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[Typescript Poem] “The Shell”

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Mary Webb. “The Shell.” Typescript poem, one leaf, 10¼″ x 8″, white wove watermarked paper. Fourteen lines in two stanzas. Soon after their marriage in 1912, the Webbs moved from Shropshire to Weston-super-Mare (on the Somerset coast near Bristol) where Henry’s newly-widowed mother lived and where Henry had secured a two-year teaching position. In this skillfully wrought sonnet, holding questions in the octet and the answer in the sestet, Webb succinctly evokes a sea theme evoking ocean myths, tales and history. Webb remarks that while the vast sea may hide within it many mythical and historical objects, it has washed up a small thing of simple beauty: “Pink as a baby’s nail, silky and veined / As a flower petal—this casket of the sea, / One shell.”