Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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ROBERTS , THOMAS ( 1765-6 - 1841 ), of Llwyn'rhudol , pamphleteer .

He was the son of William Roberts , attorney-at-law , of Llwyn'rhudol , Aber-erch , near Pwllheli , and of Jane , his wife. He was christened ‘with private baptism’ on 16 Aug. 1767 , but as he is stated to have been 76 when he d., on 24 May 1841 , it would appear that he was born either in 1765 or in 1766 . His father was buried on 16 Jan. 1778 .

Thomas Roberts states that before he was 14 years old (that is, within a year of his father's death) he left home for London . He was probably apprenticed to a goldsmith , and later he set up in business on his own account. There is extant a receipt, dated 21 Jan. 1795 , for payment to him by the Gwyneddigion Society for supplying ‘ a handsome engraved copper plate to order .’ In 1802 he was a partner in the firm of Weatherby and Roberts , goldsmiths , of 9 Poultry , and in 1805 in the firm of Thomas and R. J. Roberts of 40 Poultry . Later, however, he was in the service of another firm, and in 1820 he visited Jersey as its representative. On this occasion he visited Brittany at the expense of Richard Edmunds , treasurer of the Welsh School , London . In the next year he went as the firm's representative to Ghent , and stayed until the beginning of 1823 .

It is known that his wife's name was Mary , and that she was a native of Warwickshire and was a member of the Society of Friends . It is not certain whether Thomas Roberts became a Quaker . A daughter was b. in Oct. 1791 . The eldest son, MAURICE ROBERTS , who had translated Dafydd Benfras 's awdl to Llywelyn ap Iorwerth , d. at the age of 20 in Dec. 1812 . In all, four children died before their mother's death in March 1829 (she was buried on 5 April in Bunhill Fields ) leaving one daughter, Keturah , still alive. She was a perfumer , in business at 7, Bond Street , and it was there that her father died. He was buried on 30 May 1841 in Bunhill Fields .

Thomas Roberts became a member of the Gwyneddigion Society in 1793 , was elected vice-president in 1799 , president in 1800 , and treasurer in 1801 . He seems to have resigned his membership for a time but was president again in 1808 . He became the society's secretary in 1814 , but resigned in 1820 , although he resumed this office for a year in 1826 . He remained afterwards an active member of the society, being a member of its council as late as 1833 . He was one of the twelve founder-members of the Cymreigyddion (the first minutes of the society are dated 17 Nov. 1796 ) and was probably responsible for its foundation.

He published Cwyn yn erbyn Gorthrymder ( London , 1798 ), a satirical pamphlet mainly directed against the payment of tithes. He was not a Calvinist but, under the name of ‘ Arvonius ,’ he published Amddiffyniad y Methodistiaid ( Carmarthen , 1806 ) against the attacks of Edward Charles (q.v.) . Later he produced An English and Welsh Vocabulary ( London , 1827 ), and a phrase book, The Welsh Interpreter ( London , 1831 , second edition, 1838 ). He also published (n.d.) Y Byd a Ddaw , a re-issue of a translation by W. E. Jones ( Gwilym Cawrdaf , q.v.) of a work by Isaac Watts , which had appeared in 1829 , and Y Ffordd i Gaffael Cyfoeth neu Rhisiart Druan ( London , 1839 ), which is based on Benjamin Franklin 's Poor Richard . It is unlikely that he was the Thomas Roberts who published Stenographia ( Denbigh , 1839 ), a system of Welsh shorthand. [He often contributed to the Welsh newspapers and periodicals of the period , in both languages].

Sources:

  • Information from the prize-winning essays at the Pwllheli national eisteddfod, 1925, by Richard Jones , Aberystwyth, and Robert Owen , Croesor;
  • [ Y Cymmrodor , 1951 , 110-2, 132-3]

Author:

Emeritus Professor David Williams, D.Litt., (1900-78), Aberystwyth

Published date: 1959