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177 4. New Light on a Neglected Novelist and Poet Dorothy P, H. Wrenn. GOODBYE TO MORNING. A BIOGRAPHICAL STUDY OF MARY WEBB, Shrewsbury, Eng: Wildings Son, 1964. 22/6. Unlike many minor novelists of the ELT period whose work is presently undergoing serious study and evaluation, Mary Webb's novels, short stories and poems have managed to pass virtually unnoticed. Part of this neglect may be due to the dearth of reliable biographical data, since the one full-scale study (Thomas Moult, MARY WEBB: HER LIFE AND WORK. Lond: Jonathan Cape, 1932), written with the grudging help of Mrs. Webb's husband, is entirely too polite, circumspect and superficial to provide the facts and analysis necessary to understand the complex creator of PRECIOUS BANE or POEMS AND THE SPRING OF JOY. Dorothy Wrenn's book is not a full scale biography, but as a candid portrait and a clear-sighted psychological study her book is without serious competition. It may well help begin a long-overdue revaluation of Mrs, Webb's place in the period. Mrs. Wrenn sought "to re-create Mary Webb as a person." Perhaps there is a not quite unintentional pun on "re-create," since the conventional portrait, with its blank spaces and distortions is in dire need of remaking. To a great extent, I believe, Mrs. Wrenn has succeeded, both in making Mrs. V/ebb live and in answering many questions that occur to readers of the older studies. Two, in particular, receive careful consideration: How did Mrs, Webb's long and ultimately fatal illness (Grave's Disease) affect her writing? What were the major environmental influences on her development as a writer? While Mrs. Wrenn does not utter the final scholarly word on these and similar matters, she has managed to assemble convincing answers by interweaving subtle analysis of Mrs, Webb's writing and the recollections of Mrs. Webb's friends and acquaintances. If there is fault to be found with this valuable and readable study, it is the lack of scholarly apparatus. The book's lack of footnotes and bibliography may be attributed to several causes, but i suspect that Mrs, Wrenn did not see the need of them because she was dealing largely (as she suggests in her Preface) with spoken accounts, (As Charles Sanders' bibliography of Mrs, Webb in this issue shows, there are not many written sources which Mrs. Wrenn need have taken into consideration.) Readers seeking a discussion of specific individuals or works will probably regret the absence of an index. At least the work is fairly short (II! pages) and clearly organized. Although two years have elapsed since its appearance, the book deserves notice of both the common reader making his first acquaintance with Mrs. Webb's work and the scholar seeking sound psychological analysis of a complex, creative intellect. Purdue University —W. Eugene Davis ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
p. 177
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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