Petre Mais

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Stuart Petre Brodie Mais (4 July 1885 – 21 April 1975), known publicly as S. P. B. Mais, was a British author, journalist and broadcaster. He was an author of travel books and guides, and had an informal style that made him popular with the general public.[1]


Petre Mais, as he was known within his family, was the son of a Bristol rector, John Brodie Mais, and his wife Hannah Horden. He was born in Ladywood, Birmingham but raised in Tansley, Derbyshire, where his family relocated shortly after his birth.

He was educated at Denstone College, Staffordshire. After graduating in English Literature at Christ Church, Oxford, and then teaching at Rossall, Sherborne and Tonbridge, and Royal Air Force College Cranwell, he later worked for National Press at Fleet Street.[1] A prolific author of over 200 books, he also broadcast for numerous wireless programmes for the BBC between the 1920s and 1940s. Mais was an ardent campaigner for the English countryside and traditions, leading walks for people who came for a day trip by train from big cities, often from London.

Mais 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.[2] He presented Letter from America from 1933, 13 years before a similar concept was made famous by Alistair Cooke.[citation needed] He also presented a series on This Unknown Island.

One grandson is Evening Standard writer Sebastian Shakespeare, who wrote of his grandfather:

My grandfather, S. P. B. 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.[3]


Mais died on 21 April 1975 in Lindfield, Sussex.

Personal life[edit]

Mais married Doris Snow (born Clifton, Bristol in 1892) in 1913 in Oldland, Gloucestershire. The couple had two daughters: Priscilla (1916–1982) and Vivien (born 1920). After the marriage was dissolved (they never divorced), he had a relationship with Jill Doughty. Doris died in 1978 in Chichester, Sussex.


Critical works[edit]

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


  • The Education of a Philanderer (1919)
  • Prunello (1924)
  • Eclipse (1925)
  • Perissa (1925)
  • Orange Street (1926)
  • Light over Lundy (1938)

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. (1937). All the Days of My Life. London: Hutchinson. (autobiography)
  • Mais, S. P. B. (1953). The Happiest Days of My Life. London: Max Parrish. (autobiography)
  • Robson, Maisie (2005). An Unrepentant Englishman: The Life of S. P. B. Mais, Ambassador of the Countryside. Huddersfield: King's England Press.
  • Shakespeare, Nicholas (2013). Priscilla: The Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France. London: Harvill Secker. ISBN 9781846554834. There are many references to Mais in this book about his daughter, the author's aunt.
  • Smith, Bernard (2014) [2004]. "Mais, Stuart Petre Brodie (1885–1975)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/46344. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)


  1. ^ a b "Mr. S. P. B. Mais". The Times. The Times Digital Archive. 24 April 1975. p. 18.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Sebastian Shakespeare, Being a writer is a poor choice of job, London Evening Standard. Retrieved 22 September 2014.

External links[edit]