Sunday, 17 January 2010
Caradog Evans was a brilliant short story writer from Wales, bought up in in the Welsh speaking community of Rhydlewis, West Wales.Best known for his savage assault upon the morality of Welsh rural conformism, summed up up by the macabre conclusion of his story " Be this her memorial " which has the heroine, shamefully neglected for her sins by the sanctimonious chapel folk, finally eaten alive by rats in her lonely cottage.
He wrote about poor people in a rural West Walian setting, leading harsh lifes of struggle and quiet intensity, painting pictures of hypocricy, religious dementia and sin. His writings were grounded in local experience and fuelled by a deep personal outrage. He wrote from the heart and great honesty about a conformist totality embracing a whole community. In his book " My People (published in 1915)" he brilliantly satirizes village life with its " mean vignettes of sly, crabbed peasantry " to whom hypocricy was a way of life.Evan's wish to shock worked and he became a pariah on the Welsg literary scene and is considered a father of anglo-Welsh literature. He became an outsider in his own country because what he said about the Welsh was not popular in Wales. There were attemts to suppress " My People " within a fortnight of its publication, bookshops in Wales were quietly told not to stock the book and even Lloyd George " the great Welsh liberal " was quoted as saying about Caradog " Pride of place now belongs to the lowest savage. This man is a renegade." Praise indeed.
Yet his writings were universal in their concerns and appeals. It treats of lapsed humanity, and in a manner wholly original and compelling : in Caradogs imagination and feeling are the more potent for being under the tightest artistic control.His satire attacked not only primitive Calvinism, it cut across the psychic and emotional roots of the Welsh establishment. This very same establishment an all-powerful life of the nation force and still confident of popular support branded Caradog as anti-Welsh. His attack on institutionalised Liberal conformity was an attack on the nation. He even had the cheek to attack the sacred Welsh National Eisteddfod.
He was a writer and wanted his words to be read, a dissident then and because he spoke to the outside world ie, England, he committed the dissidents further crime of speaking to the outside world.
Caradog it must be said did have a political bias, in exchanges to a welsh newspaper " The Western Mail " he proclaims his socialism in various ways, overtly through his championing of the rural poor, " whose bodies are crooked with toil, and whose souls are sterile - labouring all the light hours to keep them ( the chapel leaders ) in comfort " and more obliquely in his support for the public house. " Wales would be brighter and more Christian like if every chapel were burnt to the ground and a public house raised on the ashes thereof." This remark is not that proocative, he believed that the temperence cause was a massive irrelevancy and that those who espoused it so fanatically had no understanding of the conditions of the working man nor any real wish to alleviate them.
Meanwhile Caradog continued to find " in the company of men who drank beer and hurl darts and throw rings for sport ", a democracy of debate quite alien to the chapel, " we know there is no harn in beer, but we are jealous of the pubs because men with theological opinios go there to discuss them... They are weary of sermos about the Red Sea, the Prodigal Son and Locusts. "
Caradog was never subtle and pilloried as he was he had his champions. Throughout his life he continued to write with a burning intensity, using Biblical imagery in his indignations.
A later work " Sapel Sion " was subsequently withdrawn from Welsh bookshops.Perhaps in his need to counter sermonise, some of his words get lost in there own welter of moralistic detail. Nevertheless even passed the age of sixty his writing style did not tame, his writing still cooking imaginative stirrings, immersed with an inner felt emotion and rage. His writing a curious mixture of imagination and fact, a satirists urge to scourge his fellow men, but not under any cloak of anomyninity but with his uncompromising honesty. It is evident that over the years his style became " Stylised ", his passion beginning to dissipate, his earlier rage and fundamental reason for writing becoming more calm. The savage indignation still rising , his urge to purge some deeply felt emotion.
The following is a list of Caradog's sayings, deliberately manufactured epigramatic sentences, which would then be worked , into his latest stories. They reveal his humour, he could laugh you now.
The original; spelling, punctuation and markings in the sayings that follow have been retained.
You can't have wisdom in your beard before you have grown a beard.
The difference between the saint of the New Testament and the saint of to-day is that the modern saint delivers his pronouncement at a banquet table.
No Welshman talks in Welsh if he knows English.
The only quarrel that exists between the Welsh and the Jews is that the Jews claim to be the Chosen People. They are wrong. The Welsh are the Chosen People. In Biblical Egypt they were the locusts that plaqued the Egyptians.
The Welsh are the only people who are brave enough to tell a lie as if that lie were a tuth.
The Welshman is afraid of only one thing : poverty. That is why he is kind to tramps.
The only person who loves his job is a sheep dog.
Foreigners write good English because they do not know English.
The English are cute. In every business there is a Scotsman as second in command to an Englishman. He is there to cook the accounts and go to prison if need be.
Life is like a perfectly told short story. The last thought is conditioned by everything one has done.
A Jew likes a Welshman in his business, because when the fire happens he can say that it was the Welshman's fault.
It is as indecent as an undertaker attending a funeral in an opera hat.
There has never been a great Welsh criminal. The Welshman at home seells addled eggs and diluted milk; but when he goes abroad he steals money.
There are more scandals hidden in a Wesh town of five thousand people than there are dealt with during a divorce court sessions.
Wales is a place of buried history and lost politics.
The Welsh J.P says sir to the policeman and the policeman says mister to the J.P.
It does not matter what an author sees in his work, it is what the public see in it.
The Welshman is like his scenery, triangular.
The best actors - the most feeling- are the men who conduct mock auctions.
There is nothing that dries sooner than a woman's tears.
Man's worst handicap is a chaste wife.
As dainty as a cow stepping into a stram on a hot day.
Dear me. You talk Welsh. I thought you were a gentleman.
Ducks hatched by a hen go on clacking.
As silly as a parish magazine run by the curate in his vicar's abscence.
The average woman's novel is full of gaps and nooks where lovers can commit adultery.
In all wars the idealist fights fr an imagined golden land, while the practical man gathers a golden harvest at home.
An honest Welshman is not a miracle; the miracle is how he became honest.
The only evil we see in another man is the likeness of our own evil.
The test of culture is that a play deteriorates after the first night.
The clergy believe that uman beings are cabbages inteded for heaven's horticultural show.
Most love children are fine children.
The mecca of a blind democracy is the university.
A kept mistress's consolation is that she is not promiscous.
Love is a carnal passion. If it were not there would be no divorces.
Shed God and you shed nothing; shed respectability and you shed all.
The woman of 45 who dresses as 25 is out for no good.
In these days of uninteresting wives and expensive mistresses, society is becomming celibate; that means that the end of the world is in sight.
Smutty novels are written by women of 60 for girls of 16.
Books don't make converts. Neither "Pilgrims Progress" nor " Dorian Grey " ever made a convert.
Cry agaist the wind and the cry comes back to you.
You may as well try and light a fire at the bottom of a river.
No more rebel sparled more splendidly than Mr. Shaw about 1887. His words blasted the trees in Hyde Park and his breath threw down the railings.
The hardest man at making a bargain is the man who says that he does not understand money.
Earth bound spirits, so some spiritualists say, are unhappy spirits. Anyway they have the privelege of hearing what their enemies say about them.
The test of trust is a blank cheque.
Money is the plain woman's beauty mask.
There are two classes of good people: those whom God made good and those who are rich enough to be good.
Actors and writers are drawn from the middle classes; that is why their appeal is universal. Artists and politicians from the moneyed classes; that is why no one understands their message.
Happily married people can live without kissing.
You set your face like a politician does to people who have come to remind him of a promise.
When bad men become scrupilous it means that Death is hovering in the air.
FURTHER WORKS BY CARADOG EVANS
My neighbours (1919)
Nothing to pay (1930)
Pigrims in a foreign Land (1942)
Morgan Bible (1943)
The Earth cries and takes all (1946)
Posted by teifidancer at 16:32