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Gone To Earth. 1917 First Edition. Inscribed to May Sinclair

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Mary Webb. Gone to Earth. London: Constable and Company Ltd., 1917. First edition, in original dust jacket. Inscribed on front free endpaper: “Miss May Sinclair / from Mary Webb.” / March 18th, 1921.” Webb’s second novel, Gone to Earth, was written as a direct response to the carnage of World War I: “Mary Webb is expressing her own insight into the universal human condition, illustrating her view of a callous world where primitive savagery lurks within civilized man unleashing the worst evil—cruelty” (Coles, The Flower of Light, 1978, p. 159). While never specifically mentioning the war, Webb portrays evil as actively present in people and social institutions rather than as an abstract concept. Webb associates Squire Jack Reddin—in his need to dominate, possess and control young Hazel Woodus—with the Black Huntsman, a mythical symbol of death. A. Edward Newton in End Papers: Literary Recreations (1933) said of Gone to Earth: “Suffice to say that it is the most beautiful and tragic story I know . . . It has not, I think, its superior in English fiction.” Rebecca West (1892–1983) in her review of the novel for the Times Literary Supplement (1917) unequivocally declared: “Mary Webb is a genius.” In a symposium held in December 1917 by The Times (London), West proclaimed Gone to Earth “Novel of the Year.” This volume is a presentation copy given four years after its publication (after the Webbs had moved to London) to fellow author, literary critic, and poet May Sinclair (1863–1946). Sinclair had volunteered in 1914 (at the start of World War I) for ambulance duty in Belgium and was an active suffragist. Webb also presented Sinclair with an inscribed copy of her fourth novel, Seven For a Secret, upon its publication later in 1921. Five years later, in the November 1926 issue of the Bookman, Mary Webb reviewed Sinclair’s Far End (upon that novel’s publication) in an article entitled “Knowest Thou the Land?” The title of Webb’s book review makes near-certain reference to the love poem “Kennst du das Land” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, which appears in Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship (first published as Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, Berlin: 1795–96). There is no known correspondence or other documentation to determine the extent and depth of the friendship between Webb and Sinclair.