File NLW MS 24176i-vB. - Llangollen Eisteddfod correspondence

Identity area

Reference code

NLW MS 24176i-vB.

Title

Llangollen Eisteddfod correspondence

Date(s)

  • 1850, 1857-1858 (Creation)

Level of description

File

Extent and medium

524 ff. (5 small boxes)

Context area

Name of creator

Biographical history

The Rev. John Williams (Ab Ithel, 1811-1862), Anglican minister and antiquary, took his pseudonym from the surname of his grandfather, William Bethell, but for much of his earlier life he wrote under the name Cynhaval, after his birthplace in Llangynhafal, Denbighshire. He graduated from Jesus College, Oxford, in 1835, and became Anglican curate of Llanfor, Merionethshire, where he married Elizabeth Lloyd Williams; he became perpetual curate of Nerquis, Flintshire, in 1843, and rector of Llanymawddwy, Merionethshire, in 1849. His first book, concerning the relationship between the Church of England and Rome, was published in 1836, followed by another in 1844 on the ecclesiastical antiquities of Wales. Williams was industrious both as a parish priest and as an antiquary, but his enthusiasm and Welsh nationalist fervour often outran his knowledge and judgement. His uncritical approach to historical sources was strongly influenced by the romantic inventions of Edward Williams (Iolo Morganwg, 1747-1826), and much of his work has since been discredited. Nevertheless, he was regarded by many as one of the leading Welsh scholars of his day, and was able to exert a considerable and decidedly mixed influence on the course of Welsh scholarship. In 1846, together with Harry Longueville Jones (1806-1870), another cleric and antiquary, Williams founded the Cambrian Archaeological Association, whose journal, Archaeologia Cambrensis, he edited until 1853. He also published an edition and translation of the Gododdin in 1852, established the Cambrian Journal, which he edited from 1854 until his death, and was prominent in the Welsh Manuscripts Society, editing four of its publications. The Llangollen Eisteddfod of 1858, which he organized together with Richard Williams Morgan (Mor Meirion, c. 1815-c. 1889) and Joseph Hughes (Carn Ingli, 1803-1863), caused much derision and embarrassment; Williams' own family won several prizes, and Thomas Stephens (1821-1875) was adjudicated against because he suggested that the story of Madog ab Owain Gwynedd's American expeditions was not true. Williams was nevertheless considered for the chair of Celtic at Oxford University, and he was appointed by the government in 1858 to complete the editions of the medieval Welsh chronicles Annales Cambriae and Brut y Tywysogion, which had been left incomplete by Aneurin Owen (1792-1851), and which were published in 1860. His editorial work was later severely criticised by academics, who pointed to his lack of the necessary diplomatic skills for interpreting medieval manuscripts, and also to his plagiarism of the work of others, notably Owen himself and Thomas Rowland (1824-1884). Williams became rector of Llanenddwyn and Llanddwywe, Merionethshire, in 1862, by which time he was very ill, and he died in the same year. The Ab Ithel Memorial Fund was established in his memory.

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Evan James (Ieuan ap Iago, 1809-1878), gwehydd wrth ei alwedigaeth, a'i fab James James (Iago ap Ieuan, 1833-1902), o Bontypridd, Morgannwg, y naill ar ôl y llall oedd awdur a chyfansoddwr Hen Wlad fy Nhadau, a fabwysiadwyd yn ddiweddarach yn anthem genedlaethol Cymru. Gweithiai James James gyda'i dad a chadwodd dafarndai ym Mhontypridd ac yn Aberpennar ar ol 1873.

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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 Ceiriog Hughes, poet, was born John Hughes at Llanarmon in 1832. At a very young age he had already published poems in the periodical Baner Cymru and edited a poetry column in Y Greal. His first poetical mentor was Robert Ellis ('Cynddelw'). In 1849 Hughes moved to Manchester, obtaining a job as goods station clerk in London Road. The young man soon entered the circle of influential Welsh literary figures living at that time in Manchester, a circle which included William Williams ('Creuddynfab'), Robert Jones Derfel and John Jones ('Idris Fychan'). It was R. J. Derfel who taught Hughes the value of Wales, the Welsh language and its poetical tradition and it was under Derfel's influence that Hughes added 'Ceiriog' to his name. 'Idris Fychan' passed on to Hughes his love of collecting Welsh airs and melodies, a practice which Hughes kept up thereafter throughout his life. Around 1863, Hughes published Cant o Ganeuon, a collection of Welsh airs to which he had added words of his own composition, effectively rendering the airs into songs. The composer Brinley Richards included Hughes's words to music in his Songs of Wales (London, 1873). In 1865 Hughes returned to Wales and took up the post of station-master at Llanidloes, transferring in 1870 to Tywyn. In 1871 he was appointed railway inspector on the newly-opened line between Caersws and the Van lead mines near Llanidloes. He died in 1887 and was buried at Llanwnog. A collection of Hughes's last poems, Yr Oriau Olaf, were published by Isaac Foulkes ('Llyfrbryf') in 1888.

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(1780-1866)

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Thomas Gee (1815-1898) was a Calvinistic Methodist minister, journalist, and politician, and editor of the weekly paper Baner ac Amserau Cymru.

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Archival history

Given to the donor by Sarah Pugh Jones, Llangollen.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Hedd ap Emlyn; Denbigh; Donation; May 2021; 991115325902419.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Some two hundred and sixty-seven letters, October 1857-November 1858, addressed to the Rev. John Williams (Ab Ithel), Llanymawddwy, Merioneth, mostly concerning the organisation of the Eisteddfod ('Eisteddfod Fawr Llangollen') held at Llangollen, Denbighshire, 20-24 September 1858.
Among the correspondents are the other main organisers T. R. Lloyd (Estyn) (ff. 22, 29, 45, 139-40, 252-3, 266-7, 293, 338-9, 349-50, 360-1, 388, 415, 447-9, 500-1), Joseph Hughes (Carn Ingli) (ff. 137, 272-3, 286, 298, 346, 378-9, 421) and R. W. Morgan (Môr Meirion) (ff. 172-4, 335, 364-5), as well as Edward Humphreys and William Hughes, joint secretaries of the local committee in Llangollen (ff. 61-2, 215-9, 260-1, 268, 287-8, 303-4, 336-7, 342-5, 380-3, 419-20, 433-4, 465, 479, 484). Other correspondents include Owen Humphrey Davies (Eos Llechid) (ff. 9-10, 60, 306-7, 319-20), D. Silvan Evans (ff. 12-3, 141, 208-9, 348, 362-3), Edward Roberts (Iorwerth Glan Aled) (ff. 14-15), Owen Wynne Jones (Glasynys) (ff. 18-9, 109-10, 149-50, 193-4, 401-3, 470-1, 494-5), John Jones (Ioan Emlyn) (ff. 74-5), Wm Ambrose (Emrys) (ff. 90-91), Hugh Hughes (Tegai) (ff. 96, 168, 515-6, 520-1), Evan James (I. ab Iago) (f. 102), R. Ellis (Cynddelw) (ff. 127-8, 198), Jane Williams, Ysgafell (ff. 129-30), Rowland Williams (Hwfa Môn) (ff. 131, 235-6), Morris Williams (Nicander) (ff. 142-3, 411-2), John Davies (Brychan) (ff. 229-30), John Ceiriog Hughes (f. 239), Lewis William Lewis (Llew Llwyfo) (ff. 262-5, 294-5, 317-8, 508-9), Angharad Llwyd (ff. 300, 475), James James (Iago Emlyn) (ff. 315-6), John Owen (Owain Alaw) (ff. 376-7, 397-8, 441-2, 460-1), Thomas Gee (ff. 476-8) and Robert John Pryse (Gweirydd ap Rhys) (ff. 503-7). The letters concern various aspects of the Eisteddfod arrangements, including fundraising, the tent, accommodation, competitions, adjudicators, prizes, music, advertising and publicity. Many letters, especially from Ab Ithel's friends, also concern a variety of other matters. A single letter, from Edward A. Freeman, Dursley, is dated 25 October 1850 (ff. 1-2).

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling

Accruals

System of arrangement

Arranged chronologically at NLW: (i) 1850, October 1857-January 1858; (ii) February-April 1858; (iii) May-June 1858; (iv) July-August 1858; (v) September-November 1858.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Conditions governing reproduction

Usual copyright laws apply.

Language of material

  • English
  • Welsh

Script of material

Language and script notes

English, Welsh.

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

For a further nineteen letters to Ab Ithel concerning the Eisteddfod see NLW MS 23104D. For other papers of Ab Ithel see NLW MSS 17163-17190.

Related descriptions

Publication note

Hedd ap Emlyn, 'Llangollen Eisteddfod - September 1858', <http://www.llangollen.com/llangollen-eisteddfod-september-1858/> [accessed 15 June 2021].

Notes area

Note

Title based on contents.

Alternative identifier(s)

Alma system control number

991115325902419

Access points

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Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru = The National Library of Wales

Rules and/or conventions used

Description follows NLW guidelines based on ISAD(G) 2nd ed.; AACR2; and LCSH

Status

Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

June 2021.

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Sources

Archivist's note

Description compiled by Rhys Jones.

Accession area