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[Manuscript Poem] “The Lad Out There”

  1. 00018553_0001
  2. 00018553_0002

Mary Webb. “The Lad Out There.” Manuscript poem, one leaf, 7½″ x 5¾″, on off-white laid paper, black ink. Twenty lines on recto and eight on verso, and with “P. T. O.” [Please Turn Over] at the bottom right of recto. Signed on verso: “Mary Webb.” At the outbreak of World War I, Webb’s eldest brother Kenneth joined the Canadian Ambulance Unit, her middle brother Douglas enlisted as a private from Liverpool (having returned as a surveyor from Canada a week before the outbreak of the Great War), and her youngest brother Mervyn enlisted from Oxford, where he was studying at Keble College. “The Lad Out There” expresses the thoughts and feelings of women for their men at war. Webb sent each of her brothers a personal letter enclosing a copy of this poem, her sisterly sympathy apparent: “Look down upon the lad I love, / (My brave lad, tramping through the mire)— / . . . Let him in his long watching know / That I too count the minutes slow / And light the lamp of love for him” (Coles, Mary Webb, 1990, p. 70). Douglas, who rose to the rank of captain in the Royal Artillery, was to be awarded the Military Cross for his bravery in battle. Mervyn only just escaped death when part of his jaw was shot away. According to notes held at the Shropshire Archives, Castle Gates (recorded from information supplied by Mary’s brother, Kenneth Meredith), Mervyn (born in 1894) “was to have been a solicitor but was badly ‘smashed up’ during the 1914–1918 War and died, chiefly on account of wounds, about 1935.”