Printer Friendly

"We wed not with the stranger": disjunctive histories, fluid geographies, and contested nationalities in romantic fictions of Wales.

I. "A Perfect Potosi"

IN A STRIKING SCENE FROM JOHN GIBSON LOCKHART'S 1819 NOVEL PETER'S Letters to His Kinsfolk, the eponymous Welsh protagonist Peter Morris meets a fictionalized version of William Blackwood, who immediately attempts to recruit Morris as a correspondent.

"Dr. Morris!" said he "You must really be a contributor--we've a set of wild fellows about; we are much in want of a few sensible, intelligent writers, like you, sir, to counterbalance them--and then what a fine field you would have in Wales--quite untouched--a perfect Potosi." (1)

At first glance, Blackwood's casting of Wales as a new Potosi, the silver mining town in modern Bolivia that furnished imperial Spain with much of its mineral wealth, reads as a straightforward commentary on Wales's colonial potential. For Blackwood, real-life proprietor of the arch-conservative and massively influential Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine and doyen of the Scottish Tory literary scene, Wales's potential wealth is not mineral, but sociopolitical. "Untouched" by contemporary commentators, Wales offers the enterprising Tory cultural critic deep deposits of hitherto-untouched material.

There is, however, another way to read Lockhart's metaphorical conception of Wales as a new Potosi. Although Potosi remained a powerful symbol of Spanish imperial wealth throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it also came to represent the corrupting influence of greed and the destabilizing potential of colonial mismanagement. In 1776, Adam Smith cited Potosi in his seminal The Wealth of Nations as a source of serious economic trouble, not only for the imperial Spanish government, but for the global economy as a whole. (2) Smith was hardly alone in his symbolic appropriation: later writers conceived of Potosi as a dire precedent for avarice and colonial disaster that Britain would do well to avoid, and the very name of the city itself became a shorthand for political waste and corruption. (3) Given his familiarity with the works of Smith, Lockhart and informed readers of the period would have been aware of this figural use for Potosi. When the fictional Blackwood advises that Wales is a potential "Potosi," then, he is (perhaps unknowingly) calling attention not only to its rich stores of cultural and political wealth, but also to the frightening prospect that its wealth might be misappropriated and, as a result, destabilize an empire.

This essay seeks to determine just what about Wales so threatened Lockhart and other writers like him, who figured the principality as both inviting and dangerous. Critics like Katie Trumpener and Ina Ferris have shown that the nationalist historical novel was the dominant fictional subgenre in Scotland and Ireland specifically, and the so-called Celtic periphery of Britain more generally, during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. By comparison, novels written or set in the third country of the Celtic fringe, Wales, have received little critical attention. (4)

Whatever the reasons behind the relative lack of critical interest in the Welsh Romantic novel, I hope to demonstrate here that this neglect has obscured an important and original tradition of conceiving nationality and national history. Furthermore, this underexplored tradition disrupts extant critical models of the Romantic national novel that cast Celtic Romantic literature as somehow complied in or readily appropriated by an Anglocentric British nationalist and imperialist cultural initiative. As Trumpener and Saree Makdisi among others have argued, Romantic-era apologists for British nation-building and empire-building frequently invoked historical precedent (alongside economic pragmatism and other "factual" arguments) as empirical justification for or legitimation of the centralization and expansion of the British state. (5) In practice, as Trumpener shows, this justification often took the form of argument by way of historical literary analogy: for example, English critics repeatedly and explicitly compared the British literary tradition to the literary traditions of ancient Greece and/or Rome. This analogical argument was itself typically dependent upon ex post facto appropriation of Celtic literary histories: many of the same advocates for eighteenth-century British unification and the concomitant Anglicization and suppression of native Celtic cultures, for example, readily and repeatedly championed the works of ancient Welsh bards and of Ossian as evidence of the antiquity and sublimity of an extant pan-British literary tradition. As Trumpener puts it,
   The pervasive self-figuration of eighteenth-century England as
   Augustan Rome, then, is inadvertently revealing, because both
   societies remained culturally and economically dependent on the
   labor of their subject peoples; just as Rome's cultural life
   depended upon the wholesale appropriation of Greek literary
   traditions and the learnedness of Greek slaves, so too the English
   expect to harness captive traditions of Celtic learning and poetry,
   harps and bards, for the cause of an imperial state. (6)

I aver that although some Welsh Romantic novels, like Lockhart's Peter's Letters, seem to enact this model of Anglocentric imperial appropriation, others trouble it by conceiving of the Welsh (and by extension British) national identity as consciously reliant upon fictionalized history and invented tradition. (7) This avant la lettre recognition that nationality necessarily depends upon fictive performance calls into question the legitimacy of claims of historical precedent central to British cultural initiatives of the time. Read in this light, these Romantic-era novels from and about Wales function as sharp contemporary critiques of a nascent Anglocentric ideology of historically and pragmatically justifiable British national and imperial expansion. For the novelists below, I argue, the project of empirically or rationally justifying such expansion was doomed from the start: any British national, imperial, or cultural identity could only become coherent through the embellishment, elision, and wholesale fabrication of historical fact.

I begin by examining Peter's Letters, which models a sort of pan-British nationality reliant upon permeable cultural and economic borders, and proceed to explore how Thomas Love Peacock's The Misfortunes of Elphin (1829) conceives of Welsh culture as both necessary to and ultimately irreconcilable with a broader British identity. What emerges from these two novels is a notion of Wales as at once intrinsic and fatal to the project of British expansion a Potosi, metaphorically speaking. I then examine two competing conceptions of Welsh history, both of which imagine such a history as divorced from material precedent and explicitly ideological in historiographical practice. While the Welsh bard and radical Iolo Morganwg openly celebrates the emancipatory potential of such a history in his "Account of ... the Welsh-Bardic Triades" (1794), Walter Scott is considerably more skeptical about that potential in his novel about Wales, The Betrothed (1825). In all these works, I contend, Wales becomes a rhetorical battlefield upon which the stability and legitimacy of a pan-British culture, nationality, and empire are contested openly. I conclude by offering tentative explanations for what might have made Wales so important and controversial a figure and calling for a more thorough critical examination of Romantic-era literature from and about Wales.

2. Opening the Borders: Cosmopolitan Nationalism and Irruptive Welsh History

Lockhart demonstrates the process of arbitrary, fictional Welsh national identity-building in action in Peter's Letters. Morris, it soon becomes clear, is a man who has thought long and deeply about national identity. Discussing contemporary conditions in Greece and Rome, he surmises

The most true, the most lasting, the most noble creation by which an independent nation seeks to manifest her spirit and her independence, is her formation and cultivation of an independent speech. And it is impossible to know a nation as she deserves to be known, without knowing also, and that thoroughly, this the first and best of her production. Her language is her history. (Peter's Letters, 89-90)

Given Morris's insistence that a nation's "spirit and ... independence" will "manifest" itself in its language, it seems fair to infer that the enthusiasm he expresses for the Welsh language shortly thereafter indicates at least some nationalist sentiment on his part.

Morris declares of the Scottish Gaelic language "nothing can be more evident than its total inferiority to the Welsh" (Peter's Letters, 125), and declares that the oeuvre of Ossian likewise suffers by comparison to its Welsh counterparts:

[Scottish Gaelic] is vastly inferior in perspicuity, and immeasurably inferior in melody: in short, it bears no marks of having undergone, as our language has done, the correcting, condensing, and polishing labour of a set of great poets and historians.... I have seen nothing that should entitle them [i.e., the poems of Ossian] to share any thing like the high and devout admiration which we justly give, and which all Europe would give, had they the opportunity, to the sublime and pathetic masterpieces of our own great bards. (Peter's Letters, 125)

This is not empty or idle boasting.* For Morris to confidently assert the superiority of Welsh literature to what had so recently been among the most popular (and the most aesthetically celebrated) cultural productions of Europe, he must be deeply convinced--and proud--of the aesthetic value of Welsh poetry. It comes as no surprise, then, that when Morris urges his interlocutor and fellow Welshman David Williams to continue his "truly grand and important undertaking," a "great work on Welsh Poetry and History," he does so by assuring Williams that the project will "confer the highest honour both on [Williams's] country and [Williams's] self" (Peter's Letters, 125-26). Here, Williams's country is neither England nor Britain but Wales, which stands to supersede Scotland as the leading European source of sublime bardic poetry.

For all his pride in his own Welshness, however, Morris's national identity remains resolutely British. 1 am inclined to follow Ian Duncan when he reads Morris as "so thoroughly colonized that [he] can now function smoothly as a naturalized representative of the modern United Kingdom." (9) Duncan here follows the critical tradition, initiated by Trumpener, that reads much romantic literature as invested in portraying Wales as an original and ideal British colony, one that models an example of submission and cultural contribution to a larger, supposedly pan-British imperialist cause that Anglo-British subjects hoped Scotland and Ireland would follow. (10) For his part, Lockhart is aware of the essentially fictive nature of this subsumption of Welsh history in a wider nation-building agenda. As Duncan puts it,
   Lockhart's construction of national culture performs the
   dismemberment of the empirical body of tradition that is its
   critical theme. Lockhart invokes history as the discipline that
   constitutes a national culture; but the past recovered is an ideal
   one, a spectral dimension parallel to the record of actual
   utterances, events, and deeds. (11)

I would add that Lockhart dramatizes this subsumption by figuring Morris as the living embodiment of a historically falsified national subject: Morris's British national identity is born of a higgledy-piggledy jumble of competing cultural loyalties.

Stridently Tory and Anglican in political and religious beliefs, Morris frequently expresses his support of and identification with English cultural institutions. Although Morris self-identifies as Welsh, he does not bear much in common with his current Welsh countrymen, and often feels more comfortable with characteristically English beliefs and institutions than he does with their Welsh counterparts. Consequently, Morris embraces a hybrid Welsh-English national identity that manifests itself in the ambiguity of his use of the phrase "our own." (12)

At times, Morris uses the phrase "our own" to refer to specifically and obviously Welsh persons, places, and cultural phenomena. When remarking upon the physiognomy of Scottish peasants, for example, Morris compares their angular faces and grey eyes favorably to the "chubbiness of a Gloucestershire farmer" and the "smarter and ruddier oiliness of some of our own country folks" (Peter's Letters, 27). In this instance, "our own" seems to refer to Wales and the Welsh, as distinguished from the chubby English and the angular Scots. So too does Morris's later usage of the phrase uphold the notion of "our own ... quarter of the island" as referring to an exclusively Welsh identity (Peter's Letters 47), in the context of a comparison between Scottish political restiveness and Welsh docility.

Matters are not so straightforward, however, when Morris contrasts "the general system of University education" in Edinburgh to "our own universities," and uses "Oxford" as an example of one of those universities (Peter's Letters, 81). Oxford, of course, is not in Wales, and indeed Wales had no universities at the time of the first publication of Peter's Letters in 1819. (13) In this case, "our own" seems to refer to an Anglocentric Britain, perhaps even England exclusively. This sense of the phrase likewise proliferates throughout the novel. To cite just one further example, Morris favorably compares the preaching of the Church of Scotland minister "Dr. [John] Inglis" to "the best of our own High Church preachers in England" (Peter's Letters, 579; my emphasis). Morris's use of "our own," then, is ambiguous and does not take a stable geographical referent.

This ambiguity may spring from a tension between Morris's own political and religious beliefs and those of his Welsh contemporaries. The historians Linda Colley, Prys Morgan, Gwyn A. Williams, and John Davies, among others, have identified the early nineteenth century as a time of historically unprecedented radicalization and Dissent within Wales. (14) As the Welsh population swelled, and as the Welsh lower classes increasingly distanced themselves from conventional High Tory politics while aligning themselves with Dissenting faiths like Methodism, early nineteenth century Anglican Tories like Morris would have felt increasingly out of place within Welsh borders. Despite his pride in his Welshness, Morris deploys the phrase "our own" to demonstrate his investment in the Anglican Church as well as in Cambridge and Oxford, those early nineteenth-century bastions of Tory (and arch-English) culture and politics. Morris, I suggest, must embrace these English institutions as his own precisely because they have no Welsh counterparts. Because he is a Welshman invested in a political ideology that is without much cultural infrastructure within Wales, Morris finds himself forced into a kind of cosmopolitan cultural identity: he is a man who must, at times, look outside his own country in order to find something that he feels best represents who he is.

In other words, Morris, although he is Welsh by birth, declaration, and point of pride, also describes English cultural institutions as his "own"--he identifies as Welsh, but as a kind of Welsh that allows him to feel ownership of and investment in the English university system (though not the Scottish university system) and in a religious faith that was rapidly decaying within Wales. Morris's Welshness is thus permeable or agglomerative: he can remain Welsh while cherry-picking other national traditions with which he can identify. (15) As Morris himself puts it, "the essence of all nationality ... is a peculiar way of thinking, and conceiving, which may be applied to subjects not belonging to one's own history" (Peter's Letters, 355). Morris, Lockhart wants to establish, is no less Welsh for living in England and identifying with English cultural institutions in a time when a distinctly Welsh national identity was emerging.

This process of consciously picking and choosing extra-national institutions, as well as historical events and foreign myths, to supplement one's Welsh national identity recurs throughout romantic-era fictional treatments of Wales and the Welsh. But the problems posed by such a permeable model of Cambro-British national identity did not pass through the period entirely undetected. If in Peter's Letters Lockhart sought to open the borders between Wales and England, and past and present, in an attempt to model a cosmopolitan Britishness that can freely draw upon Celtic cultural production without jeopardizing loyalty to the Anglo-British state, then Thomas Love Peacock's comic novel The Misfortunes of Elphin (1829) might be read as the strident critique of the contradictions immanent in such a position. Foremost among a number of other novelistic ripostes to Lockhart's permeable model of Welshness, The Misfortunes of Elphin demonstrates how Welsh traditions of Welsh national history, and by extension a Welsh-born Welsh cultural identity, corrupts the supposed stability of the emerging Anglocentric British history and British identity that the Anglo-British were so invested in establishing. As Andrew Davies puts it, "the chronological and contextual instability" of the historical settings of novels like The Misfortunes of Elphin "subverts] the constraints of 'veracity' and 'verisimilitude' imposed by received narrative or dynastic history." (16)

The Misfortunes of Elphin, like many romantic novels produced in or about Wales, portrays Wales and the Welsh as historically uncertain and vulnerable to outside influence. (17) In The Misfortunes of Elphin, Peacock figures this vulnerability most obviously in his description of the ancient wall that keeps the Welsh kingdom of Cardigan safe from the sea. Peacock uses the wall not only as a literal boundary, but also as a metaphor for the ancient ways of the Welsh, both of which crumble under pressure from the sea: the wall literally dissolves, and in so doing figurally retells the naval conquest of the Welsh, first by the Saxons and later by the Normans. (18) Here, unlike in Peter's Letters, the permeability of Welsh borders is something to be wary of, rather than something to celebrate: if, as Lockhart claims, Welsh customs and culture can flow effortlessly across borders, so too, Peacock notes, can foreign armies. Given the relatively recent invasion of Wales by French Revolutionary forces and the subsequent Battle of Fishguard (1797), this permeability becomes cause for real political concern.

As it turns out, this vulnerability has historical precedent: Peacock's Welsh have always been conquered, overrun, and reconstituted, dating back to the time of the Trojan Brutus, legendary founder of the Welsh nation. In order to establish the ancient nation of Britain, Brutus must displace the "few giants" (Misfortunes, 112) who inhabit the Welsh mountains, thereby establishing the historical pattern of colonization and repopulation that will repeat itself with the Saxons and the Normans. If there is a constant pattern of Welsh history in The Misfortunes of Elphin, then that pattern is one of flux: Welsh culture changes rapidly, unexpectedly, and frequently due to outside incursions. This sense of an eternal, unchanging history of Welsh metamorphosis echoes throughout the novel.

While Andrew Davies has argued that the "ancient Britain" of The Misfortunes of Elphin and of other fictions of the period served as "a historically undefined never-never land where the political preoccupations of the novelist could be played out against a suitably ambiguous historical backdrop," (19) 20 I want to suggest that the unstable Welsh history that Peacock portrays in The Misfortunes of Elphin metastasizes beyond the temporal and geographic boundaries of the ancient Wales of the novel's setting (i.e., it refuses to remain a "never-never land") and in effect spreads into Peacock's own contemporary moment by way of Peacock's winking satire of progressive theories of history. At first, however, the Welsh seem locked in the past, or as portraying an outdated model of Scottish Enlightenment humanity. Peacock emphasizes their difference repeatedly: "the knowledge of the age ... was of course not much, in comparison with ours[;] of moral science they had little" (Misfortunes, 40), the ancient Welsh clearly do not "belong to a high state of civilization" (Misfortunes, 41), and are in fact "unscientific barbarians" who "lived in darkness and vassalage" and "lacked, it must be said, some of our light" (Misfortunes, 33, 40-41). (20) Given Peacock's satirical tone, it should come as no surprise that this "lack" is not necessarily a bad thing--the ancient Welsh may lack "light," but they also lack "prisons"; they may have "little of moral science," but they also have little knowledge of "steam-engines, with fires as eternal as those of the nether world, wherein the squalid many, from infancy to age, might be turned into component portions of machinery for the benefit of the purple-faced few," nor do they know how to "poison the air with gas, nor the waters with its dregs" (Misfortunes, 40). The ancient Welsh, in such passages, appear neither markedly better nor markedly worse than their British successors (a blow at Enlightenment-era progressive theories of history), but they do indeed seem separate: their practices, morals, and knowledge seem, at least initially, to differ from those of later Britons.

Peacock eventually makes it clear, however, that he does not view this past subjectivity as simply inert, finished, and located tidily on the far side of a historical chasm. Instead, Peacock's Welsh past is strangely synchronous or repetitive. (21) In The Misfortunes of Elphin, the events and manners of ancient Wales do not stay in ancient Wales, but rather echo a biblical past, and even trickle into the period of Anglocentric dominance within the British Isles. We have already observed that the consistent pattern of conquest and resettlement of Wales has left Peacock's Welsh in a recurring or repetitive history, but this repetition takes on new symbolic potency in the novel's early chapters.

The inundation of Cardigan, and the havoc it wreaks on the Welsh landscape and people, not to mention their possessions and livestock, echoes the biblical account of the Flood. Elphin's leadership of the destitute Welsh to new lands similarly calls to mind the wanderings of Moses and the Jews after their exodus from Egypt. Merlin's gift to the displaced Welsh, a magical hamper "that multiplied an hundredfold by morning whatever was put into it overnight, so that, for a ham and a flask put by in the evening, an hundred hams and an hundred flasks were taken out in the morning" (Misfortunes, 30) recalls Jesus' multiplication of the loaves and the fishes. (22) Perhaps the most direct reiteration of biblical history in The Misfortunes of Elphin is the appearance of the bard Taliesin: like Moses, who was discovered lying in "an ark of bulrushes" in the Nile River by the daughter of the Pharaoh of Egypt, Taliesin is found by Elphin, sleeping in a coracle ("a small boat of basketwork, sheathed with leather" [Misfortunes, 37n.]) in the Mawddach River. (23) Like Moses, Taliesin is raised as a member of the royal family who discovered him (Misfortunes, 38 ff). Peacock's Welsh, then, exist both as discrete historical subjects and as reiterations of biblical characters and events, and as such, transcend the neat boundaries of rigidly progressive accounts of human history.

Equally allusive is the way in which the ancient Welsh druids seem to haunt the historical periods after their own extinction. "The religion of the time" in the sixth century, Peacock declares, "was Christianity grafted on Druidism" (Misfortunes, 42). The Catholic monks who follow the Druids as the main religious authorities in Britain likewise graft their own form of religious administration onto existing models:

the lands, revenues, privileges, and so forth, which once belonged to Druids ... now belonged to abbots, bishops, and so forth, who, like their extruded precursors, walked occasionally in a row, chanting unintelligible words, and never speaking in a common language but to exhort the people to fight ... (Misfortunes, 45)

The Catholic clergy do not simply inherit the administration of British religion from the Druids, but in fact move and speak as if they merely repeat the Druids' actions. Druidism, or at least its practical effects on the Welsh people, endures for centuries beyond its ostensible extrusion (despite the theological differences between Druidism and its successor, Christianity). Once more, the Welsh past, Peacock implies, is not dead, but rather iterable and endlessly re-simulating itself.

Indeed, for Peacock, far from being locked in the past, the ancient Welsh complicate a progressive account of history by leaking through intervening centuries all the way into the present day. More alarming still, they bring their synchronous or repetitive history with them. Peacock's satirical eye for hypocrisy casts the "primitive" Welsh as more moral, more advanced, and nobler than their historical successors, and just as human as their Romantic-era counterparts. In order to make such a strong statement of anthropological equivalence, Peacock begins by portraying the Welsh of his own day as inextricably linked with their ancient forebears. Ancient Welsh songs, Peacock contends, endure in contemporary Welsh culture, and Peacock makes use of current Welsh theories of the Welsh past in his portrayal of Welsh history, thereby suggesting that the Welsh of the Romantic moment understand and participate in the history begun by their ancestors. "Two of [King Gwythno's] songs of lamentation," Peacock reports before reprinting them "have been preserved by tradition" (Misfortunes, 30), and they are not the only lingering artifacts of Welsh dominance. Proverbs, town names, religious traditions, and forms of poetry originally developed or present in ancient Wales, Peacock asserts, have endured to the Welsh of the nineteenth century (Misfortunes, 32, 91, 93, 97, 125).

Peacock proceeds to argue that the ancient Welsh are not just similar to the nineteenth-century Welsh, but to nineteenth-century Britons more generally. "Since Britain was Britain," Peacock contends, "the alpha and omega of British conversation" has been the phrase "it seems a stormy night, and the Welsh of The Misfortunes of Elphin use the phrase as Britons continue to do in Peacock's own day (Misfortunes, 19). Peacock contends of the ancient Welsh, "they went to work politically much as we do," and, like all "ages and nations ... made the trade of priest more profitable than that of poet" (Misfortunes, 41, 47). Maelgon "act[s] as the possessors of worldly power usually act" by stifling voices of political dissent; the praise the bards of Maelgon's court provide to Taliesin can best be understood by "the very large class of literary gentlemen" in Peacock's own time, and the ancient Druidic practice of gathering and hanging mistletoe in one's home at the end of the year has since spread to all of Britain (Misfortunes, 59, 66, 96).

This leaking of the Welsh past into the British present suggests that the complicated nature of Welsh subjectivity and Welsh history endure in Peacock's contemporary moment, as Peacock intimates through Taliesin's prophecy of international British union (Misfortunes, 92). The sixth-century Wales that emerges in Elphin is thus medieval, biblical, and modern, enclosed, fragmented, isolated, and international at once. To be Welsh, in Elphin, is to exist in what Benedict Anderson has called a non-historic subjectivity: one which conceives of history as constantly repetitive, or at least not simply diachronic. (24) By demonstrating that ancient Wales leaks into modern Britain, Peacock suggests that Wales complicates the kinds of historicized, nationalized identity that other Romantic writers were striving to theorize.

Indeed, the historical instability of Wales (and by extension, contemporary Britain) threatens Anglo-British models of progressive history, in which the passage of time and the accumulation of a shared national history allows Britain, as a historically recently created entity, to cohere. (25) If Wales is always on its own historically--in its own curious synchronous history--then it cannot be said to cohere with or become a part of Britain: Wales must always be displaced in time, which of course means that Britain, and by extension, the British, which claims to include Wales and the Welsh, cannot exist in the way that Romantic-era Anglo-British theorists of nationality and national identity imagined.

3. "The Truth Against the World": National Identity as Counterfactual Performance

Romantic Wales was not only a place of contested and competing histories (Welsh and British; synchronic and diachronic; cosmopolitan-progressive and stubbornly parochial and recursive): it was also a region that various writers associated with the outright rejection and wholesale fabrication of received historical narratives and traditions. Such an elision and reinscription of historical fact characterizes the work of the period's most celebrated Welsh literary figure, the poet and forger Edward Williams (best known, then and now, by his self-selected "bardic name," Iolo Morganwg), as well as the Welsh novel of the period's most celebrated novelist, Sir Walter Scott. (26) Both Iolo and Scott cast the Welsh as participating in a project of performative rehistoricization, and while each writer's attitudes towards this counterfactual performative history differ, both concur in imagining it as a dire threat to extant Anglocentric cultural hegemony.

The vast majority of the English poetry of the Glamorganshire-born Iolo Morganwg, "that one-man Welsh romanticism," appears in his only book-length collection of English writing, Poems, Lyric and Pastoral (1794). (27) Although Poems was not published until the French Revolution had descended into the depths of the Terror, the bulk of the two-volume set had been produced four to five years earlier, during the Revolution's heady early days. (28) If, as Damian Walford Davies has argued, the collection was a cult favorite, "a talisman of political fellowship and a token of ideological support" amongst radical circles in 1790s London, and if Iolo did in fact influence English writers as important as Robert Southey, William Godwin, William Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and William Wordsworth, as Walford Davies and Jon Mee have suggested he might have, then his open espousal of Revolutionary ideological principles played a large role in establishing his influence. (29) As Mary-Ann Constantine has argued, Poems, Lyric and Pastoral is openly Jacobin in its politics, so much so that the normally irascible Iolo felt compelled to apologize to his conservative patron Hannah More ahead of its publication. (30)

While a full investigation of Iolo's treatment of Wales in Poems is beyond the scope of this essay, I do want to examine Iolo's inflammatory adoption of Revolutionary ideas regarding history and historiography, and his application of these principles to Wales in his "An Account of, and Extracts from, the Welsh Bardic Triades," as printed in the second volume of Poems. In his "Account," as scholars like Shawna Lichtenwalner have noted, Iolo sketches a fictionalized, utopian Welsh past in part by disavowing extant historical tradition. (31) The history that Iolo envisions is essentially fungible and wholly performative--a fictionalized product of the ideological needs of the historian's present moment.

Fundamental to Iolo's call for a performed history of convenience is his distrust of written histories, which he views as subject to the whims and errors of a single writer: "letters," he argues "are able to baffle the truth," whether due to the author's intentions or his negligence. (32) By contrast, Iolo wants to protect "truth" from the unstable medium of written and printed literature by means of a bardic "science of tradition" (Poems, 2:224). In the "Account," Iolo conjures a dazzling and entirely fabricated utopian Welsh society that features highly specialized social custodians (which he envisions as effectively democratically elected and goes so far as to name and associate with specific costumes) and a "proper" notion of history and truth. While Iolo claims that this bardic society did in fact exist, James Mulholland has argued convincingly that Iolo not-so-subtly calls for a revolutionary restructuring of contemporary society that hews closer to Iolo's "ancient" Welsh bardic past. (33) In order to understand the stakes of Iolo's bardic historiography, we need to pay special attention to his conception of the words "science" and "truth," especially because he uses these words in a highly idiosyncratic and technical manner.

By "science," Iolo seems to mean something like a body of knowledge or a way of presenting knowledge that is verifiable by more than one person; hence his claim that the ancient Welsh bards "reduced the Arts of Memory and oral tradition into a well Systematized Science" that enabled ideas to "be transmitted without the aid of letters from one person, time, or place, to another, though ever so remote" (Poems, 2:219; original emphasis). Iolo's rules of bardic transmission, as laid out in the "Advertisement" to his "Ode on the Mythology of the Ancient British Bards," are strict: any proposed additions to the corpus of common knowledge must be unanimously approved by three consecutive convocations of bards before they are formally accepted. What is more, each convocation of the bards begins with a communal poetic recitation of previously accepted truths (Poems, 2:219-24). The related processes of communal acceptance or rejection and collective performance thus protect and preserve the entirety of Iolo's imagined society's knowledge. The bards themselves, who are teachers and priests as well as politicians, inculcate their collectively generated and preserved knowledge in their respective constituents.

Here, it is the transmission of ideas--their circulation as matters of public knowledge and interest--that qualifies them as "scientific." While an autonomous writer may introduce unobserved error into a given history at any point in time, the bards' transmitted knowledge is scientific insofar as it resists error, thanks in large part to its widespread repetition and the vast numbers of persons responsible for that knowledge. (34) Hence Iolo's phrase "the science of tradition": his bards have engineered a means of protecting historical truth from corrupting error by depersonalizing it, removing it from intimate, privileged writer-reader communication and extending it into common circulation. Iolo's "science of tradition" is, by and large, a democratization of history and of fact.

The "truth" Iolo envisions his bardic system protecting is not an empirical truth, nor a representation of the world as it is, so much as it is a set of moral judgments. This sense is at the root of Iolo's celebrated motto, "Y gwir yn erbyn y byd: the truth against the world." (35) For Iolo, the "truth" history ought to transmit is the very social structure that "letters" have occluded--the Welsh bardic society he sketches in the "Account." The "truth" Iolo claims his bards protected, then, is not the historical "truth" his contemporaries accept: whereas the latter purports to be an impartial record of persons and events ("the world," properly speaking), Iolo wants to recover (or, more accurately, to performatively enact) a set of shared values, customs, and moral attitudes--that is, an ideology--that rejects the status quo.

In effect, Iolo is proposing an overthrow of centuries of tradition in the name of (re)creating a society founded on a better, purer "truth." Considered in conjunction with his claims that this "truth," in days of Welsh glory past, was maintained by a democratic "science of tradition," Iolo's gambit becomes clear: like his own imagined bards, he is testing a potential "truth" of his own, and submitting it to his peers for their review. If those peers accept his truth, then he and they will be free to performatively cast off the weight of received historical tradition and to install Iolo's new, collectively determined historical "truth" in its stead. Such a radical suggestion fits Iolo's enthusiasm for the French Revolution, which famously announced its rejection of historical precedent by declaring a new Year One. (36)

Although recent critical work has sought to establish the full extent of Iolo's influence on a number of major poets and thinkers associated with Jacobinism in the 1790s, there is no extant critical study of the relationship between Iolo and the period's most famous Tory novelist, Walter Scott. I want to suggest that Iolo and Scott both considered the consequences of an open abandonment of historical precedent in a specifically Welsh context. (37) Predictably, while Iolo, Jacobinical to the point that he faced considerable political danger, urges his contemporaries to embrace a purely ideological and performed Welsh history divorced from written historical tradition, Scott is much warier of the dangers of such a decision. In The Betrothed, Scott casts the Welsh as participating in an Ioloic, performed rejection of historical precedent with disastrous consequences.

Then, as now, overshadowed by its companion novel The Talisman (1825), The Betrothed, first of Scott's Tales of the Crusaders, met with harsh judgment from Scott's circle and general apathy from contemporary audiences and reviewers. Although he was at first enthusiastic about his Welsh novel, Scott eventually soured on the work, even going so far as to take the unusual step of destroying some of his manuscript and rewriting it. Scott's publisher James Ballantyne was particularly ferocious in his condemnations of the novel's plot, its hero Damian, and its overall aesthetic worth. Nineteenth-century reviews, like current critical essays, tend to spare a few lines on the novel before moving on to The Talisman, but twentieth-century treatments of The Betrothed could be especially harsh: Scott's biographer Hesketh Pearson famously dismissed the novel as "clearly composed in a somnolent if not stertorous condition," and argued that it "would score high marks in a competition to decide which was the dreariest and stupidest book ever produced by a writer of genius." (38)

Scott's theorization of national identity and the national history of Britain in The Betrothed initially seems to follow recognizable patterns established in the earlier Waverley Novels. The Betrothed might be read, along the lines of a specific and still influential stream of Scott criticism, as evidence of Scott's "invention of tradition"--i.e., as an exercise in a particular kind of nation-building ideology. (39) Following this critical narrative, we could cast the Welsh of The Betrothed alongside the Highlanders of Waverley (1814) as a Celtic people confined to the hinterlands of the British periphery, embodying the so-called "hunter stage" of human development (as theorized by Scottish conjectural historians, most notably Adam Ferguson in An Essay on the History of Civil Society), and contrasting with their more elegant, mannered, and culturally superior counterparts (the Normans), who reside nearer to Britain's core. (40) Hence J. B. Ellis's claims in the definitive Edinburgh Edition of The Betrothed:
   [In The Betrothed] as in Ivanhoe, Scott has simplified the
   contrasts between the racial and linguistic groups in the novel.
   Each age reads the past in the light of its own prejudices, and, as
   one of the first to reimagine the medieval period, Scott sees with
   Enlightenment eyes. On the whole he assumes a hierarchy from the
   civilized and cultured Normans, down through sturdy and reliable
   Flemings, to rather backward Anglo-Saxons, and eventually to
   uncouth and rebellious Welshmen. (41)

In such a reading, the plot of The Betrothed mirrors Scott's own imperial project: the novel supposedly models the sublation of the noble but anachronistic Celtic interlopers and their subsequent banding-together with the civilized and culturally superior Normans against a common Other (here, the Muslims that the British might expect to meet in the Second Crusade, instead of the implied Revolutionary and/or Napoleonic French of Waverley). This banding together in turn represents an unlikely alliance that subtly unmakes intra-British cultural differences by ensuring the accumulation of a shared history over time, one that is gradually transformed into a stable "British" tradition and in so doing models a pattern of gradual Celtic integration and eventual subservience to an Anglocentric British culture for Scottish and Irish readers in the wake of the 1707 and 1800 Acts of Union.

Closer investigation, however, reveals the shortcomings of this critical paradigm. In The Betrothed, Scott models Welshness as a fragile but dangerous national identity that resists simple imperialistic appropriation due to its conscious dependence upon a collective counter-historical cultural performance. Against a critical model that imagines Scott to be invested in portraying imperial Anglocentric Britain as straightforwardly subsuming its Celtic peripheries as part of an autotelic historical process, I contend that in The Betrothed Scott emphasizes not only the difficulty of the Anglocentric imperialist project, but also the threat the Welsh pose to any rendering of history as universal or empirically coherent.

Here, I turn to Ian Duncan's reading of the Royal Jaunt of 1822, in which King George IV visited Scotland amid bombastic fanfare and elaborate ceremony masterminded by Scott himself. In Scott's Shadow (2007), Duncan suggests that the Royal Jaunt is evidence that Scott recognized national identity to be rooted in public spectacle and collective belief. (42) As Duncan has it, "inauthenticity was the point" of the Jaunt: Scott meant from the first to use spectacle and ceremony to close old national wounds, and to use fiction to performatively reconstruct a quasi-historical, even counterfactual, cultural nationalism for present political purposes. As Jonathan Oldbuck puts the matter in Scott's introduction to The Betrothed, "history, you know, is half fiction." (43)

The Betrothed demonstrates this kind of performative, fictionalized, never wholly secure national identity in action. In the novel's opening chapters, as Guenwyn, chief of the Welsh, prepares to wed the object of his desire Eveline, the daughter of his English enemy Raymond Berenger, he overhears the disgruntled conversation of two of his tribesman. One, Morgan, complains bitterly of the proposed match: "Guenwyn is turned to a priest, or a woman!" His unnamed companion replies grimly

Wait but a while ... till the Norman match be accomplished; and so small will be the prey we shall then drive from the Saxon churls, that we may be glad to swallow, like hungry dogs, the very bones themselves. (The Betrothed, 18-19)

Here fear of the "Norman match" is a fear of the literal mongrelization of the Welsh race: the proposed wedding will transform the Welsh, noted for their "noise, fury, and devastation" (The Betrothed, 12) as well as their "strength, courage, and ferocity" (The Betrothed, 18) into a subordinate nationality forced into a meek existence like that of hungry dogs. This fear is not by any means confined to just a few soldiers, nor is it easily dismissed: the statement is "enough to alarm [Guenwyn's] pride as a soldier, and his jealousy as a prince" (The Betrothed, 18-19).

Welshness, at least as it is traditionally understood by Guenwyn's soldiers, will be compromised if Guenwyn marries Eveline. Despite the ferocity and military splendor of the Welsh, their national distinctiveness remains vulnerable to cultural dilution. In order to quash his fellow countrymen's misgivings, Guenwyn orders his court bards to celebrate the marriage, hoping that his reliance upon this Welsh cultural institution will demonstrate his continued commitment to a specifically Welsh national culture, and that the quasi-magical effects of bardic song will serve as metaphoric oil on the troubled waters of the Welsh nation (The Betrothed, 20-22).

Duncan argues in Scott's Shadow that the Royal Jaunt of 1822 demonstrates Scott's vision of nationality as reliant upon fiction, rather than "territory, body, or bloodline." (44) Similarly, in The Betrothed, Welshness relies not upon cultural traditions (since the bard Cadwallon's attempt to celebrate and consecrate the marriage, ensuring Welsh approval of the match, fails), nor upon an ability to protect Welsh borders (since Welsh political independence, Scott makes clear, has been in jeopardy for centuries), but rather upon the fickle beliefs of the Welsh themselves. In The Betrothed, Welsh humanity can only survive so long as the Welsh believe themselves to be distinct from other national cultures, and the Welsh (not least their leader) know this to be the case.

Consequently, Welsh nationality becomes something that must be performed, made fictional, even if in a factitious manner. Immediately after Raymond Berenger rejects Guenwyn's marriage suit, Cadwallon takes it upon himself to unite the Welsh by means of a historical song. Cadwallon ingeniously spins Berenger's rejection into Welsh self-preservation:

"We wed not with the stranger, "--thus flowed the song which burst from the lips of the poet like the living waters of a gushing stream. "We wed not with the stranger. Vortigern wedded with the stranger, thence came the first woe upon Britain, and a sword upon her nobles, and a thunderbolt upon his palace. We wed not with the enslaved Saxon--the free and princely stag seeks not for his bride the heifer whose neck the yoke has worn. We wed not with the rapacious Norman--the noble hound scorns to seek a mate from the herd of ravening wolves. When was it heard that the Cymry, the descendants of Brute, the true children of the soil of fair Britain, were plundered, oppressed, bereft of their birth-right, and insulted even in their last retreats?--when, but since they stretched their hand in friendship to the stranger, and clasped to their bosom the daughter of the Saxon?" (The Betrothed, 25)

In Cadwallon's performance, the acute embarrassment of rejection becomes, by means of fictional retelling, a point of national pride: the Welsh are stags or hounds that disdain the company of Saxon heifers or Norman wolves. The Welsh, Cadwallon now proclaims, are the rightful inhabitants of Britain, and ought to scorn any and all peaceful interaction with the island's subsequent invaders.

Most astounding of all these counter-historical fictions, however, is Cadwallon's repeated incantation: "We wed not with the stranger." Cadwallon makes this assertion as though it were an established maxim, even though he himself admits that the history of the Welsh has, in reality, been a history of wedding the stranger--welcoming the Saxons under Vortigern and preparing to wed the daughter of a Norman baron are, by Cadwallon's own suggestion, part of the same cultural tradition and historical trajectory. Indeed, Cadwallon's claim appears to be nothing more than an empty assertion: an attempt to collectively will the Welsh national identity to change. If the Welsh have been a nation welcoming of foreigners, and if this welcoming nature has in the past been harmful to them, Cadwallon contends, then the historically determined Welsh national character must be changed (and it must be changed precisely by empty assertion, since such change, by definition, would be without concrete historical precedent). The Welsh, if they adopt Cadwallon's maxim (and they do: their invasion of Norman-held lands begins immediately after he finishes his song), seem to recognize that the continued survival of Welshness depends upon their collective denial of the very history that has made them what they are. The Welsh identity, then, cannot be determined historically, at least not in the Anglo-British sense of history as an ex post facto narrative that seeks to explain the extant order of things. If the Welsh nationality is to endure, it must embrace a fictional, performed counter-history.

Scott's counterfactual Welsh history, as modeled in The Betrothed, is thus a history rooted not just in fictionally embellishing certain events, but also, following Iolo, in performatively rejecting others. Just as Lockhart's Peter Morris demonstrates that Welshness needn't rely upon geographical determinations of what is and is not Welsh, so too does Scott demonstrate that Welshness needn't rely upon accepted history: indeed, in order to secure its future survival, the Welsh nationality sometimes requires the performative rejection of accepted historical fact. In The Betrothed, then, Scott explores the consequences of a Welsh decision to consider historical "fact" as a contemporary cultural product rather than an established, impartial truth.

For Scott, however, the Welsh decision to performatively reject history does not, contra Iolo, inaugurate a new era of Welsh bardic utopia; rather, it plunges Britain into civil war and ensures continued intra-British strife. Guenwyn dies in his assault on Berenger's castle, the Welsh are ultimately defeated in the field, and their lingering bitterness further backfires when an aggrieved Cadwallon mistakenly kills the wrong Constable of Chester, his target's brother and an obstacle to consolidated Norman power (The Betrothed, 263). What is more, King Henry II reads Cadwallon's assassination as nationally, rather than personally, motivated: he refers to Cadwallon as "Welch" and his victim as "Norman" each time he (Henry) speaks to the imprisoned Cadwallon (The Betrothed, 264-66), thereby ensuring a lingering Norman-Welsh national animus.

Where Iolo imagined a mass, democratic rejection of history as the portal to a bardic utopia, Scott reads such mass action as ensuring national defeat and fragmentation. In place of Iolo's well-regulated society, tended to and structured by a bardic system of democratic representation, Scott casts a Welsh bard as literally leaping out of a fluid, formless mob (The Betrothed, 262) and toppling a social superior. While for Iolo, the overthrow of established authority ensures enhanced societal harmony, Scott figures such rebellion as disorganized and disastrous on both personal and national levels: Henry orders Cadwallon executed and ensures that his assassination will be remembered and resented as an act of international violence.

4. The Make-Up of Britain

In the wake of the buildup to, and fallout following, the failed September 2014 referendum on Scottish national independence, along with the June 2016 "Brexit" referendum, questions about the supposedly inevitable breakup of Britain have reemerged in force. (45) As I have attempted to show, critical accounts of Romantic-era Celtic literature have been too eager to portray Wales as a key cog in the make-up of Britain: a sort of model colony or test-case for the successful absorption of a Celtic nation by an Anglocentric British core. By contrast, what emerges from the texts I discuss above is a sense of Welshness that defies theories that imagine Wales as providing a seamless example for Scotland and then Ireland to follow: despite the hopes of Lockhart in Peter's Letters, Welsh history/culture raises as many questions regarding the feasibility of British imperialism as it papers over.

Perhaps because of the already-centuries-long statelessness of the Welsh nation, fictional Welsh characters of the Romantic period seem fully conscious that developing national traditions and a national identity necessarily entails a Morrisian selectivity regarding the boundaries of the nation, as well as a Ioloic willingness to ignore, embellish, and even fabricate national historical detail. As I have sought to demonstrate, this consciousness of the inherent fictionality of Welsh nationality creates an unusual and uniquely Welsh sense of national history. Welsh nationality as explored in the Romantic novel seems free to indulge in its own fictionality: aware of the fabrication necessary to construct coherent history and permissive of transcending geographical boundaries (boundaries that, in the wake of national union, no longer serve actual political or economic purposes), it escapes the restrictions of time and space. As Peacock's wry narrator repeatedly emphasizes, this fictionalized Welsh history constantly threatens to irrupt into the logocentric processes of Anglo-British nationalism and imperialism, jeopardizing the legitimacy of the empire by demonstrating the arbitrariness, rooted in the inescapable fictionality of history, inherent to the process of national identity-building.

What we are left with, then, is a Romantic fictional tradition of treating Welshness not as the picture of a colonial nationality successfully incorporated within the overarching identity of Britishness, but rather as a subversive agent whose wholesale investment in its own fictionality imperils the very foundation of Britishness. In other words, if we conceive of Welsh-British union as a Scottian "marriage of the stranger," then the threat Wales poses to Anglocentric Britain is not that Britain, despite centuries of shared history, remains a stranger, Other to a specifically Welsh tradition, nor even that the Welsh might wish to divorce this stranger, but rather that the Welsh nationality has given itself license to decide that the marriage never happened at all.

What is more alarming, from a Romantic-era Anglo-British standpoint, is that Welsh characters know that their rejection of the past is every bit as historically legitimate as British affirmation of it, and they possess the means to cast light on the inherent factitiousness of the British historical narrative and, by extension, the Anglo-British national identity as a whole. This is the challenge Welsh history poses to British history: not that the former might contradict the latter, but that it possesses the potential to reveal the essential fictionality of Anglo-British pretensions to historical legitimacy. The Welsh, as they appear in these Romantic fictions, reveal that the impartial, empirical base upon which the Anglo-British have built a narrative of the legitimacy of their own national and imperial expansion does not, in fact, exist. In so doing, they detonate Anglo-British claims to justifiable national expansion and call into question the validity of the Anglo-British identity itself. Romantic-era fictions of Wales reveal that the makeup of Britain was never as solid as the Anglo-British pretended it to be.

University of California, Berkeley


Aaron, Jane. "Haunted by History: Welsh Gothic, 1780-1800." In Writing Wales, from the Renaissance to Romanticism, edited by Stewart Mottram and Sarah Prescott, 183-99. Surrey: Ashgate, 2012.

Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. New York: Verso, 1991.

Carmona-Centeno, David. "Eveline Berenger's 'Epipolesis' to Different Nations in The Betrothed: The Greco-Roman Historiographical Sources of Walter Scott." International Journal of the Classical Tradition 19 (2012): 183-202.

Carr, Glenda. "An Uneasy Partnership: Iolo Morganwg and William Owen Pughe." In Rattleskull Genius, 443-60.

Carruthers, Gerald, and Alan Rawes, eds. English Romanticism and the Celtic World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Colley, Linda. Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012.

Constantine, Mary-Ann. '"A Subject of Conversation': Iolo Morganwg, Hannah More and Ann Yearsley." In Wales and the Romantic Imagination, 65-85.

--. The Truth Against the World: Iolo Morganwg and Romantic Forgery. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2007.

--. "'This Wildernessed Business of Publication': The Making of Poems, Lyric and Pastoral (1794)." In Rattleskull Genius, 123-45.

Davies, Andrew. '"Redirecting the Attention of History': Antiquarian and Historical Fictions of Wales from the Romantic Period." In Wales and the Romantic Imagination, 104-21.

Davies, Damian Walford. "'At Defiance': Iolo, Godwin, Coleridge, Wordsworth." In Rattleskull Genius, 147-72.

--. Presences that Disturb: Models of Romantic Identity in the Literature and Culture of the 1790s. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2002.

--, and Lynda Pratt, eds. Wales and the Romantic Imagination. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2007.

Davies, John. A History of Wales. New York: Penguin, 1993.

Duncan, Ian. Scott's Shadow: The Novel in Romantic Edinburgh. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007.

Ferguson, Adam. An Essay on the History of Civil Society. Edited by Fania Oz-Salzberger. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Franklin, Caroline. "The Welsh American Dream: Iolo Morganwg, Robert Southey and the Madoc Legend." In English Romanticism and the Celtic World, 69-84.

Hechter, Michael. Internal Colonialism: The Celtic Fringe in British National Development. New Brunswick: Transcation, 1998.

Helms, Anthony Zachariah. Travels from Buenos Ayres, by Potosi, to Lima. London: Richard Phillips, 1806.

Hobsbawm, Eric, and Terence Ranger, eds. The Invention of Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Jenkins, Geraint H., ed. A Rattleskull Genius: The Many Faces of Iolo Morganwg. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2005.

Leask, Nigel. "Thomas Pennant's Scottish Tours: Travel, Knowledge Networks, and National Description." Lecture, Berkeley, CA. 10 November 2014.

Lichtenwalner, Shawna. Claiming Cambria: Invoking the Welsh in the Romantic Era. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2008.

Lockhart, J[ohn] G[ibson], Peter's Letters to His Kinsfolk. Edinburgh: William Blackwood, 1819.

Makdisi, Saree. Making England Western: Occidentalism, Race, and Imperial Culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014.

Manning, Susan. Fragments of Union: Making Connections in Scottish and American Writing. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002.

Mee, Jon. '"Images of Truth New Born': Iolo, William Blake, and the Literary Radicalism of the 1790s." In Rattleskull Genius, 173-93.

Moore, Dafydd R. "The critical response to Ossian's Romantic bequest." In English Romanticism and the Celtic World, 38-53.

Morgan, Prys. The Eighteenth Century Renaissance. Llandybie: Christopher Davies, 1981.

--. "From a Death to a View: The Hunt for the Welsh Past in the Romantic Period." In The Invention of Tradition, 43-101.

--. "Iolo Morganwg and Welsh Historical Traditions." In Rattleskull Genius, 251-68.

Morganwg, Iolo [Edward Williams]. Poems, Lyric and Pastoral. In Two Volumes. London: J. Nichols, 1794.

Mulholland, James. Sounding Imperial: Poetic Voice and the Politics of Empire, 1730-1820. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013.

Nairn, Tom. The Break-Up of Britain. London: Verso, 1981.

Peacock, Thomas Love. The Misfortunes of Elphin. In Peacock, The Misfortunes ofElphin and Rhododaphne, edited by George Saintsbury. London: The Macmillan Company, 1897.

Pearson, Hesketh. Sir Walter Scott: His Life and Personality. London: Harper & Brothers, 1954.

Pittock, Murray. The Invention of Scotland: The Stuart Myth and the Scottish Identity, 1638 to the Present. New York: Routledge, 1991.

Pratt, Lynda. "Southey in Wales: Inscriptions, Monuments, and Romantic Posterity." In Wales and the Romantic Imagination, 86-103.

Prescott, Sarah. Eighteenth Century Writing from Wales: Bards and Britons. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2008.

Raynal, Guillaume Thomas. A Philosophical and Political History of the Europeans in the East and West Indies. Translated by J. Justamond. Vol. 2. Dublin: John Exshaw, 1786.

Rowlands, W. D. A. "Sir Walter Scott: The Welsh Connection." Scott Newsletter 39 (2001): 7-16.

Schama, Simon. Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989.

Scott, Walter. The Betrothed. Edited by J. B. Ellis. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009.

Smith, Adam. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. London: W. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1776.

Temple, Edmond. Travels in various Parts of Peru, Including a Year's Residence in Potosi. Vol. 2. London: Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley, 1830.

Trevor-Roper, Hugh. "The Invention of Tradition: The Highland Tradition of Scotland." In The Invention of Tradition, 15-42.

Trumpener, Katie. Bardic Nationalism: The Romantic Novel and the British Empire. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997

Williams, Gwyn A. When Was Wales? A History of the Welsh. London: Black Raven Press, 1985.

(1.) Lockhart, Peter's Letters to His Kinsfolk (Edinburgh: William Blackwood, 1819), vol. 1:27. Hereafter cited parenthetically by title and page number.

(2.) Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (London: W. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1776), 1.11.116. In Smith's famous account, the mines at Potosi instigate a crisis of silver overproduction and plunge the wider global market into chaos. I am grateful to Ian Duncan for this suggestion.

(3.) See, for example, Anthony Zachariah Helms, Travels from Buenos Ayres, by Potosi, to Lima (London: Richard Phillips, 1806), v-vi, 100-104; Guillaume Thomas Raynal, A Philosophical and Political History of the Europeans in the East and West Indies, vol. 2, trans. J. Justamond (Dublin: John Exshaw, 1786), 106, 207-10, 301-5, 372-81; Edmond Temple, Travels in various Parts of Peru, Including a Year's Residence in Potosi, vol. 2 (London: Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley, 1830), 90-91.

(4.) Following Trumpener and Ferris, critics like Ian Duncan, Murray Pittock, Luke Gibbons, and Claire Connolly have explored nationalist historical novels written in and/or about Scotland and Ireland at length. There has been some recent scholarly interest in Romanticera novels from and about Wales--for examples, see Jane Aaron, "Haunted by History: Welsh Gothic, 1780-1800," in Stewart Mottram and Sarah Prescott, eds., Writing Wales, from the Renaissance to Romanticism (Surrey: Ashgate, 2012), 183-99; Andrew Davies, '"Redirecting the Attention of History': Antiquarian and Historical Fictions of Wales from the Romantic Period," in Damian Walford Davies and Lynda Pratt, eds., Wales and the Romantic Imagination (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2007), 104-21; Sarah Prescott, Eighteenth Century Writing from Wales: Bards and Britons (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2008), 121-55. It should be noted that of the four authors considered in this essay, only one (Iolo) is Welsh, while the others are English (Peacock) and Scottish (Lockhart and Scott). In an expanded version of this essay, I would have liked to examine more Welsh authors; however, I have limited myself to a brief exploration of figural uses of Wales in the Romantic British novel considered more broadly. When 1 use the phrase "Welsh Romantic novel, then, I mean Romantic novels set in and about Wales rather than Anglophone novels written in Wales or by Welsh authors.

(5.) Trumpener argues that Anglo-British reception of Romantic-era Celtic literary production can itself be read as evidence of ongoing Anglocentric critical attempts to legitimize and justify the expansion of the Anglocentric British state throughout the British Isles, while Makdisi emphasizes the difficulties that England specifically faced in justifying its own preeminence both within Britain specifically and the Empire more generally. See Trumpener, Bardic Nationalism: The Romantic Novel and the British Empire (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), esp. 3-37; and Makdisi, Making England Western: Occidentalism, Race, and Imperial Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014).

(6.) Trumpener, Bardic Nationalism, 7-8.

(7.) On invented Welsh traditions in the Romantic era, see Prys Morgan, "From a Death to a View: The Hunt for the Welsh Past in the Romantic Period," in Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, eds., 7 he Invention of Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 43 101. See also Morgan, The Eighteenth Century Renaissance (Llandybie: Christopher Davies, 1981).

(8.) For the importance and influence of Ossianic poetry in Romantic Europe, see Dafydd R. Moore, "The critical response to Ossian's Romantic bequest," in Gerard Carruthers and Alan Rawes, eds., English Romanticism and the Celtic World (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 38-53.

(9.) Duncan, Scott's Shadow: The Novel in Romantic Edinburgh (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007), 59.

(10.) See, e.g., Trumpener, Bardic Nationalism, 6-8, in which Trumpener figures Gray's Bard as, like Ossian, a figure emptied of political danger through the sheer amount of time between the ancient events of which he sings and the reader's present. Welsh bards, Trumpener argues persuasively, possess cultural capital precisely because they "can meet the threat of cultural absorption only with their own self-destruction" and because of "the reassurance [they provide] of the obsolescence" of their always-already ancient (and thus defanged) political threat (8). Put in other words, the Welsh are most useful because they provide cultural material that at once inspires pride and fails to resist appropriation. Trumpener proceeds to argue that Scott's Waverley Novels will function in much the same way; see below.

(11.) Duncan, Scott's Shadow, 64.

(12.) Nigel Leask has observed a similar phenomenon in the Scottish tours of the Welsh writer Thomas Pennant; Pennant, like Peter Morris and that other great Romantic-era Welsh traveler through Scotland, Matthew Bramble, identifies with specifically English cultural institutions as frequently as he identifies with specifically Welsh ones (Leask, "Thomas Pennant's Scottish Tours: Travel, Knowledge Networks, and National Description," Lecture, Berkeley, CA, 10 November 2014).

(13.) The first Welsh university, St. David's College (the modern-day University of Wales, Lampeter), was established in 1822 at Lampeter.

(14.) Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012), 40; Davies, A History of Wales (New York: Penguin, 1993), 311-12, 342, 361-63, 372-89; Morgan, "Hunt for the Welsh Past," 51-54; Williams, When Was Wales? A History of the Welsh (London: Black Raven Press, 1985), 180-203.

(15.) It remains possible, of course, that this "cherry-picking" is itself a defense mechanism or a coping strategy that Morris, as a member of a historically subjugated culture, finds himself compelled to espouse as a condition of taking pride in his Welshness at all. In this light, Morris's subsequent claims about the fungibility of national identity might be read as a reflection on the Britishness with which Morris has been forced to identify. Here and elsewhere, I am grateful to the suggestions of the anonymous readers of this essay provided by Studies in Romanticism.

(16.) Davies, "Antiquarian and Historical Fictions," 109.

(17.) For a critical account of another such novel, see my discussion of Walter Scott's The Betrothed below.

(18.) Peacock, The Misfortunes of Elphin, in Peacock, The Misfortunes of Elphin and Rhododaphne, ed. George Saintsbury (London: The Macmillan Company, 1897), 4 ff., 115-16. Hereafter cited parenthetically in the text by title and page number. While, according to legend, the Saxons conquered the Welsh due to the Treachery of the Long Knives, rather than a naval invasion per se, the fact remains that Hengist and Horsa (mythological twin founders of the first Anglo-Saxon kingdoms) are imagined to have come, originally, from Saxony, and to have settled, per Vortigem's concession, on the Isle of Thanet, at that point off the coast of Great Britain proper. Thus Welsh myth figures the Saxons, like the Normans, as invaders from across the sea.

(19.) Davies, "Antiquarian and Historical Fictions," 108.

(20.) For an alternative reading of some of these passages, see Davies, "Antiquarian and Historical Fictions," 110-13.

(21.) As Shawna Lichtenwalner notes, this presentation of the Welsh past as synchronous, rather than straightforwardly diachronic, recurs throughout writing from and about Wales in this period (Claiming Cambria: Invoking the Welsh in the Romantic Era [Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2008], 18-19, 62-63).

(22.) See Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:40-44; John 6:1-14.

(23.) Compare Exodus 2:1-10 with Misfortunes, 34-37.

(24.) See Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (New York: Verso, 1991), 22-36.

(25.) On the development of a new British nationalism in the eighteenth century, see Colley, Britons.

(26.) For The Betrothed's origins in Scott's newfound interest in Wales, see J. B. Ellis, "Essay on the Text, in Walter Scott, The Betrothed, ed. Ellis (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009), 364-65.

(27.) The phrase belongs to Damian Walford Davies and Lynda Pratt, "Introduction," in eds., Davies and Pratt, Wales and the Romantic Imagination (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2007), 2. The single best source for scholars interested in Iolo is Geraint H. Jenkins, ed., A Rattleskull Genius: The Many Faces of Iolo Morganwg (Cardiff University of Wales Press, 2005).

(28.) Mary-Ann Constantine, "'This Wildernessed Business of Publication': The Making of Poems, Lyric and Pastoral (1794)" in Rattleskull Genius, 123-45.

(29.) Davies, Presences that Disturb: Models of Romantic Identity in the Literature and Culture of the 1790s (Cardiff University of Wales Press, 2002), 145; Davies, '"At Defiance': Iolo, Godwin, Coleridge, Wordsworth"; and Mee, "'Images of Truth New Born': Iolo, William Blake, and the Literary Radicalism of the 1790s," in Rattleskull Genius, 147-93.

(30.) Constantine, "'A Subject of Conversation': Iolo Morganwg, Hannah More and Ann Yearsley," in Wales and the Romantic Imagination, 65-85.

(31.) Lichtenwalner, Claiming Cambria, 117-40.

(32.) Morganwg, Poems, Lyric and Pastoral. In Two Volumes (London: J. Nichols, 1794), 2:223. Hereafter cited parenthetically in the text as Poems, and by volume and page number.

(33.) Mulholland, Sounding Imperial: Poetic Voice and the Politics of Empire, 1730-1820 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), 75-82. Mulholland is especially perceptive in his account of the alarming racial and imperial dimensions of Iolo's performed utopian vision.

(34.) As the period's most successful forger of historical documents, Iolo was more aware of the untrustworthiness of print than most. As Prys Morgan notes, even early nineteenth-century historians warned that in his quest to rescue "our national history out of obscurity" (a quest he shared with a network of supporters and collaborators), "Iolo ... had bewitched the minds of ordinary people and cast down 'all accepted history'" ("Iolo Morganwg and Welsh Historical Traditions, in Rattleskull Genius, 251-52). On the historical and theoretical dimensions of Iolo's forgery, see Mary-Ann Constantine, The Truth Against the World: Iolo Morganwg and Romantic Forgery (Cardiff-: University of Wales Press, 2007).

(35.) For Iolo's use of this phrase, see Constantine, Truth Against the World; Lichtenwalner, Claiming Cambria, 127-28, 134-38.

(36.) On the political stakes and difficulty of performatively rejecting the whole of French history during the Revolution, see Simon Schama, Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989), 771-77.

(37.) While Scott's modern editor Ellis does note the influence that the writings Robert Southey (author of the epic poem Madoc, which retold a centuries-old Welsh legend) and William Owen Pughe exerted on Scott, he fails to note that Southey's primary source for information about Wales was Iolo, and that much, if not most, of Pughe's written material had its origins in the research or forgeries of Iolo, his frequent collaborator. See Ellis, "Historical Note," The Betrothed, 364-65; Glenda Carr, "An Uneasy Partnership: Iolo Morganwg and William Owen Pughe," in Rattleskull Genius, 443-60; Caroline Franklin, "The Welsh American Dream: Iolo Morganwg, Robert Southey and the Madoc Legend," in Gerald Carruthers and Alan Rawes, eds. English Romanticism and the Celtic World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 69-84; Pratt, "Southey in Wales: Inscriptions, Monuments, and Romantic Posterity," in Wales and the Romantic Imagination, 86-103.

(38.) Ellis, "Essay on the Text," The Betrothed, 284-85; Pearson, Sir Walter Scott: His Life and Personality (London: Harper & Brothers, 1954), 54. Recent critical examinations of The Betrothed include: David Carmona-Centeno, "Eveline Berenger's 'Epipolesis' to Different Nations in The Betrothed: The Greco-Roman Historiographical Sources of Walter Scott," International Journal of the Classical Tradition, 19 (20x2): 183-202; Susan Manning, "Finding the Boundaries, in Fragments of Union: Making Connections in Scottish and American Writing (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002), 65-106; W. D. A. Rowlands, "Sir Walter Scott: The Welsh Connection," Scott Newsletter 39 (2001): 7-16.

(39.) See, for example, Michael Hechter, Internal Colonialism: The Celtic Fringe in British National Development (New Brunswick: Transcation, 1998); Murray Pittock, The Invention of Scotland: The Stuart Myth and the Scottish Identity, 1638 to the Present (New York: Routledge, 1991); Hugh Trevor-Roper, "The Invention of Tradition: The Highland Tradition of Scotland, in Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, eds., The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 15-42; and the classic historieist account of Scott's work--Trumpener's Bardic Nationalism--in which Trumpener argues that Scott presents Celtic peoples as locked on the far side of a historical chasm: at once admirable and (because distant) politically toothless. See Trumpener, Bardic Nationalism, 17-18, 128-57. Ian Duncan has, in Scott's Shadow, cogently critiqued this tradition (see 96-104); I include a variation of this traditional reading here in order to emphasize that it is not a suitable critical model for understanding how Scott examines Welsh national identity in The Betrothed.

(40.) See Ferguson, An Essay on the History of Civil Society, ed. Fania Oz-Salzberger (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995).

(41.) Ellis, "Historical Note," 363.

(42.) Duncan, Scott's Shadow, 3-8. See also Duncan's second chapter, "The Invention of National Culture," 46-69.

(43.) Scott, Introduction," in The Betrothed, 10. Hereafter cited parenthetically in the text by title and page number.

(44.) Duncan, Scott's Shadow, 16.

(45.) For the classic account of the subject, see Tom Naim, The Break-Up of Britain (London: Verso, 1981).
COPYRIGHT 2016 Boston University
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2016 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Heimlich, Timothy
Publication:Studies in Romanticism
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 22, 2016
Previous Article:Moderation in the Lyrical Ballads: Wordsworth and the ballad debates of the 1790s.
Next Article:The "other" Robert Bloomfield: "To Immagination" (1800) and the quest for an authentic poetic voice.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |