The Turn of the Tide Melancholy and Modernity in Mid-Victorian Wales

Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)503-527
Number of pages25
JournalCylchgrawn Hanes Cymru | Welsh History Review
Volume27
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jun 2015
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Abstract

When the English poet and critic Matthew Arnold looked west from Llandudno in 1864 at a land ‘where the past still lives’, he contributed to a body of English-language material that presented contemporary Wales as antique, attenuated, melancholy and ‘other’. This article assesses the historiography that informed Arnold’s perception, and looks at the contrast found in the period’s Welsh-language output, which was ‘unconcerned about models of its past’ and ‘never more confident in the sufficiency of its own immediate resources’. It surveys the modernity found, inter alia, in the institution of the eisteddfod, self-help manuals, advertisements for patent medicines, encyclopaedias and triumphalist Nonconformist histories. Wales, it concludes, would never be as melancholy or as modern again.