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7th February 2022: A British Triad?

Among the pleasures of reading Welsh literature is Ellis Wynne’s eighteenth-century prose classic, The Sleeping Bard (Y Bardd Cwsc). Written under the influence of Bunyan’s, Dante’s and Milton’s religious epics, and more especially of Francisco de Quevedo’s satirical visions, the book’s three visions of the world, death and hell express a distinctively Welsh perspective on the rise of capitalism and the British state shortly before Scotland is compelled to join the union. Streaked with an earthy comedy, and with cheerfully sadistic descriptions of the damnation of petty crooks and powerful oppressors, the book expresses a powerful rejection of economic inequality, of inherited titles and wealth, and of military conquest.

The book is a staple of Welsh literature courses, and has been translated into English by George Borrow, by Robert Gwyneddon Davies, and most recently by the seminal poet and scholar, T. Gwynn Jones. This last rare translation was recently republished by Cockatrice Books, making it available and affordable to the public. I wrote an introduction reflecting (as with to introduction to my own translation of Morgan Llwyd’s classic, A Book of Three Birds) on its treatment of ideas of Britishness in the light of Brexit.

The Sleeping Bard

A Book of Three Birds

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Dangerous Asylums

‘In this exemplary collaboration between medical science and imagination, lives preserved in official records, in the language and diagnoses of their times, are restored not just to light, but to humanity and equality. This anthology is a resurrection.’

Philip Gross