‘A Private Language? A Dip into Welsh Literature’ by Marion Eames

A popular introduction to Welsh literature

A PRIVATE LANGUAGE PICThis is the fourth in a series of occasional features about Wales to be posted in the months leading up to the first ever Dewithon, or Wales Readathon, which will take place from 1st to 31st March 2019.

Many years ago, while visiting The Bookshop in Mold, I bought a copy of Marion Eames’ A Private Language? along with The Literature of Wales by Dafydd Johnston, the latter of which I discussed in an earlier post.

Unlike Johnston, Eames was a non-academic with a keen interest in Welsh literature, so the publication she produced was far lighter in tone, though no less informative. She had been a librarian and journalist before becoming a BBC producer and scriptwriter in addition to writing several novels and children’s books. She endured ill health for many years and sadly passed away in 2007, a decade after publishing this book, which she had based on her notes from teaching an English-medium W.E.A. class on the history of Welsh literature.

Published by Gomer Press, A Private Language? gives a taste of Welsh literature from the sixth-century to the end of the twentieth-century based on ten lectures. It is primarily aimed at newcomers to Wales or those who have little or no knowledge of the Welsh language and its writers, and is ideally suited to anyone intimidated by more scholarly volumes.

Starting, as you would expect, with the earliest Welsh poetry, we travel through the centuries from the Bards of the Welsh Princes via the Bible and the Humanists up to twentieth-century writers such as the novelist Kate Roberts (1891-1985) and the controversial Catholic Nationalist, Saunders Lewis (1893-1985).

Eames’ text is enlightening and accessible to all readers. It is still possible to pick up a second-hand copy from Blackwell‘s and no doubt other booksellers. I would highly recommend it to non Welsh-speaking Dewithoners wishing to discover the works of Welsh writers.


by Mike Jenkins

Why does ‘Cymru’
Stick to my tongue?

And the other ‘Wales’
Undo its meaning
And flow naturally?

I hear the word
Abused on television
Or ‘Come–roo’ even

Just after the Japanese Premier
Has been pronounced perfectly.

I’d like to say it without thinking
I’d like to stop explaining
Where we are in Europe.

Please feel free to drop me a line with your thoughts and suggestions.


Categories: Reading Wales

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18 replies

  1. Sounds like the perfect introduction to Welsh literature. I’m going to have to try to join in with the Dewithon – I have a number of Welsh books on the shelves!

  2. Oh, this sounds very useful indeed! I should take part in Dewithon, I’m sure I have someone Welsh I can use as a way in! Is it Welsh-born writers or books set in Wales? I’ve been wanting to read a John Cowper Powys for ages – he settled in Wales and wrote at least two books based there.

    • It would be so good to have you on board, Liz. Yes, settlers to Wales from any part of the world are fine (as are the Welsh diaspora). The only rule is that either the writer or the book, poem etc. has a meaningful connection to Wales in some way (Cowper Powys would be ideal). 😃

  3. Paula, I need to check this out! I still haven’t found that Powell family history book. I want to be able to tell you where in Wales my family is from. There was some type of “castle” that is now made into apartments. I definitely want to see it one day. Anyway, I definitely need to learn more about Welsh literature. I read Sharon Kay Penman’s (she’s not Welsh, though) historical fiction, Here Be Dragons, and was captivated…So much to read, so many interests!

  4. I couldn’t resist this one, Paula. Bought and on its way, though I won’t read until the new year. But it seems the ideal introduction to Dewithon 🙂

  5. Do you follow BookerTalk? She does a lot of reading of welsh literature!

  6. What an interesting book! So, is this a collection of lectures/essays, then? I like reading collections in non-fiction because it allows me space to breathe and process the new ideas. Great review, Paula.

    • I really appreciate your kind remarks, Jackie. It isn’t exactly a collection of essays or lectures, but the author has based the chapters on the topics covered in her lessons. It’s a handy little book if you want to know anything about the history and development of Welsh writing.


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