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Mary Butts was born in Poole, Dorset, and brought up at Salterns, an 18th-century house overlooking Poole Harbour, described in her memoir The Crystal Cabinet (1937). After her father's death in 1905, she was sent as a boarder to St. Leonard's School. She then studied at Westfield College in London and the London School of Economics, from which she graduated in 1914. She became a student of Aleister Crowley and received a co-author credit on his book Magick Book 4 (1912). During World War I, she volunteered as a social worker in the East End of London and met John Rodker, a writer and pacifist. They married in 1918 and had a daughter. Mary helped her husband set up in business as a publisher, and was part of modernist literary circles that included T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Ezra Pound, Wyndham Lewis, Ford Madox Ford, and Roger Fry. During the early 1920s, she lived between London, Paris, and the French Riviera. She had affairs with both men and women. Mary Butts wrote poems, essays, short stories, nonfiction, reviews, and a pair of stream of consciousness novels. Her first book of stories, Speed the Plough and Other Stories appeared in 1923, followed by her first novel, Ashe of Rings (1925), which was published by Robert McAlmon. Her second novel was Armed with Madness (1928). In 1930, after she and Rodker were divorced, Mary Butts married William Park "Gabriel" Aitken, a painter, and settled with him on the western tip of Cornwall. She was working on a study of the Roman emperor Julian the Apostate when she died at age 46, following surgery for a perforated gastric ulcer.
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