Ladies of Llangollen free ebook

Ten years ago on the 13th March 2007 Project Gutenberg released one of their free ebooks:

THE “LADIES OF LLANGOLLEN,”
as sketched by many hands;
with notices of
OTHER OBJECTS OF INTEREST
in
“THAT SWEETEST OF VALES.”

The book had first been written in 1847 by John Hicklin who was known for writing local history books about Chester and Llandudno. Not much is known about John but there is a short obituary in the Wrexham Guardian January 20, 1877:

“The Courant announces the death of Mr John Hicklin, which occurred at Torquay, on Saturday last. The deceased was in early life the proprietor and editor of the Nottingham Journal, one of the oldest newspapers in that county, and in which high Tory principles were advocated with fervour and eloquence. He afterwards became editor of the Chester Courant, a position which he held for many years, and subsequently editor of the Notts. Guardian, and the Carlisle Patriot. After assisting in an unavailing attempt to establish at Plymouth a daily Conservative journal for Devon and Cornwall, he settled at Torquay, where he became the organizing secretary of the Devonshire Church Defence Institution. Mr Hicklin was an earnest and devoted Churchman, and an eloquent and energetic advocate of Church principles on the platform. He was author of an admirable compilation of historic facts, ancient and modern, entitled, “Church and State,” “Leisure Hours,” “Guide to Chester and North Wales,” and other works. His geniality of disposition and urbanity of manners endeared him to a large circle of friends.”

The “Ladies of Llangollen” is dedicated to “Miss Lolly and Miss Andrews” who bought Plas Newydd, the Ladies house, after their demise. Two maiden women who were said to “emulate the Ladies.”

The free Project Gutenberg ebook, in a variety of formats, can be downloaded at:

The “Ladies of Llangollen” by John Hicklin

The Conquest, or a Mail Companion Review

SPOILER ALERT – This review includes information which may spoil your reading of the original story. To read The Conquest first – click here.

In January 1837 the Welsh newspaper the Monmouthshire Merlin published a short story by a writer who is only identified by the initials I.H. Although the Merlin features a number of short stories by writers using initials alone only one other story by I.H. can be found. Mistress Annabelle Herbert Struth Pelham appeared in December 1836. The story concerns a woman who falls in love, discovers her beau is married and so remains single. In later life she hears that his wife has died but declines to revive the love affair and continues to live alone. A story which fall outside of societal norms in that at this time most women would have been expected to get married.

The Conquest, or a Mail Companion appeared a month later. It is set in 1818 but published in 1837. As we do not know who the writer is we cannot know when it was written. This story concerns ‘a weeping female, in flimsy, spoilable array’ called Ethelinda travelling via mail coach to take up a new position. There is only one other passenger in the coach and the story revolves around the conversation they have during the journey.  What is interesting about this short story is that from a queer theory perspective it raises a number of points.

From the very outset the author establishes in the reader’s mind that the subject of the story is male. The first words are “The hero of the following sketch…” and within a few paragraphs we hear the elderly man who hands Ethelinda into the coach referring to the other occupant as ‘sir.’ When Ethelinda settles herself she examines her travelling companion who is, “still young, not too tall, with a dark and bright complexion, prominent profile, black curls, and short whiskers, deep set, swarthy eyes.” Once again there is the reminder of masculinity with the reference to ‘short whiskers.’ This concept is constantly reinforced throughout the narrative. The character is unnamed and so for convenience sake will be referred to as ‘Hero’ in this article. Hero is constantly referred to as ‘he’ including at one point ‘Monsieur’ and Ethelinda repeatedly calls him ‘sir.’

Hero himself enforces the perception when he brags that he is “a capital sailor” and is later referred to as a “hardy tar.” He takes a pinch of snuff and when the coach stops briefly Hero holds out a hand to stroke some dogs with “a manly, yet neither a large nor a coarse hand, decked with many a ring.”

However there are hints that not all is as it seems. When Ethelinda says, “I should not be ashamed of owning anything that was true to a perfect gentleman like yourself.” Hero teases “I fear I shall disappoint you before we part, or on better acquaintance.”

Despite all descriptions of Hero there is no intent to imply cross-dressing. The blanket that Hero spreads over Ethelinda’s legs covers them both and “so concealed the figure of their wearer, that not even the tip of a boot could be seen.” The history of cross-dressing is an old one and from the early 19th century stories featured in the media rose steadily. In the Welsh press alone from 1800 to 1829 there were 21 stories. By the 1830s there were 21 for the whole decade and the number continued to rise until the 1890s when 160 instances occurred. One of the reasons that women cross-dressed as men was for protection and travelling in a coach at night would be a good reason to do so. Hero at one point states, “many gentlewomen now go about alone, by stage.” However we learn later that Hero knows the coachman and would therefore not need protecting.

Throughout the story the author uses a number of devices to imply distance from normality. The departure point is “a stage out of London, in a dull little town, whose name I spare” and “nor shall I say whither the vehicle was bound.” Hero asks of Ethelinda “Do you go all the way to __?” leaving the name blank. We cannot know then if the final point is in Wales but what is made clear is that the destination is rural.

The time of the journey is at night in December a journey that was to “last from nine till twelve, three dark and drowsy hours.” Ethelinda is alone, almost an orphan the “elderly man” who handed her into the coach is unnamed as is her father. Indeed the elderly man may have been her father. She confides that he only calls “me Ethelinda, to quiz my liking for novels.” So this is not even her real name. We know she is late taking up her job as Hero points out that the assistant was “to have been on her post two days since” but the delay is not explained. The ‘assistant’ is, according to Hero, “thirty, is very plain, the daughter of an (sic) humble tobacconist, and leaves a home which is anything but comfortable.” It was the humble tobacconist who acquired the job with a Mrs M__, whose name again appears as a blank, as “he was known to the husband,” and “long had her husband’s acquaintance.”

Throughout the journey Ethelinda never enquires of Hero’s name or other personal details. She does however have an attraction to Hero. No sooner has the coach left than “over her tear-wiping kerchief, strove to ascertain whether her fellow passenger was likely to afford her one of those stagified romances of which she had read and dreamt, long and often.” Having assumed Hero was a married man the reply was “not I” and so Ethelinda took him for a bachelor.

Ethelinda describes her circumstances saying her father, “Poor man because he saved and spared to give me a boarding-school education, he insists on my accepting this offer, and has vouched that I am fit for it; but, oh sir! it is a sad pilgrimage for me; no friend to read my heart, to rescue me at the precipice’s edge; I go a victim to the sacrifice, a bear to the stake —a beast to the slaughterer!” To which Hero replies, “but don’t cry so I’ll rescue you.” Earlier Ethelinda had described herself, on meeting the stranger in the coach, as “a young, a single lady …” A description Hero plays along with when, despite knowing Esther to be thirty flatters Ethelinda by suggesting she is only 16.  Ethelinda continues “— to be thrown — unprotected — with an unknown —” Hero interrupts with the assurance that the “…unknown is bound to protect her. If, during our trip, any intruders arrive to mar the, tête á-tête, they shall not obtrude their flatteries on you while I am by…” To which Ethelinda felt faint and Hero offers her Eau de Cologne adding drops to the girl’s handkerchief. ““You are very good,” faltered Ethelinda, between love and fear.” At another point Hero implies he knows who Ethelinda really is: “your account to me of yourself, marks the strongest possible contrast between my fair Ethelinda and Esther Humphries.” ‘Fair Ethelinda’ belongs to Hero, Esther Humphries is someone else. Indeed both the story and the coach are called The Conquest with a play on the subtitle of ‘a mail companion.’

Eventually the coach reaches its destination and Hero leans out of the carriage and calls for the coachman to stop. Ethelinda peers out to see “a servant, lantern in hand, came from the garden of a cottage ornée.” The use of the term cottage ornée is an interesting one. This was a decorated or stylised ‘cottage’ popular from the late 18th to early 19th century. It was inspired by the Romantic Movement in a move away from a formal heavy architecture to a more ‘natural’ way of living. They were built mainly by the wealthy, and even royalty, as retreats or additions to their estates. The term was coined to distinguish structures that turned a labourer’s cottage into aesthetic artefact. The cottage ornée was seen as pure, rural, back to nature type of living where children could be brought up in a heterosexual and wholesome environment. This is emphasised in the story when Hero refers to the name of the cottage as ‘The Nest.’

However by the early 19th century the cottage ornée was also being utilised by women for their sole use. Designs began to reflect this and they were being deliberately marketed as appropriate dwellings for women without families. The Ladies of Llangollen’s famous house Plas Newydd was described as a cottage ornée and this emphasis on female only occupation began to undermine the heterosexual ‘pure’ concept. As more women moved into them the term began to fall out of favour.

As the coach stops and Hero leans out Ethelinda begins to wonder who this person is when she catches sight of a “petticoat of a dark cloth habit.” “So,” says the narrator, “vanished Ethelinda’s fairy dream.”

The story quickly moves to unravel the ‘dream’ and establish Hero as a woman, that Ethelinda’s “conquest had been achieved by the equestrian Mrs. M., who had gone to town on business for her husband, as he had recently lamed himself in a hunting leap. Though she had no desire to be taken for a man, or her side curls for whiskers, she, would not undeceive the blunderers; especially as she suspected, from the locale at which the young lady joined her, that this might be the very female whose disposition, for her children’s sakes, she thought it her duty to ascertain.”

As Hero’s identity is revealed the story moves into more ‘normal’ aspects. Although it would have been dark in the carriage it is not until the servant appears with the lantern that the first mention of light is made. Mrs M.’s husband is quickly identified as Frank and the servant as Matthew. At the start of the story the narrator had reassured readers that the hero is “now too wealthy to incur adventures,” so normality is restored as Mrs M never tries this again. Furthermore the narrator states that those who know the hero know she is so unchanged that they would have readily guessed her identity “even if they have not previously heard the tale from the original’s own lips” – the last implying that it had become a favourite story of Mrs M.’s.

The final paragraph abandons Ethelinda and her real name is substituted. “Esther, though no longer lady’s maid, yet lives with Mrs. (now Lady) M., her own woman, to Sir Frank’s French cook.” So although she is married she remains with Mrs M but no longer a servant. She is “though devoted to her mental, exemplary, and kind-hearted mistress, calls horse-riding, and its masculine costume, “dangerous and unmerciful for fine women.” The narrator ambiguously agrees, “I am, though not in her sense of the words, inclined to say so too.”

And so normality is restored.

What then is the point of the story? It’s hardly a warning against cross-dressing which was a great taboo at this period. The last paragraph confirms that Mrs M. continues to wear masculine costume when horse riding. And the portrayal of Hero is not a condemnatory one. Can we go so far as to call it a lesbian story? Ethelinda was under the impression she was talking to a man but Mrs M indulges in what can only be described as flirtatious behaviour. From the moment they met Mrs M encourages the girl to see her as an adventurer – someone who can and will ‘rescue’ her. Can anything even be read into the use of Ethelinda as a name? It was a medieval one but enjoyed a revival in the early 19th century and means ‘noble snake.’ Can we draw any parallels with the temptress Eve?

What is certain is that this story can be cited as an example of both gender and sexual blending and as such deserves a place in queer literature.

 

(With thanks to Kirsti Bohata for correcting some earlier mistakes)

The Conquest, or a Mail Companion

The hero of the following sketch, though now too wealthy to incur adventures such as the one I am about to tell, is, in other respects, so unchanged, that our fair Amalekites will readily guess who sat for this portrait, even if they have not previously heard the tale from the original’s own lips:-

Beneath the starlight, uneclipsed by gas (December, 1818) the Conquest night coach stopped to change horses, at its first stage out of London, in a dull little town, whose name I spare; nor shall I say whither the vehicle was bound; enough that its journey was to last from nine till twelve, three dark and drowsy hours.

“Ve takes up ‘tother hinside here,” said coachee, come, marm,”

An elderly man led to the steps of this equipage a weeping female, in flimsy, spoilable array. While her luggage was hoisted he placed a large heavy flail basket on the seat, saying, “Well, Ethelinda, you won’t be quite alone. Sir, any attentions you”-

“I’ll take every care of the lady!” replied a free voice, as the capped, cloaked, and comfortered personage, who sat with back to the horses, held out a thickly-gloved hand, to help and hasten Ethelinda’s entrance. She sobbed “good by,” and was driven off; but soon, over her tear-wiping kerchief, strove to ascertain whether her fellow passenger was likely to afford her one of those stagified romances of which she had read and dreamt, long and often. Brief, fleeting, “few and far between,” as were the glimmerings that aided her feminine scrutiny, they, by degrees, informed her that her opposite neighbour was still young, not too tall, with a dark and bright complexion, prominent profile, black curls, and short whiskers, deep set, swarthy eyes, that seemed to light up the obscure, as would those of a dog or cat, yet very steadfast withal.

“As an old traveller,” said, at length, the proprietor of these noticeable orbs, “I always take this side, because women usually prefer the other; but now with your leave, I’ll cross, that my cloak may have the honour of falling at your feet; no matter how we look, on these occasions, so we are but warm enough.”

The interminable, fur-lined folds, so concealed the figure of their wearer, that not even the tip of a boot could be seen. They were now officiously adjusted round the knees of Ethelinda, and a large shawl wrapped over her shoulder, by this beau galant.

“Apparently,” he resumed, “ma’amselle is unused to the road.”

“Quite, Sir, I assure you,” sighed Ethelinda, to public conveyances. Next to one’s own carriage, which can’t always be spared, a postchaise is best; but to travel all night by the mail –”

“Our leathern convenience has not even that dignity,” said the stranger, fixing his peculiar eyes upon her; “yet many gentlewomen now go about alone, by stage; ‘tis economical, and avoids fuss.”

“True,” coincided the damsel errant, “but — really — for a young, a single lady — to be thrown — unprotected — with an unknown —”

“Nay,” laughed her hearer, “that unknown is bound to protect her. If, during our trip, any intruders arrive to mar the, tête á-tête, they shall not obtrude their flatteries on you while I am by, even if so inclined, which ‘tis just possible they might not prove.”

Ethelinda felt she knew not how; and called herself “faint.”

“What d’ye mean?” asked her new friend, “on this side? Why — hah! you heroines are always unpoetical. Let me drop some Eau de Cologne on your handkerchief, the only thing to use and, here, take a cayenne lozenge, my dear!”

“You are very good,” faltered Ethelinda, between love and fear.

“I,” continued the other, “can’t, even at sea, forgive the ‘inglorious slaves,’ as Byron calls them — who that could sketch or scribble but would be well to gaze, listen, breathe, sing, dance, on deck? I’m a capital sailor, and shipboard always gives me an appetite, even for the homeliest fare!”

‘‘Indeed? Perhaps then —even”— hesitated Ethelinda, half turning towards her panier, but the hardy tar rattled on.

“Now one has nothing to put up with on land in that regard. Inns would lose — what now they have a right to expect – our custom, if they did not furnish good refreshments; though they charge highly for the accommodation but persons of our caste, my love, could not, of course, be either so stingy, or so vulgar as to burden ourselves with substantial cates, such as nobody can require during the hours usually devoted to rest; one might as well lie with sandwiches and Maderia, cake and Cognac, under one’s pillow.” He adjusted his stock, and drew up his collar in spite.

Poor Ethelinda actually feared that awful eye through dunnest night (wicker-work and brown paper) had seen — or that Roman nose smelt — the hoard of cold pork, gingerbread, and “ardent spirits diluted,” which now she dared not offer to Monsieur, nor taste herself, nor even own.

“Still,” pursued the provoking one, “that I may not lose your conversation by a doze, I must resort to ma tabatiere, if you please. I promise not to smoke.”

He explained the mystic phrase by taking a pinch of snuff from a small silver box, as the lady tittered forth.

“No, pray don’t smoke, sir; for though pa sometimes indulges in a cigar, ma and I never let him bring it into the drawing-room.”

“Well,” rejoined the incognito, “to-morrow I shall be in the atmosphere of home, with which tobacco’s fumes may blend, and no lady’s leave asked.”

“Bless me,” exclaimed Ethelinda (we may guess how sincerely) “I hoped you were — at least — a married man.”

“Not I, though, perhaps, every man should marry at my age.”

“La! sir, you make me curious — to know the age when a gentleman ought to take a wife.”

“Oh, if you want to know my years, child, I am nearly six and twenty, which, I presume, is full ten years older than am at liberty to call you, eh? Come, ladies are invariably candid on this subject.” He brushed up his curls maliciously.

“I will be so at any rate, sir; I am just of age, so all I have is at my own disposal.”

“Ha! then beware of fortune hunters! Talking of hunters, oh that I were exercising my limbs on the back of mine instead of being cramped in here! Do you ride?”

“Donkeys, by the sea-side, sometimes.”

“Ay, at Margate your very fine folks quiz that place unjustly. I’ve had many a capital swim there, and such walks! I’m a desperate peripatetic; are you?”

“Sir, I —” Ethelinda did not know.

“Nay, don’t be ashamed! Remember Queen Caroline was a pedestrian, as well a Davie Deans’ bairn.”

Whether she was that unintelligible something, or which Queen Caroline was meant, the half-frightened, half-affronted maiden could not tell; but, resolving to tax her taxer’s generosity, said,

“I should not be ashamed of owning anything that was true to a perfect gentleman like yourself.”

“You are too civil,” he laughed, “I fear I shall disappoint you before we part, or on better acquaintance.”

“Sir,” faintly articulated Ethelinda but the gentleman seeing, at the inn door where now they stopped, a couple of fine spaniels was whistling to them instead of heeding the lady.

“They remind me of my own dogs,” he cried; “have you so much as a bit of biscuit with which to coax ‘em near us?”

Ethelinda reluctantly produced a slice of pig-impregnated bread from her store, with which the merry wayfarer fed the animals from a manly, yet neither a large nor a coarse hand, decked with many a ring. Again they started, and he now enquired,

“Do you go all the way to ——?”

“Not quite. I am about to stay some time with a friend of pa’s. But — you will excuse me —how very well you whistle! I am so fond of music; are not you?”

This was saying anything to blink the question.

“When ‘tis music indeed,” replied he of the forage caps “I love, though I but imperfectly understand it; yet hate to have my ears bored by Misses who attempt French and Italian songs knowing as little of the sound as the sense, in every way. From the very parlours behind shops issue the discords of these would-be cantatrice’s.  If tradesmen’s daughters are to gain their bread by teaching, let them be thoroughly taught first. But tell me — I know most families on this road — the friend you visit the rich Mrs. D__, the fashionable Lady Y__, that charitable spinster Miss F__, or the so-called CLEVER Mrs. M__?”

“So-called!” repeated Ethelinda, unguardedly. “Is she not clever, then? I heard that she was very severe.”

“Umph! if it be she to whom you go, I am surprised at your asking her character of me,” equivocated the stranger.

“Oh, sir, papa has long had her husband’s acquaintance, but I never yet saw her. Is she not extremely proud, satirical, strict, and —”

“She is a sworn foe to vanity, affectation, and deceit; so she ought to be, as she educates her own children — though, as the eldest of the four is now seven years old, she has just engaged an assistant, who was to have been on her post two days since.”

“Think, dear sir!” nearly wept Ethelinda, “how humiliating must such a situation be to a girl of any appearance and feeling, accustomed to all the comforts of home.”

“May be so, ma chère; but this person owns to thirty, is very plain, the daughter of an humble tobacconist, and leaves a home which is anything but comfortable. Waste not your sympathy in judging her feelings by your own. The character her father gave his customers to procure this place, and your account to me of yourself, marks the strongest possible contrast between my fair Ethelinda and Esther Humphries.”

The poor maiden burst into tears, sobbing out,

“Oh, sir, though I couldn’t resist the temptation of your politeness to make the most of the first and last such interview that I can ever hope to enjoy, yet, as soon as I found you were a friend of that lady’s, I resolved to trust.”

“Or rather, you knew that I must soon learn the fact. Well?”

“Well, sir, father only calls me Ethelinda, to quiz my liking for novels. Poor man because he saved and spared to give me a boarding-school education, he insists on my accepting this offer, and has vouched that I am fit for it; but, oh sir! it is a sad pilgrimage for me; no friend to read my heart, to rescue me at the precipice’s edge; I go a victim to the sacrifice, a bear to the stake —a beast to the slaughterer!”

“Ay, that’s something like,” commented her hearer; “but don’t cry so I’ll rescue you; you need not fear — you shall never be a governess!”

“Sir,” ejaculated Miss Humphries — visions of rank and matrimony still floating in her brain —  “How’ sir?”

“Quite honourably; you shall find a matron in my house, though it lacks one just now; but till you become a bride — tell me honestly — is it teaching or service you shrink from? What can you do to merit such a sanction?”

“Any thing — every thing! make gowns, caps, bonnets, wash lace, dress hair, keep accounts; — who would not rather be a lady’s maid than a governess?”

“Very few waning flirts, I should hope — but — hollo! coachman! remember where you put me down. Mr. M.’s__ the Nest — you know,” he craned from the window.

“I does, bless your voice,” shouted back the driver.

What! was this Mr. M. himself? — but no, he had said he was a bachelor. Ethelinda dared not speak; she peered over her companion’s shoulder, and listened to his panting breath, as a light flashed across the road. The carriage drew up, its door was opened, the steps fell; a servant, lantern in hand, came from the garden of a cottage ornée, followed by a gentleman, leaning on a stick. The gathered up cloak now betrayed the petticoat of a dark cloth habit, and the supposed hero leaped out, clamouring,

“Dear Frank! the ankle better? how are the youngsters? Bring in Humphries; boxes too, Matthew. Alight, my girl, and make yourself at home!”

So vanished Ethelinda’s fairy dream. Her conquest had been achieved by the equestrian Mrs. M., who had gone to town on business for her husband, as he had recently lamed himself in a hunting leap. Though she had no desire to be taken for a man, or her side curls for whiskers, she, would not undeceive the blunderers; especially as she suspected, from the locale at which the young lady joined her, that this might be the very female whose disposition, for her children’s sakes, she thought it her duty to ascertain.

Esther, though no longer lady’s maid, yet lives with Mrs. (now Lady) M., her own woman, to Sir Frank’s French cook, who yearly imports foreign snuff for his father-in-law, and Paris romances for the too susceptible Ethelinda. She still, though devoted to her mental, exemplary, and kind- hearted mistress, calls horse-riding, and its masculine costume, “dangerous and unmerciful for fine women.” I am, though not in her sense of the words, inclined to say so too.

I. H.

About Me and Contact Me

Most of my adult career has been about history. I started off as an archaeologist but when it all got a bit too dusty, wet and cold I moved inside. I’ve worked or volunteered for a variety of venerable organisations such as the British Museum, the Museum of London, National Museums Scotland and others.

Before long it was only natural I should get interested in LGBT history and have been researching and recording that history for over ten years. In 2012 I applied for a Heritage Lottery Fund to host the first LGBT exhibition in Wales. We had a launch at the Senedd and it was a great success. John Davies, the celebrated Welsh historian, gave his first speech on gay history. I also asked the National Poet of Wales, Gillian Clarke, if she would write a poem commemorating the event. The reason for asking was that no National Poet, or Poet Laureate, of any country in the world had written a poem celebrating the LGBT people of their country. Gillian kindly agreed and taking as her inspiration the Ladies of Llangollen she wrote Sarah at Plas Newydd, July 5th 1788.

Since then I continue to specialise in the LGBT history of Wales and give talks throughout the year. The aim is to raise awareness of the enormous impact people from Wales have made, not just on British LGBT history, but on international history. All this will culminate in my forthcoming book Forbidden Lives, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and events from Wales to be published by Seren Books in September 2017.

Anyway, hope you like the posts.

Norena

Human Wales

All who would study the conditions of the worker in modern industrial Wales should purchase Human Wales said the Daily Mail in 1907.

grsimsgaietyThe author, George R. Sims was an English journalist, poet, dramatist and novelist and had come to Wales in 1907 to write a series of articles. He had been commissioned by the Western Mail and Evening Express to look at how the people live in the cities, on the plains and the towns on the hills of Wales.

He was well qualified for the job. “No man,” said the Express “has devoted more time and attention to the study of the social conditions of the people.”

Sims was a prolific writer covering numerous topics and had written extensively on the conditions of the poor particularly in London. He also published a number of ballads attempting to draw attention to the predicaments of the poor. His most famous being “It is Christmas Day in the Workhouse” (1877) which has been widely parodied.

As he travelled around Wales collecting material for his articles Sims sometimes added descriptions of his travels:

“I spent Empire Day [1] motoring among the Welsh mountains. A splendid car, whose motto was ‘Excelsior’ in the matter of climbing, was most kindly placed at my disposal by Mr. Edward England, of Cardiff, and Mr. England, jun., drove me, taking the torrents and precipices with a nerve and a skill that won my intense admiration. So with England at the helm – wasn’t that splendid for Empire Day? – and the British Flag flying at the prow, we rode triumphantly into Tonypandy, and so to the heart of the valley. There such a terrible storm burst over us that we made a wild dash for a colliery, and the manager very courteously had us lowered to the bottom of a shaft, where we remained snug and dry among the black diamonds until the storm was over. We took the British Flag down the mine with us to keep it dry. It was the only time it was lowered on that day of days.

“I have the greatest difficulty this week in preparing the weekly salad which it is my privilege to offer to my kind friends in front. But it is all the fault of wonderful Wales. I have been in the Principality all the week, and am still there while these lines are being written. I have been whirled about Wales, and putting in some nice, healthy mountain-climbing under the expert guidance of my friend Mr. John W. Evans, of the Western Mail. I have been to Swansea, Merthyr Tydfil and Dowlais, Ebbw Vale and Tredegar, Pontypridd, Tonypandy, and the Rhondda Valley. I have been down a coal mine and up in a balloon. I have been attending eisteddfodau and Hibernian sports, to say nothing of a service in a Chinese Temple and a Somali wedding in the Arab quarter of Cardiff. These things are absorbing, and leave little time for the serious occupation of life. But I hope to be back in London on Sunday, after which it will be my endeavour to drop back again into the ordinary routine of conventional nose-to-the-grindstone life.”

Part of that grindstone was finishing Human Wales. “My endeavour,” he said in the introduction “will be to present a true and faithful picture of things seen in certain areas and districts, where the need for reform is frankly acknowledged by all who have become acquainted with the facts, officially or otherwise.” And he added “This, then, is a record of a journey through a land of contrasts in which wealth and poverty gaze at each other across the way, in which the mighty mountains towering to the sky look down upon miserable hovels in which human beings herd in squalor, and sometimes sleep, packed together in damp, dark dens, into which the light of day has never penetrated.”

Human Wales is something of a grim read but deserves its place in list of publications about Wales. Get the free e-book here

[1] 24 May. It later became Commonwealth Day