kimkat0138e Wales And Her Language Considered From A Historical, Educational And Social Standpoint
John E. Southall. 149 Dock Street, Newport, Mon. 1892.
31-05-2017

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Gwefan Cymru-Catalonia
La Web de Gal
les i Catalunya
The Wales-Catalonia Website

Wales And Her Language Considered From A Historical, Educational And Social Standpoint With Remarks On Modern Welsh Literature And A Linguistic Map Of The Country.
John E. Southall. 149 Dock Street, Newport, Mon. 1892.

CHAPTER VI. 203-244.

HENRY RICHARDS' LETTERS ON WALES POWER OF TRADITION INFLUENCE OF GENTRY, WHY DECLINING CONGRESS AT SWANSEA, 1879 LACK OF A BOURGEOISIE IN THE PAST NECESSITY TO KNOW THE LANGUAGE TO KNOW WALES CULTURE OF THE POORER CLASSES MONMOUTHSHIRE SHOEMAKER POSSIBLE DETERIORATION UNDER DOMINANCE OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE "MORE WELSH READ THAN EVER" REMARKS ON THE PRESENT EDUCATIONAL STANDARD FRENCH AND GERMAN THE JAMES SHAW CONTROVERSY WELSH UNIVERSITY COLLEGES AND THEIR SCHOLARSHIPS.


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208, 209, 210, 211, 212, 213, 214, 215, 216, 217, 218, 219, 220, 221, 222, 223, 224, 225, xxx, xxx, 228, 229, 230, 231, 232, 233, 234, 235, 236, 237, 238, 239, 240, 241, 242, 243, 244,

 

 

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CHAPTER VI.

HENRY RICHARDS' LETTERS ON WALES POWER OF TRADITION INFLUENCE OF GENTRY, WHY DECLINING CONGRESS AT SWANSEA, 1879 LACK OF A BOURGEOISIE IN THE PAST NECESSITY TO KNOW THE LANGUAGE TO KNOW WALES CULTURE OF THE POORER CLASSES MONMOUTHSHIRE SHOEMAKER POSSIBLE DETERIORATION UNDER DOMINANCE OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE "MORE WELSH READ THAN EVER" REMARKS ON THE PRESENT EDUCATIONAL STANDARD FRENCH AND GERMAN THE JAMES SHAW CONTROVERSY WELSH UNIVERSITY COLLEGES AND THEIR SCHOLARSHIPS.

In the three preceding Chapters, we have dealt with Welsh principally as affected by school regulations. We will now endeavour to obtain a more general view of its present status and future prospects. In spite of the outcry in Wales, occasioned by the reports of the three Commissioners in 1847, English opinion, to a large extent, took its cue from them for several years. It was not, in fact, till eighteen years afterwards that any important portraiture of Wales calculated to reach English readers appeared.

In 1866, a series of fourteen letters was published in the Morning and Evening Star, written by a comparatively unknown London Welshman, who held the office of Secretary to the Peace Society, and whose father had been a somewhat eminent Congregational preacher in Cardiganshire. Mainly in consequence of these letters, Henry Richard became a household name in Wales, mentioned with respect and affection; a seat in Parliament was open to him till the day of his death, and his work distinctly modified English opinion on the character of the Welsh people.

In his opening letter he alludes to the three young barristers, who, went "groping about in the dark for some means of



 

 

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204 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP. VI.


acquiring the information they were in search of, fell into the hands of one class, who hoodwinked and misguided them in every possible way." Of course, the "one class" was that of the "gwy^r mewn dillad duon." I quote his words, but perhaps they were a little one-sided.

A considerable portion of the letters was taken up with matter bearing on the religious, moral and political character of the people, the dereliction and apathy of the Established Church in the past, the rise and popularity of Nonconformity, the unwillingness of the early Nonconformists to engage actively in politics, anomalies in political representations, evictions for voting against the landlord's views, and a refutation of the Commissioners' reports as regards the morality of the country.

In reference to the latter he said "I believe I can shew that though falling lamentably below the standard of the Divine law, it [Wales] has the right to claim credit for superior purity as compared with most of the other parts of the kingdom."

The two letters which principally require comment here are those on the intellectual condition of the country, and the political influence of the gentry.

In the former he expressed the belief that at no period had "the people of Wales sunk into that utter mental torpidity which marks" some portions of the English peasantry.

He speaks of national traditions being cherished with great tenacity, and mentions that of Brd y Cyllyll Hirion being still current in his boyhood. This is somewhat remarkable, the event happened somewhat near the Sixth century, and though it is perhaps impossible to prove that the tradition existed, not by means of concurrent manuscript testimony, but purely by the force of oral relation right down to the Nineteenth century, I am personally inclined to believe that this may be the



 

 

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CHAP. VI.] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 205

case, and that the story would have been preserved much as we have it, independently of any literary evidences.

People living in towns, which principally owe their existence to the industrial developments of modern civilization, and which attract to themselves varied and mixed populations from different districts and with different antecedents, have, I believe, generally little idea of the force of tradition in some Welsh country districts. I do not speak of legend (and perhaps Brd y Cyllyll Hirion is of that class), but of what rests on reliable and historical foundations. We need not, however, confine reliable and ancient traditions to Wales. Careful observers doubtless come across it repeatedly, in England.

For instance, a descendant of a certain family named Prichard, which resided for some time close to Offa's Dyke, in Herefordshire, related, not many years ago, the family tradition that the Prichards had entertained the Black Prince. Now, Hallam's Constitutional History records the fact that a certain Picard did entertain that prince in London. Other evidence exists that the family residing on this spot right through the Norman and Plantagenet period was that of the Pritchards, Picards, or Pytchards, and that one or more of their number represented the county in Parliament. Hence, prima facie it appears clearly to point to the identity of the family tradition with the historical fact, and the former must have been continued in complete ignorance of the existence of the latter. I have also heard that the motto of this family was "Heb Dduw heb ddim, a Duw a digon," [= Heb Dduw heb ddim, Duw digon; [to be] without God [is to be] without anything; [to be] with God [is to be] with abundance]rendering it probable that though of Norman origin they became Welsh-speaking.

Adverting to the current literature of the country, the existence is noted of five quarterlies, twenty-five monthlies, and eight weeklies, circulated among an estimated Welsh reading and speaking population of 850,000. Concurrently with this,



 

 

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206 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP. VI.

there was a large circulation of English literature, which is still more the case to-day, even in districts where little but Welsh is heard at home.

After saying that only for some twenty years had the Welsh begun to have anything like a political literature, he records the early struggle of the Amserau, in the hands of Gwilym Hiraethog, who used to print it at Douglas, Isle of Man, to escape newspaper-duty, but on the gentry and clergy of North Wales, calling the attention of the Government to the fact, it had to be removed thence. Contrary to the wish of its opponents it survived and lives to-day, incorporated with the Baner in the well-known Baner ac Amserau Cymru.

It is not surprising to find that Henry Richard devoted a letter to the political influence of the gentry. Although there are points of similarity, there are certain points of difference between the landed classes in Wales and England, which no Englishman, who lives in the country, and becomes one with the people, can fail to be struck with.

Few nations are more disposed to attach themselves to families than the Welsh. Witness their almost servile following of the Tudors, their loyalty to the unworthy Stuarts, and the prestige which several old houses in Wales still enjoy, not on account of what their members are in themselves, but from the consciousness that they have descended from ancient lords of the land.

Wales differs considerably from Ireland in this respect. There are very few estates, if any, which have the tradition of being property confiscated from native hands, and given into the hands of foreigners. Even the families with Norman names generally have some claim to represent an old Welsh stock, through intermarriage, and so far, there is a predisposition not to be over-critical, of the disposition and acts of the large landlords towards tenants.



 

 

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CHAP. VI.] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 207

Over-riding all this, however, there are opposing forces which in effect, place a considerable distance between the two classes, and which prevent their assimilation into an homogeneous whole, viz. ,

I. The deprivation which members of most of the county families have suffered through their early education, being wholly English, which prevents them from being fully qualified to be leaders of the people. About this defect, Henry Richard wrote as follows:

Many of the former are ignorant of the language of the country, and are rather proud of their ignorance, while others, who have acquired a little smattering of colloquial Welsh, make no attempt to acquaint themselves with the current periodical literature, through which, in Wales as everywhere else, the national mind and heart and will, find expression. This is not a sentimental, but a very real and serious grievance; for the people among whom they dwell remain unknown to the upper classes, or rather, what is far worse, they are misknown, the impressions of them which they receive being conveyed through a false medium the medium of minds coloured and distorted by interest or prejudice.

II. The difference of religion between the landed class and the mass of the people.

If the landowners are really conscientiously convinced that it is their duty to be Conformist to the ritual of the State Church, and so long as they believe that a Spiritual omnipresent Being requires such conformity, no one would deny their liberty to carry out their belief. It would, however, be doing them no injustice to say that a great many of their number could not strictly confess as much.

It seems moreover passing strange, that intelligent men, not only in Wales, but England, should so implicitly pin their faith to the doctrine and ecclesiastical arrangements made in the middle of the sixteenth century by a few men who had



 

 

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208 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP. VI.


been mostly educated as Papists. Is it possible that they have never read the lesson of histoiy, that the progress of error from the first century downwards, was continual and slow; until, if it had not been ohecked by the civil power, it would have culminated in the freehold of the country being handed over to ecclesiastics by the dying possessors of uneasy consciences and until the freeborn Briton himself would have had nothing left he cotfld call his own?

If the progress of error has been slow, why should not the return from error be slow too, and why stick fast by the framers of the Book of Common Prayer, in the middle of the sixteenth century, and not entertain the idea that possibly some who dissented from the use of that book, had juster and clearer views of the relation of man to the Supreme Being than its authors?

All this is a propos, because there are a large number of the privileged class who are not merely content with their own belief, but are very diligent by means of their Primrose League meetings, National Schools, favours to eglwysioyr, and slights to Nonconformists in endeavouring to prop up the now tottering establishment, which retains more of the rags of Rome than any denomination in the country. The time is coming, though not in the lifetime of the generation now on the scene of action, when not only the present supremacy of the reigning Sovereign {i.e. the Government), over a professedly religious body will be abolished, but in which there will be such a wide spread and conscientious acceptance of doctrines much more consistent with spiritual religion, that the present will be looked back to as a time of ignorance and darkness.

A third cause why the "gentry" command less influence than they might otherwise do, is the fact that in a number of instances they marry English women. This, combined with the sort of religious and secular education they receive, gives



 

 

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CHAP. VI.] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 209

them somewhat the character of aliens, separated from the mass of the people by a great gulf.

Witness the present P of R , although descended

from one of the fifteen Royal tribes, and his family has for hundreds of years lived in one of the most Welshy parts of Wales, he cannot speak " a word" of the language, whicli is not so nuich to be wondered at, as he comes from a stock that has now and again frowned fiercely upon dissent from the time of Richard Davies,* 1675, to the election of 1859. The representative of the family having gone to England for a wife, she has had the good sense to learn the language, and is credited with having moderated her husband's homage to the doctrine of the Divine right of kings and landlords to reign. Yet, the heir of the estate is monoglot English, notwithstanding, or rather is ignorant of Welsh, whatever he may know of foreign tongues.

It is, perhaps, justice to the class spoken of to say that to some extent the Welsh revival has afi"ected them, and it is likely to affect them still more, if a Welsh University is established on a really National basis. To decide as to whether there is less intolerance now than a quarter of a century ago, I will leave to others. Certainly there is more civil liberty, and apparently a tendency to cultivate the Welsh language among some of the old families which did not exist then.

If this is properly fostered, it ought to end in Welsh-speaking nurses being engaged for their children, a policy which it is to be hoped many more middle-class families in Glamorganshire will carry out, than has been the case. Some years ago, a colliery proprietor at Brymbo, near Wrexham, attempted this, but the maid engaged for his family was so

* Richard Davies says that Colonel P. was not in the main a persecutor, but was put on by some " peevish clergymen, so called." Philadelphia Ed., p 125. DD



 

 

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10 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP. VI.


anxious to learn English that she neglected teaching her charge Welsh. This was, I suppose, about 1860; and though such cases would be less likely to occur now, it would be safer to engage a duoglot person.

To endeavour to present an accurate and faithful portraiture of the social, moral and mental forces which affect the use of the language in Wales, would necessitate the writing of some 200,000 family monographs, and the weaving of them into a complete whole. Perhaps a German specialist will in the dim future direct his mental camera in this direction, and present to the astonished world a complete delineation of the various shades of subjective and objective phenomena which the co-existence of the Welsh and English languages gives rise to. My work in this direction can hardly be otherwise than patchy, but if patchy, and unworthy the name of a monograph, it occupies ground to a large extent untraversed by Enghsh pens.

We will now examine another witness; this time it is neither a popular favourite an ex-Dissenting preacher, nor an obscure Newport tradesman it is an Offeiriad of the very mother Church that you of the wide-spreading acres and the rent rolls delight to honour. D. Williams, in the 1 879 Episcopalian Congress, at Swansea, read a paper on the Welsh Church press, in the course of which he said

Bishops and barons leading the ran, with a motley crew of country squires and clerical expectants officiating in the rear, have expelled the "Welsh language from their drawing-rooms; and she, with the true instinct of womanly reyenge, has shut the heart of the nation against them, that they shaU no longer be rulers of her people. There are very few parishes in Wales without a resident landlord, to whom the people look up with more or less expectation. These natural leaders of the people, because uneducated, and perversely ignorant of the language, have abdicated their proud



 

 

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CHAP. VI,] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE, 211


position, and allowed the people to be led by those who had no business to be leaders of the people at all.*

This, my readers, is one side of the question given by the eloquent pen of a writer to whom, notwithstanding his facility in it, English was a foreign language; after describing how the nation is not led, he describes how it is led:

It is the Welsh-speaking portion of the community, under the speU of their weekly and monthly periodicals, who wield the political power in the Principality; and it is impossible to gain their confidence by ignoring their language. There is one tenant-farmer in Welsh Wales, whom I know well, who wields a mightier political influence than the four Bishops, four Deans, and ten Archdeacons of Wales put together. The united forces of the hierarchy cannot sway the will of the nation with the magic that this one Welsh tenant-farmer can.

In inserting the following paragraph I am reminded of the remak made to me by a young Lampeter man. "Welsh does not pay. The best livings are given to English preachers," D. Williams, after alluding to the Welsh EncycIopedia,-f- which, he says, in point of fulness, research and learning, need not shrink from comparison with similar works in England, says

Our literature our modern literature is to a great extent peasant literature; contributed and read by them; and that almost every clergyman who was found guilty of any literary ability had to incur episcopal displeasure with its demoralising results; I ask, is it a matter of wonder that the Church suffers from a decadence of literary ability, and that the people have become in the main a nation of Dissenters? The reading monoglot is a Dissenter. There are clergy living amongst us at the. present moment, of European fame as philologists, and of unimpeachable character, and most efficient as parish priests, coldly left in poor and obscure country

* Extract from report in South Wales Daily News, 10 mo., Uth, 1879. t Y Gwyddoniadw Gymraeg, published by Gee Denbigh.



 

 

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212 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] tCHAP. Vl.

parishes, who, if they had produced in the English language the learned works they hare in Welsh, would long ago haye found a becoming recognition at the hands of the rulers of the Church. Justice demands that the same consideration should be shown to authors in the "Welsh language.

Another who took part in the Congress spoke in high contempt of the idea that because English is generally understood, not much attention need be paid to the vernacular; he calls this a terrible argument when applied to the "Welsh Church," i.e. the Episcopalian body.

This is the policy which has thrust on us men, clever enough indeed to learn our tongue, but never to feel it, or for the people who speak it. Our tongue cannot be learned by a stranger, its fire burns only in the native breast.* This is why the "Welsh, though a duoglot people, linger delightedly on the accents of a speaker, however halting, who addresses them in their own language, while the sublimest thoughts otherwise expressed fail to reach more than the ear, and leave the audience unimpressed.

The above extracts will be of some assistance in elucidating the position of what are called the upper classes towards the Welsh language. So far from being themselves, as in former ages, the literateurs of the country, and leaders in thought as well as in action, they are obliged, to a considerable extent, to take a secondary position, which is in part the result of democratic influences common to England and Wales, and, in part, the outcome of the legislation of Henry VIII.

We should do well, moreover, to bear in mind that up to within recent years Wales can scarcely be said to have had a middle class. The backbone of a nation in such times as ours is the existence of an intelligent and conscientious bourgeoisie. It was the bourgeoisie which enabled England to shake off the

* But then the " native breast " is sometimes found the other side Offa's Dyke.



 

 

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CSAP, VI.] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 213

yoke of the Stuarts, and it was just the absence of that class which placed Wales in an antagonistic position to the Parliamentary powers in 1645. Even at the present day we cannot go into some English towns without being reminded that their burghers three or four centuries ago were capable of great things, and that in point of material accommodations and social intelligence, they must have been considerably in advance of the working country population.

The middle class in Wales, such as it is, has largely been created by the industrial developments of the Nineteenth century. The fathers and grandfathers of most of the well-to-do tradesmen, merchants, and professional men, at least in South Wales, were to be found in very different spheres of life. I believe that this is one of the factors, which accounts for the undefinable social differences met with by a person who has lived in Bristol, Gloucester, or Hereford, when he comes to make his home in Wales.

The absence of a middle class has operated in this way: socially and intellectually, the people have been left very much to carve out their own path. This has resulted in the establishment of a certain standard of native culture, particularly in North Wales, but it has also had the effect of throwing a very much larger proportion of influence into the hands of the preachers of the various nonconforming denominations than they would otherwise have possessed owing to the fact of their being almost the only educated persons representing popular aspirations. I am speaking, of course, of a state of things which is passing away, but one which for many years to come, will leave its stamp on the character of Wales.

In South Wales, notwithstanding the spread of English, there is still far too much isolation of the mining population from outside influences which certainly would not be the case had these populations grown up for one or two generations



 

 

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214 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP, VI.

surrounded by such a middle class as they would naturally look up to with confidence. The new middle class in Wales represents two distinct lines of influence, the one distinctly Welsh, the other Anglicized or entirely English; I shall, however, illustrate my meaning better by saying that in Wales there are in reality two social and intellectual worlds; the one is practically unapproachable from the outside, except through a familiarity with the Welsh language, either in its colloquial or literary forms, or both; the other is simply a provincialized aspect of English life and thought.

The first class of persons move in both those spheres, the second move in the latter only. There are Englishmen who have been living in Wales for years, entering into the relations of every-day hfe with its people, following the course of events as recorded in Enghsh papers published in Wales, who, notwithstanding they may be on terms of familiarity with their neighbours, are still foreigners. They may think they know Wales, but they do not, and cannot in the same sense, as those who understand the national literature, or the Dual character of a Duoglot people.

No doubt there are, notwithstanding what has been said, many Englishmen, as well as many Welshmen, who feel that this is not satisfactory. The best practical remedy, it appears to me, is not to attempt to hasten the decay and death of Welsh, but to introduce it into the curriculum of middle class schools. Until, however, a Welsh University is founded this will be exceedingly difficult to any great extent, because middle class schools aim at adapting their course to English University examinations, where Welsh is not taken into account at all, and because the conventional ideas attached to the word "education," in Wales, create a barrier in the way.

The University of London has had, I believe, at least two appeals to make room for Welsh as an optional subject at their



 

 

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CHAP. VI.] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 215

matriculation, but hitherto without effect. I was indeed told, some years ago, by no less an authority than the late D. I. Davies, that the Senate feared a desire for Home Rule for Wales lay behind one of these appeals, but found out their mistake when too late to alter their decision. Meanwhile time goes on, and an increasing number of the well-to-do middle classes enter on the battle of life unequipped by such a desirable addition to their acquirements, as a moderate literary knowledge of the language, if not an efficient colloquial one, would give them, and this remark need not be withdrawn, even in some cases where English is the prevailing language.

There is no doubt that one important factor in lessening the influence of the Welsh language on the middle classes is just that which has hastened the decay of Manx,* viz., not only English in the concerns of every-day life, and the flood of English literature, which necessarily biasses the mental action, but also what we call "respectability," and perhaps I might say a false standard of it. This is what a vernacular paper (F Goleuad) says on the subject

There is not a word in the Welsh language corresponding with the English word " respectability," Neither does Wales require it whilst it retains its native characteristics. It is a foreign term, representing foreign habits; but the misfortune is that there are many among us who try to imitate the foreigner. There is no class of persons whom we despise and hate more than the " respectables." There is too much of it in religious circles. Persons are appointed deacons because they are respectable, and others are turned aside because of their poverty. Nonconformity stands in serious danger on account of the spread of respectability.

* I once asked Professor Ehys if he could account for this decay of Manx ■ like nearly every one who is asked a similar question about Wales in districts where English gains ground, he was somewhat at a loss to reply, but narrated how, when a friend of his, who is a competent Manx scholar, was about preaching in that tongue on a certain occasion, one of the better-to-do of the congregation got up and walked out,



 

 

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216 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP. VI.

Be careful about "despising and hating," otherwise we will say Da iawn, Goleuad goleuedig!

The middle class, however, is every day growing larger and more wealthy in Wales, in fact the very Methodism of the 18th Century has tended to create a middle class, though very much handicapped till recently, through the scarcity of any means of obtaining more than a very elementary education.

As to the Third class, constituting the mass of the population, and who make up Wales in a more complete sense than the corresponding class make up England: I would include in it for the present purpose, all persons whose secular education has been principally or wholly derived from the Elementary Schools. The word education must of course be understood in a popular, rather than in a precise sense.

In Welsh Wales few things strike a stranger more than the literary activity manifested by those who would be called " uneducated people " in England, and not merely that, but we find also originality of mind, though taking a different turn from that we generally meet with in the poor. Take for instance Die Aberdaron, in station little better than a labourer, but the compiler of a Welsh-Greek-Hebrew Dictionary, whose character was, however, more eccentric than useful.

Then again, lolo Morganwg, the son of a stone-cutter, in Glamorganshire, one of the men who assisted in bringing to light portions of Welsh literature of the middle ages, till then lying in manuscript, and which publication gave an impetus to the study of Welsh literature, that has never quite spent its force. lolo was a man of ideas, and a man of principles, too; he refused a " windfall " several years before his death because it had been acquired by means of slavery.

An English memoir of him by Elijah Waring is long since



 

 

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CHAP. VI.] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 217

out of print. In the appendix is given a strikingly fine elegy on the occasion of his death, by Gwallter Mechain, beginning

O Gweddw ddawn, ei ddawn a ddwg, Mawr gwynion bro Morganwg.

I know personally a (Monmouthshire) Welshman, of quite humble birth, who was brought up in a village where the language was nearly extinct, but was taught Welsh by his mother, and has since acquired a literary knowledge of nearly every important European tongue, including modern Greek and Russian, besides the classical and one or two Semitic ones, while he is reported to speak Italian " like a native." All this is without ever going to any school beyond the village one, without any apparent aim or ambition to "rise in Ufe," and with scarcely travelling outside the limits of his native county. Anglo Saxon he leaves out of his list, telling me he cannot bring his mind to tackle it the language of Hengist, and of the holders of the Cyllyll hirion.

Such persons have frequently a strong sense of racial affinity. "I have," said he "visited Bristol, Exeter, and Oxford, but I could not live at either place. I have only to cross the Bristol Channel and I am among foreigners." Last summer he visited County Down, in the North of Ireland, there, said he, " I feel at home at once. I could live there, if necessary, the population is mixed, but much like that we have at home, and what we see come into Newport from the Western Valleys." His remark probably implied that he found himself in the presence of a Celtic, mixed with a partly Celticized Teutonic population.

From Anglicized-Wales we will go to Welsh-Wales, to another acquaintance of the author's, in quite unpretentious circumstances in the world, living in a village where little English is spoken, and where I presume he received his education. His

EB



 

 

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218 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP. VI.


English is good, and not satisfied with that, he is also a French reader, and possesses a number of books, including several volumes of La R4vue Gdtiqm, and one or two philosophical works, besides beiiig a contributor to the Welsh Press. If he had been an Oxfordshire villager in similar circumstances, what would his library have contained? Perhaps a Veterinary Handbook, an English Dictionary, and a few Dissenting or Episcopalian publications, as the case may be.

Let Englishmen who sigh for the day when the echoes of the last word of native Welsh will expire amid the craggy heights of Snowdon, and let half ignorant Welshmen, who profess to believe that Welsh culture is an incubus, listen to the testimony of Anna Thomas, an Englishwoman, living at Bethesda vicarage, near Bangor

There is no English in church or chapel for miles round. We are, however, in full communication by rail with the outer world, and our people are in no way behind in civilisation, being exceptionally refined and intelligent. More English there certainly is within my knowledge of the district during fourteen years, much more English, but not one whit less Welsh. Both English and Welsh newspapers are largely bought, and EngUsh literature is studied to an extent that would put to shame many an educated Englishman. The two languages flourish side by side, doing each other no wrong, but much good to their duoglott possessors. We have a large class for the study of English literature, and the masterly way in which English is there turned into Welsh and vice versa would convince the greatest enemy of Welsh that the two languages are better than one, if only for the intellectual training in exactness of expression and grasp of idea.*

Once again this time it is George Borrow making comparison between "a Welshman and an Englishman of the lower class." He had been talking to a country miller's man,

* WesternlMail, 1885.



 

 

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CHAP. VI.] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 219

who understood and translated verses from Taliesin, repeated by G. B., and informed him of the whereabouts of the place (Pont y meibion) where Huw Morris had lived. This called forth the remark: " What would a Suffolk miller's swain have said, if I had repeated to him verses out of Beowulf or even Chaucer, and had asked him about the residence of Skelton?"'*

I have on two or three occasions heard working men or small tradesmen lament the fact that they were ignorant of Welsh. During a journey, in the course of which some of the information given in this book was collected, I called at Knighton (Tref y Clawdd), situate on OfFa's Dyke, and where for perhaps one hundred years, no indigenous Welsh has been spoken. At the Railway Station, on leaving, I entered into conversation with an intelligent man (keeper of a coffee-house in the town) who came from the central part of Radnorshire (at or near Llanbadarn Fynydd). He lamented being cut off from a knowledge of Welsh, and spoke of it, while praising the language, as a "great intellectual loss." I have also an acquaintance, a shoemaker, in a small town in the Eastern Valleys of Monmouthshire, whose circle of reading includes Charles Lamb and Coleridge. The latter he expressed great admiration for, and gave me a commission to procure him, second hand, George Fox's Journal, for which he was prepared to go to double the sum I first suggested.

How had he come to hear of George Fox? He had read about him, and was there not a description of a Quaker's meeting in Charles Lamb's writings^-I- a volume of which was produced.

Canst thou speak Welsh? 1 said.

No, I vdsh I could.

* John Skelton, a Fifteenth century English poet, t See "Essays of Elia."



 

 

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220 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP. VL

How is that; wast thou not taught it when thou wast young?

No, I was brought up an Episcopalian, and my father was quite under the parson, who brought pressure to bear, and told him that he should not teach his children to learn Welsh, and now I am the sufferer. I would give fifty pounds to know it. My mother is a Welsh woman, and can speak it well.

I remarked that such writers as Coleridge had culture of thought, but they had not such a complete power of expression as the Welsh language affords.

To this he agreed, adding, "sometimes a word in Welsh has an indescribable meaning, and it makes me elated the very thought of it."

I am strongly inclined to suspect that the parson above alluded to was one of the heroes of 1847, and belonged to that class of Episcopalians who appear to have regarded the extirpation of the Welsh language as one of thteir peculiar missions, and who are even now represented in the.,fiountry. In the district where my friend the shoemaker lives, success has nearly crowned their efforts or their wishes, or both.

Not long ago I was travelling near Ebbw Vale in a compartment with some working men, on the day of the flower-show. One of them, a strong powerfully built man, of middle age, was talking with equal facility in Welsh and English, and spoke the latter, if I recollect right, much more free from the local accent than is usual. On enquiry I found he was of English parentage, one parent being from Wiltshire and one from Bristol. English was his mother tongue. He preferred Welsh to English, but his physique was English, not Welsh.

Now under the present so-called enlightened system of education in Monmouthshire, an English child, such as this man was some thirty years ago, would not have the chance of



 

 

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CHAP. VI.] HEK LANGUAGE. 221

becoming bilingual, that is, the Welsh element in the district of Aberbeeg is not now sufficiently strong to spread in English families which it might do to some extent, were Welsh introduced into all standards by means of Bilingual reading books. This would give many such children indirectly a wider range of ideas, and a greater comn^and even over their own language without much extra labour on the part of the teachers, especially if the character of the text books obviated the necessity of trying to get a dull English boy to read Welsh,

This man is, I believe, only a sample of many more either in this county or Glamorgan, where a large amount of English blood exists in persons speaking the Welsh language, from parents who have come to Wales in the last 60 or 70 years. I was struck with this lately at Mountain Ash, on one of the colliers' idle days, when little but Welsh was heard in their conversation, but the signs of English descent, if I mistake not, were numerous. It is important for the welfare of Wales that the children of the foreign settlers who have arrived more recently, should be engrafted into the national life, for which purpose the day schools must be brought into requisition, and now there are so many facilities for travelling and cheap reading, bilingualism should not be left to the chances of learning by the ear only.

The English immigration between 1830 and 1850 has probably Anglicized the country far less than that between 1870 and 1890, for the following reasons: In 1830 1850, the new comers were absorbed with greater readiness into the Welsh speaking population, because the influence of daily contact with the latter was not so much neutralized by a one-sided system of education which was at that period extremely loose and ineffective, and sufficient time had not elapsed to build many English meeting houses; consequently in many cases the children of English people attended Welsh Bible classes; they



 

 

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222 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP. VI.

learned there to read the language, and to some extent this process is going on to-day. Lastly, the English Press had not learned to cater for the masses, and pour forth such a flood of penny weeklies, good, bad, and indifferent, as now seek admittance in the homes of working people, as well as others.

I hope to show before this work is finished, that all that does not necessarily imply the extinction of Welsh, or of its cultivation as a literary language, if only school facilities for bilingualism are created, but I think we have evidence that where such facilities are denied in districts such as I have described, not only does the power to read and write Welsh cease, but the English reading of the population is of a lower tone, and denotes lower culture than it otherwise might, and that it becomes more difiicult for them to rise in the social scale.

A short time since I called on the publisher of the leading Welsh paper in the colliery districts of East Glamorgan, and asked him what was his experience as to its circulation. " To give you my humble opinion," said he, "the old generation who have learnt Welsh in the Sunday school is dying out, and their places are not being filled up."

It may not be fair to bring this -forward as a test case: if the aforesaid paper was in the hands of a man of literary ability, who not merely knew Wales, but had known how to make use of the literary power to be found in his district, and printed his paper well, I believe the circulation would soon rise, and permeate a higher stratum than before, with a correspondingly increased value in the advertisements, and that, in spite of its socialistic and democratic tendencies. If his observation implied that there were fewer Welsh readers in the district than twenty years ago, I think he was wrong, as in the Rhondda Valleys the Welsh Independents alone, in 1890, numbered eleven more edifices than in 1877, the numbers being sixteen for 1877, and twenty-seven for 1890,



 

 

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CHAP. VI.] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 223

while the edifices of the English section increased by six; the amounts collected from Welsh congregations amounted for the total period to 84,470, from the English to 12,720.

From the above it appears that, taking the Independents' statistics as samples of others, that there has been a very considerable increase in the number of persons commg under Welsh influences, accompanied with indications that a considerable proportion of the younger part of such population is not sufficiently familiar with the language to read its secular literature freely, although members of Welsh Bible classes, which would in part account for the falhng off the publisher of the complained of.

From North Wales, however, we learn a different tale.

In 1890 I conversed with one of the leading Welsh publishers, who assured me " we sell more Welsh books now than ever we did," and in 1876 with another well known publisher, who made a similar remark. Similar evidence as regards his own paper was collected from the mouth of a leading North Welsh newspaper proprietor in 1890.

The rationale of this undoubtedly appears to be, that, though Welsh is spoken over a slightly decreasing area, and, notwithstanding the partial disuse of the literary language in some industrial districts of South Wales, the actual amount of current Welsh literature has rather increased within the last twenty years.

This last phenomenon is partly accounted for by the more general spread of education, but I think there can be no doubt that in South Wales the presence of a large foreign element in the population, whose children are denied the opportunity in the day sfchools of becoming Welshmen, exercises a paralyzing influence on the development of Welsh literature. This will come under notice later on.

The most formidable resistance ofliered to the culture and



 

 

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224 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP. VI.

use of the Welsh springs from the widely current idea, not confined to the ex-Lampeter cleric, that "Welsh does not pay." How far this is so, in regard to persons of his class,* others are more competent to judge than myself, but I would say, (1) that this difficulty is much exaggerated in the minds of many people; (2) the residuum of truth there is in the saying is accounted for partly by arbitrary and artificial causes, which are removable, and partly by natural causes (if we may call them so), which are unremovable, except by a very unlikely sequence of events. That is to say, that if Welsh does not pay, to a certain extent this is accounted for by social and educational influences which are within the power of the people to alter or modify, so as to make it "pay," while there will be continually, on the other hand, a counter influence arising from the power of association and close intimacy with England, commercially if in no other direction, tending to the use of English; yet to regard this exclusively would be folly.

Not merely are the linguistic and mental problems which the existence of two languages in Wales presents somewhat intricate, but when intelligently considered they yield no little interest to myself both interest and astonishment.

The ordinary Welshman takes the existing state of things to which his father and his grandfather has been more or less used all their lives, as a matter of course, and sees little peculiar about the circumstances and vitality, either of the colloquial or literary language.

The ordinary Englishman in Wales also sees nothing peculiar about the present use of the language, which he complacently believes to be quietly dying out, and which in the interim must be patiently suffered, as a temporary anomaly.

* How sordid and repugnant to Christianity is the idea of studying to preach with a view of its "paying."



 

 

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CHAP. VI.J [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 225

I cannot, however, help believing that an intelligent stranger, were it possible for him to enter the scene free from previous associations or knowledge of Wales from any source, would find much here to call forth his wonder.

In the first place he could not fail to be struck by the contradictions inherent in the Celtic nature, and he would have to face apparent contradictions at almost every turn of the road, whether he looks back to the Fifteenth century and recalls the bitter hatred of England then existing, and the uprising which, had it been successful, would have ended (so contemporaries thought) in the extinction of the English language, and then remembers the tendency in the Sixteenth, to forget everything distinctly Welsh, or whether, on the other hand, he regards the zealous resentment with which every apparent slight rendered their language is visited by the natives, who then turn round, and give the slight themselves, or neglect to provide for its preservation; he will recollect, too, the vast amount of pabulum for national pride, supplied by the Eisteddfod, the loud pretensions of its supporters as to its encouraging the literature of the country, and yet with scarce a murmuring voice the same persons will allow their birthright to be steadily, stealthily and surely stolen from their children without any approach to a practical protest; he will see bardic daggers drawn about trivialities, and then when Time has ended all, for one of the combatants there will be the glowing Cwynau coll Enwogion (Elegies for the illustrious dead).

All this is a matter of course to I was going to say, the naturalized Welshmen.

It is in itself a strange thing to see one of the nations making up the British nation, speaking a language what has ceased to be the officially recognized for three centuries and a half; while not merely has such recognition been wanting in matters of civil



 

 

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226 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP, VI.

administration which may be said to concern every householder if not every individual, but the education of rich and poor, with unimportant exceptions, has been conducted on a basis which simply treats the Welsh language as non-existing, although, as we have seen, its use as a medium of verbal conversation between teacher and scholar is occasionally absolutely necessary.

Again, leaving out of sight students at theological colleges, it would not be far from the mark to draw the corollary from the above, and say that every scrap of literary knowledge of Welsh possessed for centuries by high and low, as well as the ability to communicate their ideas through its medium in writing has been obtained, quite outside what school* or College training they may have had. It has indeed, I believe, not unfrequently been the case that ambitious parents, wishing a professional career for their children, have studiously barred their way from becoming proficient in Welsh, so that they might the more readily satisfy a board of examiners, or obtain appointments; or, perhaps, if a youth is intended to appear as an Episcopalian preacher, he comes forth as a half-fledged Welshman, with just sufficient of Rowland's grammar in his brain to take a "cure" and disarm opposition, but with nothing like a colloquial or literary mastery of the language.

So long as the syllabus of subjects in public examinations excludes Welsh, this state of things must continuej for Welshmen come out apparently inferior to others, whom they might otherwise excel (if judged by some mental-strength testing-machine), because they have had to learn in the course of their lives one more language than their competitors, which the arbitrary standard of the examiner does not give them credit for.

* The term school is used in reference to recognized secular education.



 

 

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CHAP. VI.] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 227

Long custom has so thoroughly ingrained into the minds of the people the idea that education implies casting Welsh to the winds, and to rise in life they must not only learn English, but English must also be, if possible, the sole medium of instruction, as well as of legal administration, that the net result has undoubtedly been a dwarfing of their ability as accurate thinkers and speakers.

Such an education bears resemblance to the antiquated and monkish education of the middle ages, when, as we have seen, English boys were taught to construe into French the language of the barons, of Parliament and the law courts, i.e., they were not simply taught French, but were taught it in a way involving a great waste of mental labour, English being apparently excluded from the schoolroom.

In a similar way Latin was taught later on Latin, the lingua franca of the learned of Europe, and the base of a large portion of our language, taught if I mistake not, by means of books which excluded the home language from the view of the scholar. Perhaps circumstances rendered it defensible then, but who would dream of teaching it thus now.

It is somewhat striking that Forster's Education Act, passed under the rigid scrutiny of Parliament, in 1870, and framed, no doubt, under the cognizance of men specially conversant with Elementary Education in the British Isles, should have entirely ignored the existence of the Welsh language. This seems to indicate a hope at headquarters that the teaching of English to every Welsh child, and fostering the old mediaeval idea of excluding the mother tongue, either as a subject of instruction, or as a written medium of instrnction, would soon be the means of sounding its death-knell.

Now the real aim of a National Education Department should be primarily neither to compass the extension of a



 

 

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228 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP. VI.

language nor to introduce another as a medium of social Intercourse.

It should be rather to educate draw out expand the mental powers of the children under its care, and to store their memories with useful facts, by the simplest, most economical and effective means within their reach, partly with reference to the exterior conditions of life in which the children are placed, and in which the large majority are likely to pass their hves, and partly without such a reference, to strengthen their command of thought and language, their faculties of observation and reasoning, ever consistently with the exercise of the moral sense and judgment.

There is a great want of appreciation of what education really is among some teachers, who, like the parents, think of it too much as a mechanical implement for earning so much hard cash; in the first place, as it affects their own pockets; in the next, as it affects their scholars in after life. I am satisfied that too narrow and contracted a view on their part prevails in Wales. Much is said about the advantages of technical education, and rightly so; but if the public imagine that it is the duty or in the power of day schools to teach boys and girls handicrafts whereby they may earn their living in after life, they are much mistaken. Even in this technical education cry, there is too little of the educational and too much of the hai'd cash idea.

What is wanted, and what will shortly be accomplished, is greater attention to the simultaneous* training of the eye and hand with the intellect. It is doubtful if any system of Government grants and trained teachers will do much towards teaching a competent practice of any particular handicraft or

* Simultaneous refers to such training being combined in making up part of the school course; not necessarily to the combination taking place at a given moment of instruction.



 

 

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CHAP. VI.] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 229

profession. What they can do is to prepare the minds of pupils the more readily, thoroughly, and quickly to master their work when it comes on them in the future, by the intelligent application of general principles.

In some branches, however, of technical or semi-techinical work, day schools, apart from evening classes, may be of considerable service to the nation, for instance, by teaching chemistry and botany, as applied to the theory of agriculture; or by teaching the use of carpenter's tools, on such a system as the Swedish sloyd, which means, doubtless, work spread over EXTRA HOURS, if efficiency in other respects is maintained. But extra houi's will well pay for themselves, without much danger of overstrain, in so far as they are spent over manual rather than brain work.

Much is said also about the great desirability of learning French and German to prepare for commercial life, and to compete with foreign clerks. What I am about to say has reference rather to intermediate than elementary education, though French is pressed into service now in "technical" evening classes. The outcry about French and German brings us in contact with the hard cash idea. As a matter of fact German is not of much use to Englishmen as a commercial language; an employer could probably procure a German clerk by advertising in the Daily Telegraph cheaper than an English, one, and even if he prefers the latter there are very few openings in South Wales for the commercial use of German. If an importer, for instance, wishes to write to a German firm, probably they would be glad to write back in English. Then, as to French, there are a few vacancies in South Wales now and then for French correspondents, but very few in comparison with the number of middle-class youths every year let loose from the trammels of school. The language which is commercially used in South Wales next frequently to French,



 

 

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230 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP. VI.

and which affords far more prospect than German of possible use in the future, either at home or abroad, as a commercial language, is Spanish, and yet this is generally acquired by self study, or aided by tuition to only a small extent.

Do I advocate dropping French and German out of the middle-class curriculums? No, because the effort to acquire them is itself educative; because it broadens the sympathies and widens the mental horizon; and because their literature in any one branch of Science is a mine of wealth. It is a favourite idea with some schoolmasters that French and German are to be studied on account of the remains of their classical writers. Practically that comes to little, beyond, I fear, a perusal of writers who had better be left unread.

With reference, however, to French as a subject of " technical" instruction, we may believe that if the young men who wish to learn it, had first a year's drilling in Welsh grammar and composition (where Welsh is spoken) before tackling French at all, that they would ultimately make better progress: consequently such a course would pay better than the present, notwithstanding the contemptuous cry of " waste of time " which would probably be raised.

In the town in which I write, a Young Men's Friendly Society has been formed, with evening classes. I was informed by the teacher connected with it, that when it was left to the option of the youths offering themselves, which language they would be taught, each of them with a Welsh patronymic, without exception, chose Welsh. None of them, so far as is known, could speak it.

So far as I have been able to read Welsh life, those who really stand the best chance of taking a lead in Wales, are the sons of small farmers or shopkeepers in the thoroughly Welsh parts of Wales, where little else is heard round the fireside, and who think during their early years entirely in Welsh,



 

 

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CHAP. VI.] HER LAJSGUAGE. 231


although later on they may have to think in English, and undergo some humiliations in surmounting the difficulties of acquiring it.

Not unfrequently the doctor or the lawyer are Welsh in sympathy, but unused to Welsh as a literary weapon, while the class above alluded to, produce some of the writers whose names are known up and down the country to a larger extent than is the case with their compeers in England, than whom not only are they of more literary habits, but often able to command a greater range of ideas, in spite of all that is said about the narrowness of a Welshman's vision. The real truth is that in attempting to analyze the phenomena of Welsh life we are continually confronted with paradoxes, and with contradictory assertions, both of which have some element of truth in them, whether we make enquiries either into the national character, the use of the language colloquially, the extent of the literature, or even the attitude of the people towards such an institution as the Established Church.

The following will serve as a partial illustration of my meaning, and in any case it may be taken as a fairly typical illustration of the conflicting linguistic and social elements in Wales at the present day, although it is now twelve years since the incident happened.

In the autumn of 1879, a person named James Shaw, whether English or Scotch is not quite clear, wrote to the Times newspapers, from Taibach, near Swansea, bitterly complaining of what he called the bilingual misfortune of Wales, and giving that as a reason why " Welsh industry is scarcely keeping abreast of the day, and culture and learning seem to have no home here."

Oh what a hornet's nest that letter stirred up; what correspondence in the Western Mail and South Wales Daily News extending over some eight weeks. I query much



 

 

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232 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP. VI.


whether anything of the sort has created an equal sensation in South Wales since the days of the famous "Brad y llyfrau gleision," of 1847, affecting, as it did, the moral character of the people.

I will give some extracts from writers who took part in this controversy: the first is from the letter of James Shaw himself, to the London Times:

In this valley from which I write there are about 7,000 people. Let me at once say that we have no bards, no curious antiquarian lovers of Welsh traditions, no learned enthusiasts seeking to preserve the continuity of Welsh legends or Cymric philology; and I have never heard of or seen these worthies except at Eisteddfods, where they generally managed to be conspicuous by their eccentricity. Our people here have to earn their daily bread, and in this matter of language are the mere creatures of a custom which they are not encouraged to throw off, but which they feel to be a constant disadvantage. The whole population of this valley speaks Welsh; but the curious thing is that, although we have 1,600 children at school, not a word of Welsh is taught there. The children speak Welsh at home, the little which they do read is in Welsh, and they attend Welsh services on Sunday, They are doing only what their fathers and grandfathers before them have done in this valley. Not one of them can speak Welsh grammatically, because they have never been taught it. You may imagine the difficulties under which such children labour in acquiring the English education which we give them; in nine cases out of ten it ends in complete failure. Our children leave the schools at 13 or 14 years of age with the elementary smattering of English which they have with difficulty been taught, they go into the collieries or the ironworks, and in four or five years you would never believe that one of them had ever entered an English school. A few who are made pupil teachers or clerks in the offices are the only exceptions. Welshmen are deploring the low state of intermediate and higher education in Wales; but there can be no



 

 

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CHAP. VI.] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 233

love of education in a people placed so disadvantageously. A people educated in this way are neither able to enjoy the language they speak nor the language they acquire; and until Wales has made its choice it will remain, what I believe it now is, the worst educated nation in Europe. The great mass of the people are at present losing the advantage which a good and sound knowledge of even one language would give them. The result is that they read no literature and devote themselves to music, which is universal, and in which they excel.

Now Shaw overlooked two questions which materially affect a practical judgment on the linguistic state of Wales:

First Is the genius of the Welsh people, independently of language, likely to present to the world the Faradays, the Watts, and the Arkwrights, whose absence he called upon them, in his reply to his critics, to mourn? If not, he was making a bugbear that would not stand the strain of careful examination.

Second Supposing the Welsh are badly educated, whatever proof is there that their language is the cause? I am, however, inclined to think that if the managers of Elementary Schools and their teachers were really well educated (where no Party or Ecclesiastical prejudice came in the way), they would frequently see the importance of introducing Welsh into their classes, and try to do away with at least some part of the reproach thrown out by Jas. Shaw, "A people educated in this way are neither able to enjoy the language they speak nor the language they acquire." There is really far more truth in this statement as applied to many districts in South Wales than has been generally supposed, and so far, we must credit him with good sound sense. He speaks of it being a "curious thing" that there were 1,600 children at school, but not one word of Welsh was taught there, yet appeared scarcely willing to directly admit that this was an irrational and harmful thing.



 

 

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234 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP. VI.


Of course several of the correspondents who replied to his communication recognised the fact that he did not really know Wales, after only two years residence, though it seems very difficult to convince intelligent hard-headed Englishmen, who have only seen one side of the medal, that they haven't seen the obverse. No doubt J. S., after such a short time, had not had time or opportunity to become acquainted with the literaiy history of Wales and its self-taught men, or to form a fair estimate of the amount of general intelligence and literary ability displayed even in remote parts of the country.

Let the reader note the remark about the mass of the people " losing the advantage which a good and sound knowledge of even one language would give them:" we find this illustrated in South Wales, where a good and sound knowledge of Welsh is more lacking than in North Wales, and where, at the same time, there is a deficiency in attaining a good and sound knowledge of English, which, as mentioned elsewhere, is difficult even to an English working man. If Jas. Shaw really believed what he said, why did he not advocate teaching Welsh?

There is, also, some residuum of truth in the accusation that they read no literature, and devote themselves to music, because if elementary education were conducted on more rational principles, instructive English literature would be better appreciated, as well as Welsh, and less time would be wasted on music. How far the remark that they " read no literature" can be accepted as applying generally to Wales, the reader will be able to judge, after reading the subsequent chapter on the Welsh language and literature. Extracts from the correspondence which ensued, follow here: " Gwyliedydd " says It is a recognized fact that no person can carry on business in



 

 

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CHAP. VI.] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 235

Wales with any success unless he can speak, read, and write English. All the business men in Wales are keen enough to see that, and all those self-made men that are to be seen in every locality are doing their utmost to give English education to their children. But who can convince them that the old language is not worth maintaining, and that it is losing ground? Nobody; therefore it would be wise on our part to wait patiently until time wiU proclaim the fate of the beautiful old language that has lived over two thousand years. In connection with Mr. Shaw's remarks about the children, the truth is that there are few workmen working under Mr. Shaw that are not able to read, write, and speak the English language quite as well as many clerks or the officials, and who were kept in school only until they reached twelve or thirteen years old. As to the statement " That they read no literature," the English and Welsh publishers will vouch to the contrary. Mr Shaw doesn't know that there is an encyclopaedia published in Welsh, worth 5 to ^6, and that the Welsh people have a " Gazetteer of the World," another of Wales, that the " Travels of Dr. Livingstone" has been published in Welsh in two editions (one a pocket edition and the other a large one), with thousands of volumes, and no trash scarcely.

"Abergwilian," in the service of the G.W.R. Co., says he hardly understood one word of English when he went to the day school, challenges James Shaw to read a few verses in the Greek Testament with him, and adds:

I cannot conceive why Englishmen should persist in weighing a Welshman's general knowledge by the amount of English he may understand, more than a Welshman, Frenchman, or German should test his by their languages. Is it not a fact that a Frenchman can be as efficient in general knowledge as the Englishman that can only speak one language? Then, if so, neither the English nor any other one language is a test.

"Bilinguist" says

Out with such notions as to expect a whole nation to speak



 

 

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236 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP. Vl.

grammatically. It is sheer nonsense to think of it, at the present time whatever. Greater nonsense still to think one of a nation whom Mr. Dickens says are so very guilty of " exasperating their h's and murdering their g's " should take the liberty of teaching another nation their duties, when most likely he has not taken the trouble of learning the "Welsh alphabet yet.

D. E. Lewis says

That a knowledge of the Welsh language is not only unattended with any embarrassment in the training of the intellect, but that it forms a substantial aid though it be an adventitious one to its highest development. * * * ^

language is mightier far than any number of books which may have been written in it;* for such productions, great though they be, at best embody what was in the hearts and minds of individual men; but language, on the other hand, is the impress and life of a nation. " The Iliad is great, yet not so great in strength, or power, or bsauty as the Greek language.''

Beriah G. Evans says

Mr Shaw is evidently either totally ignorant of, or wilfully ignores, the fact that there are abundant materials for a work on ■' Self-made "Welshmen," materials for a work which, in the hands of a skilful artist, could rival in interest with, and illustrate as wonderful turns in fortune's wheel, as Smiles's " Self Help."

Herefordiensis [the author of this]

I will not now enter into details, but express the opinion that an unprejudiced observer will see that the phenomena presented in connection with the use of the "Welsh language and its deep hold on the people are not to be explained by reference to love of the past, however much of that there may be co-existing. The reason

* This is a remark worth remembering, the power of the English language is not measured by the genius of Milton, but by its adaptability to express the thoughts and feelings of the people who use it; so with Welsh. In fact such a sentiment is the key note of much that the author of this book has written about the latter.



 

 

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CHAP. VI.] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 237

for these facts lies far deeper, and it will not be elucidated by men who do not take the trouble to assure themselves of the truth of their statements, or to view the question beyond the region of their own limited horizon.

It is singular that none of these answers discussed the education question, but they did show that there was a much larger amount of intellectual culture, and more instances of men who had risen among tlie Welsh-speaking people than James Shaw knew of, though they did not admit what I have called the residuum of truth in some of the facts which he erroneously supposed to be caused by the language rather than by a defective system of education, which ignored it. There is no hint at any remedy to increase the ability of the people to "enjoy," as well as write the language they acquire.

Again it may be said, that if this bilingualisni was really a drawback, we should not find Welshmen who have become proficient in reading or writing their language after they have settled in England, and so often ready to keep it up. For instance, some years ago I knew a Monmouthshire Welshman who told me that there was more Welsh spoken at Witton Park, near Stockton-on-Tees, than at Tredegar, and his brother's family, though born in England, were yet brought up to speak Welsh. Another Monmouthshire Welshman, who cannot speak Welsh well, has been some years in London, but when I saw him last he habitually attended Welsh preaching in that city. So that speaking Welsh, Or listening to Welsh, is sometimes a matter of choice, in the face of difficulties, and not, as frequently implied, necessitated by circumstances.

In a long letter, replying to his critics, published in the Western Mail, 11th mo. (Nov.) 11, 1879, Jas. Shaw gave back a little of his ground, and said, " It is the deficiency of a higher intellectual standard above and beyond this [the



 

 

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238 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP. VI.

culture of the working classes], without disparaging the intelligence of the Welsh masses, which I, in common with others, deplore."

Now here he much more nearly hit the nail on the head, but, as elsewhere stated, Wales is only just begining to have an important " middle-class," and consequently any considerable call for "higher education;" yet even now, when the future professional men of the principality are brought up in middle-class schools, in ignorance of the grammatical structure or power of the language, which many of them are familiar with colloquially, is it to be wondered at that a large proportion of them should either grow up wanting in habits of precision and exact thought, or else separated by an impassable chasm of language from freely participating in the intellectual life of the nation.

The main point lies not in the existence of the language, but in an educational system conducted generation after generation after English models, to satisfy an artificial standard not really adapted to national requirements.

So long as Wales is without a national University this is likely more or less to continue, and so long as it does, Education, in the mind of an average Welshman, will too much mean, not simply mental cultivation abreast of the civilization of the Nineteenth century, but ability to compete with Englishmen on the ground chosen by English judges, to wit, directly or indirectly the governing bodies of English or Scotch Universities.

For instance, if thirteen Englishmen compete with thirteen Welshmen for prizes or scholarships at Aberystwith College, and each of the former is ahead of each of the latter (i.e. Welsh-speaking youths) it does not necessarily follow that either of the English are better educated, or possess more ability than any one of the Welshmen, though there is a cer-



 

 

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CHAP. VI.] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 239


tain amount of presumption, even considering the present state of intermediate education, that it would be so. But if there were thrown into the scales a paper testing ability in Welsh composition, or translation from English into Welsh, and the Englishmen still excelled, there would be little room to doubt that they were both more highly educated and were mentally more capable than their competitors.

No one really desirous of the welfare of Wales will cry "Wales for the Welsh," but it is quite another thing to materially modify the curriculum of Colleges, so as to make room for what would be found a good mental exercise, though it might be of no more direct benefit than the making of "hexers " and "pens," so much in vogue not many years ago, and doubtless still practised in various classical schools or colleges.

Few persons will be found who would wish generally to exclude those of English birth from the benefit of the scholarships offered at Welsh University Colleges, but let the test of merit for the possession of the scholarship stand on a broader and more liberal basis, and provide in a much larger number of such examinations than is the case at present for the exercise of ability, both in translating from Welsh into good, pure and idiomatic English, and from English into good, pure idiomatic Welsh.

Let us see for a moment, from their Syllabus for Scholarships, what Welsh Colleges are doing with the funds at their disposal.

Abekystwith, in Sessions 1891-92, offers ten Open and five Closed Scholarships or Exhibitions to new comers. In competing for these a candidate must choose three elementary subjects (out of fourteen), and two advanced subjects one of the latter may be Welsh.

The Cynddelw Scholarship is not included in the above list,



 

 

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240 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP. VI.


and will be competed for in the Autumn of 1 892: it necessitates, among other things, the production of a Welsh Essay, a knowledge of systematic Welsh Grammar, and of the History of Welsh literature. This is a scholarship provided for by the Cynddelw Memorial Fund.

Bangor offers nine General Scholarships and Exhibitions, besides special ones for Technical and Agricultural candidates, Teachers, and girls. For all the Entrance Scholarship examinations candidates may chose Welsh as one out of a maximum of five subjects.

Cardiff offers twenty-three Entrance Scholarships and Exhibitions, besides five Exhibitions for intending Teachers. In these Welsh is an optioned subject in the more elementary part of the examinations, but an English Essay paper is necessary. The D. I. Davies Scholarship for proficiency in Welsh is in reality a prize of 12 offered annually on the results of the Sessional Examination.

Now a little reflection will show that these scholarships and examinations may be tests ofthe preparedness of the candidates to enter on the prescribed courses of study for the dififerent examinations preparatory to London degrees, but they are not tests either of education in the abstract or of comparative ability, i.e., they are not tests of units of intellectual development or of intellectual strength. It is impossible, in fact, they should be absolutely so, but if a knowledge of both Welsh and EngHsh were presupposed in all candidates as the basis of examination, they would be efficient in that direction to a larger extent than at present.

The optional use of Welsh probably counts for little in the case of Welsh-speaking candidates, because the course of their previous education at school has left them unacquainted with its use in those phrases and turns of expression which help to make up a successful examination, and their memory on the



 

 

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CHAP. VI.] HEK LANGUAGE. 241

subjects chosen has been chiefly exercised in English, while in addition to this they have had to spend a certain number of hours of their short life in acquiring the English which they thus practically need as a medium of communication in the course of the examination, as well as in that very important subject "English" itself, which is provided for in most preparatory courses.

Now it may be unpracticable to put the English and Welsh candidates for exhibitions at these Welsh Colleges on equal terms; there must be a slight advantage given to the foreigner, or the monoglot Anglo-Welshman, but it can be minimized by requiring from aU candidates a knowledge both of English grammar and composition, also of Welsh grammar and composition. At present both subjects are nominally optional, and in reality English grammar and composition are needed, as I have just remarked, for the execution of an answer; but Welsh grammar and composition are not needed, and probably only a few even of the very Welshy candidates come prepared to face an examination in the latter. What is required is not to make them both wanted equally, but to make Welsh wanted a LITTLE BY ALL, and much by some if they choose. Were this system carried out, there should be no grumbling if all the scholarships fell to Englishmen; no cry of Wales for the Welsh; no " exclusive patriotism,"* rather let the strangers take away all our scholarships if they can, but in the act of allowing this, let us by an act of "inclusive patriotism" brand them as, in some small degree at least, naturalized, and able to play their part as men of Wales, understanding the country, and forming a part of the Welsh unity.

It is very easy to say, "require from aU candidates for

* The Western Mail recently said of the South Wales Star that it was more in touch with the exclusiTe patriotism of the Welsh people than the ordinary English papers.



 

 

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242 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP. VI.

exhibitions at Welsh Colleges a knowledge of &c., &c.," but every one who knows the A B C of these things is quite well aware such an independent course would be in a high degree both impractical and impossible for either of these Colleges now to adopt.

But the future, what of that? It largely depends upon the constitution of the new Welsh University, which will probably be shortly an accomplished fact, and upon the temper of its governing body.

If that governing body were to say: We think it expedient that a slight knowledge of the grammatical structure of the Welsh language, its idioms and its vocabulary should be the common property of all persons receiving an advanced national education, irrespective both of sect or party, and with that view we require all candidates at our matriculation examinations to be prepared with an elementary knowledge of Welsh even if nothing further was said on the subject in the legal, medical, or science courses, such a resolution would go further to revolutionize education in Wales from tip to toe as regards its attitude to the language than years of agitation or yards of speeches could do in the ordinary way.

What would be the effect of such an apparently trifling measure? In the first place, probably, a good deal of grumbling, snorting, and growling in the newspapers and other mediums of publicity; in the second place, middle-class schools and County Council Intermediate schools (if in existence) would turn right-about-face, call for Welsh grammars and reading books, and coach up their pupils to sufficient proficiency in Welsh to meet the standard; besides which Normal Colleges would find it suit their purpose to introduce Welsh in the education of would-be teachers preparing for University examinations.

What would be the ultimate results? Simply this, that no



 

 

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CHAP. VI.] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 243

professional man with a Welsh University degree would be quite ignorant of the language, and inferentially such would in general be more in sympathy with the people that speak it; many more elementary teachers would have had systematic training in it, and be consequently prepared to frame the education of their more advanced pupils for the intermediate schools. There would be these results and many more besides. The whole nation would then be unified as never before in the last three hundred years.

Be it observed that I do not advocate any very large expenditure of time to be spent by youths of average intelligence in attaining the Welsh standard for their entrance examination, tests of superior efficiency might be made optional further on, but I am sure that many in after life, even if they went no further in the study, would be glad they had an initiation in it. Another point of supposed advantage which has been insisted on by a late writer to the Baner, is that Welsh would specialize the University training, and thus indirectly give a greater value to a degree.

The following is a specimen of the kind of opposition called forth by this movement for a Welsh University. It is a " Welsh Rector" pouring his grief into the ear of the Editor of the Western Mail, who had enough worldly wisdom to drop no comments:

Dissenting youths of the lower and lower-middle classes would be attracted thitherwards, as is the case at present with Aberystwith and Cardiff, while the upper middle and more cultured would seek their degrees elsewhere, from centres free from the taint of vulgarity and political sectarianism. Call it what you like, it wiU soon drift into the most sectarian Dissenting seminary.

As he is entrusted with the "cure" of souls, or rather beheves he is, we could advise him, and such as he, if at any



 

 

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244 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. [CHAP. VI.

time they feel disposed to sniffle about the precincts of the Colleges in search of the "taint of vulgarity/' to fortify themselves with the quintessence of Eau de Cologne, or Eau de Lampeter, lest they should unconsciously carry any infection home to the flock.

Having thus disposed of the subject of Welsh in relation to the social and educational life of the country, we will now enter on some consideration of the study of the language itself, and the character of its literature.

 

 

 






 

 

 

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