More Collections SULAIR SU Home
The Mary Webb Digital Archive
« back to item list
Mary Webb home

[Typescript Poem] “An Old Woman”

  1. 00018581_0001
  2. 00018581_0002

Mary Webb. “An Old Woman.” Typescript poem, one leaf, 10″ x 6″, off-white wove paper mounted on white ruled paper. Twenty-four lines in three stanzas, one ink correction. An ink notation in the upper-right corner is crossed out, but reads: “(English Review).” Signed in the lower-right corner (and crossed out): “Mary Webb.” Webb was deeply compassionate, and gave more than she could afford to beggars, street children, and the destitute. Initially published in The Bookman Treasury of Living Poets (1925), “An Old Woman” tells of extravagant flowers, clothing, love, and praise bestowed on a woman who has lately died, and how pleased she would have been by these things, which now come too late to enjoy. Webb says: “They give her tears—affection’s frailest flowers— / and fold her close in praise and tenderness: / She does not heed. Yet in those empty hours / If there had come, to cheer her loneliness, / But one red rose in youth’s rose-loving day, / A smile, a tear, / It had been good. But now she goes her way / And does not hear.” Ironically, Webb was to achieve recognition, fame and wealth beyond her wildest dreams—six months after her death—with Prime Minister Baldwin’s praise of Webb’s “beautiful and almost inspired mind, noble, with a very high degree of art” during his speech at the Royal Literary Fund anniversary dinner (The Times (London), April 26, 1928, p. 18). Two lines from this poem ring true: “This would have pleased her once. She does not care / At all to-night.”