ME: in Times Lit Supp

Welsh History

a letter about the Welsh's 'impotence' (R S Thomas's view, not mine!): published march 25, 2022
In response to Dai Smith’s review of Brittle with Relics by Richard King (February 18), Hefin Mathias (Letters, February 25) writes that Smith didn’t like the book “because it does not fit in with [his] interpretation of Welsh history”. I don’t think that was the main problem. His argument was that the book wasn’t a history, “more a manifesto”, and very partisan. The thing that surprises me most about the book is that the author has chosen the phrase “Brittle with Relics” as the title. It is taken from R. S. Thomas’s poem “Welsh Landscape”, in which he says, in his most gloriously gloomy voice, that living in Wales is to be conscious of the fact that “You cannot live in the present … There is the language for instance … Strange to the ear”. The poem goes on: “There is only the past, / Brittle with relics … And an impotent people, / Sick with inbreeding, / Worrying the carcase of an old song”. As an Englishman, I would not dare suggest that Richard King might fit that description, just that it is another way of looking at things. As Hefin Mathias says in his letter, “One person’s interpretation of Wales is as good or as valid as any other view of Welsh history”.

F. W. Nunneley
Beckley, East Sussex