Illuminations: An Anthology of Welsh Short Prose

By Meic Stephens | Go to book overview

Preface

Like so much else, the essay (or more properly yr ysgrif, since it differs in some important respects from its English counterpart) was a late arrival in modern Welsh literature. It may have had forerunners in the latter part of the nineteenth century, in the primarily didactic work of certain Radical authors, but only in the 1920s, when T. H. Parry-Williams began publishing his ysgrifau in the magazine Y Llenor, was the essay recognized as a distinct literary form in Welsh.

T.H. Parry-Williams brought to his prose the same rich vernacular, the same wit and erudition, the same sceptical mind, that give his verse its unique quality, and indeed, the difference between his poems and essays is sometimes a subtle one. By the time of his death in 1975 he had published more than a hundred essays and had for long been acknowledged as a master of the genre. Such was his achievement as an essayist that he was to have many imitators, notably in the competitions set at the National Eisteddfod, and great were their endeavours in reproducing his special effects, often to the point of pastiche. It might be argued that the development of the essay since the 1940s has been, for not a few Welsh writers, an attempt to shake off T.H. Parry-Williams's influence and take the form in new directions.

That this has happened to a very considerable extent is largely attributable to the renewed vitality of writing in the Welsh language since the second world war, and in particular to the dedication of a number of accomplished practitioners such as T.J. Morgan, D. Tecwyn Lloyd, and Islwyn Ffowc Elis, who chose the essay in which to express themselves. In their work, as in that of later writers, the horizons of the essay in Welsh have been extended, quite literally so, for there has been as much memorable writing about foreign parts as there has on subjects closer to home. If nostalgia, or at least a fascination with the past, its certainties and rigours, is still the

-vii-

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Illuminations: An Anthology of Welsh Short Prose
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • The Village School 1
  • Fear of the Sea 7
  • A Windy Night 9
  • The Late Lemuel Parry, Esq., J.P., O.B.E. 12
  • On Drowning a Cat 18
  • The House Across the Way 21
  • Weobley and St. Emilion 25
  • The Man in the Street 28
  • Old Dent 31
  • On Collecting Roads 34
  • 'their Land They Shall Lose' 42
  • The Red Flag 46
  • Strolling Players 50
  • One Sunday Afternoon 57
  • Salem 61
  • A Trip to the Circus 63
  • Thoughts on Coronation Day, 1953 68
  • From the Pulpit 72
  • How to Choose and Treat a Wife 77
  • To the Mountain 83
  • The Imperative Upon Me 88
  • Disenchantment 92
  • The Hiring Fair 94
  • The Man at Chapel House 97
  • Question and Answer 102
  • The Little Llandeilo Boots 105
  • My Last Day in Prison 108
  • A Discovery 118
  • A Land of Romance 121
  • Hi-Ho! 129
  • Ancestors 133
  • While Shaving 138
  • Of Time and Distance 141
  • A Methodist Deacon's Advice 146
  • Of Violets and Bells 148
  • Remembering Mrs Newbould 151
  • Good Morning, Lloyd 156
  • In Modesty and Trembling 162
  • Christmasn in the Valley 166
  • On Stammering 169
  • Butlins 172
  • A Millionaire 176
  • A Scene from Military Life 178
  • An Exile 180
  • The Fox Under Glass 183
  • A Doctor's Medicine 186
  • The Little Huts 189
  • Three Heads 191
  • On Memory 198
  • Uncle John's Boots 202
  • The Fur Coat 207
  • An Holy Kiss 214
  • Notes on Authors and Texts 217
  • Acknowledgements 238
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