Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Welsh Nonconformity and Popular Culture 6: The Novel (Part 2)

John Thomas, an Independent very much influenced by Dickens, led the way in Welsh religious fiction, publishing numerous novels, most of which were serialized in denominational magazines. His novels included Ada Prys, Watcyn Owain and Arthur Llwyd y Felin (Arthur Lloyd of the Mill). Thomas’ characters were fairly flat, the backgrounds, being based on real places, having greater depth than the protagonists. These novels, although certainly not intended to bore the reader, were not just entertainment, but designed to be improving:

"The authors invited the reader to recognize situations which could easily fit into everyday life and they presented characters who were general examples rather than individuals in order for the reader to learn how to avoid an unhappy situation or arrive at an attractive goal. For the author, the ethical usefulness of the novels was an important consideration.[1]"

Besides the rather sentimental religious novels, in which, after a brush with vice, the hero and heroine follow the path of virtue and all goes right, there were some genuinely original productions, such as Margaret Williams, neu…Gyfloy Perchod (or… the wages of Sin), a chilling tale that begins with a grisly murder.[2] On the whole, however, religious novels were of dubious literary quality and have been justly forgotten. Although in all fairness the works of such English writers as Florence Barclay and Ethel M. Dell were hardly any better.

[1] Jones, Congregationalism, pp.181-2.
[2] Jones, Congregationalism, pp.181-2.



Blogger Highland Host said...

Novels of the 19th century, with a few exceptions, seem horribly long today. Cultural differences make them all but inaccesible.

Oh, and I'm able to use broadband until Thursday.

8:15 pm  
Blogger Hiraeth said...

Yay! But, as you well know, I've read Ethel M. Dell and Dickens, as well as that superb Oliver Onions novel 'Whom God Hath Sundered.' Thus I feel able to pontificate about such works.

The merit judgement on Welsh religious novels is that of R. Tudur Jones, who must have had access to these books when young. I note that the 1950s books of Patricia St. John are still in print, as is Pilgrim's Progress, suggesting that some religious fiction is timeless.

I'm in Aber until Friday, so keep posting, Bro. Highland Host!

11:18 pm  
Blogger Highland Host said...

Laddie, that is amazing! This morning, while praying for you, I prayed for you 'in Aberystwyth', which I haven't done for a while without specific information!

And I agree that some literature IS timeless. The rest dates. Who reads Parker today? Yet he was incredibly popular in his day!

11:49 pm  

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