Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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WILLIAMS , THOMAS ( Gwilym Morgannwg ; 1778 - 1835 ), poet ;

b. at Melin Gallau in the parish of Llanddety , Brecknock , 20 Nov. 1778 , son of William Thomas . The family went to live at Melin Pontycapel , Cefncoedycymer , c. 1781 . Taliesin ab Iolo (q.v.) says, in a letter, that when he was 7 years of age he began to work on a coal level owned by his father. Nothing much is said about his early education, but it is stated that he began to write when he was still a youth. When he was about 27 years of age he went to London where, however, he only stayed some six months. On his return he was employed by Rhys , son of Hywel Rhys (q.v.) , and it may be inferred that it was the teaching which he was given by, his master which enabled him to write, in co-operation with John Jenkins ( 1779 - 1853 ) (q.v.) of Hengoed , the first version of Y Parthsyllydd , 1815-6 . Ioan Emlyn (q.v.) in his introduction to the first volume of Y Parthsyllydd , 1870 , says that he has ‘drawn extensively on the old Parthsyllydd , the joint production of those eminent men, Dr. John Jenkins of Hengoed , and Mr. Thomas Williams ’ ( Gwilym Morgannwg ); moreover, in his introduction to the second volume ( 1875 ) Spinther says that the title Parthsyllydd was coined by them. Taliesin ab Iolo does not say definitely when it was that Gwilym Morgannwg went to Pontypridd. to keep a public-house , but he was certainly there in 1813 . In Awen y Maen Chwyf , 17, there is a copy of a letter written by him in Dec. 1813 to the publishers of Seren Gomer wishing the periodical good luck and offering to send some poetry for publication in it. He d. at Pontypridd 13 Aug. 1835 , and was buried at Llanfabon .

Two books published at Merthyr Tydfil , the first in 1824 and the second in 1826 , show how great the literary activity of that district was in the first quarter of the century, what the characteristics and qualities of that literary activity were, and how considerable was the importance of Gwilym Morgannwg ; these books are: Llais Awen Gwent a Morganwg … published by J. Davies ( Brychan , q.v.) , 1824 , and Awenyddion Morganwg, neu Farddoniaeth Cadair … a Gorsedd Pendefigaeth Morganwg a Gwent … , 1826 . From these it is quite clear that Iolo Morganwg 's views had an enormous influence on this part of the country. On pp. 7-8 of Llais Awen we find Gwilym Morgannwg 's poem ‘ Heddwch ’ …, ‘ which was declaimed from the Logan Stone in the presence of the Gorsedd of Morgannwg , at the second Assemblage, at the Summer Solstice, in the year 1814 .’ ‘ He and myself were initiated into the arcana of Druidism by my father ,’ says Taliesin ab Iolo , who adds that he was ‘ my only brother druid .’ In the other book, Gwilym Morgannwg tells us the story of the society's fourth eisteddfod at which he appears to have been one of the adjudicators . An interesting feature of his adjudication is his uncompromising opposition to the use of blank verse. On pp. 63-4 we have an account of the fifth eisteddfod held on the day of the ‘ Feast of the Summer Solstice, 1825 .’ At this eisteddfod Gwilym Morgannwg won a prize for his awdl on the destruction of Caerphilly castle . Taliesin also says that he won a prize at the Cardiff eisteddfod , 1834 , for an epitaph to be carved on Iolo Morganwg 's tombstone, and that among his effects was a silver medal which he had won singing to the accompaniment of a harp . His works, Awen y Maen Chwyf , were published in 1890 at the expense of his son, Taliesin Williams . As poetry, the value of the book is slight, but it contains some interesting pieces, such as the ‘election songs’; and the love songs, written in lyrical form, are not altogether devoid of skill and expertise. But it contains one wholly admirable poem, and that is the elegaic on Iolo Morganwg .

Sources:

  • Awen y Maen Chwyf yn cynnwys awdlau, cywyddau, caniadau, ac englynion , Merthyr Tydfil, 1890 , Merthyr Tydfil, 1890 , v-viii, i.e. the copy of Taliesin ab Iolo's letter which appeared in the The Merthyr Guardian , 22 Aug. 1835 ;
  • Hanes Llenyddiaeth Gymreig, 1651–1850 . [1893?] , 623.

Author:

Professor Thomas John Morgan, D.Litt., (1907-86), Cardiff / Swansea

Published date: 1959