Born David Caradoc Evans and also known as Caradog Evans, Evans was the first major Anglo-Welsh novelist. However, he was not beloved by many of his fellow Welshmen, as his novels are full of attacks on their”chapel” mentality, their narrow-mindedness and sexual repression. He started work at the age of fourteen as a draper’s assistant, first in South Wales and then in London. This period is fully and bitterly described in Nothing to Pay. The experience made him a radical. In London he started writing and attended writing classes. He had some success with his stories and soon changed careers, becoming a journalist. By 1917 he was an editor as well as a successful writer, having published both My People and Capel Sion but lost his job over a libel action.
He continued to have a successful career, both as a journalist and writer, though his writing was not as well received in Wales as in London, where there were even attempts to ban it. He continued to receive a bad press at home (“filth masquerading as truth” was the comment of the Western Mail on Nothing to Pay). In 1929, he finally gave up journalism and left London to live with Marguerite Barclay, the romantic novelist, despite being still married to his first wife (they were soon divorced and he married Marguerite). But his writing career failed to flourish. His subsequent novels had little critical or commercial success and he had to live off his wife’s income. He did manage to produce further writings which had limited success but, at least commercially, he was well overshadowed by his wife. He became known as a literary character. He eventually died of pneumonia in 1945.
His books are now generally out of print, except for some of the stories. This is unfortunate as he was clearly one of the first and best of the Anglo-Welsh writers. He was a masterly short story writer, a cruel and vicious satirist against his own people, yet, while attacking their religious hypocrisy, he retains his religious spirit. Indeed, much of his writing shows that the main influence on his work was the Bible, though as a Welsh-speaking Welshman the voice of his people is also a powerful influence. He remains a vibrant influence, at least in Wales.
Books about Caradoc Evans
Henry Green: Caradoc
John Harris: Caradoc Evans – The Devil in Eden
Oliver Sandys: Caradoc Evans
Trevor Lloyd Williams: Caradoc Evans (Writers of Wales series)
(The Sandys is the only and not very good biography. Sandys was Marguerite Florence Barclay who wrote romantic novels and scripts for Alfred Hitchock under both her first married name – Countess Barcysnka – and the pseudonym Oliver Sandys. She was Caradoc Evans’ second wife. This biography is written as a romantic novel and consists of a long dialogue between Sandys and the posthumous Evans, recounting, in part, his life.)
1915 My People (stories)
1917 Capel Sion (stories)
1920 My Neighbours (stories)
1924 Taffy (play)
1930 Nothing to Pay
1934 This Way to Heaven
1942 Pilgrims in a Foreign Land (stories)
1943 Morgan Bible (novel)
1946 The Earth Gives All and Takes All (stories)
1949 Mother’s Marvel
1985 Fury Never Leaves Us (miscellany, including short stories, essays, letters and the play Taffy)
1993 Selected stories