Marion St. John Webb

Marion St. John Adcock was the elder daughter of Arthur St. John Adcock the distinguished poet. Her first book, The Littlest One, published in 1914, was enormously successful, as were the Mr. Papingay books.

"A Pillar-box. A quite ordinary-looking pillar-box. Or was it? That was what Robin was to find out. And without this ordinary - or extraordinary pillar-box, there could have been no story - no funny, fantastic adventures with Mr. Papingay, and the Home-made fairy, and Penny and all the rest of them..."

Marion was born in West Hampstead, London in 1888. Sometime later the family moved to Neasden and it was here that Marion made friends with a large family of children called the Whitcombes. However, it wasn't long before the family moved back to Hampstead and Marion, no doubt missing her friends, began to play with her little sister Almey and lots of imaginary friends.

Marion and Almey met a great many writers, journalists and artists who came to visit their father and mother, some of them quite eccentric, some brilliant and entertaining. The girls would listen as their father talked of his work and about the plots of the stories he was writing. He had ceased regular visits to the City because he had decided to be a writer instead of a lawyer. He wrote novels, stories, articles and verse for magazines and newspapers.  

Arthur St. John Adcock 1864 - 1930 was an English novelist and poet, remembered for his discovery of the then unknown poet W. H. Davies. Adcock was a Fleet Street journalist for half a century, and editor of The Bookman)

The family lived at 25 Downshire Hill for six years and then moved across the road to number 43, by this time Marion was growing up and she, her sister, their cousin May, and a friend formed themselves into a theatrical group and were often requested to perform plays at parties. Marion took up drawing and painting and for a time, resolved to be an artist. She also became an enthusiastic tennis player, and joined a tennis club where she met Sidney Hastings Webb a keen amateur actor and playwright.

After eleven years at Downshire Hill, it was decided the family would move from London to Rickmansworth, in Hertfordshire. Marion had more or less given up the idea of being an artist and for a time she concentrated on singing and began to take lessons, but at the same time she was editing an amateur magazine called "The Spur" and it was for a competition in "The Spur" that she wrote her "Littlest One" poem. All poems were submitted anonymously, and the best one was decided by vote, and the "Littlest one" went on to win first prize. Later, the poem was published in "The Daily News" and eventually Marion wrote enough poems to be published in book form the title of which was "The Littlest One"  

Marion married Sidney Hastings Webb and they went to live at Leigh-On-Sea. Here she wrote a story called Knock Three Times and from then on her books, stories and verses appeared at regular intervals. The best loved of all her books are probably the "Papingay" series of which there are four - The Little Round House, Mr. Papingay's caravan, Mr. Papingay's flying shop and Mr. Papingay's ship.

After a while, Marion and Sidney moved back to London where they resided at Number One, Pump Court, Temple just of Fleet Street. Though now frail, Marion continued to lead an active and busy life publishing several more books, and contributing to various magazines. Five years before she died she had a serious illness which kept her in bed for the best part of a year. She acquired a car during her illness and when she was well enough visited many parts of England, Scotland and France where she continued to work sitting in her car with a portable typewriter on her knee.

The "London Evening News" said of her: If you believed in fairies you could easily believe that Mrs. Webb was in close touch with the Little People. Marion died in 1930.

'Littlest' Books
The Littlest one (Illustrated by Margaret W. Tarrant - Harrap, 1914)
The Littlest One - his book (Illustrated by M. W. Tarrant and K. Nixon - Harrap, 1923)
The Littlest one again (illustrated by M. W. Tarrant and K. Nixon - Harrap, 1923)
The littlest one - his book and the littlest one again (Illustrated by A. H. Watson - Harrap, 1927)
The Littles one's third book (Harrap, 1928)
The littlest one in between (Harrap, 1929)

'Mr. Papingay' Books
The Little Round House (Illustrated by 'Robin' - S. Paul and Co, 1924)
Mr. Papingay's ship (illustrated by 'Robin' - S. Paul and Co, 1925)
The Little Round House (as 'Mr Papingay and the Little Round house' - Newnes, 1936)
Mr Papingay's caravan (Illustrated by Frank Rogers - Collins, 1929)
Mr Papingay's flying shop (Illustrated by Frank Rogers - Collins, 1931)
Mr Papingay's ship (Newnes, 1936)
The Little Round House (Illustrated by Jean Walmsley Heap - Collins, 1956
Mr. Papingay's ship (Illustrated by Jean Walmsley Heap - Collins, 1957)

Knock three times (Illustrated by Margaret W. Tarrant - Harrap, 1917)
The girls of Chequertrees (Harrap, 1918)
Eliz'beth Phil and Me (Illustrated by Margaret W. Tarratn - Harrap, 1919)
The House with the Twisting Passage (Illustrated by Doris M Palmer - Harrap, 1922)
The magic lamplighter (Illustrated by Margaret w. Tarrant - Medici, 1926)
John and Me and the Dickery dog (Illustrated by A. H. Watson - Harrap, 1930)
Twice Ten (University of Lndon, Press, 1931)

Marion St John Webb also wrote a series of fairy books published in collaboration with Margaret W Tarrant  


  1. The House with the Twisting Passage was one of my favourite books as a child (in the 1970s in Australia). I had my mother's old copy. I had no idea that the author had written so many other books. They sound like something I would have loved. Just found that House with the Twisting Passage is available as a free audio book on Librivox. Will have to listen and see if it is as good as I remember!

    1. Hello Catherine, I hope you enjoy it every bit as much as you did when you were a child. I read the Mr. Papingay books a few years ago and really enjoyed them. It’s wonderful to sink back into that cosy world of childhood and let the cares and worries go. Barbara

  2. I remember a poem from a book that my mother picked up at a book fair more than 50 years ago -- the book was quite old even then. It had a poem, told from the perspective of a little boy, about a "nugly baby" or "nugly little man". At the end of the poem, the little boy reveals that the "nugly baby" is a newborn sibling that the parents have "presented him with", and the little boy is unhappy with the faces and noises that the baby makes, and the amount of attention focused on it (and not on the little boy). The only poet that I can find that ever used the word "nugly" is Marion St John Webb. I'm wondering if you are familiar with the poem and can direct me to which of her books it might be in. Hoping that you might be able to help me.

  3. I remember a poem from when I was little that was from the perspective of a little boy who spoke of a "nugly baby" or nugly little man". The little boy is unhappy with the noises and faces made by the "nugly baby", and the amount of attention that it gets. At the end, he reveals that the "nugly baby" is a new sibling presented to him by his parents. The only poet that I can find that used the word "nugly" is Marion St John Webb. Are you familiar with the poem and which book it might be in? Hoping that you can help!


I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara xx

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