Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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ROBERTS , ELIS (d. 1789 ), cooper, ballad-writer, and composer of interludes ;

a man of Llanddoged parish near Llanrwst . The place and year of his birth are alike uncertain but it is probable that he came to Llanddoged from Merioneth , [in fact one of his poems implies that he was born at Bala ]. In the Llanddoged parish registers there is a definite reference to ‘ Ellis Roberts Cooper and Elizabeth his Wife’ under the date 1753 . We cannot, however, be sure that the entries relating to christenings, between 1742 and 1748 , of the children of ‘ Ellis Robert and Ellen his wife’ refer to the same persons. The name of his wife from 1765 on is given as Grace . Under the date 1 Dec. 1789 we get the entry ‘ Ellis Roberts was buried.’ In a poem begging for the gift of a small spinning-wheel, 1767 ( Cwrtmawr MS. 46 ) Elis refers to his family, his poverty, and, half penitently, to his own dissipation. Of his work there remain some ballads (see J. H. Davies , Bibliog. of Welsh Ballads ), and interludes, and a series of nine ‘letters’ (e.g. one the title of which may be translated: ‘ A Serious Meditation on Death, to wit the Fifth Contemplative Letter directed to the Betterment of life in this our Worldly Pilgrimage … by Elis Roberts of Llanddoged, Poet and Cooper’ ) — see under Roberts , Edward ( late 18th cent. ) . There are at least nine of his interludes still extant: ( a ) in manuscript form — ‘ Argulus ,’ composed c. 1756 ; ‘ Jeils ,’ c. 1757 ; ‘ Oliffernes a Jiwdath ,’ 1766 ; ‘ Tair Rhan Oes Dyn ,’ before 1771 ; and his last interlude, 1789 ; ( b ) in print — Gras a Natur , 1769 ; Y Ddau Gyfamod , 1777 ; Pedwar Chwarter y Flwyddyn , written 1787 ; and Cristion a Drygddyn , 1788 . As a composer of interludes he was as well-known and prolific as Twm o'r Nant (q.v.) . His early plays are amusing and are full of traditional ribaldry but the impact of religion caused him to overload his later interludes with tedious moral dissertations. Yet in spite of his love of using the stage as a pulpit, he was opposed to Methodism . His works betray lack of poetic invention, and a dual personality. The derogatory remarks made about him by Goronwy Owen (in his letters) are well known; see also Morris Letters , i, 330.

Sources:

  • Llandoged parish registers;
  • personal research.

Author:

Gruffydd Glyn Evans, M.A., Newtown, Maldwyn

Published date: 1959