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Autograph letter, December 4 to unnamed correspondent

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Mary Webb. Autograph letter signed, December 4 [1926], to an unnamed addressee [C. A. Nicholson], four pages on one folded leaf. In this impassioned (indeed, remarkable) letter, Webb insists that she cannot be friends with Nicholson, as “the fact of your saying what you did to a complete stranger shows that we have nothing in common.” Webb says of herself: “When I have succeeded in getting paid fairly by the British public for my work, I shall naturally have the best treatment I can get. But not till then. Also, it is less treatment that I want than ordinary good food and a suitable amount of rest and exercise. I have this week existed on bread & scrape & tea.” Webb then complains that her late mother’s executor is trying to defer payment of trust money owed to her because “he wants me to stop getting on as he & most of my relations hate my books. They are conventional & religious people.” Webb writes in a postscript at a right angle in the letter’s margin: “You’ll think it strange that I have a telephone when I am poor, but it is my only help, if I didn’t have it I couldn’t go on.” In his memoir, The Glory that was Grub Street (1928), Arthur St. John Adcock, editor of the Bookman (for whom Webb wrote more than twenty-five reviews between 1923 and 1927), describes Webb: “Her manner fluctuated between shyness and a sort of hesitant self-confidence; she was very highly-strung, worried terribly about trifles, and so sensitive that she was often deeply wounded by wholly imaginary slights, and would come and complain to you of these with a childishly desperate seriousness at which it was at times impossible to refrain from laughing, and as soon as you began to laugh she would see the absurdity of her agitation over such a trifle and laugh at herself, and the trouble was over.” This letter and Nicholson’s remembrance of Mary Webb published in the Evening Standard of July 18, 1928 certainly support Adcock’s opinion of Webb’s high-strung temperament.