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MEMOIRS OF OWAIN GLYNDWR *. We hail with pleasure the appear- utility to mankind in general. He ance of this work, for although its is sufficiently contented and happy title is as clumsily constructed, and in the enjoyment of the more humits contents as awkwardly arranged, ble and tangible pleasures of a counas it is possible for them to be, still try life, and delights to mingle with we are inclined to look upon it as an those individuals whose habits and introduction to better things on the inclinations are similar to his own. part of the Welsh Literati. Of To his dull and clouded perception, matters of literature, the Welsh have the labours of the learned can be atbeen hitherto lamentably neglectful; tended with no earthly advantage. and we cannot censure, in terms too Nay, we know of more than one inperemptory and severe, the very cul- stance, wherein the productions of pable and discouraging inattention highly-gifted individuals have been which cbaracterises their conduct in treated with ridicule, because they this respect. Nobody can admire more were unintelligible ; and considered than we do the general character puerile, because they were unprofitof the Cambro-British : it is replete able. with loyalty, generosity, frank and But this indolent carelessness is open-hearted hospitality; but the by no means a virtue ; nor must it exercise of these good qualities does be accounted one of the blessings of not extend either to the fostering a pastoral life. Wales is a secluded, of living talent, or to the rescuing but not an uncivilized country; and from oblivion the genius of past ages. this inattention to the benefits of It is to the Welsh gentleman--we learning is a disgraceful, if not a speak in general terms—a matter dangerous evil. It was, in fact, this of very small moment whether his discouraging apathy which nipped country becomes celebrated for the in the bud the expanding genius of production of learned men ; at all a Goronwy Owen, which chilled the .events, he does not deem it requisite glowing spirit of an Evan Evans, to make the smallest exertion in and which permitted that noble mofurtherance of such an object; for- nument of Cymric literature-the it is sad to say—he possesses none of Archaiology of Wales—to be collectthat intellectual ambition which is ed and printed at the sole expence of at once such an ornament to the pos Owen Jones, “ the Thames-Street sessor, and so extensive a source of furrier t.”
Memoirs of Owen Glendower, (Owain Glyndwr,) with a Sketch of the History of the Ancient Britons, from the Conquest of Wales, by Edward the First, to the present time ; illustrated with various Notes, Genealogical and Topographical. By the Rev. Thomas Thomas, Rector of Abesporth, Perpetual Curate of Llanddewi Aberarth, and Author of the St. David's Prize Essay for 1810, on the Study of the Hebrew Language. Haverfordwest. 1822. 8vo. pp. 240.
+ In a spirited Letter now before us, addressed, by the Editor of the Cambro-Bri. ton, (on the demise of his work, for want of due encouragement,) to the Editor of the Shrewsbury Chronicle, a large portion of this reprehensible heedlessness is attributed to the withering influence of Sectarianism. “ It may now be worth while," says the writer, “shortly to advert to the actual indifference with which (notwithstanding all that has been pretended to the contrary) the Welsh regard the cause of their national literature ; of that literature, I mean, in its highest and most interesting associations, as exhibiting, to our view, the fast-fleeting traces of all that was anciently of worth in the genius, in the exploits, and in the character of the Cymry. I have already incidentally attributed this indifference to natural causes ; and, as far as national habits and prejudices become a second nature, I have been right;-for it is too probable that the apathy in question has its root in those peculiar religious propensities to which Wales has, for a long series of years, been proverbially subject, and which have established their exclusive dominion over the mind, at the expence of those more unconstrained feelings which belong to the cultivation of refined literature and of general science. Hence, as a natural consequence, a taste for the litera humaniores for the more po. lished learning of the world has been too often obscured by the gloom of fanaticism,
But while Welshmen, in general, course of which this Welsh Mæcenas are thus inattentive to the interests urged his new friend to give his taand encouragement of literature, lents the benefit of an academical there are a few spirited individuals education, using, in his letter on the whose utmost efforts have been ex- occasion, these characteristic words: erted to counteract the effects of this “ I will bear your expences : draw reproachful indifference ; and these upon me for any sum of money, you are the patriotic members of the dif- may be in need of whilst at College. ferent societies, which have been And the condition of the obligation established by Welshmen for the is this: that if, by any reverse of purpose of rescuing their country fortune, I should become poor, and from the disgraceful gloom in which you in a state of affluence, then you it has bitherto been shrouded. Of must maintain me.” No stronger these societies, the principal are the proof of his generosity can be reGwyneddigion, or North Walesınen; quired. It is proper to add, however, and the Cymmrodorion, or Fellow- that the gentleman here alluded to countrymen-each being particularly was only once under the necessity of devoted to the purpose above men- trespassing on his patron's munif. tioned. The first of these institu- cence, and he then found him true tions was founded in the year 1771, to his benevolent promise ; yet it by Owen Jones, the collector of the takes nothing from the merit of his Archaiology, whose whole life was intention that it was not more fully dedicated to the preservation of the executed. It should also be remem. literary treasures of his country. bered, that, by his judicious discernThis excellent man, with a persever- ment in this instance, and by his ance as ardent as it was inflexible, encouraging instigation, he was the employed his time and his purse in means of bringing into public notice the collection of all the ancient ma an individual, moving in the lowest nuscripts relating to the history, ranks of life, who has since proved poetry, and antiquities of Wales ; himself a distinguished proficient in and, in addition to those of which the national literature of his country*. the Archaiology consists, he succeed The Cymmrodorion Society-of ed in obtaining nearly one hundred which, we are happy to observe, Sir quarto volumes of Welsh poetry, Walter Scott and Mr Southey are which have been lately purchased by honorary members--has been estaba the Cymmrodorion Society. There lished little more than two years +. is one event relating to the benefi- It was founded by some of the leadcence of this generous Welshman, ing members of the Gwyneddigion, which cannot be too highly estima- and is more likely to prove beneficial ted. A few years after the establish. to the literary interests of the Princiment of the Gwyneddigion Society, pality than any other Society with the author of a celebrated Welsh Es- which we are acquainted. Its avowsay, to which one of the Society's ed object is, “ to preserve and illusprizes had been awarded, attracted, trate the remains of ancient British in consequence, the notice of its li- literature, and to promote its future beral founder. A correspondence cultivation by every means in its between them was the result, in the power.” If the members will be or lost in the baneful vortex of theological controversy. I do not state this, however, as a universal position ; but that it is the general case, every man of candour will grant. Even with those of the most liberal attainments, whatever knowledge they possess of the Welsh tongue, is, in most cases, devoted rather to the objects I have briefly alluded to, than to the more classical purpose of illustrating those valuable treasures which antiquity has to reveal. Whatever be the grounds upon which this peculiarity, in the character of the Welsh, is to be defended, it is no less true, that it is the main cause of their general disrelish for those literary pursuits in which other nations are known to exult.”
Cambro-Briton, Vol. I. p. 22. + Properly speaking, this Institution was originally formed in the year 1751, but, during the late protracted war, it sunk into inaction, and, in fact, ceased to exist. Its present revival, under the sanction and patronage of our most gracious Majesty, may be considered, in every respect, as an original formation. Esto perpetua !
active and vigilant, much good willing all the persevering efforts of the undoubtedly accrue from their pro- Conqueror, the Cambro-British were ceedings; and we rejoice to find that by no means disposed to submit the preparations for their first volume tranquilly to the domination of the of Transactions afford such good English Justinian. Several circumnearnest of their future operations. stances contributed to render them But they must not relax in their ex thus discontented and contumacious. ertions; the utmost activity and In the first place, the rigorous seveperseverance must be exercised, if rities which Edward was compelled they wish to achieve those ends to exercise towards them, for the purwhich their Society is so well calcu- pose of breaking down and taming lated to accomplish ;-and, if they their fiery and unbending spirit, will exert themselves, we shall not were by no means calculated to im. be without hope, that
press them with any very favourable Learning once more shall round high opinion of the clemency of their conSnowdon rise,
queror. Edward perhaps treated the Beam o'er his head, and blossom to the does not appear to have sufficiently
Welsh with too much rigour. He skies. On Truth's bright wings to Fame eternal considered the natural warmth and
ardour of their character; nor does Till time shall fail, and record be no more.
he seem to have paid sufficient at
tention to the manner in which this The existence of this Institution impetuous character had been fosterdoes not, by any means, invalidate ed by freedom, and by all the ordithe truth of our assertions respecting nary occupations incident to a nation the indolence and inattention of the of untutored warriors. Welsh. On the contrary, it renders His treatment of Dafydd, the our position the more apparent; for, rightful successor to the sovereignalthough this Society has been now ty of Wales, was cruel and horrible established more than two years, yet in the extreme. This prince, instiwe regret to say, that a very small gated by some private quarrel, had, proportion only of the gentlemen re in the early part of his life, deserted sident in Wales have condescended bis brother Llewelyn, the last-crownto afford it support by becoming ed monarch of Wales, and entered members. This apathy is, indeed, a into the service of the King of Engreproach to a people so ancient and land. Edward, well aware of the generous as the Welsh ; and happy importance of cultivating the goodshould we be if the censure which will of his new ally, created him a we have thus ventured to apply Knight, and subsequently conferred should have the effect of awakening, upon him the dignity of a Baron ; in their bosoms, some sparks of that and by these, and other marks of dispatriotic fire which is so congenial to tinction, he won the regard of the the manners of an honourable na Welsh Prince. About a year, howtion. But this, we confess—and we ever, before the death of Llewelyn, confess it with sorrow-is nearly Dafydd became reconciled to his hopeless ; and we have prefaced our brother, and returned to Wales to article with these remarks, more for fight under his standard, and to cothe purpose of offering some apology operate with the Welsh, in their for the apparent idleness of Welsh struggle with the English. All their scholars, than with the hope of sti- patriotic efforts were, however, inmulating the Welsh, in general, to effectual. Llewelyn was slain at the exertion. And having, to the best Battle of Buellt, -his countrymen of our power, accomplished our pur were conquered, and his brother pose in this respect, we will now Dafydd, a short time afterwards, fell proceed to the more immediate object into the hands of his enemies, by of our Essay, namely, the Meinoirs whom he was formally tried and of Owain Glyndwr.
condemned, for swerving from his The conquest of Wales, by Ed. allegiance to the King of England, ward the First, reduced the Welsh This proceeding was, it is true, perto a state of bondage, as severe as it fectly consistent with the principles of was unmerited ; and, notwithstand- justice and of monarchical right; but
we question whether it was altoge- stop here. There was another deed ther politic. There can be no doubt, of wrong and cruelty to be performthat the subsequent execution of this ed, and that was the persecution of prince, attended, as it was, with such the bards, and the destruction, by horrid and deliberate barbarity *, measures neither mild nor justifiroused most effectually the indigna- able, of the influence which they tion of the Welsh, and excited them, possessed over their countrymen t, in after times, to vengeance and re- Amongst a nation of such rude and bellion. Attached, as this people untractable warriors as the Welsh, had always been, to their native the bards filled a very high and con. princes, and strengthened, as their spicuous station. We must not conattachment had become, by the cala- sider them merely as poets,—as the mities in which both prince and reciters of the heroic achievements of peasant were involved, during their their chieftains, or as the inventors warfare with England, it is not to of pleasing fictions, to soothe, in the be supposed that they could behold hour of relaxation from battle or the with apathy, or regard with any chace, the rough and irritable minds other feelings than those of hatred of the people. We must look upon and horror, the indignities which them as the performers of more usewere so relentlessly heaped upon the ful actions, -as the annalists of the head of their unfortunate Sovereign. age, and as the inspiriting encoura
But Edward's sternness did not gers of all that was noble, valiant,
The ancient punishment for treason was inflicted, to the very letter, upon the person of this unfortunate prince. He was executed at Shrewsbury; and " such," says the historian, “ was the pleasure which the death of Dafydd gave to the English, that the citizens of York and Winchester contended, with savage eagerness, for the right shoulder of this unhappy prince. That honour was decided in favour of Winchester ; and the remaining quarters were sent, with the utmost dispatch, to York, Bristol, and Northampton. To feast, still more, the eyes of the people, his head was sent to the Tower of London, and, being fixed on a pole, was placed near that of his brother Llewelyn. Every generous idea and liberal sentiment seem to have been extinguished in national hatred, and in the frenzy of joy which had seized upon the English."
Warrington's History of Wales, Vol. Il. 288-9. + Notwithstanding the assent given, by historians in general, to the massacre of the bards by Edward, we are inclined to believe that such an event never occurred. None of the numerous bardic productions, since the time of Edward, make the slightest allusion to the massacre-an omission which certainly would not have happened, had there been a good foundation for the report. Besides, the event becomes more than doubtful, when we consider the authority upon which it is founded ; and this authority, it appears, is a casual expression in the History of the Gwedir Family. The passage is as follows: speaking of a poem he has just transcribed, Sir John Wynn, the historian, remarks: “ This is the most ancient song I can find extant, which is addressed to any of mine ancestors, since the reign of Edward the First, who caused all our hards to be hunged by martial-law, as stirrers of the people to sedition." Upon this very slender testimony, then, (for Sir John made this assertion merely on the current tradition of the country,) is founded the occurrence of an event, certainly interesting in an historical point of view; and it is not unreasonable to suppose, that it chietly owes its origin to the exaggeration, prompted by that fierce hatred which the Welsh, for a long time, entertained towards their conqueror. Another writer, the Rev. Evan Evans, in his learned “ Dissertatio de Bardis," adopts the general opinion, which he supports, by asking if it be all wonderful that such a deed should be perpetrated by one who had persecuted, with so much rigour, the Princes Lle. welyn and Dafydd ? “ Cum Cambriam," he writes, “in suam potestatem redegerat Edwardus, in bardos sæviit tyrannûm instar, ET MULTOS SUSPENDI FECIT. Quid mirum," he continues, “ cum ipsum Leolinum principem, et Davidem fratrem tam inhumaniter tractaverit ?" Our author, as he wrote his Dissertation many years suba sequent to the compilation of the Gwedir History, most likely relied upon the authority of that work, (which, indeed, he quotes,) and chronicled the event accordingly. If Edward, however, did not actually destroy the bards, he adopted measures to prevent them from exercising their office, and the detestation, occasioned by this circumstance, most probably contributed to the origin of an opinion so generally entertained.
and honourable, in the Aborigines of larly if we bear in mind the events our island. They related and pre which we have already adverted to, served, in their poems and songs, the to account for the cause of that great events of the State ; and, like detestation with which the Welsh the Scalds of the Northern Nations, regarded their conqueror. These riretained the remembrance of num gorous proceedings were, doubtless, berless occurrences, which would intended to awe the enthusiastic spiotherwise have been lost in utter rit of the Cymry into subjection, and oblivion. But they possessed ano to deprive them of the means, or, at ther talent, which, probably, more least, of some of the means, of rethan all the others, endeared them bellion and revenge. But, in this to the hearts of the Cambrian Nobi- respect, they proved not only futile, lity, namely, that of being most ac but prejudicial. They paralyzed complished genealogists. This, in the their energies for a while, it is true, estimation of a nation so tenacious but they eventually served to inof hereditary distinctions, was crease that ferocious hatred, which a trifling attainment: it served to knit long period of mutual hostility had more closely to the bard the inte already rendered so destructive and rests and affections of the people, terrible +. and to render him, not merely an But in order to counteract the object of reverence to the communi- baneful effects of these transactions, ty at large, but to every individual and for the purpose of establishing member of that community
his conquest on a firmer foundation, Under these circumstances, then, Edward at length turned his attenthe persecution of the bards was even, tion to the improvement of the Camof itself, an act the very reverse of bro-British; and this he endeavoured conciliating. But when we also con to accomplish, by such judicious sider that these highly-honoured measures as his superior sagacity sugindividuals were incapacitated from gested. The laws of Wales, howpursuing their customary avocations, ever effective they might have been, and, consequently, from administer. when originally framed by Hywel ing to the delight of their country- Dda, in the tenth century, had, by men, we can be at no loss, particu- the moral and political changes
• The provisions made, in the national laws, for the encouragement and protection of the bards, evince the very high estimation in which they were held by their coun. trymen. “ The domestic bard (says the law) shall receive a beast out of every spoil, at the taking of which he is present, besides a man's share, according to his rank in the household. Therefore, if there be fighting, he shall sing the Monarchy of Britain (unbenaeth y Prydein) in front of the battle. When a bard shall ask a gift of a prince, let him sing one piece; when he asks of a baron, let him sing three pieces ; and should he ask of a villain, let him sing till he falls asleep. His land shall be free; and he shall have a horse in attendance from the King. The chief of song shall begin the singing in the common hall. He shall be next but one to the patron of the family. He shall have a harp from the King, and a gold ring from the Queen, when his office is secured to him. The harp he shall never part with.” That the bards sometimes presumed upon their sacred and privileged character, is naturally to be expected ; but so highly were they venerated, that their audacity was never punished. The prediction of the oracular Merlin, to the profligate Vortigern, affords one instance of this presumption ; but Taliesin's imprecation on Maelgwyn Gwynedd, Prince of North Wales, affords a more striking proof of the boldness of the bard. The prince, it seems, had offended him, and Taliesin invoked the following curse : “ Be neither blessing nor success to Maelgwyn Gwynedd! May vengeance overtake him for the wrongs, the treachery, and the cruelty, he has shewn to the race of Arthur! Waste lie his lands, short be his life, extensive be vengeance on Maelgwyn Gwynedd! A strange animal shall come from Morfa Rhianedd, shaggy, long-toothed, and fire-eyed. This shall be vengeance on Maelgwyn Gwynedd.”.
Roberts's Chronicle of the Kings of Britain, p.121. + In addition to the provocations already mentioned, one was given by the English, previous to the conquest of Wales, which could never have been forgotten or forgiven, by a people so proud and irritable as the Welsh. In the year 1277, the Barons of Snowden, with others of the Welsh Nobility, accompanied Llewelyn to London, to do