NATIONALITY A TERM NOT EASILY DEFINED — WELSH NATIONAL CONSCIOUSNESS -
INSTANCES OF DIVERGENCE OF CHARACTER AND LANGUAGE IN ENGLAND — CARDIFF
ANOMALOUS IN CHARACTER — IRISH NATIONALITY NOT ETHNOLOGICAL — THE FLEMINGS —
THE WELSH AND FRENCH APPROXIMATE EACH OTHER — WELSH DEFICIENT IN MECHANICAL
TALENT — ORATORY — DELUSIONS ABOUT "SACRED” MUSIC — CELTIC INFLUENCE IN
ENGLISH WRITERS — CARDIFF DAILIES AND NATIONALITY — SCOTLAND.
What constitutes a nationality? Authorities may echo a few stereotyped
answers to this question, but I much question whether, if they attempted
truly to analyze these mental conceptions, the judgment of each would not be
found to diflfer in some point from that of his brother authority.
We do not attempt to call the peoples of British India a nationality; though
they are united under one Government, we have to admit that they include
several nationalities, yet the essentials as to what constitutes a nation
cannot be brought exactly to book, they are of too subtle and indefinable a
We may however, admit the term nation,
as applied to the Welsh, because they naturally speak of themselves as y Genedl Gymreig (the Welsh nation),
in preference to y Bobl Gymreig
(the Welsh people), and because there is ground to believe that such a
distinction is natural and historical, and not artificial, i.e., not forced by some attempt to
manufacture patriotic sentiment, and that what a nation calls itself under
these circumstances is prima facie
evidence that we shall not be transgressing the laws of language (even of the
314 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP. VIII.
language) by literally translating the word. In the same way, supposing the
Poles or Hungarians habitually use a corresponding term of themselves, it is
alike entitled to respect and acknowledgment.
On the one hand we see a million people more or less acquainted with what is
to us English folk a foreign tongue, a large number of whom carry on their
mental operations in it; and on the other hand half a million living in the
same country who are strange to the said tongue. Can we roughly draw the
line, as the census draws it, between those with an exclusive knowledge of
English, and those with a knowledge of Welsh? Perhaps we can from some points
of view, because many of the half million look upon themselves as belonging
to no other nation than the English, but in reality, apart from the rough and
ready linguistic test, NATIONALITY is much more indefinable, though it is not
complete without the sense of corporate existence. Such a state has been
denied to Wales for many hundreds of years.
Modern, life is supposed to tend to break down all the barriers of
nationality of race and even language, and to weld the nations of the earth
into one mighty mass. That something like this may not be witnessed in a
future stage of the world's history I am not prepared to deny. It may by way
of confirmation be justly affirmed that in a state of savagery and barbarism
distinctions rapidly accumulate, separations become intensified, and
languages but of yesterday bearing the closest resemblances, become in a few
years mutually unintelligible; so that the whole tendency of civilization
appears opposed to the perpetuation of local distinctions of blood and
When, however, we come to examine more closely into the working of the laws
which govern the mental habits of the population of the United Kingdom, we
shall find that side by
dHAP. Vni.] HER LAiTGXJA&E. 31 5
side with the levelling tendency which annihilates distinctions and which
would have one law, one language, one cosmopolitan character throughout the
laud, that there is a counter tendency of a natural and involuntary character
constantly emphasizing distinctions and building up local differences,
tending even to make languages, and that it leaves tangible phenomena in
almost every town we may visit, which are in fact the offspring of these two
divergent forces — the CENTRIPETAL and the centkipugal of the human mind, as
manifested in language.
Take, for instance, thcKSa^t of civilization, London itself, perhaps none of
my readers need be told that the London accent is strongly noticeable in a
large proportion of its inhabitants; and more than that, the wealthier
classes, who would by all means eschew the' accent, have a certain style of
speech, which is a diflferentiafcion of language in embryo. Just a similar
remark ^ight be passed about the two classes of society in Bristol, viz., the
well-to-do or the highly educated and the artizan classes, each of them
manifest a tendency to divergence in language which is continually checked by
the centripetal force of outside association.
Nearly all thft great English towns have peculiar features, qmte sui generis
in speech or habits of thought and mental characteristics. Manchester has the
Manchester man; Liverpool is reported to possess the Liverpool gentleman; the
great Mercian capital, Birmingham, has a character peculiarly its own (1 am
not, of course, alluding principally to physical features); so has Leeds; so
It does not require much insight into the nature of language, to affirm, that
if it were possible to isolate any of these great centres from the rest of
the wofld, that they would rapidly without a literature, and slowly with one,
pass into a stage wherein their populations would become foreigners in mind,
316 Wales aud [chap. vili.
and unintelligible to other Englishmen in language. The great point is this:
— that this tendency to incipient nationality manifests itself even in such
leading English towns, in this busy wide-awake Nineteenth Century.
If there is one great town in Great Britain more than another that possesses
no distinctive type of character, that town is Cardiff; there is really
nothing about Cardiff men to set them off distinctively as CardifEans.
The probability is that this arises from Cardiff being a new town, the home
of foreigners, of settlers from various parts of the country, that in a
hundred years time there will be no occasion for such a remark, and that
there will be a Cardiff type as distinct as that of a Bristolian. I, venture
to surmise a further probability, viz., that the type will be found in the
main to possess Welsh characteristics, and that the process of assimilation
will be much accelerated by the foundation of a Welsh University. Not that 1
am so foolish as to suppose that there is an inherent force in any particular
course of literary education which will produce results exactly analogous
with the illustrations already brought forward, which are largely affected by
the peculiarities of individuals who lived a thousand years ago or more,
transmitted to descendants, and modified or developed by various local
circumstances affecting the mental habit directly or indirectly mainly
through the bodily organism, while all the heterogenous elements introduced
into such a community from time to time have failed to destroy a certain
residual homogeneity of character: but I rather affirm that the needs of
Wales call for a distinct character of literary education, which will in its
turn eventually assist in determining the complexion of the mental habits and
tendencies of the population at large, though it may not mainly decide it.
How absurd, some of my readers may say, how ridiculous to suppose that the
grandsons or great-grandsons of wealthy
CHAP. VIILJ HER LANGtJAGiE. 3l7
Cardiff merchants are ever likely to reflect physically and mentally their
proximity to a people whose language and distinctive features are rapidly
being swallowed up in the ever-advancing tide of EugUsh influence.
To this I reply, there is, it is true, a tide of English influence, which is
the absolutely necessary concomitant of recent developments of the resources
of Wales, of the influx of English-speaking populations, and the necessity of
acquiring much information through the medium of their language, but this by
no means precludes the possibiUty of a contemporaneous tide of Welsh
influence giving a strong flavour of the soil to the immediately succeeding
generation, and fusing all the difiiering elements of Welsh society into a
more homogeneous mass, both linguistically and socially.
Whether this be so or not, whence come the middle-class of Co. Waterford, of
Co. Dublin, and other parts of Ireland, who from their speech and habits are
put down at once as unmistakably Irish, and who are Irish too, in patriotic*
sentiment? To a large extent it is English and Welsh, not Irish blood that
runs in their veins, and yet in the course of a few generations these
families have been leavened with the Irish-Celtic character, not such an
unmixed one, it is true, as is found in the West, but one which markedly
differentiates them from Englishmen.
The Anglo-Normans of the Twelfth century settled down within the
"Pale," but they speedily became Irish in speech and habits.
Cromwell's soldiers, and other English colonists of the Seventeenth century,
came to live among a people terribly decimated by the sword, but in the
course of a few generations
* By patriotic I must be understood as not using the term in its usually
accepted political sense^ove of country exists apart from any ideas as to
form of government.
3l8 Wales ANb [chap. Viil.
their descendants became redolent of the soil, and partakers of a character
which, whether the term is defensible on ethnological grounds or not, we call
Irish. Even in the North, where the work of depopulation had advanced to a
greater extent, and the sturdy Scot stepped in, keeping almost unchanged the
religion of the Kirk, he has not escaped, (as far as my observation goes)
losing some of his previous national characteristics and nolens-volens,
adopting some of those of the land of Patrick. What has taken place in
Ireland has also taken place in Wales on a smaller scale, and will probably
continue to do so, in perhaps a less marked way in the future.
'Sot merely do we see these two tendencies in England, but also on the
Continent. There, the Greek language is purifying itself from Turkish idioms
or phrases, Norwegian casting off Danish influence, Flemish asserting itself
and recognized in the scheme of elementary instruction, and on the whole we
may say that a small nation has a better chance of living in the Nineteenth
Century, than in the Seventeenth.
So much for what I may call the general principle of the spontaneous growth
of nationality. Now let us see it applied to the modern racial affinities of
the Welsh, without going so far back as to disentangle Gael and Cymry,
Iberian, Pict and Brython.
A very striking featm'e to a traveller in some parts of South Wales, who is
alive to racial characteristics, is the number of Welsh-speaking persons he
meets with whose physiognomy indicates that they are much more nearly related
to the " hiliogaeth Hengist" than to Caradawg or King Arthur; to
the Saxon than the Briton.
There are three or four common types of physique and of countenance seen in
Wales, which may be in popular parlance put down as Celtic, that is, they are
worn by persons representing
CHAP. VIII.][WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 319
peoples who have spoken Welsh, or a Celtic tongue, for some 1,500 years;
these types predominate still in Wales, especially in North Wales, but
individuals are frequently met with, of recognized English types, speaking
Welsh, and, in addition, with Welsh habits of mind, more or less. Some of
these are from families quite lately introduced, and bearing Scotch or
English names, a fact which was commented on by the late D. I. Davies, in the
course of his examination before the Education Commission. Such families soon
learn the pretty twirl at the end of a sentence, which is common to North and
South Walians when speaking English — on this Alexander Ellis, president of
the Philological Society, remarked in a paper on the "Delimitation of
the Welsh and English Languages,"* published in Y Cymmrodor.
Some years ago Dr. Beddoe, of Clifton, wrote a prize Eisteddfodic essay#
bearing on the Ethnology of England, shewing that except in the case of
Ipswich and Hull, (two towns where foreign influence doubtless affected the
result,) the average colour of the hair deepens in colour as we proceed
further westward, until it reaches its maximum in the black haired peoples of
Wales and Cornwall.
He did, however, carefully guard from the assumption that the colour of the
hair of an individual was proof of his ethnological relations, illustrating
his position by the case of the Jews, who are a dark haired nation, though
there are light haired Jews in every nation under the sun.
*"The peculiar intonation, or rising inflexion spoken of at the end of
the Extract [from a communication by Dr. I. Owen] is a very trustworthy mark
of a Welshman speaking English. It is sometimes very pretty * * but it is
decidedly un-English at all times," [D. I. O. quotes Warner of Bath, in
1798,] "all the children of Flintshire speak English very well, and were
it not for a little curl or elevation of the voice at the conclusion of the
sentence (which has a pleasing effect) one should perceive no difference in
this respect between the North Walians, and the natives of England."
#This was never published.
320 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP. VIII.
Speaking of Cardiganshire, he remarked on the traces of Flemish blood by the
banks of the Teivi. This is another instance of absorption into the body of
Welsh nationality. In South Pembrokeshire and Gower the Flemings remained
distinct,* but in Cardiganshire they failed to do so, though they left behind
them a memorial of their existence in the name of a spot still called Verwig, the wig being the wick we
get in Berwick, and they have, I incline to suspect, left a permanent impress
of their character upon the men of Cardiganshire — the "red
Cardies," as they are proverbally called, but so far as I am aware their
language has left no traces in the vernacular of the district. Flemish blood
is also mixed in that of the Welsh speaking district of Llandudoch
Just as in the case of England, Welsh nationality is not based upon unity of
ethnic relations, though it is generally believed, and probably with some
foundation of truth, that there is less mixture of blood in Wales than in any
considerable district in England; however that may be, a NATIONAL CHARACTER
has been developed, containing points common to both North and South Wales,
and which may in its entirety be taken as coming nearer the French type of
character than it does to the English, this is especially the case in South
Wales; not merely is it so with the people themselves, but there is an
assimilation in the pronunciation of certain words derived from the Latin,
which the English tongue has treated very differently, c.f., gras Duw# and grace
Dieu; also the aforementioned Dwfr
and Douvres, which we have lengthened
Again, there is far more similarity between the physique of Englishmen and
Norwegians, and Frenchmen and Welshmen,
*The English language which differed but little from Flemish survived, Saxons
being probably mixed with the Flemings.
#This is pronounced nearly as in French.
CHAP. VIII.][WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 321
on the one hand, than between Englishmen and Welshmen on the other; that is
to say, notwithstanding all the anomalous or unlooked for types that may be
found in these nations, there is a certain average standard which may be
taken as the basis of comparison.
In the Fifteenth century Welsh nationality, which had been weakened 300 years
before by the establishment of the semi-independent Norman Lordships, and
again rudely shaken by the conquests of Edward I., was still a tolerably
compact, and perhaps a growing force, supported by a comparatively abundant
literature, but without the keystone of responsible government, with no
centralization, no ground of political unity.
The Sixteenth century saw begun what we have before noticed as the process of
"denationalization and deodorization," which was partially averted
by the publication of the Welsh Bible, but ruled more or less till the middle
of the Eighteenth century. It is to the Methodist revival that Wales owes
much of what she possesses in the way of a national spirit.
This unprecedented movement — not to speak now of its religious aspect — did
two things for Wales, it trained the people in habits of association and
organization, and it gave a lasting impetus to efforts which had been
previously made to teach the people to read in their own tongue.
Episcopalianism has accomplished neither of these results to anything like
the same degree, hence it is by no means uncommon to find an Episcopalian who
is able to speak the language colloquially, but was never taught to read it.
And on the other hand such is the influence of Welsh in dissenting
congregations, that there are at the present day thousands of young people,
and some older ones, who can read Welsh (imperfectly), and listen hahituall/y
to Welsh sermons, but who cannot speak
322 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP. VIII.
it, or at least, are more masters of English. This is a silent, but
convincing proof of the power and vitality of the language, and should
disprove the idea that Welsh preaching in large towns, is almost exclusively
arranged for those who think in tha t language. It can easily be seen in
which class the national sentiment is likely to be most consciously felt —
whether among those who can read the language or those who cannot.
So much for the historical aspects of the question, we will now make some
attempt to discuss the Welsh mental constitution; or rather some of the
peculiar aptitudes and disabilities of the people.
It has been long the fashion to cast the blame of a Welshman's non-success in
practical life upon his language. This is an unphilosophic way of putting it.
The real drawback, viz., ignorance of English, is another matter about which
every year less and less can be said, and even that by no means covers the
Such objectors appear to forget the influence of national characteristics in
determining the aptitude of individuals for particular lines of work; for
instance, if every Welshman were to wake up to-morrow, as entirely English in
speech as a Kentish farmer, while the whole of his past knowledge of Welsh
had passed into the limbo of forgetfulness, have we any right to suppose that
such a condition would further the material advancement of Wales, and that
her sons and daughters would be at the top of the tree in every useful art?
Certainly not; I much doubt if there would be, on the whole, a superiority to
what exists at the present time in any one calling or trade in consequence,
beyond that acquired by increasing familiarity with English technical trade
literature, and such as would be consistent with a more thoroughly Duoglot
state than Wales has yet attained; then, as now, England would lead in the
mechanical arts and sciences.
OBAP. Vill.][WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 32S
Wales has produced respectable mechanical engineers, and will do so again,
but for the same reasons that the largest engineering firms are principally found
in parts of England where Scandinavian blood is most abundant, (not even
always in the neighbourhood of coal, as the names of Robey, Marshall,
Hornsby, Ransome wiU testify,) in preference to those parts where Celtic
blood is more largely found, we may well suppose that Welsh mental
characteristics are not preeminently favourable to excellence in practical
mechanics. I am pretty well satisfied that it would be found that those men
whose names are connected with useful mechanical inventions, as well as triumphs
of heavy engineering, much more largely represent Eastern, especially
North-Eastern families, than Western or Southern.
We cannot, however, draw any hard and fast line, such a one does not exist in
nature; for instance, the son of Taliesin ap lolo lately died as manager of
the large concern of Bolckow, Vaughan and Co., of Middlesborough; he was, I
presume, a Welsh-speaking Welshman. The lesson I wish inferred from the above
remarks, is that the mental activity of the nation, quite independently of
whichever language is spoken, does not chiefly find its outlet in the
direction of the mechanical arts, but in ways which do not lead to so much
result from a pecuniary point of view.
In poetical genius and powers of oratory, we have to yield the palm to the
Welsh, and in making the comparison, the standard should not be what poets
and orators can one country muster, with a population at various periods from
ten to eighteen times to that of the other, with all the advantages furnished
by colleges and schools of long standing, over against . the poets and
orators of the smaller country, the language of which has for nearly 400
years ceased to be that recognized by the civil power, and whose education in
it has been carried on
324 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] CHAP. VIII.
out of school; we must rather compare the average mind of the one with the
average mind of the other, as well as look at living examples.
As an illustration of Welsh oratorical powers of speech, I insert the following, which relates to the
late Owen Thomas, of Liverpool, himself a highly educated man, and author of
some Welsh works, such as "Cofiant John Jones, Talysarn."
"An Englishman even, not understanding the Welsh language, could not
fail to be rivetted as Dr. Thomas would be heard reasoning with his audience,
now in argument, now in tones of warning, now in earnest appeal. His clear,
ringing voice, his distinct articulation, his crisp sentences, his varied
tones, the thoroughness with which he threw his whole soul into his
preaching, could not fail to fasten the attention even of one who might not
understand a word he said. It is recorded that Charles Dickens one day stood
in amazement as he heard him preaching at Bangor at an Association to a crowd
of 15,000 people, keeping his hearers spellbound. How much more would it be
thus with one who understood all he said."*
Recollect, reader, that it by no means follows, that because a certain gifted
preacher had such extraordinary power, as has frequently been exercised by
native Welshmen, both literate and illiterate, that therefore there is any
true divinity about it i.e. that his words were inspired from above.
The possession of these oratorical powers, is often a great snare, both to
people and speaker, almost as much as when the grand swelling chords, the
awe-inspiring music of Handel, combined with scripture words, fills them with
the delusion that they are either offering some service to the Almighty, or
are on the borders of doing so. When the standard of preaching is generally
acknowledged, as it will in a future day, to be nothing short of an immediate
exercise of Divine
*"Monthly Tidings," vol. viii, p. 162.
CHAP. VIII.] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 325
power, apart from mere natural gifts; then not only will priestcraft of all
shades and descriptions fall utterly, but the miserable substitutes for Divine
music in the soul found in so-called "sacred" concerts, cantatas,
and oratorios, the darling idols of the Welsh people, will be thrown to
"the moles and the bats." There will then, it is true, be found a
place for oratory, but a very different and more subordinate one to that it
What about Celtic influence on the character of English authors and
statesmen? Three great men of the Seventeenth century were of Welsh descent,
on one side or the other, Oliver Cromwell, William Penn, and John Milton.
Englishmen may smile incredulously when spoken to about the Welsh blood that
flowed in Milton's veins; personally I do not think the idea at all
ridiculous, that it materially influenced his genius and assisted him to take
a foremost place in English literature.
So with Robert Burns: it is not impossible that he may be called a Strath
Clyde Briton, with a Celtic-speaking ancestry, dating not many centuries
back. Macaulay's genius and style was certainly a Celtic one, notwithstanding
his unreasonable prejudices against Highlanders and Quakers, himself
descended from a family of the former on his father's side, and from the
latter on his mother's side.
John Bright seems to us a typical Englishman, and I confess I cannot from a
superficial glance see much of the Celt about him, but have little doubt that
a lineal ancestor of his was a Brit, i.e., a Celtic Briton, just as the
Lollard Walter Brut, of Herefordshire, appears to have been a Welshman of the
Black Mountain district.
The average Lancashire man has a good strain of Celtic blood, and I think we
must give him credit for superior commercial abilities, power of
organization, and grasp of detail.
326 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP. VIIl.
Few elementary schoolmasters are unapprised of the existence of the house of
John Heywood, the head of which is now the third of that name, founded some
'fifty years ago, by a poor man, whose features remind one in some degree of
a Northwalian. As an instance of the extraordinary powers of John Heywood
II., it is said that of the thirty thousand or so of accounts opened in his
books, there was not one of which he was not personally cognizant and
completely informed. Perhaps few men could say as much of a tenth of that
number. Query, was this power of memory derived in au intensified form from
some of the subjects of that British " king " of Strathclyde (which
includes Lancashire), who rowed King Edgar on the Dee, circ. 961?
In the drapery business, a AVelshman's sense of form, colour, and harmony
generally assist him, in fact drapery is one of those callings in which
Welshmen who go up to London are peculiarly successful. Some years ago I knew
a Monmouthshire man whose father was English, but who had Welsh proclivities,
and had taught himself the language by going to a Bible class, and making use
of such opportunities as he could lay hold of, attending a Welsh
congregation, both when in London and when I kne\\' him in Bristol. When
Avanting a situation in London from a drapery house, previous to my
acquaintance with him, he contrived to secure a berth in the mantle
department, of which he knew little or nothing, by concealing his ignorance,
and, what is more, worked it successfully, by using the " naws "*
with which nature had endowed him. In his case a knowledge of Welsh proved a
stepping stone to French.
It is not an uncommon error for English people to imagine that they can well
afford to leave the Welsh language or
* I use this word in its Herefordshire sense of -'tact" (low English=
gumption), which differs somewhat from the Welsh meaning.
CHAP. VIII.][WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 327
Welsh nationality out of their reckoning, in regard to social and political
questions, because English is generally understood.
This is illustrated by a comparison of the career of the two Cardiff dailies,
one of which echoes the popular voice, and on financial or economical
questions frequently adopts sounder views than the other paper, which opposes
the sentiment of the majority of Welsh people on political and ecclesiastical
questions, tooth and nail, in season and out of season. Yet, strange to say,
its circulation probably comes near, if it does not exceed that of its rival.
One reason for this I believe to be, that it has on its staff men who
understand Wales, not from a distant standpoint, but as themselves part and
parcel of the nation knowing intimately its weakness, and better able to
judge of its strength than strangers, knowing its history and language more
or less sufficiently well to enable them the better to understand the Wales
of to-day from the Wales of yesterday, so that, although an article may
sometimes appear bitterly ridiculing the national idea, it may be followed by
another manifesting an undercurrent of sympathy, or perhaps by a biographical
sketch of a deceased person, which Welshmen instinctively feel could not have
been written by a non-naturalized alien.
Not long since I was in a railway carriage in Mid-Wales, where some English
persons, one of them a settler in Merionethshire, were discussing the
proprietor of an English newspaper pubHshed in Wales. " It is no
use," said one in reference to this proprietor's attitude,
"ignoring the Welsh language. It is a fact and you must recognize
it." He could not speak it himself, but I understood that his family
were being brought up to do so.
Let no one suppose, that because I take occasion in this volume to speak of
the extraordinary beauty of some portions of Welsh literature, of the power
of the language, of the ease with which it can be adapted as an instrument of
328 WALES AJfD [chap. VIII.
in the abstract, and view it (conjoined to English) as conducive to a
participation in the civilization of the Nineteenth Centtiry, that therefore I
am crying up the Celt against the Saxon. No! I am too much of a Saxon myself
to do that, and while I admit that such a people as the Welsh, have
possibilities within their reach, which the English will never be able to
aspire to, I admit, once and for all, that the latter have national
qualities, which to a far larger extent go hand in hand, with material
progress. From the commercial point of view the Welsh language comes but
insignificantly into sight, and we are correspondingly tempted to assign a minimum
quantity of the existence of Nationality, nevertheless it exists, as a solid
In the face of the steam engines and the telegraphs of our age, we are
brought in contact with characteristics, modified it is true, and perhaps
almost transfigured, but at the root the legitimate lineal representatives of
those which predominated in the Gaul, long before he had bowed his neck to
the Roman yoke, and characteristics on the other hand the ancestry of which
we find in the manners and habits of thought of rude and simple dwellers by
the Elbe. That is to say, the Englishmen and Welshmen of to-day exhibit in
their ovifn persons, effects of causes which operated at the very dawn of
It is well-known that were every man to trace his ancestry back to the Norman
Conquest, several lines of descent would be found to unite in one individual,
and back in the Eleventh Century the ancestors of every Englishman now living
must have been very numerous, while there is probably in no case a line of
independent descent; or, in other words, that distant cousins have married of
very necessity, otherwise the ancestors of the English would immensely
outnumber what we know to have been the maximum population of our island at
any time under the Norman Kings.
Now, bearing this in mind, let us set ourselves theoretically to analyze the
blood of the average Englishman. Of course we are not saying that an
individual specimen anywhere exists, any more than an average ear of corn
exists in a wheat field, they may be all above or below the average. We will
suppose, as a preliminary, that the influence of each parent is equally
divided in the offspring.
Proceeding on these bases, perhaps it would not be far from the mark to
assign influences in the average English mental constitution to the sources
and in the proportion following: —
Saxon and Anglian
French, Jewish, Roman, &c
Celtic ancestry must be imderstood not in a strictly scientific way, but to
relate to persons speaking a Celtic language. French includes Huguenot
ancestry. Roman blood is partly derived from the Imperial occupation of the
country, and partly through indirect sources.
Attempting to analyze Welsh blood the same way, we might say,
Saxon and Anglian ... ... 15
Danish ... ... ... ... 5
Norman and Soman ... ... 5
Flemish, &c. ... ... ... 5
Turning to the mediaeval history of Scotland, we find a Celtic house reigning
over a Teutonic-speaking population in the South-east, and also over
different Celtic-speaking populations in the remaining parts of the country.
Just as in the case of Wales, — there are considerable
330 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP. Vni.
diiFerences of blood, but at the same time a distinct feeling of Nationality.
But the parallel between WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] Scotland does not go much
further. The feeling of Scotch nationality, it is true, has reference to the
past history of Scotch independence, but it is kept up in this work-a-day
period of ours, if not largely based upon the existence of various distinct
institutions of Civil government. Foremost among these is the Scotch system
of Elementary Education, capped by the four Scotch Universities, adapted to
persons of very slender or moderate means; besides which there are various
small differences in legal matters, which help to remind a man if ever he
crosses the border, that he was brought up a Scotchman.
Their national system of religion, will it is hoped, be soon abolished,
though the effects of the attitude of the nation towards the reformation,
will be, and are perpetuated in the general character of the free Churches of
the country. Under the present system of the state recognizing
Presbyterianism only, as soon as the Queen's railway carriage has conveyed
her across the border the fiction is assumed of her ceasing to be an
Episcopalian, and becoming a Presbyterian: as soon as she returns to England,
she lapses back again to Episcopalianism I.e. a few shades nearer the
unreformed Popish religion.
Welsh nationality differs from Scotch also in the fact that it exists apart
from legislative enactments. It draws upon the history of the past
undoubtedly, it loves to dwell on the time when national independence was
realized, though haltingly, and it treasures up store of the memory of men
whose deeds have been handed down with approbation, as links in the chain of
national progress; but in reality the great backbone to these feelings, is
the existence of the Welsh language; not but what Welshmen are very willing
to put it aside and not
CHAP, vm.] HEE LANGUAGE. 331
refer to it, while they take their part as British citizens,— but it is there
underneath the surface, the key to the entrances of what I have called the
" inner circle " of Welsh life; even where Anglicizatioa has done
its work, and the knowledge of the language is lost, nationality may remain,
but the former is felt to be the missing link, which would very gladly be
purchased at some cost, were it practicable.
Quite recently I had an interview with an Englishman or a Scotchman, who
conducts a paper at Swansea. He complained a good deal of the language
question, said that it divided the town into two halves, that the Welsh
preachers did not take any part in public affairs, and felt like he should
do, if he were in a French town. It must be undoubtedly vexing to him, as to
other English persons engaged in literary enterprises in the country, not to
be able to understand the district as easily and thoroughly as if they were
to settle down in Sunderland or in Brighton: although he appeared rather
opposed to the existence of Welsh, his evidence confirmed me in the view that
a much more general spread of bilingual instead of exclusively English
education even in such a district as Swansea, would do something towards consolidating
and improving social feeling, let alone its educational value.
It was not surprising to hear that my informant depreciated the Welsh
language (which he was ignorant of) as a civilizing agency, and could
scarcely beheve me, when I informed him that ceteris paribus, it was easier
to attain a literary education in Welsh than in English.
The next day, I was in the company of a sober, intelligent working man, who
was, a short time since, employed as a porter by the Great Western Railway
Co., at Swansea station; he was of Welsh parentage, could understand a little
Welsh, but could not speak it. "It is a great mistake " he said, in
332 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [chap. VIII.
reference to the matter of language "for us to have allowed the Enghlih
to have had the monopoly over us: our present educational system is
responsible, and will be so, until it is reversed." This is the
substance of his remarks, so far as recollected. Now here is a man, not an
isolated mountaineer, but used to every day contact with modern civilization,
regretting his want of acquaintance with the language of his fathers, and
advocating in his own way a national system of Education. I am sure that this
feeling is far more common in Semi-Anglicized Wales, than is generally
We cannot conclude these somewhat discursive jottings on Welsh nationality
withoutsomereference to themoralstandpoint. This is a far more difficult
matter to handle than the literature, and I must confess to a smaller
admiration of the Welsh moral character, than of the tender pathos, the
grace, and the descriptive power of their poetry. It lacks intrepidity, a
disregard of consequences, and the fine sense of honour which connnands respect
even from a foe. Wales is not so much the place for individuality as England,
but public sentiment moves much more en masse, owing to the gregarious habits
of the people — a people who go in flocks, yet who are not united. How far
these phenomena are due to the warmth of temperament which characterizes
them, how far they are the effects of historical or other causes, I will not
venture to decide — for in such matters, —
"Fools will rush in, where angels will not dare to tread."
Wales has produced men of genius, and men who could hold the magician's wand
and entrance the multitude; men whose works even the learned could read with
bated breath, who could cast a halo of fascination over almost any subject
they touched with their pens, but what Wales wants more than men of genius is
men of character, who will live above the varying plaudits of an unthinking
crowd, strike out new paths
CHAP. VIII.][WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 333
in the moral and social world, and give ample evidence that it is not the
sweets of life they are seeking, but the stern, undeviating path of duty — duty first and duty last,
though fire and water lie between.
The lack of a middle class in the past has thrown the mass of the people on
their own resources, and not without good records; now wealth and education
are accessible to an extent previously unthought of, and accompanying them
are certain subtle tendencies to deterioration of character, which, in
reality, form a very poor exchange for the more Spartan simplicity of earlier
Seventy years ago, who was one of the most influential men of Wales?
Christmas Evans; and yet for twenty years after his settlement in Anglesea
his salary was only £17, and for 18 years more only £21, out of which he
spared a guinea to the Bible Society, and a guinea to the Missionary Society.
Whatever errors there may have been in his theological views, he must have
exhibited both consistency of character, and convictions of essential Truths,
to have commanded the influence which accompanied him during life, and which
surrounds his name after death.
Summing up the evidence as to Welsh Nationality, we arrive at this —
I. Welsh Nationality is not a family matter. Comnmnity of blood is not mainly the bond that gives a
national character to the people, though it probably does to a larger extent,
than in the case of the English, popularly known as an Anglo-Saxon people,
just as the Welsh are known as a Cymric
II. That notwithstanding the mixture and existing differences, as between
North and South, there are still special mental characteristics and habits
common to all Wales.
III. That an inner sense of nationality has been produced, and is now
334 WALES AJSTD [cHAP. VIlI.
IV. That from whatever source it springs, it is a diffusive, expansive,
ethereal force, subtlely propagating itself, but severely checked — though
not checkmated — by adverse circumstances.
V. That it is partly the result of the consciousness of historical facts;
partly the result of the community of mental habits; partly the presence of a
language, the formation of which is in unison with such habits and
characteristics; partly the result of an extensive vernacular literature.
VI. It has not the strength of such a recent political unity, as has existed
in the case of Poland, whose fate it has been that " Russia, Prussia,
Austria, have parted her in three;" in the case of Wales we have to go
back six centuries instead of one.
VII. It has to contend with all the interlacing and interblending of English
material inte;ests, which late years have developed, in combination with the
very powerful influence caused by the pretty thorough system of ignoring
Welsh Nationality, in the administration of civil government for many
VIII. That not merely the national idea, but tlie unconscious development of
nationality itself, is probably a living force to-day, which is simply hidden
from sight by the more manifest counterforce tending to uniformity.
IX. That where properly regulated, this tendency to national development is
tiie best calculated to foster individual development, which cannot reach its
maximum under the exclusive dominance of the counter-force.
X. That such influences, tending to check individual development, are
prejudicial to moral stamina, independence of thought, and action.
XL Speaking generally, so long as, and where the Welsh language exists,
Nationahty asserts itself often in a hidden, almost invisible way, in the
consciousness of a connnunity of
CHAP. VIII.][WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 335
interest, and a common understanding of one another from Caergybi to
Caerdydd* as the stock phrase goes, and the real Englishman is looked upon more
or less as a foreigner, one who does not quite understand the why and the
wherefore of the mental attitude of the people.
Such, then, is Welsh Nationality — it is not complete unity of race; it is
not formed on political independence: it is an intangible somewhat and
something more than either, heavily pressed down and yet existing, — existing
now, and destined to exist and to exert an influence in the future.
* From Holyhead to Cardiff.