Known for her spiritually questing novels, her supernatural stories and her flaming red hair, Mary Butts consorted in London and Paris literary circles wth Hemingway, Cocteau, Ford Madox Ford and the Bloomsbury clique. Her fiction and her poetry are today in near-total eclipse. This flowery autobiography was first published in a truncated version in 1937, the year she died. Butts's daughter, Camilla Bagg, has edited the present complete edition, restoring such traumatic incidents as the false accusations by the novelist's mother that she made passes at her stepfather. Most of the narrative centers on Salterns, the provincial estate where she grew up. This memoir is a sensitive woman's meticulous account of her evolving consciousness from sheltered child to independent writer. Regrettably, it is also priggish, sermonizing, querulous, full of unresolved conflicts over authority figures and written in a dated, suffocatingly ornate style. (August)
Butts (1890-1937) grew up as a privileged Edwardian. She recalled her childhood as literally magical, an initiation into the mysteries of nature and imagination that was stimulated by Salterns, a fine estate whose house boasted many books and a collection of William Blake's art. Her preoccupation with language was encouraged by her gifted father, but his death during her adolescence brought disaster: mother remarried, books destroyed, Blakes sold. The shock to her rather mystical temperament was permanent, informing her life and work as she gained literary recognition in the Twenties and Thirties. Women's studies and post-World War I literature collections will want her memoir/meditation, appearing only now in its entirety. Starr E. Smith, Georgetown Univ. Lib., Washington, D.C.