Walter de la Mare (re)visited

Above: plaque at Montpelier Row, Twickenham. (See my post of 14/4/18)

At the age of twelve, Kaye Webb had been enrolled at Ashburton School. Valerie Grove writes:

“…she looked back with gratitude on “marvellous Mr Gibbs”, her dynamic young English master…

The Ashburton Book of Verse, published in 1928, prompted approving letters…from the writer…Walter de la Mare, who wrote to Mr Gibbs: “There is a poem I particularly liked, by someone called Kaye Webb. I think she really is going to be a poet.” “.

Close to three decades later, “On 23 March, de la Mare wrote in a shaky hand, sending three new poems for Young Elizabethan, to be illustrated by Ardizzone, and Kaye continued to go to tea with the old man every Wednesday afternoon until his death later that year. “I’d drive along the road to meet him with my heart beating, as though to meet a lover,” she once told (Valerie Grove). He telephoned her one day to say: “Do you realise, Kindness also begins with a K?”

On 20 April he let her record him as he lay in bed, seeing in the faded mirror the reflection of tree, sky and birds. On the precious tape, she asked him why, in so many of his stories, the protagonist is “a bit of a clot? I mean, the reader feels like saying to the chap who’s telling the story, “Well, you silly fool, can’t you see what’s happening?” He asked her, did her husband really hate people so much as his drawings suggested? He sent Kate, aged eight, a copy of Peacock Pie, signed “with love at pre-sight”. Kaye said she too had loved him at pre-sight.

He died three months later, on 22 June 1956.”

Grove, V: So Much to Tell (2010)

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