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This report is taken from PN Review 205, Volume 38 Number 5, May - June 2012.

Letter from Wales Sam Adams
Saunders Lewis (1893-1985), 'generally regarded as the greatest figure in Welsh literature of the twentieth century', was born in Wallasey, just north of Birkenhead, across the Mersey from Liverpool. His ancestry was impeccably Nonconformist, both his father and maternal grandfather being notable Calvinistic Methodist ministers. He was educated at Liscard High School for Boys and Liverpool University, where he studied English and French. He interrupted his university studies to volunteer for the army in November 1914. A small, spare man, one of that minority of officers no taller than the other ranks they led, he was commissioned in a 'bantam' battalion of the South Wales Borderers. He saw action in France, and is described by a close friend, D.J. Williams (of whom more later), in the trenches at Loos reading a book by his favourite French author, Maurice Barrès. There was little enough time for reading and it was not a place for quiet contemplation. The conditions were often appalling. In January 1917 Lewis wrote to Margaret Gilcriest, a fellow student at Liverpool and his future wife, 'Nothing ... of what I have seen before of trench warfare was at all like this. In the line we held we were in shell-holes waist-high in slime, without even the least semblance of a trench: dead men were as common as the living. They had died in all kinds of positions - numbers had merely drowned - until your attitude towards them became one of mingled tenderness and sympathy and humorous acceptance. One ...


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