Welsh Journals

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Vol. in.] WALES. JANUARY, 1896. [No. 21. STRAY LEAVES, ESTERDAY I had a long conversation with men interested in the establishing of small circulating libraries in country districts. I hoped that every Parish Council in Wales would provide a library among the first things it would do. In some parishes this has been done; in others the majority of the electors have rejected or postponed ; and in many, I regret to hear, no attempt whatever has been made at establishing a library. I have only heard of one objection,— " These times are very hard times; a library is quite desirable, but we cannot afford it." In my parish there was prac¬ tically no opposition. One cantankerous person forced a poll upon us, and so put us to expense by raising an outcry against expense. We began with close upon four hundred volumes ; and many, though ardent supporters of the library, had made up their minds to have to pay heavy rates. It was found, however, that the whole cost of adopting the act amounted to fifteen shillings. Four hundred volumes came from people living within the parish as gifts, one third of these were taken out by readers within the first week, and it does not appear that, when the tiny expenses of the first year are paid, a rate will be necessary at all. When I enter a Welsh farmhouse or cottage, I generally see a little library. That is a sure sign to me that the occupant pays his rent and his rates, and meets his 1 1 obligations, with perfect punctuality. I would give unlimited trust to a man who buys and owns his little stock of books, though they have not been made a necessity to him by an early education. That man has given pledges to fortune ; he has made himself one with the spirit of honesty and responsibility which breathes into the lives of men the possibility of living in harmony together. I, for one, would give that man unlimited credit. There is cause to fear that, in some directions, the Welsh peasant is degenera¬ ting. At one time he spent his long winter evenings in profitable and pleasant enjoyment. He deftly carved spoons and drinking vessels, he made rush-lights, he made and adorned his own oak furniture, and all to the merry sound of the spinning wheels of his wife and children. All these occupations are gone, or rapidly going. The skill of the individual and the use of the little picturesque factories and fulling mills in the mountain gorges,—they have all been ruthlessly crushed out of existence by the mighty machinery and huge steam factories of our age. Political economy is triumphant, the greatest possible heap of goods is produced at the lowest cost imaginable. But what about the education of the individual ? Can no means be found of getting the peasant again to delight in technical skill ? He and his wife and his children have for¬ gotten the useful work which made Welsh homes so pleasant. And wives who once wove and spun,—they talk all day and they run to the nearest shop and buy wretched cotton stockings, which have no warmth and which lose their colour, on credit. Was the peasant farmer or labourer