When an American is drunk he Brags; and when a Welshman is drunk he Sings: American Identity and the Celebration of Welshness in Wirt Sikess British Goblins (1880)

Adam N. Coward


Wirt Sikes, the United States consul to Cardifffrom 1876–1883, wrote several articles and books about Wales and the Welshduring his time there. Among these is a notable work of folklore, entitled British Goblins: Welsh Folk-lore, FairyMythology, Legends and Traditions (1880),which examines various accounts of Welsh fairies, spirits, and popularpastimes. In this work, Sikes displays a sense of American identity and writesfrom an American perspective, often evoking American examples to which hecompared Welsh customs and beliefs. However, he also demonstrates a venerationand celebration of Wales and Welshness, often excusing or responding topotential criticism of the Welsh and even, at one point, presenting an idyllicview of the Welsh in drink despite his deep temperance sensibilities. Thisarticle examines the way in which the work was informed by, and consequentlyreflects, both Sikes’s American experience and nationality and his love ofWales and Welsh culture, particularly folk-culture. As such it investigates theinteraction of Welsh and American perspectives and culture in a work which isnot so much “Welsh-American” as “American-Welsh”.

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