Fictions of Childhood
It was at secondary school that T. H. Jones discovered his talent for fiction. We can begin to trace the writer’s transmutation of biographical reality as early as his publications in The Wyeside, the magazine of Builth Wells County School. ‘The Welsh hills’, published when he was in the sixth form, is already shaping The story told in the beginning garden.1 The landscape and people of Llanafan are prettified in the manner of a Georgian belles-lettrist. Hills ‘look down with a smile on the Welshman’s home’; from Allty-Clych ‘one can see many miles of pleasant countryside around’; the ‘fine men’ who farm there ‘smell cleanly of the honest earth’ and ‘have their simple and unswerving belief in God’.2 The short stories ‘Home’, ‘My grandfather would have me be a poet’ and ‘A day at the seaside’, all of them written in the unhappy 1950s, and a number of poems, many of them written near the end of his life, also fictionalize the experience of childhood, but the mature writer transforms his material in the opposite direction, consciously shunning the ‘rehearsed response’.
‘Home’3 opens on the day when Hannah, unable any longer to endure her brutal husband and spiteful in-laws, makes a final effort to escape. The previous day, pay-day at the sawmill where he works, Iago, her husband, has failed to return home for his evening meal because he is boozing in the village pubs. Hannah and the in-laws (‘Gransir’, ‘Grannie’ and ‘Auntie’) wait up for him. They are all ‘tense’ and ‘irritable’, the women quarrel, the grandfather shouts them down. When Iago returns, there is a public quarrel between husband and wife; when they retire she reproaches him until, brutal in his drunkenness, he beats her and throws her out of bed. She looks back on her courtship, her young illusions and the reality of her marriage. She has long given up her early dream that a home of their own would give her a chance to reform her husband, but has now come to feel that her son, Huw, is being alienated from her: it is this that drives her, the following