File NLW MS 2340C - Letters

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NLW MS 2340C




  • [19 cent.]-[20 cent.] (Creation)

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John Cowper Powys (1872-1963), was a prolific novelist, poet, and literary critic. He wrote one of the most remarkable autobiographies in the English language; he was the author of several works of popular philosophy; and throughout his long life he was an obsessive letter writer and diarist. Although never fully accepted as part of the ‘canon’ of English novelists, he is widely regarded as one of the great novelists of the 20th century, and his admirers include many eminent writers and critics. He was born in Shirley, Derbyshire, on 8 October 1872. In 1879 the family moved to Dorchester, Dorset, eventually settling, in 1885, in Montacute, Somerset. Powys therefore spent most of his childhood within the borders of the ancient kingdom of ‘Wessex’. Its landscape – which was also the setting for Thomas Hardy’s novels – came to dominate his imagination. He was the eldest of eleven children in a family notable for its strong-willed and individualistic characters. Two of his brothers, Theodore Francis Powys (1875-1953) and Llewelyn Powys (1884-1939), also became distinguished writers, while his sister Marian Powys (1882-1972) settled in New York, becoming a leading lace designer and a world authority on the history of lace making. Their father Charles Francis Powys (1843-1923) was a clergyman who took great pride in his Welsh ancestry, while their mother Mary Cowper Powys (1849-1914) was descended from the English poets John Donne and William Cowper. John Cowper was educated at Westbury House preparatory school, Sherborne, and Sherborne School (1883–1891), and subsequently at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. In 1896 he published his first volume of verse, Odes and Other Poems, and in the same year he married Margaret Alice Lyon (1874-1947). They had one son, Littleton Alfred Powys (1902-1954), but the marriage was a failure and Powys and his wife eventually separated. After leaving Cambridge Powys had found work as a teacher at various girls' schools before becoming an extension lecturer affiliated to Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Between 1909 and 1930, he earned his living as an itinerant lecturer in the USA, where he won fame as an inspired and charismatic orator. His first novel, Wood and Stone, was published in New York in 1915, and his first full length work of of popular philosophy, The Complex Vision, appeared in 1920. During a visit to Missouri, in 1921, he met Phyllis Playter (1894-1982) who became his life companion, his muse, and a powerful influence upon his literary career. While in the USA Powys also made the acquaintance of several eminent American literary figures, including the poet, Edgar Lee Masters, and the writers, Theodore Dreiser and Henry Miller. He reached his maturity as a novelist with the publication, in 1929, of his fifth novel, Wolf Solent. Its success led him give up lecturing and devote his life to writing. In 1930 he and Playter went to live in Phudd Bottom, upper New York state. There followed two other novels of immense scope and psychological subtlety: A Glastonbury Romance (1932), and Weymouth Sands (1934). In the same year he published his very frank and revealing Autobiography. Although written in America, these books are full of sensuous descriptions of the ‘Wessex’ landscapes of his youth. Like Powys himself, many of the protagonists of his novels are introspective characters who develop a personal ‘mythology’ as a means of coming to terms with the world. In 1935, while in his sixties, Powys fulfilled a long cherished ideal by moving to live in Wales. For twenty years, he and Phyllis Playter made their home in Corwen, Meirionnydd, where Powys immersed himself in the language, history and mythology of the country. He also made the acquaintance of several eminent Welsh academics and writers, including Iorwerth Peate, the founder of the Welsh Folk Museum, and Gwyn Jones, Viking scholar and translator of the Mabiniogion. Powys's two late masterpieces, Owen Glendower (1940) and Porius (1951), belong to this period. In 1955 he and Playter moved to a quarryman’s cottage at Blaenau Ffestiniog. John Cowper Powys died at the Memorial Hospital, Blaenau Ffestiniog, on 17 June 1963.

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Sir Lewis Morris (1833-1907), poet and educationist, was born in Carmarthen. He trained at the Bar but his most important work was that done for higher education in Wales.

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Owen Morgan Edwards was a prominent man of letters, author, editor, tutor in history at Oxford University, 1889-1907, and the first Chief Inspector of Schools under the new Welsh Education Department.
O. M. Edwards was born at Coed-y-pry, Llanuwchllyn, Merioneth, on 26 December 1858, the eldest son of Owen and Elizabeth Edwards. With the original intention of entering the nonconformist ministry, he attended Bala College, and subsequently spent the period 1880-1883 at the young University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, where he studied English, history and philosophy. He spent the academic year 1883-1884 at Glasgow studying philosophy, and the years 1884-1887 at Balliol College, Oxford, where he enjoyed a notably distinguished career, winning three major university prizes, and graduating with first class honours in history in 1887. During this formative period of his life he came heavily under the influence of the aestheticism of Ruskin and William Morris, and of the Dafydd ap Gwilym Society which much enhanced his indigenous love of his native Wales. It was primarily within this Society that Edwards formed an enduring bond of friendship with prominent Welshmen such as Edward Anwyl, J. Puleston Jones, John Morris-Jones and D. Lleufer Thomas
O. M. Edwards spent the year 1888-1889 on the continent, and in the latter year was appointed Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford, and tutor in history there and at other colleges. He remained in this position until 1907 and was notable for his dedication to his lecture preparation and tutorial work. His academic publications were few until 1901 when his popular volume entitled Wales - a book on the history of Wales - was published. From 1890 onwards he also became engaged in editing a number of Welsh periodicals that compelled him to spend an inordinate amount of his time in drafting numerous articles and proof correcting. These periodicals included Cymru Fydd (begun in 1890), Cymru (1891), Cymru'r Plant (1892), Wales (1894), Y Llenor (1895) and Heddyw (1897). He also published a number of slim volumes such as Cartrefi Cymru (1896), and set in train a scheme to re-publish considerable numbers of the Welsh classics, primarily in the series Cyfres y Fil. This service was critical in ensuring the survival of a distinctive Welsh culture by providing the Welsh people with a knowledge of their past history and literature, and nurturing a school of young Welsh writers. His contribution in this sphere may be compared with that of Thomas Gee. In 1906 he also established 'Urdd y Delyn', a children's society which was a precursor of 'Urdd Gobaith Cymru' set up by his son Ifan ab Owen Edwards in 1922.
In 1907 Edwards was appointed the first Chief Inspector of Schools under the aegis of the recently established Welsh Education Department. Here, he reformed the Welsh education system by encouraging the teaching of Welsh and improving the atmosphere of Welsh schools. But he did come into conflict with the Central Welsh Board set up in 1896 over his conviction that the new intermediate schools established in the 1890s were severe anglicising influences in Wales.
Following the premature death of Thomas Edward Ellis MP in April 1899, Edwards served for one session as the Liberal MP for his native Merionethshire, but he disliked the reality of political life and decided not to stand for re-election in the general election of 1900. His intense nationalism was primarily cultural rather than political. He was knighted in January 1916 and received the degree of D.Litt honoris causa from the University of Wales in 1918. He died, still in post, at his home Neuadd Wen (an adaptation of Whitehall, the headquarters of the Board of Education in London) Llanuwchllyn, in 1920. His wife, Ellen Davies of Prys Mawr, Llanuwchllyn, had predeceased him the previous year. There were three children of the marriage, but the elder son died in infancy.

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Joseph Parry (1841-1903), musician and composer, was born in Merthyr Tydfil within a musical and choral environment. In 1854 the family moved to Pennsylvania, where Parry worked in iron rolling-mills while studying music in his spare time. His successes in composition competitions at the National Eisteddfod of Wales during 1863-1864 led to the establishment of a fund which enabled Parry to study at the Royal Academy of Music from 1868 to 1871. Having gained his degree, Parry returned to the United States, where he established a private music school before, in 1874, being appointed professor and head of the new department of music at University College, Aberystwyth, a post he held for the following six years. In 1878 he gained a Mus. Doc. (Cantab.) degree. From 1881 to 1888 Parry served as organist of Ebenezer Chapel, Swansea, and as head of a musical college which he founded, and from 1888 until his death in 1903 he was lecturer in music at University College, Cardiff. Parry was a prolific composer of songs, choruses, anthems, hymns, and some instrumental works. He wrote several operas, of which 'Blodwen' (1880) enjoyed some five hundred performances by 1896. Among Parry's other major works are the oratorios 'Emmanuel' (1880) and 'Saul' (1892), and the cantata 'Nebuchadnezzar' (1884). His hymn-tune 'Aberystwyth' has become a classic.

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Thomas Edward (Tom) Ellis (1859-1899), politician, was Liberal MP for Merioneth, 1886-1899, and chief Liberal whip, 1894-1895. He was born at Cynlas, Cefnddwysarn, Llanfor, Merionethshire, and educated in Llandderfel and Bala, before going to University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, 1875-1879. He joined New College, Oxford, in 1880, graduating in 1884 with a BA in Modern History, adding an MA in 1897. He became the private secretary of John Brunner, MP for Northwich, Cheshire, and in August 1886 he was elected as Liberal MP for Merioneth. By 1892, he was second whip in Gladstone's Liberal Government, and was chief Liberal whip, 1894-1895, under Lord Rosebery. He vigorously promoted Welsh interests in Parliament, advocating the disestablishment of the Church of England in Wales, the creation of a Welsh assembly and national library, and pushing through the establishment of a Royal Commission on land in Wales and Monmouthshire. At one time he was a prominent member of the Cymru Fydd movement. He had a great influence on educational administration in Wales. He contributed to the passing of the Welsh Intermediate and Technical Education Act 1889, and was a member the University of Wales Court and the Central Welsh Board. He was the founder of the University of Wales' Old Students' Association. He married Annie Jane Davies (1873-1942) of Cwrt-mawr, Llangeitho, Cardiganshire, in 1898. However, his health was fragile, and he died on 5 April 1899, while in Cannes, France, and was buried at Cefnddwysarn. His only son, T. I. Ellis, was born eight months later. A volume entitled Speeches and Addresses was published by Hughes and Son, Wrexham, in 1912. His widow subsequently married the Rev. Peter Hughes Griffiths (1871-1937).

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Robert Ellis (Cynddelw), Baptist minister, poet, antiquary and commentator, was born in 1812 near Penybontfawr, Montgomeryshire. He worked as a farm hand from 1822 to 1835 whilst also cultivating an early love of literary, poetic and antiquarian matters learnt from his mother and from such literary figures as Richard Morris, Pentrefelin, and the Unionist preacher Humphrey Bromley. He joined the Baptist chapel at Gefailrhyd in 1832 and began to preach in 1834. The following year he gained some schooling under the Baptist minister and writer John Williams, Llansilin. Thereafter, he was to minister at Llanelian and Llanddulas (1836-1838), Glynceiriog (1838-1842), Sirhowy (1847-1862) and Caernarfon (1862-1875). A multi-talented individual, Cynddelw was an eloquent preacher, speaker and lecturer, a fine poet and eisteddfodic adjudicator and a prolific author. He edited several poetical works, including Gorchestion Beirdd Cymru (Caernarfon, [?1864]) and Geiriadur y Bardd (Caernarfon, [?1874]). He produced Geiriadur Cymreig Cymraeg (Caernarfon, 1868), a dictionary of Welsh words explained in Welsh. His antiquarian publications include Manion Hynafiaethol (Treherbert, 1873) and a contribution of eighteen chapters to Gweirydd ap Rhys's Hanes y Brytaniaid a'r Cymry (Llundain, 1872-1874). His attachment to his Baptist denomination remained strong; he was editor of Y Tyst Apostolaidd from 1846 to 1850, Y Tyst in 1851 and Y Greal from 1852 to 1853, and wrote biographical works on the Baptist ministers John Williams, Rhosllanerchrugog, and Ellis Evans, Cefn Mawr. Cynddelw died at his old home, Gartheryr, between Oswestry and Llanrhaeadr, whilst on a preaching and lecturing tour in 1875. A collection of his poetical works, Barddoniaeth Cynddelw, was published in 1877.

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John Rhŷs, Celtic scholar, was born John Rees, at Aberceiro-fach, Ponterwyd, Cardiganshire, on 21 June 1840. He was the eldest son of a farmer and lead miner, Hugh Rees (d. 1886), and his wife Jane Mason (d. 1863). John Rhŷs was educated at Bryn-chwyth, Pantyffynnon, and Ponterwyd, and from 1855 at the British School, Penllwyn, where he became a pupil teacher. He studied at the Normal College, Bangor (1860–1861), and was subsequently appointed master of Rhosybol British School, Anglesey. In 1865 he was offered a scholarship to study at Jesus College, Oxford; in 1869 he was elected a fellow of Merton College. During the holidays he travelled and studied abroad, and in 1871 he matriculated at the University of Leipzig.
In 1871 John Rhŷs was appointed HM inspector of schools for the counties of Flint and Denbigh. He married Elspeth Hughes-Davies (1841-1911), a teacher originally from Llanberis, on 6 August 1872, and the couple settled in Rhyl. They had three daughters, Gwladus (d. 1874), Myvanwy and Olwen.
Although some of his work had already been published, John Rhŷs's reputation as a Celtic scholar was firmly established following a series of lectures he delivered at Aberystwyth in 1874, later published as Lectures on Welsh philology (1877). He was elected first professor of Celtic at Oxford in 1877, and made an honorary fellow of Jesus College. In 1881 he became official fellow and bursar of the college, and was elected principal of Jesus College in 1895.
Rhŷs's main field of interest was Celtic and Welsh philology. However his scholarly research extended beyond philology and his published works related to grammar, Celtic history, folklore, ethnology, and archaeology. He travelled throughout Britain, Ireland, and Europe recording Celtic inscriptions, in particular Ogam inscriptions.
John Rhŷs was a prominent figure in academic and public life; in addition to his scholarly research he was a popular public speaker, especially in eisteddfodau. He was president of the Dafydd ap Gwilym Society at Oxford from its formation in 1886, and chairman of the council of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion. He served as member of various committees, councils and commissions and, at the time of his death, he was chairman of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales and Monmouthshire.
Several honours were bestowed upon him during his lifetime, including the honorary degree of LL.D., University of Edinburgh (1893); honorary D.Litt., University of Wales (1902); fellow of the British Academy (1903); and the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion medal (1912). In 1907 he was knighted, in recognition of his contribution to public services; and he was made a member of the privy council in 1911.
John Rhŷs died at The Lodgings, Jesus College, Oxford, on 17 December 1915; he was buried at Holywell cemetery, Oxford. The British Academy founded the annual Sir John Rhŷs Memorial Lecture; the inaugural lecture was given by his former student, Sir John Morris-Jones, and contains a comprehensive bibliography of his mentor's published works.

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The Rev. Thomas Charles Edwards (1837-1900), minister and academic, was the grandson of Thomas Charles (1755-1814), and son of Lewis Edwards, who had opened a religious academy in Bala (later Bala College) in Bala, Merionethshire, with his brother-in-law, David Charles, to train ministers of the Calvinistic Methodist denomination. Thomas Charles Edwards went to Bala College, and then to Oxford, graduating in 1862. He married Mary, née Roberts, and had four children. He became a minister in Liverpool, Lancashire, and in 1872 was appointed first Principal of the University College of Wales in Aberystwyth, Cardiganshire., a post he held until 1891. He became Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in 1887. In 1891, he became Principal of Bala College, and he died in 1900.

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Miscellaneous autograph letters, the correspondents including John Barrow (Prince Edward Island), Francis Buckland, Sir Edward Burne-Jones, Philip Burne-Jones, John 3rd Marquis of Bute, William Benjamin Carpenter, David Charles (the younger, Carmarthen), Frances Power Cobbe, Griffith Davies, F.R.S., John Cadvan Davies (Cadvan), W. Cadwaladr Davies, G. A. Denison (archdeacon of Taunton), J. P. Earwaker, Edward Edwards (Llanuwchllyn), Sir Owen M. Edwards, John Gwenogvryn Evans, Lewis Edwards, Thomas Charles Edwards, Robert Ellis (Cynddelw), Thomas Edward Ellis, Max Förster (Munich), Thomas Frewen, W. E. Gladstone, Laurence Housman, Father Ignatius (Llanthony), John Banks Jenkinson (bishop of St. Davids), L. D. Jones (Llew Tegid), W. Basil Jones (bishop of St. Davids), Joseph Loth (Rennes), H. E. Manning, Sir Lewis Morris, J. H. Newman, Kate Norgate, James Gordon Oswald, C. T. Owen (Hampstead), Sir Richard Owen, Alfred Neobard Palmer, Joseph Parry, John Cowper Powys, J. Roland Phillips, Evan Rees (Dyfed), William Rees (Llandovery), Henry Richard, Brinley Richards, Sir John Rhys, Jeremy Taylor (a modern transcript), Connop Thirlwall (bishop of St. Davids), Brandon Thomas, William Thomas (Islwyn), Sir John Williams (first President of the National Library of Wales), Samuel Wilberforce (bishop of Oxford), and E. Llywelyn Williams (New York).

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English, Welsh, French

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Preferred citation: NLW MS 2340C

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  • Text: NLW MS 2340C.