Eliza Marian Butler

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Eliza Marian Butler (29 December 1885 – 13 November 1959),[1] who published as E. M. Butler and Elizabeth M. Butler, was an English scholar of German, Schröder Professor of German at the University of Cambridge from 1945. Her most influential book was The Tyranny of Greece over Germany (1935),[2] in which she wrote that Germany has had "too much exposure to Ancient Greek literature and art. The result was that the German mind had succumbed to 'the tyranny of an ideal'. The German worship of Ancient Greece had emboldened the Nazis to remake Europe in their image."[3] It was controversial in Britain and its translation was banned in Germany.[4]


Eliza Butler, known as "Elsie", was born in Bardsea, Lancashire in a family of Irish ancestry.[4] She was educated by a Norwegian governess (from whom she learned German) and subsequently in Hannover from age 11, Paris from age 15, the school of domestic science at Reifenstein Abbey from age 18, and Newnham College, Cambridge from 21.[4] As a teenager, she watched Kaiser Wilhelm II inspect his troops. In the First World War she worked as an interpreter and nurse in Scottish units on the Russian and Macedonian fronts (she had learned Russian from Jane Harrison)[2] and treated the victims of the German assault.[3] From 1926 to her death Butler lived and travelled with her companion Isaline Blew Horner.[2][5][6][7] After working in hospitals, she taught at Cambridge and in 1936 became a professor at the University of Manchester.[8] Her works include a trilogy on ritual magic and the occult, especially in the Faust legend (1948–1952).[4]

Butler also wrote novels. Her autobiography, Paper Boats, was published by William Collins, Sons in 1959, the year of her death.[4][9] She died in London on 13 November 1959.[1]

She may have inspired the scholar Suzanne L. Marchand to research German Orientalism, as Marchand emphasized the political overtones of Orientalistik, in reaction to Edward Said's assumption that Germany has had a mostly "classical" interest in the Orient (Said overlooked Germany in his Orientalism).[10]

Selected works[edit]

  • The Saint-Simonian Religion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1926)
  • The Tempestuous Prince (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1929)
  • Sheridan: A Ghost Story (London: Constable, 1931)
  • The Tyranny of Greece Over Germany: A Study of the Influence Exercised by Greek Art and Poetry Over the Great German Writers of the Eighteenth, Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Cambridge University Press, 1935; repr. Boston: Beacon, 1958, and Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 2012, ISBN 1107697646).
  • Rainer Maria Rilke (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1941; repr. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1946)
  • The Myth of the Magus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1947)
  • Ritual Magic (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1949; reimpression 1998)
  • Daylight in a Dream (London: The Hogarth Press, 1951)
  • Silver Wings (London: The Hogarth Press, 1952)
  • The Fortunes of Faust The Pennsylvania State University Press (reimpression 1952)
  • Paper Boats (London: Collins, 1959), a volume of reminiscences

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Dr. E. M. Butler. Learning and letters". The Times. London. 14 November 1959.
  2. ^ a b c Sheila Watts, "Eliza Marian (Elsie) Butler (1885 – 1959)", College History: Biographies, Newnham College, University of Cambridge, 2006. Retrieved 2012-11-03.
  3. ^ a b Thomas Meaney, "Half-Finished People", London Review of Books, 11 October 2012, p. 14. Retrieved 2012-10-04.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Biographical Note". The Professional Papers of Eliza 'Elsie' Marian Butler. Institute of Modern Languages Research, School of Advanced Study, University of London. Retrieved 2013-08-09.
  5. ^ University of Cambridge (2007).[full citation needed]
  6. ^ Boucher (2007), p. 121.[full citation needed]
  7. ^ Burford (2005).[full citation needed]
  8. ^ Eliza Marian Butler, Paper boats, 1959. "As it was, we both agreed that the experiment to give the 'real Germany' another chance had not been outstandingly successful; and it was under sombre auspices that I started professing German studies in Manchester that autumn."
  9. ^ Frank C. Roberts, Obituaries from the Times, 1951–1960, 1979. "She also published two not very good novels, and, in 1959, a delightful volume of reminiscences, Paper Boats. Dr. Butler's Irish origin gave her a degree of high spirits which made those duller than herself"[clarification needed]
  10. ^ Suzanne L. Marchand, Down from Olympus: Archaeology and Philhellenism in Germany, 1750-1970, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003, pp. 153-4 (including the Said quotation); Suzanne L. Marchand, "German Orientalism and the Decline of the West", Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Volume 145, Issue 4, 12/2001, p. 465.

External links[edit]