Kate Roberts (author)
13 February 1891|
Rhosgadfan, Caernarfonshire, Wales
4 April 1985 (aged 94)|
|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 20th century. Styled Brenhines ein llên (The Queen of our Literature), she is known mainly for her short stories, but also wrote novels. Roberts was 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 industry. She graduated in Welsh at the University College of North Wales, Bangor, and trained as a teacher. She taught in various schools in south Wales.
Roberts met Morris T. Williams at Plaid Cymru (the Welsh nationalist party) meetings, and married him 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 at 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, O gors y bryniau (From the Swamp of the Hills), appeared in 1925. Perhaps her most successful book of short stories is Te yn y grug (Tea in the Heather) (1959), a series about children. Of the novels that Roberts wrote novels, perhaps the most famous was 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 are set in 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 of 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."
Thus her work deals with the uneventful lives of humble people and how they deal with difficulties and disillusionments. It 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.
Roberts also struck up a literary relationship with Saunders Lewis, which they maintained through letters over a period of forty years. These letters give 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.
- Stryd y Glep (Gossip Row) (1949). Novella. Bethesda : Gwasg Gee, 2011. ISBN 0900996706
- 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.
- Tywyll Heno (Dark Tonight) (1962). Novella. Denbigh : Gwasg Gee, 2010. ISBN 1-904554-07-5.
- 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