Mary Webb - Precious Bane : 'It Was at a Love-spinning That I Saw Kester First''

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      Mary Gladys Meredith was born on 25th March 1881 at Leighton Lodge in the village of Leighton, near Shrewsbury in Shropshire. Mary was home-schooled by her father before being sent to a finishing school in Southport in 1895. Her longs walks in the countryside helped her develop a heightened sense of observation and description, of both people and places, which later infused both her poetry and prose.When she was 20 she developed symptoms of Graves'disease, a thyroid disorder that caused bulging protuberant eyes and throat goitre. This caused life-long ill health and was a possible contributor to her early death. Mary was first published as a teenager when her brother sent to a local newspaper her poem on a recent rail accident. Mary, who was in the habit of destroying her work was appalled though placated when she discovered that it had received some positive appreciation in readers letters.1912 brought marriage to Henry Bertram Law Webb, a teacher. He supported her literary work which in 1917 resulted in the publication of her novel ‘The Golden Arrow.'A few years later they acquired a property in London where, it was hoped, recognition of her literary talents would be more easily recognised. Her 1924 novel, ‘Precious Bane', won the Prix Femina Vie Heureuse, the prestigious French literary prize awarded by an all-female jury.Most of her poetry and various other works were only published after her death.By 1927 her health was deteriorating and her marriage failing. Mary Webb died on 8th October 1927 at St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex. She was 46.It was only after her death that she received commercial success when at a dinner of the Royal Literary Fund in 1928 the Prime minster, Stanley Baldwin, referred to her as a neglected genius. In 1950 the celebrated filmmakers Powell and Pressburger filmed her 1916 novel ‘Gone to Earth'.
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