The Mary Webb Society

The  programme is shaping up nicely and is detailed below.

9.45  Welcome, registration and coffee

10.30 -11.30  Keynote lecture by Dr Gladys Mary Coles “Aspects of The House in Dormer Forest – Mary Webb’s most modern novel”

11.45 – 12.45  Group discussions, feedback and questions on themes of the novel including:

1.00 – 2.00   Lunch

2.15   Talk by Guest speaker Richard Morris from Shropshire Wildlife Trust  “The Hopeful Photographer”

3.15   Tea/coffee

The theme for Saturday will be House in Dormer Forest which was Mary Webb’s 4th novel published in 1920 and set in the Hope Valley. It is the story of complex family relationships played out in Dormer Old House and its evocative landscape.
House in Dormer Forest
is perhaps lesser known than Precious Bane or Gone to Earth but this is a novel populated by beautifully observed characters, nature descriptions and a good mix of humour.
Here is a taster, ” “From these heights, in fine weather, the house and its gardens lay open to the view, small but clear, beside the white thread that was Dormer brook. The place had been patched and enlarged by successive generations, very much as man’s ideas are altered, the result in both cases being the same – a mansion to the majority, a prison to the few. On clear evenings, when the westering sun struck up the valley and set the windows on fire, one could see the centuries in the house, like ferns in a fossil.” (Extract from Book One, Chapter One)
Now is the time to read/re-read the novel in preparation for the discussion groups.

Summer School Report
Saturday 27th and Sunday 28thJune at The Community College, Bishop’s Castle
Saturday The theme for the day was House in Dormer Forest starting with a talk by Gladys Mary entitled Aspects of The House in Dormer Forest
In her talk, Gladys Mary described House in Dormer Forest as Mary’s most modern but most misunderstood novel. Published in 1920, it is the only novel written entirely on Lyth Hill. The epigraph under the title “Let the sleeping soul awake” refers to the primary themes of the novel: disillusion with the rigidity of the class system, archaism, post-war unemployment. All of these elements stifling the individual. Dormer House represents a microcosm of society with the interplay of the generations representing the old and new orders. Despite this setting, the novel is the most humourous with superbly drawn minor characters Sarah Jowell and Enoch Gale.
Discussion groups are proving a popular feature of summer school resulting in more active participation and lively debate. Topics under discussion were: Structure, Characterisation especially the contrasting pairs; Amber and Michael and Ruby and Ernest and Humour in the novel.
Unfortunately our regular caterer had to cancel at the last minute so we made our way into Bishop’s Castle for lunch.
Our guest speaker Ric Morris from Shropshire Wildlife Trust entertained us with a beautifully illustrated talk entitled “The Hopeful Photographer” His presentation concentrated on the contemporary landscape of Shropshire’s Stiperstones and the Hope Valley, which inspired some of Mary Webb’s work.



Took place on Saturday, June 27, 2015, at The Community College, Bishops Castle, Shropshire

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