Caradoc Evans (1878-1945) was a controversial author, most famous for his stories in My People, copies of which were publicly burned in Cardiff. Stylistically inventive, the stories unflinchingly (and unflatteringly) criticised Edwardian Welsh society. The Western Mail called it “the literature of the sewer”. English reviewers claimed it was “a book of great literary merit” and “a triumph of art”. The response defined the rest of Evans’s literary career.
In Caradoc Evans: The Devil in Eden John Harris has written the definitive biography of Evans. He investigates what lay behind the writing, and its impact on Wales and beyond. Evans is also revealed as a polemicist on issues like the rights of workers, the conduct of the Great War, and the status of women. A leading London journalist, Evans had a popular weekly column in which he responded to readers’ views in trenchant fashion. As Harris argues, challenging convention was his life s work.
As well as exploring this controversy Harris shows that Evans was a political radical, a mover within London literary circles, a popular journalist and something of a philanderer. For the first time Evans’ relationship with his second wife is given in some detail. This was the exotic and hugely dramatic novelist and theatre person Marguerite Barclay, the self-styled Countess Barcynska, who had a profound effect on Evans.