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[Prose Manuscript-Short Story] Many Mansions

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Mary Webb. “Many Mansions.” Hampstead (but crossed out). Prose manuscript, seven leaves, 9″ x 7″, thick off-white ruled paper. Numerous publisher’s editorial marks in blue and red pencil throughout. In the upper-right corner of leaf one reads (crossed out with blue pencil): “From Mrs. Webb / 5. Grove Cottages / The Grove / Hampstead.” In the upper-left corner of leaf one, there is another notation: “About / 950 words.” At the end of the manuscript, the signature “Mary Webb. / (Mrs. H. B. L. Webb.)” is crossed out with red pencil. With a four-page typed transcript of the story. Despite the appearance of having been prepared for publication while Webb was living in London, this short story remained unpublished until after Webb’s death, when it was included with her unfinished fragment, Armour Wherein He Trusted, in the seventh and final volume of her collected works. This autobiographical sketch shows Webb’s sharp and vivid recollections from when she was ten years old and made weekly visits to an old villager. He had never learned to read and was too feeble to come to church. Old John Lloyd always asked young Mary to read the same Bible passage—“many mansions”—from Luke xiv. “The child’s subconscious mind retained these vivid impressions, so that, years afterwards, the writer could bring them out and use them, like coloured silks rummaged from the recesses of an old attic” (Wrenn, Goodbye to Morning, 1964, p. 12). Provenance: Frederick Baldwin Adams, Jr.