Llon a Lleddf a Storïau Eraill - Happy and Sad and Other Stories (08/08/2012)It is a pleasure for HONNO to announce the publication of 'Llon a Lleddf a Storïau Eraill' (Happy and Sad and Other Stories), a selection of the short stories of Sara Maria Saunders (S.M.S.; 1864–1939).
In her day, S.M.S. was one of the most popular writers of Nonconformist Wales, in both Welsh and English. Like Daniel Owen and Robert David Rowland (Anthropos), S.M.S. published her fiction in Y Drysorfa. This collection comprises a new edition by Rosanne Reeves of S.M.S.s most engaging stories. They were originally published in the periodical press of the Calvinist Methodists and then in three stand-alone volumes: Llon a Lleddf (1897), Y Diwygiad ym Mhentre Alun (1907) a Llithiau o Bentre Alun (1908).
S.M.S. was raised in Cwrt Mawr house on the outskirts of Llangeitho, Cardiganshire and she belonged to a well-renowned family in Calvinist Methodist circles. She was a descendent of David Charles (brother of Thomas Charles of Bala) on her father's side, and to Peter Williams, the Biblical commentator, on her mother's side. Her brother, J. H. Davies, was head of Aberystwyth University, and her younger sister, Annie, married the charismatic politician T. E. Ellis. In 1887 S.M.S. married John Saunders, the son of Dr D. D. Saunders. Lodwig Lewis, father of Saunders Lewis, was their best man, and he named his son Saunders as a sign of respect for his friend's family. With her far-reaching connections, S.M.S. had valuable inside knowledge of her denominations trials and tribulations.
All her stories turn around the inhabitants of the imaginary villages of Llanestyn and Pentre Alun and also draw on the religious revivals in Llangeitho and its environs during 1858–9 and 1904–5. S.M.S., like her fictional characters, was the product of the 'seiat' (prayer meeting) and so her characters are perfectly equipped to discuss their faith and religious experiences in Biblical and psychological terms, and always to the rhythms of their rich Cardiganshire dialect. S.M.S. portrayed her characters with as much humour as tenderness, thus creating a literary community that appealed to an audience of her contemporaries. Indeed, Siôn the Cobbler and Benja Jones the Tailor were familiar names on religious hearths in Wales, and readers eagerly anticipated their latest antics – despite the opinion of many Methodists that reading fiction was a sin!
In her stories S.M.S. not only matures as a committed evangelical, but as a feminist writer in the age of the 'New Woman'. She broke new ground with her portrayal of women who were strong, responsible, and intelligent, and who kept a beady eye on the spiritual condition of chapelgoers and the wider community. The constant refrain of her fiction are the blessings that spring from prayer, freely available to the rural poor of both sexes in Cardiganshire. Theses stories will appeal to those who remember Sunday School and chapel as well as those who still attend religious services.
Rosanne Reeves, the editor, specializes in women's writing in late nineteenth-century Wales and she has maintained a link with HONNO since the press was launched in 1986. Since she is a founder member of the press, it is fitting that Rosanne is the editor of this volume, published to celebrate the twenty-fifth birthday of HONNO WELSH WOMEN'S PRESS in 2012.
This is the sixth volume in the series CLASURON HONNO (Honno Welsh Women's Classics), a series that brings forgotten work by Welsh women writers to a new audience.
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