The instinct explains so much

Mary Butts in 1919
Photo by Bertram Park

Born in Dorset in 1890, Mary Butts was a modernist writer who fused spirituality, mythology, and reality in that were largely unappreciated during her lifetime. Twice married, first to writer John Rodker in 1918, and later to artist Gabriel Atkin in 1930, Mary navigated tumultuous relationships with both sexes over the years and struggled with addiction. Shortly before her relationship with Rodker crumbled, whilst pregnant with their daughter, Camilla, Mary wrote the following entry in her journal. Paris beckoned in the early 1920s, as did opium, but through it all she never stopped writing. Mary lived her final years in Cornwall, dying in 1937, aged just forty-six.

The Diary Entry

16 June 1920

Yesterday as I sat by the mountain river & looked up at that hill streaming with sun, & felt myself so heavy with child that I could scarcely walk the two miles home. I understood how women, with child-bearing always in their mind, had at whatever cost, to tame their men, by fraud, force, cajolery, anyway, anyhow to protect them, feed & provide for them while they were with young. The instinct explains so much of the worst things we do.

Further Reading

Mary Butts began to keep a journal in 1916 and continued until her death in 1937. In 2002 those journals were edited by Nathalie Blondel and published by Yale University Press with the title, The Journals of Mary Butts.

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