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My dear Douglas, Mary Butts and a performance of letters

Modern Letters to Mary

What would we say to Mary Butts if we could? Here are a series of letters from modern day individuals, sending their messages back in time.

Anika Luteijn's Letters to Mary Butts

Letter #1

Luteijn Letter to Mary Butts - 1.1

Luteijn Letter to Mary Butts - 1.1

Page 1.1 - Transcription
My Dear Mary,
Do pardon my handwriting, as I have not written in such a way for some time. I'm sure you would be appalled to know that handwriting has fallen out of fashion somewhat nowadays. I would also ask for your pardon on another matter, as I have come across your journals, and have read a few entries. I'm sure you most likely never meant for another soul to ever lay eyes upon your words in that context, therefore...

Luteijn Letter to Mary Butts - 1.2

Luteijn Letter to Mary Butts - 1.2

Page 1.2 - Transcription
...I ask for your forgiveness. Whether you feel the desire to do so is entirely up to you, and I will not fault you should you be unwilling.On a separate matter, I did want to discuss something I came across in your writings, which touched me quite profoundly. On the date of July 13th 1932, you described how the past few weeks had been, and continued to be, the happiest of your life. I found myself smiling as I read how you had found "balance of all ways" in your new home, your work, and your relationship...

Luteijn Letter to Mary Butts - 1.3

Luteijn Letter to Mary Butts - 1.3

Page 1.3 - Transcription
...with your partner. Seldom does anyone find such blissful balance, and I'm glad that you've taken the time to notice it during your times of self-reflection. It is rather common that we forget to notice how far we have come from our days of strife until it suddenly dawns upon us. Your descriptions of your bliss have reminded me of what I consider to be my own. I too flourish by the seaside, though my coast and sea is far removed from yours; they have different characters, do they not? Different personalities, different temperaments. I thoroughly wish that I could simply sit by the...

Luteijn Letter to Mary Butts - 1.4

Luteijn Letter to Mary Butts - 1.4

Page 1.4 - Transcription...sea, and just write. There is far too much noise nowadays, and I should love for the sound of the crashing waves to drown everything out. I believe that you share my sentiments, though a good jolly party every now and then would be quite fun. It has been ages since I've attended a good party. I attended one recently, but it was a rather ghastly affair. There were far too many people, and I could only manage to socialize once I got a drink in my hand. Quite frightful to do without, I would say. My hand grows quite tired, therefore I shall end this letter here, though...

Luteijn Letter to Mary Butts - 1.5

Luteijn Letter to Mary Butts - 1.5

Page 1.5 - Transcription
...I want to express once more my apologies for intruding upon your private musings, but I am also glad to know that you did find some peace and happiness throughout your lifetime. I bid you farewell, and perhaps we shall speak again sometime soon.
All the best, Anika Luteijn

Letter #2

Luteijn Letter to Mary Butts - 2.1

Luteijn Letter to Mary Butts - 2.1

Page 2.1 - Transcription
My Dear Mary,
I have recently finished reading one of your novels, Armed with Madness, and I must inquire in regards to the atrocious personalities of the characters. Are they intended to be so disagreeable? My goodness, Mary, they are all horrible little creatures, without a redeeming characteristic to share between them all. I was in the process of taking notes while I read, and I could not help but write what I truly thought regarding...

Luteijn Letter to Mary Butts - 2.2

Luteijn Letter to Mary Butts - 2.2

Page 2.2 - Transcription
...that damned Picus and Carsten. None of these comments could be possibly repeated in polite company, and I do not relish writing them here for fear of interception. They were unladylike comments, but necessary. Should anyone borrow my copy of your book, they shall find some colourful language in the margins of page 80. (In the process of finding the right page, a silverfish crawled across my book, causing me to almost drop it; damned student housing). The thought of someone innocently coming across it makes me chuckle. I hope you're not cross that I wrote in your novel, I find that it adds character, and...

Luteijn Letter to Mary Butts - 2.3

Luteijn Letter to Mary Butts - 2.3

Page 2.3 - Transcription
...lets future readers in on what kind of person I was at the time. I left some drawings as well. Anyways, the devil Picus, the woodpecker, manifested to me in real life, and it made me question the laws of the universe, so I thank you for making me question my sanity. I was reading your novel on the deck, sunning myself on an unseasonably warm afternoon, and a damned woodpecker dusted me, coming far too close for comfort, and began pecking at one of the posts of the grape vine plant. There were obviously no bugs within, but the bastard didn't seem to care, and kept...

Luteijn Letter to Mary Butts - 2.4

Luteijn Letter to Mary Butts - 2.4

Page 2.4 - Transcription
...pecking away. He left and came back several times, every time nearly taking my head off, and I was almost glad that my father gave me some chore to do inside the house so that I could get away from the creature. I blame you, of course, as if I had not met your unfortunate Picus, then I might not have thought the universe was out to get me with some strange literary anomaly. The circumstances could have been purely coincidental, but I am far too superstitious and spiritual for that to calm my nerves regarding the ordeal. I would have to say that the only...

Luteijn Letter to Mary Butts - 2.5

Luteijn Letter to Mary Butts - 2.5

Page 2.5 - Transcription
...character of some conscience is Ross, though he is guilty of negligence regarding the actions of his companions. Thoroughly unbothered by it all; perhaps if I cared less, then I could live as blissful a life as Ross, just rolling my eyes at the stupidity around me, and just paint a lovely picture instead. Perhaps I should count myself lucky that I no longer have friends like his. I could go on about how much Carsten resembles what we would call nowadays an 'incel,' but the hour is growing late, and I am feeling peckish for a bowl of noodles...

Luteijn Letter to Mary Butts - 2.6

Luteijn Letter to Mary Butts - 2.6

Page 2.6 - Transcription
...I shall bid you farewell, and while I apologize for being harsh, perhaps you should just write some more likeable characters?
Much love, Anika Luteijn.


Cian Shepherd's modern letter to Mary Butts

Dear Mary, Hello from the future! To get it out of the way, no, we do not have hover cars. Although we might be close. I'm writing this letter to you in hopes that you will abide by my rather odd request. Now before my proposal, I must explain a thing or two. You see, my English modernism class is currently studying you and your work after almost one hundred years of you passing away. Crazy right? The craziest part, please forgive us for this; our class is studying the contents of your letter correspondence with Douglas Goldring. And some letters between you, your daughter, and your aunt. I understand if you're slightly angry at us for infringing on your privacy, but we are all very fascinated with you. Our class is conducting an exhibit to showcase and highlight all of the significant talking points in your letters. Hopefully, you feel honoured to see how hard we're all working to do it justice. Your great-grandson is also providing some context and art for this exhibit which is pretty cool. Now for my request, please do not take offence to this, but I was hoping to ask you to write more legibly. You probably haven't considered how future generations will attempt to decipher your handwriting, but we are, and it is challenging at times. For the most part, the transcription of your letters has been accurate. However, there are a few indecipherable words. Since our class is very keen on representing you and your letters precisely, it could be beneficial if you took a little extra time to pay closer attention to penmanship. Again, I mean to ask you this in the most pleasant way possible. It has been a delight getting to know you through your letters. Enjoy the past, or I guess (to you) the present and future. Love - Cian.

Paletta's Letter to Mary
Alexander Lima Letter to Mary Butts 2.0

Alexander Lima (UVic) Letter to Mary Butts

My Dear Mary Butts,

Having done quite a bit of research on your works, and you as well, I thought us familiar enough to use your likeness. I apologize if this would offend you but, quite frankly, I could not bring myself to ask permission. Would you have gone on a walk with our readers? Could I capture all the nuances of your mind in this exhibition? I certainly tried, but I think the task impossible. I hope that, through this letter, I can acquire your blessing.

I wonder if the Mary Butts that I talk to is the same Mary my peers see. I have constructed you through a vinier of the “Buttsian” natural world and your, quite frankly, unfortunate beliefs. When I see how others see you, I’m jealous. I know youre a better person than I have seen. When your oceans dance, I can only see the darkness beneath. I hope one day I can know the real Mary.

Alex Lima


Joel Hawkes, Letter to Mary Butts, dated 2 Dec 2022

Letter to Mary Butts from Joel Hawkes

Thomas Armstrong's Modern Letter to Mary Butts

Dear Mary,

I’m sorry to write to you this way, but I’m afraid it has gotten rather difficult to reach you through conventional means. Even as I write this, I fear you may never read what I have to say- what a strange thought, when I have read your handwriting so many times that I now see it in my mind whenever I think of you! Nevertheless, I fear my mind will drive itself crazy if I do not make some attempt to communicate with you, so here we are.

I owe you an apology, Mary, and I hope you shall accept it.

I apologize profusely for violating your privacy as I have- I recognize that I had no right to read those letters to Goldring, your aunt, and even your daughter. It was a gross injustice, and I am truly sorry. Please understand that this intrusion into your life was not meant to cause offense, but merely a way to illuminate your enigmatic personage. So much time has passed, Mary, and the letters are some of the only preservations of your personality- your humour, your wit, and sly charm. Through them, you live on, and they are too precious a resource to ignore. I am not ashamed of reading them, and believe I was entirely justified to do so. If you could only see what we’ve created in your honor, I believe you would understand.

All the same, I am sorry. And also grateful- for if you had not written these letters in the first place, the fog that surrounds you would be impenetrable, and I fear even your brilliant light would not be able to escape the confines of time and space. Perhaps you knew, all those years ago, that someone would be reading these letters in one hundred years, that they would be used to keep your name immortalized.

I hope you read this one day, Mary. I hope you forgive me and understand.

All my love,

Thomas Armstrong


Devon MacLean's Letter to Mary

Dear Mary,

This journey through time—analyzing your journals, letters, and published works—has unearthed so much regarding your life and the world you inhabited; a world that is not so different from ours.

While I am surrounded by your words, as they flow freely from the page and through my mind, I cannot help but question the validity of my imagination and my understanding of what it meant to be Mary Butts.

In a perfect world, you would write back and correct any possible misconceptions I may have about who you are and why you said what you said. Though, I fear this is not a perfect world and we are separated further by every passing second, eliminating any chance of a two-way conversation.

Yet, your writing astonishingly encapsulates so many issues of modern society, so many hidden truths. I know I shouldn’t, but I must ask, what is at the heart of your writing? Will I ever understand, or will I eventually find myself utterly lost in the labyrinth that is Mary Butts.

Forever and always,

Devon MacLean

Cameron Bolduc's Modern Letter to Mary Butts

Dear Mary,

We have never had the pleasure of having a conversation, and yet I have the sneaking suspicion we would get along swimmingly. You see, I am of the sort who is all too prone to go off on tangents and side tangents; something I have noticed you do throughout your novels and letters to friends and loved ones. Due to this, I firmly believe we could easily pass the better part of a day away having a thoroughly entertaining and laughter-filled chat.

On another note, Mary darling, I simply must apologize. Recently I have been spending far too much time reading through some of your old correspondences – I know, I have been entirely insensitive to you and your relations, all of whom I presume would be thoroughly unsettled and disgusted at the thought of a stranger reading such personal information. However, Mary, you must understand that you have become quite the topic of interest. By the day more and more people are learning your name and itching to know more about you, and with so little information remaining on your life, I hope you can understand the need to delve into your more personal documents. That said, if it is any consolation, your penmanship, while beautiful, can at times be near impossible to read. Who knows, perhaps that was a sneaky trick on your part to ward off prying eyes.

I also wanted to thank you, Mary. As you know, in the days when you worked away on your stories, the world did not look too kindly on the prospect of a man loving another man, or a woman loving another woman. But you saw things not as they were but as they could be. You may not realize this, but by today’s standards, you were not only a proud member, but quite the advocate for the LGBTQ2IA+ community (Oh, and that stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Two-spirit, Intersex, Asexual, and other identities falling outside the realm of cisgender and heterosexual paradigms – I know, it must be quite the shock to see that sexuality is a far broader spectrum then you may have thought). Anyway, thank you. Through your inclusive work, you had a role to play in getting society to what we are today. You truly bettered this world.

Sadly, Mary, I am afraid I will have to end this letter here. The world is a busier place than it once was, and I have far too much to do. I would very much love to meet up one day and chat well into the early hours of the morning. I just know we would have a hoot of a time.

With much love and respect,

Cameron Bolduc (UVic)

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