Belgian Astronomer Royal, takes the prize for attributing to mathematical theorems reality in nature. Quetelet was dazzled by the idea of the bell-shaped curve displaying the mean of a distribution, and went ahead to ...


Roger Garfitt, 20 March 1980

The Weddings at Nether Powers 
by Peter Redgrove.
Routledge, 166 pp., £2.95, July 1979, 0 7100 0255 6
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... can grind wheat you have to be wheat, Before you can eat bread you are a nice new crust Eaten by Mary, who chooses a crust-you here, A mouthful of Shakespeare’s breath there, a glass Of transparent Genghis Khan there, but in a very different spirit from the Classical original. The horror of mutability has gone: instead, mutability is taken to be ...

A Man’s Man’s World

Steven Shapin: Kitchens, 30 November 2000

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly 
by Anthony Bourdain.
Bloomsbury, 307 pp., £16.99, August 2000, 0 7475 5072 7
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... table leavings, ‘heated, clarified, and strained to get out all the breadcrumbs and cigarette butts’. (Do they really still smoke in Manhattan?) Perhaps most alarming for a nation of lipophobes are the quantities of butter, tons of lovely, artery-clogging butter everywhere: it’s what makes the food taste so good. As with the fishes, so with the ...

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