Kate Roberts (author)
13 February 1891|
Rhosgadfan, Caernarfonshire, Wales
|Died||4 April 1985
|Occupation||Author, Novelist, Political Activist|
|Literary movement||Welsh-language literature|
|Notable works||Traed mewn cyffion (Feet in chains)|
Kate Roberts (13 February 1891 – 4 April 1985) was one of the foremost Welsh-language authors of the twentieth century. Known as Brenhines ein llên ("The queen of our literature"), she is known mainly for her short stories, but she also wrote novels. Roberts was also a prominent Welsh nationalist.
Roberts was born in the village of Rhosgadfan, Caernarfonshire (Gwynedd today) where her father (Owen Roberts) was a quarryman in the local slate quarries. She graduated in Welsh at the University College of North Wales, Bangor and then trained as a teacher. She then taught in various schools in south Wales.
An early member of Plaid Cymru, the Welsh nationalist party, it was at their meetings that she met Morris T. Williams, whom she married in 1928. Williams was a printer, and eventually they bought the printing and publishing house Gwasg Gee (The Gee Press), Denbigh, and moved to live in the town in 1935. The press published books, pamphlets and the Welsh-language weekly Y Faner (The Banner), for which Roberts wrote regularly. After her husband's death in 1946 she carried on working the press for another ten years.
She remained in Denbigh after her retirement and died in 1985. Alan Llwyd's 2011 biography of Roberts used diaries and letters to shed fresh light on her private life and her relationship with Morris. Cae'r Gors, the quarryman's cottage in which Roberts was born and brought up, has been taken into the care of Cadw and turned into a museum open to the public.
It was the death of her brother in the First World War that led Roberts to writing. She used her literary work as a means of coming to terms with her loss.
Her first volume of short stories appeared in 1925 O gors y bryniau ("From the swamp of the hills") but perhaps her most successful book of short stories is Te yn y grug ("Tea in the heather") (1959), a series of stories about children. As well as short stories Roberts also wrote novels, perhaps her most famous being Traed mewn cyffion ("Feet in chains") (1936) which reflected the hard life of a slate quarrying family. In 1960 she published Y lôn wen, a volume of autobiography.
Most of her novels and short stories have as a background about the region where she lived in north Wales. She herself said that she derived the material for her work, "from the society in which I was brought up, a poor society in an age poverty ... it was always a struggle against poverty. But notice that the characters haven't reached the bottom of that poverty, they are struggling against it, afraid of it." Her work deals with the uneventful lives of humble people and how they deal with difficulties and disillusionments.
Her work is remarkable for the richness of her language and for her perception. The role of women in society and progressive ideas about life and love are major themes in her work.
She also struck up a literary relationship with Saunders Lewis which they maintained over a period of forty years through the medium of letters. These letters give us a picture of life in Wales during the period and the comments of these two literary giants on events at home and abroad.
Many of her works have been translated into other languages.
A selection of Roberts's works in Welsh and in translation
- Traed Mewn Cyffion (Feet in Chains) (1936). Novel. Llandysul : Gwasg Gomer, 2001. ISBN 0-86383-480-9.
- Ffair Gaeaf a storïau eraill (Winter Fair and other stories) (1937). Short stories. Denbigh : Gwasg Gee, 2000. ISBN 0-00-017373-8.
- Y Byw Sy'n Cysgu (The Living That Sleep) (1956). Novel. Denbigh : Gwasg Gee, 1995. ISBN 0-7074-0268-9.
- Te yn y Grug (Tea in the Heather) (1959). Short stories. Llandysul : Gwasg Gee, 2004. ISBN 1-904554-01-6.
- Y Lôn Wen (The White Lane) (1960). Autobiography. Denbigh : Gwasg Gee, 2000. ISBN 0-00-017991-4.
- Ifans, Dafydd (Ed.) (1992), Annwyl Kate, Annwyl Saunders : Gohebiaeth, 1923–1983 (Dear Kate, Dear Saunders : Correspondence, 1923–1983). Aberystwyth : National Library of Wales. ISBN 0-907158-57-9. The letters of Kate Roberts and Saunders Lewis.
- Traed Mewn Cyffion (Feet in Chains) (1936). Novel. trans. Katie Gramich. Annotated edition. Cardigan: Parthian Books, 2012. ISBN 978-1-908069-56-6
- Roberts, Kate (2002), Feet in Chains. Translated by John Idris Jones. Bridgend : Seren. ISBN 1-85411-321-6.
- Roberts, Kate (2001), Sun and Storm and other stories. Denbigh : Gwasg Gee. ISBN 0-7074-0347-2.
- Roberts, Kate (2002), Tea in the heather. Translated by Wyn Griffith. Bridgend : Seren. ISBN 1-85411-320-8.
- Roberts, Kate (1991), The World of Kate Roberts : selected stories, 1925–1981. Translated by Joseph P. Clancy. Philadelphia : Temple University Press. ISBN 0-87722-794-2. A general introduction to her short stories in English which includes a translation of Te yn y Grug (Tea in the Heather).
- Parry, Thomas (1955), A history of Welsh literature. Translated by H. Idris Bell. Oxford : Clarendon Press.
- 'Roberts, Kate (1891–1985)'. In Meic Stephens (Ed.) (1998), The new companion to the literature of Wales. Cardiff : University of Wales Press. ISBN 0-7083-1383-3.
- Katie Gramich: Kate Roberts, Cardiff : Univ. of Wales Press, 2011, ISBN 978-0-7083-2338-0
- Kate Roberts on the BBC Wales website.
- Cae'r Gors – A Heritage Center of Kate Roberts.
- Archival material relating to Kate Roberts listed at the UK National Archives