« ForrigeFortsæt »
student of Welsh, which he learnt with a thoroughness equalled by very few, foreigners or natives. Readers of the Brython especially will remenaber with pleasure his interesting letters in that periodical.
The “Notes” are quite plain and simple, and very different from the work of a professional bookmaker; hence they are much more satisfactory than similar works of a more pretentious character which we have read. Dr. Tregelles did not go to Brittany in order that he might write a book about it on his return; he went to see a country and a people that had long interested him, and with whose history he was already familiar. He simply tells us the way he and his sister, who accompanied him, went, and what they saw, adding as much of historical detail as is required to make his references intelligible to the general reader. He gives an interesting sketch of the early close connection between the Continental Britons and their cousins in Wales and Cornwall, and has an occasional happy note illustrating points of contact in the dialects.
Two characteristics of the author come out very clearly in the “Notes"-his strong yet sober enthusiasm for everything Celtic (or perhaps we should rather say Cymric, as it is in Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany that he shows himself chiefly interested), and his uncompromising Protestantism. He appears to have been quite pleased to find that the inhabitants of Rennes were not content with saying that they were Bretons, but would add “et non pas Français”, to prevent any possible misconception. But the religious state of “our cousins" pained him greatly. Of the strong feeling
” . against Protestantism he gives some striking illustrations. In a Breton book, published at Landerneau in 1846, the author speaks “ of a great heavy Huguenot book, called the Bible” (p. 118); and in another book, the passage in Mark x, 33, is rendered, “And they shall deliver him into the hands of the Huguenots” (p. 139). But altogether he declares himself to have been greatly pleased with the people of whom he was so sympathetic and appreciative an observer.
THE REBECCA RIOTER: A STORY OF KILLAY LIFE. By
E. A. DILLWYN. 2 vols. London, Macmillan and Co.
1880. THE period of neglect and distress in which “Rebecca" made her rough protest against the anomalies of the existing Turnpike Act, has been selected by Miss Dillwyn for illustration. The hero of her little sketch, dying in Australia under sentence for homicide connected with the riots, tells the pathetic story of a life begun in poverty and ignorance, and wrecked in early manhood for lack of better guides, to a fellow countryman, the surgeon of the prison. It needs a certain effort, so rapid have been the changes of the last forty years, to realize the existence in South Wales, only so far back as 1843, of a state of society such as Miss Dillwyn depicts. Neither chapel, nor school, nor eisteddfod extends its influence to soften the manners or train the moral sense of the youth of Upper Killay, who grow up, on their bleak hillside, a wild and lawless set, regarding the policeman as a common enemy, and an unprotected traveller as legitimate prey. From such surroundings, modified in slight degree by the accident which brings him for a time under the tutelage of Gwenllian Tudor, the embryo rioter forms his views of human life, until in the natural course of things he becomes enrolled among “Rebecca's” children, and involved in the course of events which lead to his crime and transportation, and form the plot of the tale.
In the filling in of this simple plan, Miss Dillwyn finds an opportunity of exhibiting talents of no mean order. In the central figure of Evan Williams, she has succeeded in
placing before us a carefully studied and thoroughly human portrait of a typical Welshman,-a Welshman, that is, of the rudimentary stage of civilization indicated above. The subordinate characters are of necessity little more than outlines, but they are well delineated in a few bold and skilful strokes, and seldom fail to possess distinct individuality. The homeliness of the speaker's narrative, and the characteristic threads of humour interwoven with its pathos, are preserved without sacrificing the grace of an accurate English style, and the more stirring scenes are depicted in language which retains its simplicity while becoming eminently descriptive. The attack on the gate, the struggle with the police, the escape of the fugitives, the hero's remorse on learning his victim's name, and the details of his apprehension, form a continuous series of vivid pictures, the sustained interest of which is never marred by strain after effect. The whole work, in short, conveys the impression that the authoress is writing well within her strength, and on subjects which she thoroughly understands. To say even so much is to attribute to “the Rebecca Rioter” a high place among contemporary fiction.
The Folk-Lore of Wales.
The desirability of establishing a Welsh Dialect Society has several times, within the last ten years, been dwelt upon; and quite recently, it has been proposed that a Welsh Dialect Section be formed in connection with our own Society. A suggestion has also been made, that the study of the Folklore of the Principality might with advantage be included in the programme of such society or section. Whatever may be done to carry out these suggestions, we wish, by way of initiative, to take this opportunity of urging our readers, who are resident in Wales, to do all in their power to collect and secure what still remains of the popular literature of the country. And under this term we would comprehend all the unwritten literature (if such an expression be permissible) of the peasant—the tales and legends that constitute his History; the songs, verses, and ballads, that form his Music and his Poetry, the proverbs that embody his Philosophy, as well as all those observances, beliefs, and ideas which are more strictly included in the term Folk-lore.
As might have been expected, in the case of a people of such strong imagination, the various Celtic peoples are, or have been, singularly wealthy in such popular literature. Very much has been lost for ever, and much more will be lost, unless some special efforts be speedily made to secure what remains, before those powerful influences, which are so rapidly deceltising these lands, shall have made it too late. Of what Cornwall possessed, while it was yet Celtic in language, we can now only surmise; and in Wales, the day for gathering a rich harvest has long since passed. In Ireland also, it is rapidly passing; and passing, alas! to a great extent, if not entirely, unimproved. No adequate effort, so far as we are aware, is being made to secure the immense mass of songs and tales, which are still sung and told by the winter fireside in the cabins of Connemara. And very soon it will be too late there, too. Every year carries away some of the old people, whose sole literature has been of this class; and every year makes the newspaper, the great rival and foe of the story-teller, more and more common. In the Highlands of Scotland, Mr. Campbell has done good service by the collection of his Popular Tales. But it is Brittany that has been fortunate, beyond almost any other country in Europe. In the person of M. Luzel, it possesses a collector who may fairly be described as unrivalled. Of what he has done, and how he has done it, our readers may
form an opinion by glancing through the two volumes of his Gwerziou Breiz-Izel, his Veillées Bretonnes, and the pages of Mélusine. If he lives (and we devoutly hope that he will) to give to the world his complete collection of songs and tales, the popular literature of Brittany will be presented to the student with a completeness that shall leave little to be desired.
As already observed, the time for gathering such a rich harvest in Wales has passed for ever: it had passed, indeed, long before students of language and ethnology had perceived the value of these treasures. To have secured the full wealth of song and tale, that once circulated in the Principality, measures should have been taken at least a hundred and fifty years ago, while this traditional lore still constituted the sole mental wealth of the peasant. Still, much remains to be gleaned in out-of-the-way corners; very much more than a casual observer would expect to find. But, like ghost stories, these remains must be sought, and sought in a sympathetic spirit, ere they can be found. And we would urge those of our readers, who have the opportunity, to engage in the quest con amore, ere it is too late. For another generation of elementary schools, newspapers, and cheap novels, with the change of language which these agencies are so rapidly effecting, will have swept away most of what yet remains. As deserving objects of the collector's pious care, might be specified :
1. Tales, legends, and traditions of all kinds.
2. Songs, and poetic fragments of all kinds, not forgetting, especially as being rare, Welsh nursery rhymes, lullabys, or shoheens.
3. Old airs.
4. Folk-lore, strictly so-called, comprising old observances and customs, the superstitions, ideas, and prejudices of the common people.