Shropshire Poet and Novelist 1881 - 1927
This web site can also be found using www.marywebb.vze.com
|About the Society page:||Selected Bibliography page:|
|Biographical Notes page:||Interviews & Reviews of Books & Films page:|
Welcome from Shropshire in the Heart of England.
Hazel's rendezvous with Reddin at Hunter's Spinney (Pontesford Hill) from the film of Gone to Earth
NEW WEBSITE Mary Webb Society
© Also look out for our new leaflet ©
JOIN THE MARY WEBB SOCIETY TODAY--NEW MEMBERS WELCOME CLICK HERE FOR Membership Details.
See the new Guestbook at the bottom of the page and leave us your comments.
At this years Summer School Bishops Castle
Scholars and researchers will appreciate the link to the West Midlands Literature Collection. This is a comprehensive site that includes Mary Webb's books and poems as complete e-text in xhtml format and is free of charge to read or download and is ideal for cut and paste and find etc. Each works has an introduction by Gladys Mary Coles.
Remember Copyright does exist and must be acknowledged. see the Links section below
The Society would apprecite it if you have found our web site useful to make a contribution to its funds by joining the Mary Webb Society, to enable us to continue to spread the words of Mary Webb.
Exhibition of MW at the Guildhall Much Wenlock
A permanent display case features the Life of MW in and around Much Wenlock. The display board is of a very high quality and we must thank Jonathan Moor, the curator for his enthusiasm and support for the project. The panel was designed by Liz Stamps and produced by David Salter, design team, Shropshire County Council. The display case is a permanent feature. Do go and see it.
A similar display can be seen at the BOG CENTRE , Stiperstones
If anyone has any news please email details to
· · Annual Member £10
· · Joint Annual Member £13.00
· · Single Overseas £13.00
· · Joint overseas £15.00
Cheques to be made payable to :- The Mary Webb Society.
The Mary Webb Society.
Mrs Liz Stamps
15 Yew Tree Road
Ring Liz on 01952 419078 or e-mail at
About the Society.
The Mary Webb Society was established at a public meeting at Meole Brace, Shrewsbury, England in 1972. Its aims are:
To honour the memory of Mary Webb.
To further the reading and appreciation of her works.
To liaise with other organisations.
To foster appreciation of the Mary Webb Country.
encourage scholarship and education in the spirit of Mary Webb.
The society attracts members from throughout the UK and overseas who are devoted to the literature of Mary Webb and appreciate the Shropshire scene which was so essential to the author's creative spirit. At present there are 160 members (Oct-01).
The committee plans a programme of about four events a year. These always include a birthday lunch, and a two-day summer school which includes lectures, tours and entertainment.
Events are held at various Shropshire locations related to the life and literature of Mary Webb.
The AGM is held each year in September.
The society has a rota for placing fresh flowers on Mary Webb's grave at Shrewsbury Cemetery each month.
The Society has been awarded a grant from the lottery fund to develop an educational project. An education pack has now been produced for schools, further education and libraries. It includes study notes on Precious Bane and Gone to Earth in addition to articles on the landscape, folklore and dialect of Mary Webb
Other special events have included, the planting of a Mary Webb rose in the garden of Leighton Lodge, Mary's birthplace in March 1993, and the commissioning of a plaque depicting the Mary Webb countryside to commemorate the society's affection for its late founder chairman, Dennis Pursell.
The society has also compiled a Mary Webb archive from information previously held by individual members. This archive now has a permanent home at Lythwood Road, Bayston Hill (formerly Bayston Hill Library) near Shrewsbury, and can be viewed by request, as can the Mary Webb garden at the same location.
Newsletters are sent out periodically as well as details of forthcoming events.
The society is affiliated to The Alliance of Literary Societies. In 1997 the Mary Webb society hosted the A.G.M. in Birmingham
The society is proud to have as its president, Dr Gladys Mary Coles, author of the Flower of Light, The definitive biography of Mary Webb, as well as other works on Mary Webb and her own extensive writing and poetry. Dr Coles is available to lecture to other literary societies and interested groups.
Mary Webb was born Gladys Mary Meredith on March 25th 1881 at Leighton Lodge, Leighton, a village south of Shrewsbury. Her father, George Edward Meredith was a teacher and became a great influence in her life. She shared his love of literature and of the countryside. The Celtic influence of her parentage was strong. Her father was proud of his Welsh descent. Her mother, Sarah Alice Scott was from an Edinburgh family reputedly connected with Sir Walter Scott. Mary was the eldest of six children and her earliest writing consisted of plays and stories to amuse her brothers and sisters. The young Mary loved to explore the local countryside and was fascinated by the wonders of the natural world. She developed an extraordinary perception for minute detail in nature and this is reflected in the richness of her poetry and prose. At the age of twenty she developed a thyroid disorder, which was to cause her ill health for much of her life and lead to her premature death. She became very self-conscious due to the disfiguring features of the disease and began to retreat into her own solitary world. At the age of twenty one, Mary was writing essays and poems with nature as the main theme (published in 1917 as The Spring of Joy). In 1910 Mary met Henry Webb, a teacher who shared her interest in writing. They married in 1912. She and Henry first lived in Weston-super-Mare, but Mary was never really happy living away from Shropshire with which she felt a spiritual bond. At this time she began her first novel, The Golden Arrow, based in the Church Stretton area. The Webbs returned to Shropshire in 1914 where Mary completed The Golden Arrow (published 1916). Mary's second novel, Gone To Earth, from which a film was later made, was written in response to her sadness at the cruelty of war. In 1917 Henry secured a job at the Priory School in Shrewsbury and Mary was able to realise a dream when they acquired a small bungalow at Lyth Hill called Spring Cottage. She loved Lyth Hill and would spend hours in quiet meditation of her surroundings, gathering information to include in later novels or poems. It was here Mary wrote The House in Dormer Forest in 1920 and many of her poems. In 1921 Mary and Henry moved to London in the hope that she would receive more literary recognition. Although pining for her native Shropshire, she completed her forth novel, Seven For A Secret in 1922, set in the borderland of South West Shropshire. Also, whilst in London she wrote her most famous novel, Precious Bane in 1924. This, like her other novels, is rich in folk lore and humour, with beautifully drawn characters. For this work she was awarded the Prix Femina Vie Heureuse. This confirmed the opinion of her admirers in the literary world that "Mary Webb is a Genius"(Rebecca West). However the general public had not as yet discovered her. In 1927 Mary's health was deteriorating, her marriage was failing and she returned to Shropshire alone. Her final novel Armour Wherin He Trusted remained unfinished. She died at St Leonards on Sea at the age of forty six. Although her literary output was comparatively small she leaves a rich legacy of intense creativity and natural mysticism. Posthumous success came in 1928 when the Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin acclaimed her work, which was then gathered and published in successive editions by Jonathan Cape. "Her relevance as a writer is increasing, and the truths she expresses, her reverence for the natural environment and perception of it, are particularly valuable to the late twentieth century".(Mary Webb, Gladys Mary Coles, Seren Books 1990).
Webb, Mary. Gone to Earth, Dial Press, original copyright 1917 by E.P.Dutton. Reminiscent of Thomas Hardy but with a rawer, more passionate and emotional edge to her writing, Mary Webb tells the story of Hazel Woodus, a Shropshire girl more at one with nature than with humanity and its veneer of "civilization. "Hazel, like nature itself, is inevitably destroyed by the misunderstanding and arrogance of society's rules and mores as two very different men -- a pastor and a crude and sensual member of the gentry -- try to "take dominion" over her. Melodramatic and lush in description, it challenges you to think about the nature and values of society vs. nature. They just don't write them like this any more and I think that is a tragedy in its own right.[copyright Jacqueline Haun]
Desert Island Books:
Richard Pierce of the Bath Literary Society chose Gone to Earth. The vitality of old England meeting insurgent Welsh border country is found in "Gone to Earth". The primrose path to seduction is free of clichés here, and Squire Reddin, Vessons, Sally Haggard and Hazel burn with life. The Under Hall of Reddin recalls Poe's "House of Usher" and there is horror, guilt, poetry and the music of lost time. On a desert island "Gone to Earth" would recall an England now dying thro' concrete, car exhausts and spy cameras.
The following plot synopsis of the film "Gone to Earth" is used with permission from James Howard. From his book 'Michael Powell',Published by BT Batsford 1996.
1897. Shropshire girl Hazel Woodus lives with her father Abel and Foxy, a half tame fox rescued from the hated foxhounds, her life ruled by the superstitions of her dead mother. Walking late one night, she believes herself pursued by the 'Black Huntsman' and accepts a lift from Squire Reddin who takes her to his home at Undern Manor and attempts to seduce her. Hazel escapes with the help of the squire's manservant Andrew Vessons. After meeting Hazel at the local fair,new minister Edward Marston proposes to her. Having vowed to marry the first man who asks her, Hazel accepts. An infatuated Reddin begs that she marry him instead but she cannot break her word, and the wedding takes place. Reddin haunts Hazel until, guided by her mother's book of spells, she secretly meets him and returns to Undern as his mistress. Edward arrives to reclaim his bride and during the violent quarrel Reddin - himself a hunter-threatens to harm Foxy. Hazel is repulsed and returns with Edward. When a delegation of church elders demand that he turn his unfaithful wife out, Edward decides to leave the church and start afresh. Meanwhile Hazel, hearing the local hunt in the adjoining fields, rescues Foxy but is herself pursued by the hounds. Reddin follows, trying to lift her out of the hounds reach but Hazel refuses to drop the fox in the path of the dogs. Edward races to meet her as she approaches the house, but midway she and Foxy plunge to their deaths in an open, disused mineshaft: as the call from the hunt leader echoes across the fields: 'Gone To Earth'. Gone to Earth was released in the UK to mixed reviews- New Statesman dismissed it as 'the worst bit of kitsch its makers have yet produced' - and Selznick announced plans the following March to reshoot the film for American release, partly, it was claimed, to satisfy the US censors, but mainly 'to improve the picture' which would be retitled Gipsy Blood. Although Powell was approached to direct the new sequences, Christopher Challis says,'Micky didn't want anything to do with it', which placed the cameraman in a quandary when invited to go to Hollywood for the reshooting. 'I talked to Michael and Emeric', he says,'and asked, "What am I going to do? Isn't it disloyal if I go?" but they said" Well we'd much rather you did because at least there'd be somebody there to make sure it looks the same if nothing else". Rouben Mamoulian directed the new footage while, as Challis recalls,' tremendous arguments about the script caused a lot of reshooting- pretty well the whole of the end sequence and additional scenes too'. Selznick eventually discarded all but 35 minutes of Gone to Earth, even eliminating some characters altogether until - with yet another new title, The Wild Heart, and running at only 82minutes- it was finally released in May 1952. This version differs from Gone to Earth by the addition of a spoken prologue (by Joseph Cotten)-a typical Selznick device-and a few non-essential plotlines, but loses much of the poetic imagery and mystical quality of Powell and Pressburger's version. Pam Cook, in a 1986 Monthly Film Bulletin, asserted that 'Jennifer Jones' utterly convincing performance as the complex and divided heroine...is transformed in the reshot sequences into a virtual reprise of Pearl's steaming sensuality in Duel in the Sun'. Despite his undeniable reputation as a quality film maker, the ever-meddling Selznick was sorely lacking in terms of subtlety when preparing a screenplay, milking dialogue from literary works for the sake of 'authenticity' at the expense of the overall spirit of the piece. This clumsy, verbose approach is apparent even in his masterpiece Gone with the Wind. Powell's direction of Gone to Earth, aided by the handsome camera work of Christopher Challis and Freddie Francis, made prologues and explanatory titles wholly unnecessary. Despite Seiznick's efforts, The Wild Heart failed with US audiences although, perversely, this version was released in the UK on home video in 1980, with the original unavailable until the NFA's glorious new print was seen at the 1985 London Film Festival. Gone to Earth was finally recognised as one of The Archers' most beautiful movies with stunning photography, superb performances and a terrific, evocative music score by Brian Easdale. In 1971 Powell considered the picture a disaster.. except for Jennifer's performance which I thought was absolutely wonderful', feeling that they had 'never licked the script...it is doubtful if Mary Webb can be licked.
A video is currently available (seen in Shropshire tourist offices).
"Hollywood Comes to Shropshire" 75 mins
Salisbury Media Productions, in which local film extras from Gone to Earth tell their stories, and locations used in the original film are revisited.
Now available from (amazon.co.uk) is the Video and DVD of the Film : Gone to Earth.
-Feature from IN BRITAIN magazine (Aug 2000)
Shropshire Webb Site by Malcolm Pratt
Click this link...... In Britain
Interview with Gladys Mary Coles...Click here
A Bouquet of Emotion. Interview with Gladys Mary Coles by Amanda Gillies
The Works of Mary Webb
The Golden Arrow (1916 Constable)
The Spring of Joy (1917 J.M.Dent)
Gone to Earth (1917 Constable)
The House in Dormer Forest (1920 Hutchinson)
Seven for a Secret (1922 Hutchinson)
Precious Bane (1924 Cape)
Armour wherein he Trusted (1929 Cape)
Poems & the Spring of Joy (1928 Cape)
Fifty-One Poems (1946 Cape)
A Mary Webb Anthology (1939 Cape) Edited by Henry B L Webb
The Essential Mary Webb (1949 Cape) Edited by Martin Armstrong
Mary Webb : Collected Prose & Poems (1977 Wildings) Edited by Gladys Mary Coles
Mary Webb Selected Poems (1981 Headland) Edited by Gladys Mary Coles
Works on Mary Webb
The Shropshire of Mary Webb (1930 Palmer) W Reid Chappell
Mary Webb a Short Study (1931 Palmer) Hilda L Addison
Mary Webb her Life & Work (1932 Cape) Thomas Moult
The Shropshire Haunts of Mary Webb (1948 Wildings) W Byford-Jones
Goodbye to Morning (1964 Wildings) Dorothy P H Wrenn
The Flower of Light. The definitive biography of Mary Webb (1978 Duckworth) Gladys Mary Coles
Daughters & Lovers (1986 Wesleyan) Michele Aina Barale
Mary Webb (1990 Seren) Gladys Mary Coles
Available now The Flower of Light [Headland] (New Paperback Edition) a biography of Mary Webb (1998 ) Gladys Mary Coles.Members of the society can purchase this book at the special price of 12 Pounds + 50 Pence postage USA $30. Send your order to : Headland Publications, 38 York Av, West Kirby, Wirral, Merseyside. L48 3JF. NB NORMAL PRICE IS 14.95 Pounds. ... Also the Society Journal is available from this address.
BOOK SOURCES A good selection of Mary Webb novels and biographies always available from Colin Neville (Society member) at the address below
15 Stone Street
Tel. 01274 824759 or check out his web site Woodbine Books
Virago Books for NEW copies of Precious Bane & Gone to Earth
***"Gone to Earth" ***digitally re-mastered Technicolour version . Starring Jennifer Jones is now available on DVD and Video by The Film Collection, PT VIDEO (www.pearsontv.com) Only UK/European versions for Pal videos and Zone 2 DVD appear to be available.
The DVD is very good, and includes many extra features including behind the scenes footage.
Shop around on the internet for thebest prices.
NB Precious Bane is NOT available commercially anywhere. Only personal copies of the TV series exist.See our guestbook below for help.
|The Alliance of Literary Societies||English Literature|
|SearchableFilmDatabase||Britmovie(search Gone to Earth)|
|Mary Webb Quotes||Virago Books|
|Audio Book winner||West Midlands Literature Collection e-text in full|
|Thresholds Centre||Stiperstones/Bog visitor centre|
|Shropshire Tourism||Elizabeth Goudge|
|Lyth Hill Community Heritage Project||Shropshire Secret Hills|
Precious Bane Quotations
It made me
gladsome to be getting some education, it being like a big window
dreams afore you ride 'em.
The more anybody wants a thing, the more they do think others want it.
dwell in a house you mislike, you will look out of a window a
deal more than those that are content with their dwelling.
Where to Stay in Shropshire.
Check online at
Orwell House www.orwellhouse.co.uk
Lyth Hill House,Bed and Breakfast, www.lythhillhouse.com
The Mary Webb Society Home Page is maintained and updated
by Jim Stamps. Your Webb weaver 
If you need or have further information, e-mail Liz or Jim,
Please write in our guestbook, we'd love to hear from you. Tell us how you discovered MW, books you have read, any stories or anecdotes you wish to share with us.
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Bye for now from Beautiful Shropshire