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This review is taken from PN Review 55, Volume 13 Number 5, May - June 1987.

THE DRAGON HAS TWO TONGUES The Oxford Companion to the Literature of Wales, compiled and edited by Meic Stephens (OUP) £17.50
Roland Mathias, A Ride Through The Wood, Essays on Anglo-Welsh Literature (Poetry Wales Press) £12.95

Since 1967, Meic Stephens has occupied with distinction the post of Literature Director of the Welsh Arts Council. Before then, whilst living in Merthyr Tudful, he had founded the Triskel Press and the magazine Poetry Wales. Connected with that town are other writers of note, in the nineteenth century Lady Charlotte Guest, Thomas Stephens and Charles Wilkins, and in the twentieth Jack Jones, Glyn Jones, Glanmor Williams, Gwyn Alfred Williams and Harri Webb. Each has interpreted life and letters in Wales through the medium of English. Why this concentration of 'bridge-builders' in Merthyr? Because, I think, of the tolerant cosmopolitanism which has characterized the place since it came into prominence with the Industrial Revolution.

The Welsh language remained strong in Merthyr up to the turn of the century. Born and bred there, I am old enough to remember Irish, Spanish and Jewish immigrants of an older generation who spoke fluent Welsh. The economic depression and the mass emigration which occurred between the two world wars led to a marked decline in the number of Welsh speakers in the industrial valleys of South Wales and in the rest of the country. Other factors have combined to reduce still further the percentage of the Welsh-speaking population. Today they comprise only between a third and a quarter of the total. We have no means of knowing the tally of Welsh-speaking exiles spread over the globe.

This is a process which has been going on ever since the Acts ...


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