Queer Places:
17 Pembridge Cres, Notting Hill, London W11 3DX, UK

Thomas Earle Welby aka T. Earle Welby (July 18, 1881 - February 21, 1933), born in India in 1881, was brought up by eccentric parents not to speak English until he was six.

Thomas Earle Welby was the son of Charles Earle Welby, Inspector of Schools, Indian Educational Service and Annie, widow of Walter Conroy, C.E., P.W.D. India.

He was educated in England but spent most of his years therafter working as a journalist in India, and in 1916, as a war correspondent in what we would now call Iraq (Mesopotamia). He was best known for his literary criticism and literary journalism, especially under the pseudonym ‘Stet’, in which, both in ‘The Saturday Review’ and ‘The Week-end Review’ (he was to die in 1933, having filed his copy on the same day he died) he passed a thoughtful and lucid judgment on a wide variety of writers, although his specialities were Algernon Charles Swinburne and W.S. Landor, and also poets like W.H. Davies. He produced two anthologies that tried to reclaim some forgotten poems for a new audience; and he was an enthusiast on the subject of Arthur Symons.

Thomas Earle Welby was Asst. Editor at Madras Mail from 1907 to 1915, and Editor, from 1916 to 1918. During 1917 he served as a War Correspondent in Mesopotamia. He was sometime Secretary of the Madras Chamber of Commerce and Political Secretary of the European Association of India. Thomas Welby was the author of a large number of works of Poetry and of Literary Criticism, including several on Swinburne, and a founder-member of the Swinburne Society; he also edited the first complete edition of the Works of W.S. Landor.   

He was a highly readable columnist, but absorbed in reclaiming the minor writers of the late nineteenth century – he was not hostile to new writers (unless claims were made that they were better than the writers he knew best), but he was essentially a Victorian and Edwardian in his taste. New writers, according to a biographical piece by Edward Shanks, included Robert Bridges and Thomas Hardy. Politically, he was to the right – the biographical note that introduces his posthumous collection has a hard job explaining away Welby’s hostility to the idea of democracy (it might be noted that he was admired enough as a writer for it not to bother Gerald Barry that he continued to work for ‘The Saturday Review’).

Not unlike Robert Lynd, he was always late. He enjoyed conversation, and was known for a mannerism whereby he used a ‘sideways movement of his hand for emphasis, which, since it was often associated with his reminiscence of India, was described by a wit as “the Calcutta Sweep” ‘. A possibly apocryphal story circulated about him that he had once organised a lunch for a literary figure he admired, to which he (Welby) turned up late, and to which he forgot to invite the guest of honour. When going to ‘make a telephone call’ to the supposedly very late guest, he was observed by one of the hungry invitees simply standing by the phone for as long as it would take to make a call, before returning to say that there had been a mix-up.

In 1909 in Madras, Thomas Earle Welby married Theodora Louisa Knight (1882-1925), daughter of Frances Sarah Knight (1852-1931), author of many books on Missionary work. After the death of his first wife in 1925, in 1928 he married Dorothea, daughter of Arthur Wilbraham George.

Thomas Earle Welby died at his home, 17 Pembridge Crescent, London W11, on February 21, 1933; his widow was granted a Civil List Pension of £90 p.a. for his services to Literary Criticism. There were no children of either marriage.

When Welby, Gerald Barry wrote an obituary for The Week-end Review, and also commissioned a piece by Desmond MacCarthy to give a summation of Welby’s career.


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