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Chapter 17: 20th Century, Pt II

The industrialization of Wales from the middle of the nineteenth century with its rapid increase in immigration was too much for the Welsh language to absorb in many areas, especially Glamorganshire and Monmouthshire (Gwent), but also Flintshire and Denbighshire (Clwyd). It was here, in Southeast and Northeast Wales, (the most industrialized regions, and also the regions nearest the border with England) that most of the writing we call Anglo-Welsh was produced, and it was here that a special type of Welsh character was portrayed in that writing. The conditions of the mining valleys in the first half of the twentieth century were grist for the mills of the novelists, who seemingly sprang up everywhere to depict the suffering, deprivation, social injustice, but perhaps above all, the indomitable spirit of the people of "the Valleys." Dafydd Johnston makes the telling point that most of the Anglo-Welsh authors had working-class backgrounds, in contrast to those of what he terms "the middle-class intellectuals of the [English] Auden circle."

Short-story writer and novelist Caradog Evans (1878-1945) has been called "the father of the Anglo-Welsh" (Davies, p. 567). Of his arrival on the literary scene, Professor Davies quotes Gwyn Jones as stating [about Caradog's impact "the war-horn was blown, the gauntlet thrown down, the gates of the temple shattered. The Anglo-Welsh had arrived... with the maximum of offence and the maximum of effect." What Evans had to say about his fellow Welsh was not too popular at home (though received with glee by English readers anxious to have prejudices concerning their unpredictable, unlovely Celtic neighbors confirmed). His bitterness at his miserable childhood and youth, his experiences as a draper's assistant, and especially at the Welsh Nonconformist tradition was spilled out in his description of his people as full of prejudice, narrow-mindedness and sexual guilt.

Evans' first book of short stories, "My People" was published in 1915, followed a year later by another account of greed and hypocrisy, "Capel Sionn." Then came "My Neighbours", (1919) about the same deplorable characteristics he found in the London Welsh and "Taffy" (1923) a savage attack on Welsh village life. In addition to his short stories, Evans also produced a series of novels, perhaps the best of which are "Nothing to Pay" and "Morgan Bible", both of which gemented his position as a perhaps the most hated writer in Wales. He even had the temerity to attack the sacred institution of the National Eisteddfod! Whatever the opinions held of his writings, however, Caradog Evans has a firm place as one of the founding-fathers of modern Anglo-Welsh literature.

A much more benign look at Welsh valley life is found in the works of coal-miner's son Jack Jones (1884-1970), one of the most well-known, and certainly most well-read of the new group of Anglo-Welsh writers. His "Rhondda Roundabout", published in 1934, is a lively account of the variety of life found in the Rhondda. Jack began to record his vigorous impressions of mining life during a period of unemployment after a career in the Army and in left-wing politics. His novel "Off to Philadelphia in the Morning" (1947), is about the life of Joseph Parry, the Welsh musician and hymn-writer and first Chairman of the Music Department at the new Aberystwyth University who had spent a few years in the United States puddling iron before contributions from hundreds of Welsh chapels in that country allowed him to return to Britain to study music. Other novels include "River Out of Eden" (1951), "Lily of the Valley" (1952) and a host of others less well-known. In 1944 he published a biography of David Lloyd George, the enigmatic, but dynamic Welshman who became Prime Minister of Britain during World War l.

The heavy hand of socialist politics, especially in its vice-like grip on the imagination of much South Wales writers, was vividly expressed in the work of Lewis Jones (1897-1939). A coal miner who became an ardent Communist, Jones wrote two powerful novels that show the political development of a young miner during a life of injustice and hardship: "Cwmardy" (1937) and its sequel "We Live" (1939). The main characters are convinced that they can play active roles in the events that directly affect them. Len, the young miner is martyred in the Spanish Civil War on the side of the Republicans; his wife Mary playing an active role in politics. A fiery orator, Jones led hunger marches of Welsh miners to London in the 1930's (though they sang peaceably when they arrived in the capital); he died of a heart attack shortly after addressing street meetings protesting the Fascism of the Spanish Nationalists.

The same radical, socialist viewpoint is vividly expressed in the novels of Gwyn Thomas (1913-1981), yet another son of a coal miner in the Rhondda, who was Oxford educated, and who portrayed working-class lives of grim desperation. His first novel was "Sorrow for Thy Sons", but its rejection by the publisher meant that Thomas decided to moderate his style (if not his themes) and wrote "The Alone in the Alone" in a more comic, even absurdist mode. The continuation of his major theme was continued in a novel based on the Merthyr Rising of 1931: "All Things Betray Thee" (1949). In 1963 he completed his play dealing with the same theme: "Jackie the Jumper." Because of his unconcealed contempt for the Welsh language and those who wrote in it, (notably those from the rural North and West), Gwyn Thomas, like Caradoc Evans, can be seen as one who epitomizes the scorn felt by many Anglo-Welsh writers towards what they considered to be narrow-mindedness of the Nonconformist culture of rural Wales. The attitude is only now, in the 1990's, being tempered.

Another kind of writing, however, in novels that emphasized the sheer grit, humour and humanism of those who lived in degrading conditions was presented to the world by Rhys Davies (1903-1978) and Richard Llewellyn (1906-83). Another son of the Rhondda, Rhys Davies lived in London as a professional writer. The most prolific of all the Anglo-Welsh writers, Davies wrote a plethora of short stories and novels on many different subjects, often utilizing his industrial valley background in which the lives of Welsh working-class families are well-documented. Novels dealing with the history of a typical Welsh industrial valley are found in his trilogy "Honey and Bread", "A Time to Laugh" and "Jubilee Blues", all produced between 1935 and 1938. Yet his most well-known novel is "The Black Venus" (1944) about Welsh rural life.

Greatly influenced by continental writers, especially Chekhov, Davies also shows strains of D.H. Lawrence (a friend he met in France) and the infamous Caradog Evans. His novel "Painted King" deals with the career of famous fellow-Welshman (and exile in London) music composer Ivor Novello; and his "The Perishable Quality" has a protagonist based on poet Dylan Thomas. Of Rhys Davies's considerable output of short stories, Meic Stephens states: "With his humour, inventiveness, attention to significant detail, skill in creating moments and situations of high drama, the best of his completely professional works is highly entertaining."

Thanks to Hollywood and the Academy Awards, the picture of Wales that is most often presented to the world has been that shown in Richard Llewellyn's "How Green Was My Valley" (1939). Much like US author Stephen Crane who never experienced war but was able to write "The Red Badge of Courage", Llewellyn (real name Richard Llewellyn Lloyd) was able to produce his famous novel about a Welsh mining valley from an early background in rural West Wales and a subsequent career in hotel management in London and Venice (to be fair, he did spend a few months as a miner in Gilfach Goch, Rhondda to prepare for the novel). Historically accurate, "How Green Was my Valley" portrays a valley formerly thoroughly Welsh in its close-knit community united by family and religion that is eventually destroyed by the arrival of English and Irish workers, by Trade Unionism and radical politics, by the despoiling of the landscape, and the disappearance of the Welsh language.

In this respect, Llewellyn is yet another Welsh author lamenting the loss of Eden in the confusion of the modern, industrial and commercial world. His narrative is powerful in its evocation of a way of life; its emotional appeal to even its Welsh readers overrides any lack of correlation with their own experiences. Unfortunately for the efforts of the Welsh Tourist Board, the stereotyped image of Wales presented by Llewellyn has been hard to dispel even after more than half a century. It is rare indeed that a novel can have so much impact and create such a powerful impression.

Who can forget the powerful scene when Huw Morgan finds his dying father at the bottom of the mine shaft? Who cannot fail to be moved at the final words of the novel?

Is Mr. Gruffudd dead, then, him, that one of rock and flame, who was friend and mentor, who gave me his watch that was all in the world he had, because he loved me? Is he dead, and the tears still wet on my face and my voice cutting through the rocks in my throat for minutes while I tried to say good-bye. and, O God, the words were shy to come, and i went from him wordless and in tears and with blood. Is he dead? For if he is, then I am dead, and we are dead, and all of sense a mockery. How green was my Valley, then, and the Valley of them that are gone.
None of Llewellyn's later works achieved the success of this one, his first novel, though a certain amount of pleasure can be gained from reading such works as "None but the Lonely Heart" (1943). Those readers (and film-goers) who wish to discover what happened to narrator Huw Morgan, his sister Angharad and her only true love Mr. Gruffydd, and the other characters so vividly portrayed by Llewellyn can turn to the sequel to "How Green Was My Valley" set in the Welsh colony of Patagonia, Argentina: "Up into the Singing Mountain." But they will be disappointed; it has none of the emotional intensity or lyricism of its predecessor.

Tow other novelists who vividly chronicled life in the Welsh industrial valleys are Howard Spring (1889-1965) and Alexander Cordell. Spring was born in Cardiff, spending much of his youth and early manhood as a news reporter and journalist. In 1932, he published his first book of short stories for children: "Darkie and Co" followed by the novels "Shabby Tiger" and "Rachel Rosing." His ability to tell a good story made best-sellers out of "O Absalom", republished as "My Son; my Son" (1938), and "Fame is the Spur" (1940). A short excerpt from "Heaven Lies About Us" (1939) shows Spring's ability to realistically portray character:

As I see it, only the indefatigable realism of my mother kept us afloat. She was a little five-foot woman who could read the simplest things, but made a great to-do if she had to sign her name. She was not often called upon to do so; but when she was, the occasion was elevated to such dignity, the operation was performed with such care and circumspection, that one would think no document she signed could have less importance than Magna Charta.
Alexander Cordell (1914-1997) is the nom-de-plume of George Alexander Graber. He was not Welsh, being born of English parents in an English Colony (Ceylon), but in 1936 he came to live in Monmouthshire before moving farther west into Pembrokeshire in the 1970's. His first successful novel was set in his adopted land, "The Rape of the Fair Country", the first part of his trilogy about life in a Wales being transformed by industry. It was followed by "The Hosts of Rebecca" (1960) and "Song of the Earth" (1969). The first deals with the bitter struggle for the rights to form Trade Unions, the second with the so-called Rebecca Riots, and the third chronicles with the Chartist movement -- all of which had greatly influenced life and thought in nineteenth-century Wales. His second trilogy deals with the Merthyr Rising of 1831, the long-lasting strikes in the slate quarries of Gwynedd, and the Tonypandy riots in the Rhondda. ("The Fire People", "This Sweet and Bitter Earth" and "Land of my Fathers" (all completed between 1972 and 1983).

Other popular Cordell novels do not deal with Wales, but his reputation rests mainly on his vivid accounts of the changes and the troubles brought by industry to the Valleys in the last century. From "The Fire People" comes his account of the Christ-like execution of Dic Penderyn (Richard Lewis) who was hanged at Cardiff for supposedly stabbing a soldier during the Merthyr Uprising:

Legend would have it that lightening split the sky and that thunder roared as Dic Penderyn died; it is known only that it was raining, and that, in the moment before the trap was pulled, he cried with this face to the sky: "O Arglwydd, dyma gamwedd! O Arglwydd, dyma gamwedd! " Which, being translated, means: O Lord, what an iniquity! O Lord what an iniquity!" And the thunder rolled over the town and the people bowed their heads, of they were afraid.
Two other novelists, from the Welsh border country, who dealt with the themes of alienation and loss of identity are Geraint Goodwin, best known for his first novel, "The Heyday in the Blood" (1936) and Peggy Whistler (1909-1958), whose novels and short stories, published under the name Margiad Evans, also contrasted what the authors considered to be the profound Welsh heritage of the rural areas with the superficial Anglicized culture of the borders and larger towns. The theme was continued in the works of Monmouthshire-born Gwyn Jones (1907-199 ), a major figure in Anglo-Welsh literary life.

For half a century, novelist, and distinguished academic, Jones is described by Professor Davies as "the caustic and witty story teller." His first novel, "Richard Savage", is widely regarded as one of the outstanding books of 1935. It followed his scholarly translations of Icelandic Sagas. Jones's 1936 novel "Times Like These" deals with the great industrial unrest and devastating strike of 1926, the bitter results of which affected the Valleys for generations, creating a division between its peoples that has never really healed (echoing the divisions in Gwynedd caused by the earlier great strike in the Penrhyn quarries).

The increasing popularity (and proliferation) of Anglo-Welsh writing led Jones to found the magazine "The Welsh Review" in 1939. At Aberystwyth University, where he was appointed Professor of English, he then collaborated with Thomas Jones in a stylistic, evocative (and very popular) translation of "The Mabinogion", first published in 1948. He also translated other medieval works including "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" and "The Metamorphoses of Ovid." Jones also published historical novels, descriptive essays and short stories as well as continuing his work in translating many classical Icelandic literature. If this were not enough, he has lectured on Welsh literature at the BBC on numerous occasions and taken part in literary debates, where his acid wit and acute observations made him famous to a wide British audience.

Ask anyone in the United States in the 1990's to name a famous Welsh person and you might hear the names of singers Tom Jones or Shirley Bassey, actors Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins, Jonathan Pryce; operatic stars Geraint Evans or Bryn Terfel, or soccer stars Ian Rush and Ryan Giggs. In the 1950's, however, even outside Academia, you would have heard the name Dylan Thomas, whose drunken antics on the lecture circuit as much as his poetry made him famous to a new generation of college students.

Like so many of his own generation, Thomas (1914-53) was brought up to turn his back on the Welsh language, though the backgrounds of his childhood and youth in urban Swansea and rural Carmarthenshire had a profound influence upon both his writings. His first three volumes of poetry were "18 Poems" (1934), "Twenty-five Poems" (1936), and "The Map of Love" (1939) All three used his early notebook accounts of adolescent yearnings and intensities. His fourth volume, "Deaths and Entrances", was published in 1946, following the War.

Though Thomas's place in the hierarchy of distinguished 20th century lyrical poets is firmly established, his elaborate and highly personal style is not for everyone; his heavy use of surrealism and confusing images make much of his poetry into a puzzle, difficult to decipher and open to much speculation concerning its interpretation. It is not surprising therefore, that his most well-known poems are those that use a more simple direct language and imagery, such as found in "Fern Hill" with its marvelous evocation of the joys of childhood on a Welsh farm.. The last few lines from "Fern Hill" demonstrates its powerful evocation of childhood and at the speed at which it leaves us behind:

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising;
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.
Thomas's most famous dramatic work, "Under Milk Wood", his "play for voices." was broadcast on the BBC in 1954 and was later made into a movie starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. There is no denying his artistry and lyrical power. Thousands of "pilgrims" each year visit his little, paper-strewn shed at the boathouse in Laugharne, West Wales, where the poet carefully, painstakingly crafted much of the works that college literature classes love to ponder over (and professors boast of their clever interpretations and understanding!). In the Second World War, Dylan lived in London, where he revelled in the literary circles and where he wrote some of his most moving, inspired poems after witnessing the horrors of the Blitz. Dylan Thomas, as an Anglo-Welsh writer was profoundly influenced by two separate cultures. His ambiguity towards his native Wales is also found in the poetry of his close friend Vernon Watkins and of another contemporary, Glyn Jones.

Vernon Watkins (1906-67) is another modern Anglo-Welsh writer whose extensive use of an elaborate symbolism makes him difficult to decipher. Quite unlike his friend and mutual critic--the flamboyant, usually drunk, and socially repugnant Thomas --Watkins lived a quiet, respectable life as a Swansea bank clerk. His life took on a search for some meaning to its perplexing problems of time and place, a need to find a necessary kind of eternal order in which we can function successfully and in which life becomes meaningful. Much of this searching stemmed from a nervous breakdown which he later spoke of as "a revolution of sensibility." His volumes of poetry include "Ballad of the Mari Llwyd" (1941); "Selected Poems" (1948); "The Lady with the Unicorn" (1948) and "The Death Bell" (1954). According to Meic Stephens, the life of toil spent by Watkins at his craft make him "one of the greatest of Welsh poets in English as well as one of the most unusual." At the time of his death in 1967, he was under consideration for the post of Britain's Poet Laureate.

A dedicated craftsman, Watkins found inspiration in the peaceful and unspoiled Gower Peninsular, to the west of the blighted urban sprawl of Swansea (a town also heavily damaged by German bombing during the early days of the War). Though Watkins, like Thomas, was born into a Welsh-speaking family, he sadly did not learn the language. He was however, attracted to the Welsh legends concerning the visionary poet Taliesin, which became the basis for much of his own poetry and can be immediately discernible in his poem about regeneration, "Taliesin in Gower":

Late I return, O violent, colossal, reverberant, eavesdropping sea
My country is here.I am foal and violet. Hawthorn breaks from my hands.
I watch the inquisitive cormorant pry from the praying rock of Pwlldu,
Then skim to the gull's white colony, to Oxwich's cockle-strewn sands.
Life in the industrial community of Merthyr Tydfil is the concern of Glyn Jones (b.1905). Welsh-speaking, and therefore with a much thorough knowledge of Welsh culture than either Dylan Thomas or Vernon Watkins. Nevertheless Jones wrote in English. This, or course, gave him a much wider audience. Playing down any expected tension between his use of an alien language and his material, he excused himself: "While using cheerfully enough the English language, I have never written in it a word about any country other than Wales, or any people other than Welsh people." (Johnston, 113).

The sympathetic identification of Jones with his native land showed itself most prominently in his part autobiography, "The Dragon Has Two Tongues" (1968), a critical appreciation of other Anglo-Welsh writers whom he had known and whose works he greatly admired. Many of his short stories reflect the tension he felt as a writer living in the very-English environment of Cardiff (paradoxically to become Wales's capital city later in the century). This tension is not found in his poetry, however, and his poem "Merthyr" is described by Meic Stephens as "one of the most brilliantly balanced, humorous and evocative in the Anglo-Welsh canon." (p. 304). No wonder, for despite his prolific output in many genres, Jones considered himself first and foremost a poet!

Glyn Jones' rich contribution to Anglo-Welsh literature spans over half a century. It began with the short story "The Blue Bed" (1937). Then came "Poems" (1939) before Jones turned to the writing of novels, including "The Island of Apples" (1965),which is the Welsh translation of the word "Avalon". The title is an apt one, for in this poem and in "Merthyr", Jones deals with the contrast between the Avalon of youthful fantasy (the world in which Dylan Thomas "was young and easy under the apple boughs") and the real, blighted world of unlovely Merthyr, in the blast furnaces of which so many writers had seen visions of Hell.

The poet prefers the hard-working people of his home town rather than what he considered the insubstantial beauties of nature. Summing up his brilliant career as a painter of words and creator of unforgettable images, Stephens writes: "It is Glyn Jones's gift, of heart as well as of mind, that he has always known how to make of the blemished and unlovable an unexplainable song." We could not do better than to furnish an example of his verbal imagery by quoting the following lines from "The Common Path":

On one side the hedge, on the other the brook:
Each afternoon I passed, unnoticed,
The middle-aged schoolmistress, gray-haired,
Gay, loving, who went home along the path.

That spring she walked briskly, carrying her bag
With the long ledger, the ruler, the catkin twigs,
Two excited little girls from her class
Chattering around their smiling teacher.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

What I remember, and in twenty years have
Never expiated, is that my impatience,
That one glance of my intolerance,
Rejected her, and so rejected all
The sufferings of wars, imprisonments,
Deformities, starvation, idiocy, old age -
Because fortune, sunlight, meaningless success,
Comforted an instant what must not be comforted.

Another important poet writing in English was Alun Lewis (1915-44). Lewis's experiences as a soldier in the Second World War furnished material for his short stories "The Last Inspection" (1942). The vicissitudes of warfare and the long separation from his wife led to his collection of poems "Raider's Dawn" (1942) that queried the connections between sexual passion and a sense of imminent violence. Like Dylan Thomas, Lewis explored the twin themes of love and death. A posting to India led to his disillusionment with Western culture as it clashed with the values of another less materialistic world. His poems "Ha! Ha! Among the Trumpets" were published posthumously, his early death in Burma curtailing a literary career of great promise. Four stanzas from Lewis' poem "Goodbye" serve both to illustrate this promise and his choice of theme:
So we must say Goodbye, my darling,
And go, as lovers go, for ever;
Tonight remains, to pack and fix on labels
And make an end of lying down together.

I put a final shilling in the gas,
And watch you slip your dress below your knees
And lie so still I her your rustling comb
Modulate the autumn in the trees.

And all the countless things I shall remember
Lay mummy cloths of silence round my head;
I fill the carafe with a drink of water;
You say 'We paid a guinea for this bed,'

And then, 'We'll leave some gas, a little warmth
For the next resident, and these dry flowers,'
And turn your face away, afraid to speak
The big word, that Eternity is ours.

Yet another Anglo-Welsh poet who used his craft and art to document accounts of the ugliness of industrial life was Idris Davies (1905-1953). A former coal miner from the Rhymney Valley, Davies moved to London to work as a teacher. His first poems were in Welsh, but once again, a revulsion at the narrowness of "chapel religion" as its expressed itself in the hypocrisy and meanness of valley life, combined with the uplifting experience of immersion in the English poets, especially Shelley, convinced him that the main body of his work should be in the language that would also give him a much wider audience -- English -- as well as the language in which he could best broadcast his views on socialist politics.

This decision, however, only served to add Davies to the roster of those who expressed their ambiguity and lack of certain voice so common in Anglo-Welsh poets. His two major works are the long and dramatically unified poems, "Gwalia Deserta" (of 1938, dealing with the Great Depression (the title refers to the desert that had been made of industrial South Wales) and "The Angry Summer" (1943) dealing not with the Second World War, as we might expect of a poem written at that time, but with the 1926 great miner's strike that had left him, and so many thousands like him, unemployed and had caused so much bitterness and divisions in the once proud valleys (as we have seen earlier, a theme that had also been employed by Gwyn Jones in 1936). Davies's third book was "Tonypandy and other Poems" (1945, a more varied collection. The following few lines "Do Your Remember 1926?" are taken from "Gwalia Deserta":

Do you remember 1926? That summer of soups and speeches,
The sunlight on the idle wheels and the deserted crossings,
And the laughter and the cursing in the moonlit streets?
Do you remember 1926? The slogans and the penny concerts,
The jazz bands and the moorland picnics,
And the slanderous tongues of famous cities?
Do you remember 1926? The great dream and the swift disaster,
The fanatic and the traitor, and more than all,
The bravery of the simple, faithful folk?
'Ay, ay, we remember 1926,' said Dai and Shinkin,
As they stood on the kerb in Charing Cross Road,
'And we shall remember 1926 until our blood is dry.'
Another enduring and highly impressionistic picture of Wales, this time set in the North, was that presented by another author from the Welsh borders, a miner's son from Flintshire, actor and dramatist Emlyn Williams (1905-92). Williams, as a youth, moved from a thoroughly Welsh rural village Pen-y-Ffordd, above Mostyn, to Connah's Quay, an English-speaking town on industrial Deeside. His school days at Holywell, (where he attended the same school as actor Jonathan Pryce in the latter's own childhood some fifty years later), friendship with his headmistress Miss Cook, scholarship to Oxford, and his experiences as a playwright and actor friend of some of the most illustrious names of the English stage are documented in his autobiography "George."

Williams's most well-known play "The Corn is Green" (1938) dealing with his early education and the effects of living in a border region, with its divided loyalties, has been made into a Hollywood movie on two occasions (starring Bette Davies in the first, and Kathryn Hepburn in the second). Williams also had great success on the London stage with his "Night Must Fall" (1935),"The Druid's Rest" (1944), "The Wind of Heaven" (1945) as well as film scripts including "The Last Days of Dolwyn" (in which Richard Burton made his film debut). In his later years, after many years appearing in Hollywood films as an actor, Williams achieved fame touring the English-speaking world with his theatrical presentations of Charles Dickens and Dylan Thomas.

After the end of the Second World War, people were ready for dramatic changes in the way they were governed. The Tory Party went down to defeat at the hands of Labour, a party which came to completely dominate Welsh politics. The need for change was felt in Welsh literature, too, and a new breed of writers emerged who expressed their love of their country and their language. This may have been an inevitable reaction to the war years when talk of Welsh nationalism was regarded almost as treason and when many leading literary figures had announced their pacifism. Important figures who exemplify this new movement are the poets R.S. Thomas, Harri Webb and Anthony Conran: and the novelists Emyr Humphries and Raymond Williams.

Emyr Humphreys (b. 1919) was born in the heavily anglicized coastal resort town of Prestatyn, Flintshire, but raised in Trelawnyd (in an area where writers such as Emlyn Williams were lucky to have been born in areas just far enough away from the coast to retain their Welshness). Short-story writer, dramatist and poet, Humphries is best-known for his novels. He learned Welsh, even showing, in an early novel ("Y Tri Llais: The Three Voices", that he could write successfully in both languages, but he remained much more confident in his ability to create the subtlety he so desired as a novelist and portrayer of character by using English. "Nevertheless, the characters of much of his fiction are to be assumed to be speaking Welsh, and he has become a sympathetic but unsentimental interpreter of Welsh Wales both to its own people and to the English-speaking world." (Johnston, 126). And it is the English-speaking world, after all, which contributes the greater share of his readership.

Yet another writer influenced by the "Llyn Bombing" of 1939, pacifist Humphries began his career as a novelist with "The Little Kingdom" (1949), based on that expression of protest against the despoiling of the Welsh countryside. His subsequent seventeen novels, ending in 1991 with the series of seven novels "Bonds of Attachment", all deal with the difficulties of social interaction and all show an inventive use of various narrative methods. Humphries explores the enduring Welsh theme of change in a rural community in his finest writing: "A Man's Estate." In his "Outside the House of Baal", he explores the contrast between past and present, exemplified by the story of the failure of a minister's Christian nationalistic ideals that mirrors the direction of modern Wales. From this novel we get the following account of a National Eisteddfod, "A Pacifist Protest":

The whole canvas pavilion seethed and hummed like a hive that had been disturbed. The archdruid pushed the white folds of his head-dress over his shoulder, lifted his hand, and called upon the assembly to stand up and sing the Welsh national anthem. An experienced conductor in bardic robes stepped forward at an urgent gesture from the archdruid and with hand and voice induced the audience to sing, at first unsteadily and then, as the melodic line struck home to every inattentive ear, with confident harmony and swelling power. The orator himself rose to his feet and with the freedom of a man who has discharged a heavy task, turned first to one side and then the other, willingly submerging his own voice in the united effort, an equal among equals to be seen sharing the pleasure of communal sound.
Critic Meic Stephens believes that the marriage of Humphries, raised an Anglican, to the daughter of a Congregationalist minister is significant to the context of his writing, for "it opened to him the heart and tradition of Welsh Nonconformity." (p. 272). It is also Stephens who thinks that the sheer lyricism of Humphries' prose has enabled him to be enjoyed by readers without in the least understanding his underlying concerns. But we also have to take notice of the effects of the traumatic events of World War Two upon much of Wales, a theme expressed in "The Little Kingdom" (1946).

Similar themes are expressed in the fiction of Raymond Williams (1921-88), especially the influence of socio-political forces that affect a Welsh border region. He was brought up in Monmouthshire (Gwent), the setting for his trilogy of novels: "Border Country" (1960), "Second Generation" (1964) and "The Fight for Manod" (1979). With the publication of "Culture and Society" (1958) and "The long Revolution" (1966), Williams also enjoyed a reputation as a cultural historian. His writings all display his fascination with politics, especially from an extreme left-wing viewpoint; they offer a fresh and painfully observant view of the changing culture of Wales. In "The Black Mountains" we get the following wry observation of his beloved hills:

Within the Black Mountains, these lines on the map mean nothing. You have only to stand there to see an unusually distinct and specific region. Or go on that midsummer Sunday - Shepherds's Sunday - when they drive the tups from above the Usk to above the Monnow and track down unmarked sheep. An old internal organization, in the regions's old activity, still visibly holds. Later, of course, externally drawn lines and their consequences arrive, administratively, in the post. They are usually bills.
Post industrial Wales of the 1960's and 1970's with all its new problems was given voice in the novels of Alun Richards and Ron Berry whose concerns are with the spiritual decay of the Valleys now that the heavy industries of iron and steel and coal have disappeared to be replaced by the light, high-technology industrial parks. (Most of which are utilized by Japanese or Korean Companies.) Both writers use a great deal of humor to disguise their anguish at what they record. Similar themes expressed with open anger are found in the novels of Christopher Meredith and Duncan Bush and the plays of Edward Thomas. Social discord plays such a prominent role in so much of modern Welsh literature that it is sometimes difficult to remember that it has always been one of the prime concerns of its poets and writers. It has ever been present in poetry, both old and new.

Chapter 18: 20th Century Pt III

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