The Shropshire “genius”

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Photo by Dorothy Hickling

Mary Webb suffered the usual writerly self-deprecation:  she considered herself “wholly un-gifted” and her literary missteps left her “whelmed in remorse & terror.”

That, despite an admirable degree of success, publishing six books and scores of poems, and earning respectable fees from the Spectator and the Atlantic Monthly.  (She donated much of her income to London’s poor, and often subsisted on bread and tea; she burned her drafts for warmth.)

Webb had her fans:  “She is a genius, and I shouldn’t mind wagering that she is going to be the most distinguished writer of our generation,” wrote Rebecca West in the Times Literary Supplement.

Yet she has been forgotten since her death in 1927, at age 46. Forgotten, that is, until the pioneering efforts of Mary Crawford of San Mateo.  Crawford has organized a show, “Mary Webb: Neglected Genius,” that runs through March 13 at Manhattan’s Grolier Club (“America’s oldest and largest society for Bibliophiles”) — with an lavish catalogue to go with it. In May, the show is coming to Stanford, which has scanned some of the Webb memorabilia.

Webb’s story is told in the New York Times here.

I know, I know.  The May exhibition is a long way away.  Meanwhile, to slake your curiosity, you might check out Crawford’s Mary Webb website, or the Mary Webb website based in her native Shropshire, on the Welsh border, here, or the Facebook page:  “Has No One Ever Heard of Mary Webb?


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