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Mary Lutyens – obituary 1999

Mary Lutyens, who became the acknowledged world expert and writer on Krishnamurti, was only two years old when her mother, Lady Emily Lutyens, became a theosophist. In 1911 Krishnamurti and his brother Nitya were brought to England by Mrs Besant and as Lady Emily took the two boys ‘under her wing’, the young Mary grew up knowing them well.

Mary Lutyens was born in London on July 31st 1908, the youngest child of the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens and his wife Emily, the daughter of Edward Robert Lytton, Viceroy of India.

At an early age she appreciated her vivid imagination and was never bored with her own company. She was naturally secretive, her motto aged ten was ‘know all but be known of none’, but she wrote in her autobiography To Be Young
 (1959), that she aimed to cultivate a deliberate hardness. This hardness was not however apparent when she fell in love with Nitya and was much hurt when he seemed to ignore her.

Lady Emily travelled to both India and Australia many times with Krishnamurti, ‘the coming Messiah’, taking her younger children, including Mary  with her. Sir Edwin, her father, was not a theosophist but was in India every winter watching his city, New Delhi, being built. Lutyens recalled being proud of her father and his work, but she did not have a close relationship with him, although she looked very like him. He loved gaiety and so hated the idea of any silence at meal times that he designed a large round blackboard top for the dining table, so that noughts and crosses could be played if the conversation became sticky.

Although in later life Mary Lutyens was not a strict theosophist, she was interested in psychic matters and she remained dedicated to Krishnamurti. Her determination to preserve Krishnamurti’s good name extended to her writing a secret rebuttal of an Indian woman’s derogatory account of his life, which  was only to be published after her death.  She remembered Annie Besant as being the only person in her life for whom she felt any hero worship and from her childhood encounters with theosophy she gained a respect for the belief of others which stayed with her throughout her life.

In 1930 she married Anthony Sewell. The marriage was unhappy from the start as she was in love with his brother who came with them on the honeymoon. The  marriage was dissolved in 1945 and Sewell subsequently died. They had one daughter. In 1945 Lutyens married J.G. Links whom she had met through her brother, Robert, during the war and to whom she remained very happily married. She looked on Links as her rescuer from what had been a rather rackety life and said ‘he made me nice again.’ She objected to their first honeymoon spent on a troopship to New York and so they went to Venice, a city they both became passionate about.

In the 1930s and 1940s Mary Lutyens had written many novels among which were 
 Forthcoming Marriages
Perchance to Dream
(1935) Rose and Thorn
 (1936) and  So Near to Heaven
 (1943). She then went on to write many books including 
Effie in Venice
 (1965), a collection of unpublished letters from Effie Ruskin between 1849-1852, Lady Lytton’s Court Diary(1961),  
Millais and the Ruskins
The Ruskins and the Grays
The Lyttons in India
(1979), a biography of her father 
Edwin Lutyens
 (1980) several books about Krishnamurti, including  a three volume biography and 
The Life and Death of Krishnamurti(1990). She also wrote numerous serials under the pseudonym Esther Wyndham, including a romance for Mills and Boon called 
Black Prince.  (A recently submitted romance was rejected for being ‘too middle class.’) She was also an agony aunt and a contributor to the TLS, Apollo, Royalty Digest and the Cornhill. Her last book was a privately printed history of the Lyttons and the Lutyens families. Her first books were published by John Murray and she became a family friend of the Murrays; her later books also being published by them. She was very helpful not only during the Lutyens exhibition at the Hayward in 1985  but also during a recently made television programme on Lutyens in which she appears as a voice over, having refused to appear in person.

Her research was meticulous; she listened to all Krishnamurti’s lectures on tape and she had an original, rather lateral way of looking at things, seeing Ruskin and Effie’s relationship differently from other writers. Although her self-discipline and the way she corrected people’s grammar could be intimidating, she had a lively twinkle and was great fun. She was insatiably curious about everything and  was particularly intrigued about people’s sex lives asking very direct and daring questions.

She and her husband Jo Links were very supportive of each others work. She wrote everything in bed in pencil in an exercise book and he typed all her manuscripts, being the only person who could read her handwriting, and the practical one in the marriage. Together they created a very strong partnership and unit and from this core they were known for their generosity to others. . She had a particularly large circle of friends and was a great letter-writer; they had led very social lives and had entertained many people at their house in Sussex. She was famous for her  dry martinis and her elegance and, although unmusical, danced alone to Cole Porter for exercise.

Mary Lutyens, writer, born July 31st 1908. Died April 1999

Sarah Anderson