Dictionary of Welsh Biography



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EDWARDS , THOMAS ( Twm o'r Nant ; 1739 - 1810 ), poet and writer of interludes ; b. at Penparchell Isaf , parish of Llanefydd, Denbs. His parents moved when he was a child to Nant , near Nantglyn . He learned to read at one of Griffith Jones 's circulating schools, and was later put to school for a fortnight at Denbigh . In his autobiography he states that he had written songs and two interludes before he was 9 years of age, and had taken part in interlude playing when he was 12. At his marriage in 1763 to Elizabeth Hughes of Pont-y-garreg , Llanfair Talhaearn , Evan Evans ( Ieuan Fardd , q.v.) , the renowned poet and antiquary , officiated. Twm and his wife made their home at Denbigh , and he earned his living by hauling timber . Owing to certain misfortunes he soon became involved in heavy debts, with the result that he had to turn for a while to writing interludes and acting in them . When his fortunes took a turn for the better, he returned to timber hauling in Denbighshire and Montgomeryshire , until he found himself once more in financial difficulties through having become surety for an uncle of his who became bankrupt. This time he betook himself to South Wales , where he maintained himself and his family by timber hauling at Abermarlais and other places, farming a turnpike gate , and later keeping an inn at Llandilo . On his return to North Wales in 1786 he had to fall back once again on interlude acting , but eventually settled down at Denbigh , where he worked as a stonemason . For a short time in 1808 he was employed by W. A. Madocks (q.v.) on the building of the Portmadoc embankment . He d. 3 April 1810 and was buried at Whitchurch near Denbigh .

It was Twm o'r Nant 's custom, having acted an interlude for a time, to have it printed and published in pamphlet form. The interludes which he wrote in his youth have disappeared, but the following have survived: Tri Chydymaith Dyn , Cyfoeth a Thlodi , Cain ac Abel , Pleser a Gofid , Tri Chryfion Byd , Pedair Colofn Gwladwriaeth , Cybydd-dod ac Oferedd , Y Farddoneg Fabilonaidd . These interludes contain a good deal of social criticism. Twm 's two main characteristics, his ready wit and his facility in versification, account for many a scathing passage in his works, and also for the fact that some of his verses remained in the popular memory for generations. (It will be recalled how Mari Lewis , in Daniel Owen 's novel, Rhys Lewis , was continually quoting ‘ Tomos o'r Nant .’) A collection of his poems, entitled Gardd o Gerddi and printed at Trevecka , appeared in 1790 . An occasional well-turned couplet in his cywyddau proves that he was conversant with the works of the 15th and 16th cent. poets . He had collected a number of manuscripts , which he sold to William Owen Pughe and which are now at the British Museum .

Twm o'r Nant was a prominent competitor in the early eisteddfodau patronized by the Gwyneddigion Society . In the eisteddfod held at Corwen in May 1789 the adjudicators failed to agree as to who should be given the prize, and the productions of Twm o'r Nant , Jonathan Hughes , and Gwallter Mechain (qq.v.) were submitted for judgement to the Gwyneddigion Society of London , who decided in favour of Gwallter . David Samwel (q.v.) , however, favoured Twm , and sent him a silver writing-pen as a consolation prize. Twm was again unsuccessful at the eisteddfod held at Bala in Sept. 1789 , but he staged an interlude in the town for a few days after the eisteddfod. In 1790 , at S. Asaph , he was given the prize for extempore verse-writing , but won nothing at Denbigh in 1792 or at Caerwys in 1798 .

Bibliography:

  • [ G. G. Evans , in Llenyddiaeth Cymru o 1450 hyd 1600 , July 1950 , July 1953 ];
  • Gwaith Thomas Edwards (Twm o'r Nant) , Liverpool, 1874, 1889 (ed. Isaac Foulkes ), 1874 , 1889 ;
  • Gardd o gerddi, neu, Gasgliad o ganiadau sef, carolau, cerddi, awdlau, englynion a chywyddau, etc., gwedi eu cyfansoddi ar amrywiol destynau a mesurau yn Gymraeg; ynghyd ?hyfieithiad ar ychydig nifer i'r Saes'neg , 1790, Merthyr Tydfil, 1826 , 1790 , 1826 (two editions, Ruthin and Merthyr Tydfil);
  • Hunangofiant a Llythyrau Twm o'r Nant , Cardiff, 1948 (ed. G. M. Ashton ), 1948 ;
  • D. D. Williams , Twm o'r Nant , Bangor, 1911 , 1911 ;
  • R. T. Jenkins , Hanes Cymru yn y Ddeunawfed Ganrif , Cardiff, 1928 , 1928 , chapter v;
  • Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies , iv, 103.

Author:

Principal / Sir Thomas Parry, D.Litt., (1904-85), Bangor / Aberystwyth