A Collection of Welsh Travels and Memoirs of Wales (Hardcover)
First published in 1738, the present volume collects five humorous tracts on matters relating to the principality of Wales. The first is a travel piece that purports to be by Jonathan Swift, but is in reality the work of a gross imitator. It is replete with buffoonery and trifling adventure, told in a manner that imitates Swift's coarseness without his wit or intelligence, but nevertheless with ever-surprising turns of phrase and paying a kind of unwilling tribute to the beauties of the country. This is followed by another travelogue, this time from 1701, very gloomy, and purporting to be a trip to North Wales by a barrister, who bitterly laments his ill fortune in being condemned to accompany one of the judges on a Welsh circuit. Both are exaggerated and strained in style, showing the sort of humour that was appreciated at the time. 'Funeral Sermon' is next, a satire of the Welsh mode of pronouncing English, but now a document recording the sound of spoken English as heard by a tourist in the 18th century. A rather grim warning from a Welsh schoolmaster ensues before the final piece, 'The Mouse-Trap', a serio-comic poem, appearing in parallel Latin and English versions, which here ranks highest in terms of decency and ability. Overall, this collection of texts allows us to peer through the mists of time into a tenebrous pre-industrial past, into an era when it was fashionable among a subset of English writers to deal with Welsh subjects in a jocular manner. The taste for such jests died soon after, having come to be regarded as vulgar and silly, giving way instead to works that, while describing Wales as a separate nation with manners different from England's, allowed for admiration of the wonders of the country.