Demeures de l'esprit. Grande-Bretagne. I, Angleterre sud & centre, Pays de Galles

Name of traveller

Renaud Camus (b. 1946)

Reason for travel

  • conducting research for the book

Date of travel

undated, ca. early 2000s

[L]e boathouse de Dylan Thomas . . . est une des plus séduisantes demeures qui soient au monde . . .; ce n’est pas à cause de son architecture, qui n’a rien d’extraordinaire, mais de son admirable isolement. . . . La maison de Dylan Thomas tenait toute sa magie de sa solitude et de lui. (Camus 202-3)


  • architecture:
    • visits the Boathouse, the home of Dylan Thomas in Laugharne, the interior gives a good representation of post-war middle-class bohemian life; is shocked to find that Sea View, Thomas's first home in Laugharne, is falling down
    • juxtaposes the simplicity of the writing shed with the artistic quality of Dylan Thomas's later poems
    • displeased with modern architecture in close proximity to older buildings, but generally Welsh architecture tends to be insignificant apart from the Norman castles
    • English architecture is more ornate and delicate in contrast to the harshness and sometimes ugliness of Welsh architecture
    • is surprised to discover that the plain-looking, barn-like Ty Mawr Wybrant was a residence for the gentry
    • finds the carved façade of Plas Newydd, Llangollen, less impressive, but the varnished black wood gives off a nice odour of wax and is pleasing to the eye
  • art: contains some photographs
  • language:
    • discusses the difficulty of translating the word 'boathouse' into French
    • relates William Morgan's translation of the Bible into Welsh
    • although the Bible has lost its influence, Welsh is taught in Welsh schools and the language is one of the most striking features for travellers in Wales
  • people:
    • discusses the life and writings of Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)
    • praises William Morgan (1545-1604) as one of the greatest humanists of the late Renaissance and discusses his career
    • detailed description of the lives of the Ladies of Llangollen, Eleanor Charlotte Butler (1739-1829) and Sarah Ponsonby (1755-1831), their possibly lesbian relationship and their many international visitors
  • terrain:
    • praises the perfect solitude and magic of the landscape around the Boathouse, which is now under threat as the view is spoilt by a newly-built villa at close proximity
    • is pleased with the route that leads to Ty Mawr Wybrnant and the surrounding landscape, although the site itself tends to disappoint
    • implies that comparing Scottish and Welsh landscapes and the Lake District with each other is provocative to the people who live there; French visitors to north Wales will be reminded of Gascony and the Auvergne
    • it may be overstating it to call Wales wild, but the landscapes are harsh, hard, austere and often grandiose

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Camus, Renaud. Demeures de l'esprit. Grande-Bretagne. I, Angleterre sud & centre, Pays de Galles. Paris : Fayard, 2008. 201-23. Print.