Mary Webb was born Mary Gladys Meredith in Shropshire, England, the eldest of six children in a family proud of their Celtic descent. Her father wrote poetry and painted and shared his deep knowledge of the countryside, history, and folklore of Shropshire with his daughter. She began to write at an early age, including poems, stories, and plays to amuse her younger siblings. She was educated at home by a governess, at her father's boarding school, and then at a finishing school. At age 20, she became ill with Graves disease, a hyperactive thyroid disorder, which caused her many problems and contributed to her early death. It also altered her appearance, which made her self-conscious and largely solitary. During her convalescence from this first attack of illness, she wrote her first nature essays, The Spring of Joy (not published until 1917). In 1912, she married Henry Webb, a teacher and neighbor. They moved to Weston-super-Mare, where Henry Webb got a teaching job. Away from her beloved Shropshire, Mary Webb began writing her first novel, The Golden Arrow (1916). Her second novel, Gone to Earth (1917), was highly acclaimed. At this time, British and USA publishers demonstrated interested in her work and she received advances for her next book The House in Dormer Forest (1920). It was written in a small house that Mary and her husband built in a field near Bayston Hill in central Shropshire, Spring Cottage. In 1921, Henry Webb took a teaching post in London and the couple moved to the city, keeping Spring Cottage as a second home for school holidays and weekends. Mary became active in London literary and journalism circles, and wrote essays, short stories, and poems as well as book reviews for The Spectator, the Nation, and the Bookman. Precious Bane (1924), her fifth novel and most famous work, won the prestigious Prix Femina. However, Mary Webb only achieved wide public recognition and became a bestselling author after her untimely death at age 46.