A Misfit Mythology: Hanes Taliesin in English Literature and Culture in the Nineteenth Century

Baxter, Tyler (2023) A Misfit Mythology: Hanes Taliesin in English Literature and Culture in the Nineteenth Century. Masters thesis, University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

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Abstract

Although authors, poets, and scholars of the nineteenth century frequently cited Taliesin as the preeminent bard of Wales, Hanes Taliesin (HT)—particularly the Elphin section—was overshadowed by popular and academic engagement with other traditional tales. Irish and Welsh legends sparked plays, novels, and poetry, but HT had (in the English language, at least) only Thomas Love Peacock’s Misfortunes Of Elphin to stand alongside Charlotte Guest’s and William Owen Pughe’s translations of the late medieval tale. By analysing HT’s reception during the nineteenth century, this essay attempts to determine reasons behind the relative lack of attention which the story received. To get a sense of contemporary perceptions, periodicals, journals, and books which critique the translations and adaptations of HT are considered. From these, several patterns emerge. Until 1833 writers who worked on HT largely ignored the tale’s Gwion Bach strand and downplayed the Elphin strand’s supernatural elements. Between 1833 and 1849, Pughe and Guest published their translations of HT, dealing fairly with both strands but providing distinct stylistic treatments and receiving different exposure. Indications of price, print runs, and text editions help us to track the spread of these and other texts featuring HT. The second half of the nineteenth century pivoted to emphasize the Gwion strand, treating it as a religious allegory with the potential to uncover the mysteries of Druidic doctrine. HT was best known to antiquarian scholars; general readers would, by and large, have been aware of it only through Guest’s Mabinogion or Peacock’s novel (or both). It is proposed that HT’s reception in the nineteenth century continues to influence the story’s reception today, suggesting that a combination of text availability, cultural preferences, and mythologizers’ handling of the Gwion strand all play significant roles.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Hanes Taliesin, Ystoria Taliesin, Taliesin, Charlotte Guest, William Owen Pughe, Thomas Love Peacock, Welsh Literature, Reception, Literary History, Nineteenth Century, 1800s, Celtic Revival, Celtic, Wales
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Divisions: Theses and Dissertations > Masters Dissertations
Depositing User: Tyler Baxter
Date Deposited: 10 Oct 2023 08:46
Last Modified: 10 Oct 2023 08:46
URI: https://repository.uwtsd.ac.uk/id/eprint/2628

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