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Ffetan y Gol.



PARDPIWR ARALLj My People. By CARADOC EVANS (Andrew Melrose, Ltd.). 5/- -net.This book consists of fifteen short stories which give a grim picture of the peasantry of West Wales, a picture so gloomy and forbidding from a moral point of view, that it must startle the average reader, who, if not exactly a saint, does set up a fairly decent standard of life and conduct. The book is powerfully written it is a piece of dramatic realism, hard, intense, uncompromising, and unrelieved by rany softening of outlines, or any exaltation above the low level of moral turpitude which it reveals. It is a silhouette, dark and terrible, thrown as it were on to a white screen there is no gradation of good and evil, no mitigation of the tragic tension which grows in intensity from the first story almost to the last. That is no doubt the author's intention, and, to this extent, the result justifies his method and his art. No one could write with the graphic directness of these stories unless he had come into con- tact with the people described in them, unless indeed he had been very intimate with their modes of thought and action. He excites in the reader the repulsion which he himself must have felt in the conception and execution of these sordid and tragic sketches. It i8,:not so much a book of clear and dis- tinct characters as of types of men and women whose speech, thought, and conduct, are uniformingly depressing. One thinks of Tennyson's lines Self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control, These three alone lead life to sovereign power. Here are men and women who are without any of these essentials to right conduct, and they do not know that they lack these things. They are self-deceived, narrow in sympathy, without a reasonable code of honour and self- respect. Religion is on their lips but there is no evidence that it has the slightest effect upon their hearts and lives. Altogether the impression produced by these stories is one of absolute oppression and unloveliness the oppression of a hideous nightmare the unloveliness of naked realism applied to a state of things which it is difficult to believe does exist at all generally. Meanness, deceit, lack of natural affection, grossness of thought and action men who have no self-respect and no fine feeling; women who have no sweetness or grace, and who are singularly destitute of the innocent modesty which is their immediate jewel and most precious possession,—these are the people depicted and the ethical standard which seems habitual to them. By a fine stroke of insight the author puts the truth into the mouth of Pedr, in the story A Just Man in Sodom." Pedr is regarded as a rather foolish person but he believes himself to be divinely inspired, and among the words which he applies to his fellows are these Tell you them that they are as wicked as the old blacks of Sodom." It is an apt comment what more need be said ? The story of Twm Tybach, the reprobate of the community, is a conception which blends satire and humour. He at any rate is gen- uinely and unblushingly wicked, but he makes no pretence of being good in this respect he is unique, and, by contrast with the doubtful pillars of Capel Sion, he is even respectable. The unco guid look at him askance but Twm is infinitely to be preferred to his judges, bemuse there is much more hope of his final amendment than of theirs. One is glad to know that he did not die. We are moved to pity by several of the stories,—for the unfortunate Lissi, for Owen Tygwyn and his wife but it is an ironic pity, which is leavened by the thought that the sufferings of these victims of foolish, uncharitable, and narrow prejudices, were needless and therefore the more cruel. Even the self-sacrifice of Old Nanni is swallowed up in the gruesome details of her story and the natural emotion of pity is lessened by an acute feeling of horror. The book is dominated by its pseudo-religious atmosphere. For all right-thinking Welshmen the stories will have a melancholy interest to English- men, like the present writer, it will bring a profound shock of surprise that there can be a peasantry in Wales with so little that is worthy and so much that is ignoble in their character. The book would have been pleasanter to read, and it is open to question whether it would not have made a stronger appeal, if it had revealed something of the noble attributes of human nature, something 'f love, warmth of affection, truth, sincerity, dimple and earnest piety, and steadfast devotion to high ideals. The contrast thus presented would have been more effective, because the darker aspects of these stories would have been brought out more vividly against a background of normal goodness and ordinary workaday virtue. The only object- ion must be, that this would have been a deviation from truth and fact. On the other hand, if there is a brighter side to the picture, it is to be hoped Mr. Caradoc Evans will write another book which shall reveal that side and so re-establish in some measure the good name of the peasantry of West Wales. The title of the book and the notice on its cover seem to imply that the people portrayed are characteristic. Some of the incidents are evidently abnormal, but this in no way affects the artistic sincerity and truth of the stories since it is the mental and moral state of the persons introduced with which the reader is mainly concerned. All that. they do results from all that they are, and this influence runs through their lives whether it leads up to passive suffering or active wickedness. On general grounds it might be assumed, not that the stories are not faithful studies of actual tendencies, but that there are men of, normal goodness in the midst of this welter of meanness and callousness. Every allowance may be made for the far-reaching power of a relentless and merciless view of religion in its influence upon every phase of life and yet it should be true that men and women, in the aggregate, are seldom wholly good or wholly bad. Common experience proves this truth can it be less true of West Wales than of any other tract of country ? Surely there must be many men and women who have generous sympathies, kind hearts, homely virtues, and gracious worthiness in thought and deed, among the peasantry of West Wales'. If so, this book would have gained in sweetness and power if j* bp of common humanity. But if not, then neither this nor any conceivable book of stories would shame such a people as the author sketches it would require a much more drastic operation of moral surgery to effect a cure than tiles in the power of any writer. Only a saner growth of public opinion, and a deep-seated moral and spiritual change could avail anything. The question still remains whether these stories represent a, regrettable tendency or a radical evil. A.E.W.