A fascinating section of the biography describes Geraint Goodwin’s life as a young writer in London in the nineteen twenties and thirties. We know he met Mary Webb, Augustus John and the novelist George Moore (Goodwin’s first published book was Conversations with George Moore) but he was also to encounter H.E.Bates, David Garnett, Richard Hughes (author of A High Wind in Jamaica) Charles Morgan and many other literary figures. The rather bohemian London atmosphere is reminiscent of the early volumes of Anthony Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time – one would not have been surprised to find Geraint encountering Mr Deacon and Gypsy Jones selling War Never Pays! as he wandered home from another evening’s conversation with George Moore.
David Garnett’s father Edward was Goodwin’s literary mentor, and Mr Whetter describes this creative relationship in detail. He also reveals Goodwin’s friendships with and admiration for other Welsh writers in English such as Rhys Davies, Wyn Griffiths and Gwyn Jones. These byways of Anglo-Welsh literature are tantalising – especially considering the renewed interest in the academic study of Welsh writing in English – and Mr Whetter does not resist the temptation of venturing down them. In venturing upon critical analysis of Goodwin’s writing, Sam Adams’s monograph on Goodwin for the Writers of Wales series is an essential text, and is duly acknowledged by Mr Whetter in his Preface.
Sadly, the principal character of this biography after Goodwin himself is not George Moore or any other writer. It is a disease, the disease of tuberculosis, which seeded itself into Goodwin’s constitution from his early days and which brought about his tragically early death at the age of 39. The account of his sufferings, his treatments, his periods of remission, the months of convalescence in sanatoria leave the reader full of admiration for his courage in rising above this dread affliction to achieve such an enduring literary legacy of novels and short stories which are imbued with the author’s passion for the countryside, the places and the people of his youth. James Whetter’s biography of Geraint Goodwin places on record a unique life, and a unique achievement.
Geraint Goodwin: His Life and Work by James Whetter
Published by Lyfrow Trelyspen 1912 ISBN 0 9539972 7 5
Available from the Fuze Bookshop, Newtown @ £15
Or from the publisher’s website www.theroselandinstitute.co.uk @ £17.50 inc p&