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My dear Douglas, Mary Butts and a performance of letters

Modernist Parties

A selection of contemporaries and friends in Mary Butts' life. On some of the pictures you'll find a backstory of how they're connected.

Mary Butts lived life on her terms and wasn't shy about her convictions. Butts’ life was a colourful one and it's no secret that she loved a good party. On a more serious note, her love of partying led to addiction issues that one could say overshadowed her work as a writer and caused chaos in her life. There are other pages in this exhibit (The Poppy Drug & Tracking Butts' Addiction and Relapses Through the Years) that elaborate on the severity of her drug and substance use.

The Modernist Parties page is about notable characters in the arts scene who shared Butts’ passions for art and partying. Butts rubbed shoulders with this whole ensemble in between writing literary works and novels like Ashe on Rings (1925). She became acquainted with painter Cedric Morris while living in Paris and was good friends with artist Jean Cocteau who illustrated her book Imaginary Letters (1928). Isadora Duncan and Cocteau were among the many artists that Butts met on the French Riviera while staying at the Welcome Hotel in Villefranche-sur-Mer. Butts was connected to controversial figures like Ezra Pound and was credited as a co-author on Aleister Crowley’s Magick (Book 4) while working as the occultist’s student. According to The Journals of Mary Butts, In 1923 Butts and partner Cecil Maitland visited Ezra Pound in Rapallo before they went to Florence while travelling in Italy (Blondel 202).

Viewing the slide show you'll see authors like the Waugh brothers (Evelyn & Alec), two key names in the party scene of the day who are mentioned sporadically in the Butts Journals. Alec Waugh's "Super Party" is the subject of one of Butts' letters to Douglas Goldring. Waugh is pictured below holidaying in Butts' beloved Villefranche with his younger brother. Perhaps Butts enjoyed the pace of a chaotic life, causing her art to both thrive and suffer because of it. Either way, the work and legacy she leaves behind are more than the creations of a flawed woman, they're pieces of history Armed with Madness.

Works Cited

Butts, Mary, and Nathalie Blondel. “The Journals of Mary Butts.” The Journals of Mary Butts, Yale University Press, 2002,

Clukey, Amy. “ENCHANTING MODERNISM: MARY BUTTS, DECADENCE, AND THE ETHICS OF OCCULTISM.” Modern Fiction Studies, vol. 60, no. 1, 2014, pp. 78–107. JSTOR,

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