(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)


Mary Gladys Meredith Webb was the daughter of an English-Welsh schoolmaster portrayed as a charming, sympathetic man in his daughter’s first novel, The Golden Arrow. Webb was educated largely at home, although she spent two years at a private school in Southport, England. She began to write when she was a child, trying her hand at stories and poetry. In 1912 she married Henry Bertram Law Webb, also a schoolmaster. She suffered constant ill health and developed Graves’ disease. Webb’s five novels appeared from 1916 to 1924, with almost no recognition at the time of their publication from either readers or critics. Her only award was the Femina-Vie Heureuse Prize for 1924-1925, which she received for Precious Bane. An unfinished novel,Armour Wherein He Trusted, was published posthumously. When Webb died she was practically unknown, but in 1928 Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin praised her novels at a Royal Literary Fund dinner. After that recognition, her fame began to grow; her five novels were reprinted shortly thereafter, with introductions by Baldwin, G. K. Chesterton, and others.

Webb is evocative of many earlier writers, especially George Eliot and Elizabeth Gaskell. Her novels tend to concentrate on inner meanings that sometimes cause her books to stray away from the reality of most contemporary fiction. Webb’s frequent didacticism, too, is contrary to the tastes of many modern readers. In The Golden Arrow are two pairs of lovers, one pair exemplary and the other foolish. The...

(The entire section is 650 words.)