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Autograph letter, September 25 to A. St. John Adcock

  1. 00018619_0001
  2. 00018619_0002

Mary Webb. Autograph letter signed, September 25 [no year], to Arthur St. John Adcock. In this one-page letter, Webb thanks Adcock for giving Edwin Pugh the opportunity to “say such amazing things about my work.” It is unclear whether the letter was written in response to Pugh’s overview of her first four novels in the April 1923 issue of the Bookman, or in response to Pugh’s review of Webb’s fifth novel, Precious Bane, in the September 1924 issue. In his review for April 1923, Pugh declares: “To pass from the work of the average modern novelist to the work of Mary Webb is like stepping out of a stuffy room into the fresh air. . . . She has the full dower of poet and seer; wit and wisdom, humour and fancy, the twin senses of tragedy and comedy.” In his review of Precious Bane, Pugh amplifies his praise: “She has a style of exquisite beauty which yet has both force and restraint, simplicity and subtlety; she has fancy and wit, delicious humour and pathos of the finest and most delicate, almost subliminal gifts of characterization and visualization—she sees and knows man aright, as no other English woman novelist does; she can moreover tell a story and so intrigue you with its sense of inevitableness that it seems more real than reality. She has in short genius. And though she has not yet come fully into her own, the day is surely not far off when she will be acclaimed as among the greatest of living novelists.” Pugh was one of the first and most vocal of Webb’s admirers. Adcock was later to write in his memoir, The Glory that was Grub Street (1928), that Pugh’s praise of Mary Webb had been “very much a voice crying in the wilderness” and that he had “courageously and persistently” proclaimed her genius while Webb was struggling to gain serious critical attention and public recognition.