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This review is taken from PN Review 65, Volume 15 Number 3, January - February 1989.

Mary Butts, The Crystal Cabinet (Carcanet) £14.95
The work of the English writer Mary Butts (1890-1937) is little known and hardly read. Mainly out of print since their first publication in the 1920s and 1930s, her formidable output of novels, short stories, poetry, essays, historical narratives and reviews form a significant but over-looked part of the literature of the period. Born in Dorset Mary Butts saw herself as an essentially English writer although she spent many years abroad, especially in Paris between the wars, returning at the end of the 1920s to settle in Sennen on the Cornish coast where, at her untimely death at 46, she was buried in the local churchyard. Whilst this is not the place to discuss her work in detail, it is important to state that her present obscurity is deceptive as her work was highly regarded by many contemporary writers, not least Pound, Marianne Moore, Ford Madox Ford and Jean Cocteau (who illustrated her epistolatory fiction Imaginary Letters (1928)). Mary Butts was never part of any single literary group and on the whole was disparaged by the Bloomsbury Circle (Virginia Woolf rejected two of her novels Ashe of Rings (1925) and Armed with Madness (1928) for the Hogarth Press) although she claims to have been for a time intimate with Roger Fry as well as friends with Quentin Bell who wrote an (unpublished) account of his visit to her flat in Paris as a young man. Nor was she more successful with T.S. Eliot in spite of - or perhaps because of ...


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