Mary Butts
: Her Life and Magic

  • Lynn E Reglar

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Philosophy (MPhil)


This dissertation is a study of the English author and diarist Mary Butts (1890-1937). The focus of the work is an exploration of the way in which her very personal and lifelong interest in magic, ritual, occult practices and knowledge, and her search for
personal enlightenment, was incorporated into her fiction, both novels and short stories. Life and magic were deeply intertwined for Butts, and the title was chosen to reflect that. Magic and the occult were deeply connected to both her daily life and her
writing and this dissertation, unlike previous work on Butts, will focus on the importance of magic and the construction of ritual in her work. She lived at a transitional time in the history of magic; between the so-called occult revival of the late nineteenth century, and the post-war development of modern paganism and
witchcraft, and this therefore makes her writings on the subject so interesting and indeed, worthy of study.

The first part of the dissertation, the Introduction, is an overview of her work including critical responses, contemporary or later. It includes a survey of the current literature which has Mary Butts as its subject; this will indicate how the approach of previous
biographers and editors has differed from my own.

The second chapter is an exploration of the way in which her magical philosophy developed and how she used both the literature available together with her surroundings, to construct a unique way of viewing the universe. This chapter draws
extensively on her journals and includes an account of the time spent with Aleister Crowley, who at that time was the most well-known ritual magician in Europe.

The third chapter is a detailed analysis of her fiction, novels and short stories, which shows how magic and ritual were supremely important elements in her work and which made her unique.
Date of Award24 Mar 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorRonald E Hutton (Supervisor)

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