The E-BNR aims to build a comprehensive & unique cross-artform guide to
the British neo-Romantic tradition,
from 1880 to the present day.
While the British Romantics of 1789-1824 have spawned a vast industry of
publishers, conferences & tourism, the later neo-Romantic traditions
remain largely neglected. The E-BNR is aimed at bringing this hidden
tradition to light.
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WHAT IS NEO-ROMANTICISM ?
Neo-Romantic artists have drawn their inspiration
from artists of the age of Romanticism or earlier.
Characteristic themes in their work include a
mystical approach to the British landscape...
ENTRY: Webb, Mary.
Mary Webb (b. March 25, 1881 - d. October 8, 1927) was an English romantic
novelist of the early 20th century, whose novels are set chiefly in the Shropshire countryside
which she knew and loved well.
She was born Gladys Mary Meredith in the Shropshire village of Leighton, south-east of Shrewsbury.
Her father was a schoolteacher, who inspired his daughter with his own love of literature
and the English countryside. Mary loved to explore the countryside around her home, and
developed a gift of detailed observation and description, which infuses her poetry and prose.
At the age of 20 she developed symptoms of Graves' disease, a thyroid disorder, which
was the cause of ill health throughout her life and probably contributed to her
early death. This affliction gave her great sympathy with suffering.
In 1912 she married Henry Webb, a teacher who at first supported her literary interests,
and the couple worked as market gardeners until Henry secured a job as a teacher at the Priory School.
This enabled them to live at Lyth Hill, a place which Mary loved.
Her novel Gone to Earth was published in 1917. Gone to Earth is the story of Hazel Woodus, a child of nature who simply wants to be herself,
living among the remote hills of the Welsh Marches, but gets drawn into
the world of normal human relationships. The novel is clearly based on the diaries of Francis Kilvert; a curate in the
Welsh Marches falls in love at first sight with a fey half-gypsy girl.
Gone to Earth was filmed in 1950 by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger,
but was savagely cut by the studios for release. In 1985 the full 110-minute restored version was
released by the National Film Archive, to great acclaim. The New Statesman review claimed the restored film to be...
"One of the great British regional films ...(and)... one of the most
beautiful films ever to be shot of the English countryside."
In 1921 Mary and her husband moved to London hoping that she would be able to achieve greater literary
recognition. This, however, did not happen. By 1927 she was suffering increasingly bad health,
her marriage was failing, and she returned to Shropshire alone. She died at St Leonards on Sea, aged 46.