For many, Caradoc Evans’ infamous collection of short stories My People (published in 1915) is considered the first example of Welsh Writing in English. It was this controversial work that led the Welsh press to name him ‘the best hated man in Wales’.
However, there are a variety of writers, many of them women, who were writing from and about Wales in the nineteenth century. I came across the novelists and short story writers Anne Beale and Allen Raine in Jane Aaron’s collection of Short Stories A View Across the Valley. Anne Beale (1815-1900) was born in Somerset but settled in Llandeilo in 1841. She published at least five novels and a collection of short stories titled ‘Stories and Traits of the Welsh Peasantry’, published in 1849 – nearly 30 years before Caradoc Evans was born! She had a successful career and is seen as the predecessor to the more well-known Allen Raine.
Anne Adaliza Evans (1836-1908) adopted the masculine pseudonym Allen Raine when she embarked upon an extremely successful career as a novelist, selling over 2 millions books in her lifetime. She was brought up in Newcastle Emlyn but it was her holidays in Cardiganshire that inspired most of her work.
Both Beale’s and Raine’s work has not been well regarded in the past as many critics have denounced their images of Wild Wales and their romantic love story plots. However, more recently their work has been taken more seriously and even considered as the first instances of Welsh Writing in English. Thanks to Welsh publisher Honno Allen Raine’s work is now becoming more accessible. Raine’s novel The Welsh Witch has recently been republished by the press that specialize in Welsh women’s fiction- I thoroughly recommend it!