Caradoc Evans: Nothing to Pay
By the time he came to write this novel, Evans had already viciously attacked his own people in the short story collections My People, Capel Sion and My Neighbours as well as the play Taffy. While this novel is hardly flattering to the Welsh, it is the drapery trade that is the focus of his bitter satire here. Evans worked as a draper’s assistant in both South Wales and in London before turning to journalism. The early chapters are set in Wales and beautifully poke fun at the foibles of the Welsh. Their colourful use of Anglo-Welsh and the biblical turn of phrase make for wonderful reading. But Amos, the Caradoc Evans character and hero of the novel, aspires to London but The big London drapers are like God: they call many but choose few. He works his way up through the Welsh system before finally getting a”crib” in London.
Eventually, he makes it to London but it is not easy getting and keeping a job. Just as Evans satirised the Welsh, so he mercilessly satirises the English drapers with their bible hypocrisy, the lies told by the assistants to their rich but gullible clients, their self-righteousness. But it is tough being a Welshman in London. He is turned down by the medical doctor for the army when the First World War starts and then is turned down by his employer’s doctor. The real Caradoc Evans turned to journalism and had some success. Amos, however, goes into business and becomes greedy. His end is inevitable. Indeed, Evans does not let go, turning the screw on Amos and everyone he comes across till the bitter end.
Evans shows no mercy to anyone in this novel. Even Amos, his hero, is cruelly punished and his long-suffering wife, Sara, is skewered too. Drapers all and Welshmen all are mocked in a manner that makes the satire of an Evelyn Waugh seem mild and harmless. Wales never forgave him. You should.
First published 1930 by Faber & Faber