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Rhys Lewis, Minister of Bethel: An Autobiography by Daniel Owen. James Harris’s 1888 translation of the classic Welsh-language novel, with an afterword by Rob Mimpriss.

Whatever other gifts I may be deficient in — and they are many — I fancy I have cause to be thankful for a good memory. Indeed, I would not have begun this autobiography had I not been conscious beforehand that its writing, in my hours of ease, would be of greater pleasure than of labour to me. In turning up one circumstance after another in my history, I find each with its family and relatives rising again in living form before my mind. Similarly, when looking over an old packet of letters, every letter has its unwritten associations, here and there a letter making one think of others which have been reduced to ashes by fire, but which cannot be burnt out of the memory. Some are read with a sense of satisfaction, others bring painful recollections, others stir up our whole nature, awaking feelings and ideas we had thought lost for ever, but which had lived on, hidden away in the caverns of the mind and the crannies of the memory.

‘the greatest single step forward in the history of the Welsh-language novel.’ ~Meic Stephens

Three young men of similar parentage choose contrasting paths through life. Will Bryan, mischievous and charming, sets his sight on success in business, while Robert Lewis the mineworker, unjustly excluded from the Methodist chapel, begins a political crusade against injustice. Meanwhile, Robert’s younger brother, Rhys, has set his heart on becoming a preacher. This classic novel, teeming with strikers, shopkeepers, peasants and thieves, provides a vivid cross-section of Wales at a turning point in its history, and a profound meditation on the conflict between the strictures of religious morality and the natural goodness of the human heart.

Cover of Rhys Lewis

The Trials of Enoc Huws by Daniel Owen. Claud Vivian’s 1896 translation of the classic Welsh-language novel, with an afterword by Rob Mimpriss.

Enoc Huws was a love-child, but he was not born in Anglesey. The nook where he was born was nearer England, and its inhabitants talked finer Welsh, and, in their own opinion, were more cultivated and polished, though they were not more religious. The bells were not rung at his birth, and no signs of rejoicing of any sort were seen or heard. Even the fact that he was a boy, and not a girl, did not bring so much as a smile to the face of any of his relations when they were told of his arrival in the world. Indeed, some of the neighbours maintained that so little interest was felt in him that it was not known, for some days, to which gender he belonged, and that it was quite by accident that the matter became evident, and that by the carelessness of Enoc himself.

Captain Richard Trevor is manager of the Pwllygwynt lead mine, and one of the largest employers in his community. But the lead mine has failed to produce any lead, and as his investors begin to move away, Captain Trevor knows that the only way to keep his pious yet foolish wife and his clever yet heartless daughter in comfort is to open a new lead mine, as devoid of prospects as the last. Unable to raise the capital he needs, he turns to Enoc Huws, the timid, otherworldly owner of the local grocer’s shop, who lives in fear of his gold-digging housekeeper and is already hopelessly in love with the Captain’s daughter.

With its charming rogues, its comic antiheroes, and its rich cast of female characters, Enoc Huws is both a page-turner in its own right, and Daniel Owen’s lighter sequel to his masterpiece, Rhys Lewis. Twice adapted for television, and perennially popular in Welsh, this novel was translated in 1896 by Claud Vivian, and now follows Rhys Lewis into republication by Cockatrice Books.

Cover of Enoc Huws

I am the author of three short story collections. Reasoning and For His Warriors, originally published by Gwasg y Bwthyn, Caernarfon, with Welsh Books Council support, now join Prayer at the End in revised editions at Cockatrice Books. My anthology of fiction, Dangerous Asylums: Stories from Denbigh Mental Hospital Told by Leading Welsh Writers, including work by Gee and David Williams, Glenda Beagan, Carys Bray, Simon Thirsk and others, was published by the North Wales Mental Health Research Project, October 2016.

I am the translator of Going South: The Stories of Richard Hughes Williams (Cockatrice, 2015), Hallowe’en in the Cwm: The Stories of Glasynys (Cockatrice, forthcoming), and A Book of Three Birds, the seventeenth-century classic by Morgan Llwyd (Cockatrice, forthcoming). In addition, I have translated fiction by D. Gwenallt Jones, Angharad Tomos, and Manon Steffan Ros.