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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 MaryButts, 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 ...
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 MaryButts 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 ...

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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... of the area was already in place: through the pseudo-archaeological ‘downland’ mania of H.J. Massingham, the neo-paganism of Llewellyn Powys (brother of John Cowper), the symbolist nostalgia of MaryButts, 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 ...

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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... Oppen was thrown out of the military academy in which he was enrolled. A few years later, at Oregon 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 ...
7 March 1991
Downriver 
by Iain Sinclair.
Paladin, 407 pp., £14.99, March 1991, 0 586 09074 6
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... T.S. Eliot is constantly quoted by Edith Cadiz both before and after her disappearance; she passes round a hat that once belonged to him after she does her strip. The scarlet-haired opium addict, MaryButts, 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 ...

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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... Objects’, writes about a politician who becomes so enamoured of a piece of glass that he is unable to pursue his career and becomes instead a collector of china and stones. The British novelist MaryButts 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 ...

Cocteaux

Anne Stillman: Jean Cocteau

12 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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... where Cocteau stayed for extended periods, delivers another surprising sequence of real-life spectacles: Isadora Duncan wanders around barefoot looking for sailors, a basket of lobsters in her arms; MaryButts 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 ...

My Books

Ian Patterson

4 July 2019
... course of my life or never parted with, the ones that really matter to me, whether because of their contents, their history, their value, or their associations. My Wyndham Lewis, Ford Madox Ford or MaryButts 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 ...

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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... age. Critical consensus and broad readership made their choice long ago: stick with satire, smartly observed behaviourist rants (trashing the proles), small revenges. The Modernist experiment (MaryButts, 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 ...

Netherstocking

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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... have slipped in a few more gags for posterity. The original idea was to write stories about children 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 ...
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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... as was traditional on such occasions, for a chapel to be built and for the water of the spring to 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 ...

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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... to make babies in it, and the butter that goes into the Hollandaise was probably (shades of Shetland) 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 ...

Transfigurations

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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... trope that recurs repeatedly in Peter Redgrove’s recent work, You take turns to be food, Before you 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 ...
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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... It would have been better the other way round. Inventing categories Guides generally liven the trip 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 ...

‘A Being full of Witching’

Charles Nicholl: The ‘poor half-harlot’ of Hazlitt’s affections

18 May 2000
... to the back of the house: the busy London-Dover line. Here Sarah Tomkins lived her last days, with the trains rattling her window and the smell of the sperm-oil works blowing over from Newington Butts. She was 77 years old, a relic of the days of mad King George. She had outlived both her husband and her son. It was her daughter-in-law Caroline, now married to a clerk named Eastwood, who was with ...

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