Petre Mais

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Stuart Petre Brodie Mais (1885–1975)

Scanned Frontispiece from Walking in Somerset

was a prolific British author, journalist and broadcaster. The son of a Bristolian rector, he was born in Birmingham but raised in Tansley, Derbyshire, where his family moved shortly afterwards. He was educated at Denstone College, Staffordshire. After graduating in English Literature at Christ Church, Oxford, and then teaching at Rossall, Sherborne and Tonbridge, Mais later worked for National Press at Fleet Street. He was a prolific author writing over 200 books, his reputation was such that Churchill once joked that the speed of his output made him feel tired.

Mais broadcast for numerous wireless programmes for the BBC between the 1920s and 1940s. He was married twice: to Doris Snow (they had two daughters Priscilla and Vivien 1920 - ) and then to Jill Doughty. S.P.B (who preferred to be called Petre), was an ardent campaigner for the English countryside and traditions, he was also broad minded and innovative. He began to broadcast a "Letter from America" in 1933, a ground breaking venture at the time, and an idea that has been used by other media figures since. S.P.B. died at in April 1975 at Lindfield, Sussex.

He worked as a journalist for The Oxford Times newspaper, and also for the BBC as a radio broadcaster, most famously on the Kitchen Front radio show that aired after the morning news during World War Two. For an account of these broadcasts see "Calling Again - My Kitchen Front Talks with some results on the listener" by S.P.B. Mais, 1941. He presented Letter from America from 1933, 13 years before it was made famous by Alistair Cooke; he also presented a series on This Unknown Island.

A grandson is the Evening Standard writer Sebastian Shakespeare who writes, "My grandfather, SPB Mais, wrote more than 200 books and was a household name in his day. Prolific production alas was no guarantee of riches. He wrote to keep the bailiffs at bay. I'll never forget when my mother told me how she once had to hand over the contents of her piggy bank to his creditors."[1]

Literary works[edit]

He was a schoolmaster and his first books were a series of annoted William Shakespeare plays, published in 1914. He continued to publish works on English literature, and even tried his hand at writing novels.

Works on literature Include:

  • Delight in Books (1931)
  • A Chronicle of English Literature (1936)


  • Prunello (1924)
  • Eclipse (1925)
  • Perissa (1925)
  • Orange Street (1926)

Travel books[edit]

These include:

  • See England First (1927)
  • Do you know North Cornwall? My finest holiday (1927 for the Southern Railway)
  • The Cornish Riviera (1928 for the Great Western Railway)
  • Glorious Devon (1928 for the Great Western Railway)
  • North Wales (1928 for the London Midland and Scottish Railway)
  • Sussex 1929
  • It isn't far from London (1930)
  • Southern rambles for Londoners (1931 for the Southern Railway)
  • The Highlands of Britain (1932)
  • This unknown island (1932)
  • Week-ends in England (1933)
  • Isles of the island (1934)
  • England's pleasance (1935)
  • Lovely Britain edited (1935)
  • Round about England (1935)
  • Southern schools (1935 for the Southern Railway)
  • Pictorial Britain and Ireland (ca1936 for the Anglo-American Oil Co - Esso)
  • England's Character (1936)
  • A.C.E: the Atlantic Coast Express (1937 for the Southern Railway)
  • Britain calling (1938)
  • Let's get out here (1938 for the Southern Railway)
  • Walking in Somerset (1938)
  • Highways and Byways in the Welsh Marches (1939)
  • Hills of the South (1939)
  • I Return to Scotland (1947)
  • I Return to Switzerland (1948)
  • I Return to Ireland (1948)
  • I Return to Wales (1949)
  • Little England Beyond Wales (1949)
  • The Land of The Cinque Ports (illus. by Rowland Hilder) (1949)
  • The Riviera - New Look and Old (1950)
  • We Wander in the West (1950)
  • Arden and Avon (1951)
  • Norwegian Odyssey (1951)
  • The Channel Islands (1953)
  • Our Village Today (1956)
  • Majorcan Holiday (with Gillian Mais) (1956)

Further reading[edit]

  • Mais, S P B, "All the Days of My Life", autobiography, (1937)
  • Bernard Smith, ‘Mais, Stuart Petre Brodie (1885–1975)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 (, accessed 18 Jan 2007)
  • Robson, Maisie, "An Unrepentant Englishman: The Life of S. P. B. Mais, Ambassador of the Countryside" King's England Press, 2005. (
  • Nicholas Shakespeare "Priscilla The Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France" Harvill Secker 2013 There are many references to Mais in this book about his daughter, the author's aunt.


  1. ^ Sebastian Shakespeare Being a writer is a poor choice of job 4 March 2009

External links[edit]