A History of Welsh Literature

A History of Welsh Literature

A History of Welsh Literature

A History of Welsh Literature

Excerpt

The publication in 1944 by Dr. Thomas Parry of his Hanes Llenyddiaeth Gymraeg hyd 1900 was at once hailed as an event of major importance for Welsh literary history. For the first time Welsh readers had at their disposal a comprehensive survey of their literature, from its beginnings in the sixth century until the year 1900, a survey written by a scholar of high distinction and drawing on the latest results of the most rigorous scholarship. The book could never have been written without the preliminary labour of many others and of the author himself, but all earlier works on Welsh literature were either summary sketches, like that in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, or studies of particular periods or classes of literature.

Being written in Welsh the Hanes was beyond the reach even of many Welshmen and of all except a very few others. Yet it seemed a safe assumption that there was enough interest in the subject, not only in Wales itself but elsewhere, to justify a translation into English, and I therefore approached Dr. Sisam, then Secretary to the Delegates, with a query as to whether the Clarendon Press would accept such a translation. The suggestion was favourably received, and I was encouraged to proceed; and after obtaining the consent of Dr. Parry and the University of Wales Press Board I began the task. It has taken far longer than I anticipated. It had to be carried out in the intervals of other pressing work, and at times was laid aside altogether for long periods. It was lengthened by a change in my original plan. Dr. Parry's work ended, except for a few anticipations of later publications, at 1900. The very abundant literature of the nineteenth century, for reasons fully set out in the author's last three chapters, was disappointing in quality, and a reader unacquainted with Welsh might well conclude that the history of Welsh literature could be summed up as a brilliant beginning and middle period and a gradual decline in modern times into mediocrity. At the end of the volume, it is true, was some prefiguring of the twentieth-century . . .

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