Iolo Morganwg at Owen Jones (Owain Myfyr), 5 Ebrill 1806
(NLW 21285E, rhif 880)
Address: none Postmark: none
Status and condition: incomplete draft or copy
Gileston, April 5th 1806
Nothing ever astonished me so much as the many false accusations against me in your last letter. You desire me to look back on my own conduct from the year 1798. I have looked back on it and, what is suffuciently remarkable, have looked into your letters during the period, and in them you express the highest approbation of my conduct. I thank God that I carefully kept them to appear as evidences against you before the public.
First, you say 'recollect the Caermarthen affair'. I perfectly recollect it. I informed you that Mr Ross was in possession of a number of Welsh manuscripts, left with him as a pledge for a sum of money by Mr Evan Evans. I sent you an account of the books, their contents, bulk &c, amongst them a transcript of the identical copy of Caradoc Lancarvan that had been used by Dr Powel in his English translation in the time of Elizabeth. This manuscript has the continuations of the monks of Strata Florida, Clynog, Guttyn Owen, and Humphrey Llwyd. Another was a manuscript collection of ancient poetry from the Llyfr Coch Hergest, copied by E. Evans. Another contained interesting historical documents; there were several volumes of a Welsh conmentary on the Bible by Evans himself; there were some others, the contents of which I do not remember - but this I positively remember, that I described every volume to you correctly, that you commissioned me to buy them, that I sent every book I had described to you, and that you expressed the warmest approbation of my conduct. I have your letter on that occasion before me. It concludes with these remarkable words: 'I am yours yn ddiameu hyd farw ag ar ol hynny' ['assuredly until death and afterwards']. What am I to undestand by this? Is it that such language was only mere hypocrisy for the purpose of sinister views, whilst at the same time you disapproved of my conduct? Answer me this, Sir! I say answer me! Answer me! Deny if you dare a single syllable of what I have now said. The first manuscript alone was well worth the money that was given for the whole, the two others themselves only worth the money also. As for the commentary on the Bible I can easily conceive they were nothing to you, for they very pressingly urge an inviolable adherence to truth and rectitude. Yes, truth, Sir. They forbid deceit, delusion, and somethings besides that I might mention. Again you say: 'Recollect carrying my books and writings from Gwynedd to deheudir [south Wales], and some that you were afraid were lost'. What books, Sir? What writings? I sent what I had copied for you in Anglesea and Carnarvonshire up by the coach, and I have your own acknowledgement of their arrival and of your approbation of my conduct now before me. You had sent me four thin quarto volumes made out of an old ledger for the express purpose of copying into them whatever I might find in my travels. How could I do this with carrying them with me? Answer me this, Sir. At Dolgelley a gentleman lent me a transcript by Robert Vaughan of Hengwrt of the supposed history of Tyssilio in the Llanerch library. I copied this, Sir, into one of those thin volumes and with it from the same manuscript a Latin historical document relating to the church of Landaff. I copied somethings into one of them from the manuscripts of the Reverend Mr Davies of Penegos near Machynlleth. At Brechva in Caermarthenshire I copied into one of them an historical account of the Caermarthen eisteddfod, a very curious and intering article, which you have printed in the Greal. I copied `Buchedd Collen', and other valuable documents into those volumes. In short, I nearly filled, and how could I have done this without carrying them with me? But did I not send you these books up to London, Sir - did I not? And would you have had me send them up from Gwynedd, mere blank paper? Answer me this! As for the writings that you mention, how can you have the assurance to say that they were yours? They were not yours, Sir. They were my own journals, itineraries, various memoranda, letters &c, with 3 or 4 printed books of my own, and in the same package some cloathes that in my travels wanted mending and which I could not afford to leave behind me. These I should have lost had I not returned some months afterwards to Cardiganshire, whence I traced them to Caermarthen, and by application to a magistrate, a sufficient witness, recovered them. On what do you ground the presumption, when you call them yours? You again say: 'The time that you were here in the year 1802, and at my expence chiefly, I saw no disposition to further our concern. Your time was fully employed with the Unitarians neu'r Pengrynion hael [or the genial Roundheads]'. Who told you this, Sir? Answer me that I may call the liar to an account. Or if you invented this tale yourself, you must put up with such epithets as I may think proper to apply. I went 3 or 4 Sundays to the Unitarian Chapel in Essex Street, but what had you, Sir, to do with my Sundays? On one of these, I went with Dr Disney. One week day, indeed, I breakfasted with Dr Toulmin of Taunton at the Turks Head coffee house in the, but not at your expence, Sir. Not a single Unitarian friend besides did I see that spring at London, unless a few at the chapel on Sunday. I dare you, Sir, yes, I dare you, to produce a single instance to the contrary; but you will, I find, strain hard sometimes. As to the manner in which I employed my time that spring, from the last week of March till the last of May, I will from your own letters and those of Mr Owen, written by your order, account for it.
First. November 29th 1799, Mr Owen. `Myfyr wants you to take care to bring up all your materials for the "Bardic History", so that when we are arrived, we may all be at you, without any excuse on your part, to make you prepare it for the press, and to get it out whilst you are here.'
Second. June 30th 1800. `Myfyr is much disappointed in not seeing you here. He has it much at heart that you should prepare your "History of the Bards" for the press, and he will give you all the assistance in his power to get it out. Matters so turn out now that he cannot go to Wales, but I believe I shall come to meet you at Dolgelley. Suppose you draw out a sketch of a preface for the poetry volume of the Archiaology' &c, &c.
Third. November 11th 1801. `I regret that we cannot have you here. It is Myfyr's intention that your life should be devoted to Welsh literature. This he wants to effect by all means; even [if] he dies he has made that certain, and, a secret which, at present, you must bury in your own breast, fifty pounds a year is intend to be secured to you for life.'
Fourth. January 8th 1802. `The grand hiraeth am danat yma [yearning for you here] is to prepare your cadw o "Hanes Beirz Ynys Prydain" [record of the "History of the Bards of the Isle of Britain"], as well with me as with Myfyr. For his plan is to keep you close to that work, while we labour at things of secondary consideration.'
Thus Mr William Owen's letters, written, I have not the least doubt of it, by your order. And in many others are passages to the same effect, and one of them in answer to my complaint that my materials lay in great confusion owing to the necessities of my being oblige to leave off my studies for other occupations, to work at my trade for bread, &c; and owing to such things and the frequent and long interruptions of my studies, my chain of ideas and arrangement were so broken and all their connections so broken as to escape my memory, so that on returning to those studies and not recollecting what I had previously written, I wrote the same things over again and again and in other things only added more and more to my mass of confusion, so that I found myself more and more obstructed in my progress rather than going on. I say in answer to this complaint, which you very well know I had frequently made. Mr Owen say, `come to London and you will have all your difficulties removed. You will be enabled to apply yourself unremittingly to your "History" '&c.
It is very possible, Sir, that you may say that in all this Mr Owen exceeded his commission. Let us see, then, what your own letters say.
First. August 10th 1779, with a #10 note to me at Llanrwst. `When you have visited y teulu [the family], we hope to see you here, and that you will set in earnest to the "History of the Bards". I will enable you to print . . .'.
Second. July 2d 1800. `I never had any wish on my own concern to seperate you from your family. If you recur to my letter conveying to you the last remittance, I recommended to you to arrange your intended "History of the Bards", and that if you come here to print it, I would give you all the assistance in my power.'
Third. September 16th 1800. `You must go on with the "History of the Bards", for both your self and the benefit of the nation. When you come up to London, we shall settle this affair to enable you to go on; but this to yourself and must remain a secret. I have a bed ready for you at W. O., therefore come as soon as you possibly can.'
Fourth. August 18th 1801, to Caermarthen, acknowledging the arrival of the manuscripts. `I wish very much you were here to get with your own plan, the "History of the Bards".'
Fifth. February 11th 1802, with a #10 note. `I have inclosed a #10 note, which I hope you will receive safe. Rhywun a ddywedodd mae'r bumed ran yw o'r ddyled am y flwyddyn hon, 1802 [Someone said that it is the fifth part of the debt for this year, 1802].' Passages amounting to the same thing in many others of your letters.
Having been so pressingly invited, the later end of March 1802, fool as I was, I came up to London, and in the first place enquired what you wished for me to do, what arrangements you had on view for a third volume. The answers given me were that you were not yet fully determined. Amongst other obstacles you had no paper for printing, you and others, if I well remember, waiting for a reduction of the duty on paper, which was then, I believe, under parliamentary consideration. I was, however, desired to go to Chapman's in King Street, Cheap Side, to enquire for paper, but none then ready. However, I was desired to set about preparing the `History of the Bards'. There was nothing else for the present wanted from me. One day soon after my arrival you were at Mr Owen's, Penton Street, and in the dining room only you and I. You there asked me if Mr Owen had informed me of what you intended for me. I answered that he had intimated such things to me. `That is right', answered you, `you shall never fag any more at your trade, and be sure you do not let your family want.' You then also repeated your wish that I would go on with my `History of the Bards', not pointing out any thing else that was wanted or expected from me. When I consider all this, and all the above quoted passages from your and Mr Owen's letters, I am astonished to think that all this was nothing but a coolly premeditated plan of delusion carried on for almost three years. But to proceed. The first things that I set about was to consult such books and authors as I had conceived necessary, books to which I could not have access to in the country, intending after I had collected such authorities and documents to return to the country, for it had never been my intention to continue absent from my family during the whole of the time I might be about the `History of the Bards', but at home to digest and arrange, introducing them where necessary, the materials thus collected in London. I wished [to] make all the researches in my power into the origin of letters amongst the Cymry [Welsh], and for that purpose consulted Gori's Inscriptions, Astle, the Runic in Olaus Wormius, from whom I took pretty large extracts. I searched also the British Museum. I compare the old alphabets of the Welsh, those found on ancient monumental stones, in old manuscripts, those usually cut on wood by those who give themselves credit at this day for being the uninterrupted descendants of the ancient bards, with the ancient Gallic, the old Etruscan, the Pelasgic, Runic &c, and had the pleasure to make what I thought very interesting discoveries. I consulted the `Eddas' of Snorro Sturleson &c. I enquired into the histories of the minstrels of the middle ages, the Provençal troubadours &c, searching for every ray of light that I could find, attending to every thing that appeared to be a faint glimmer of the light I wanted; carefully perused all the Welsh manuscripts that I had access to in London, those of the British Museum &c. You knew what I was about. You appeared to be, at least, affected to be, pleased with my researches. If I had mistaken your views, and employed not my time according to your wishes, why not inform me at the time? If my pursuits were not directed according to your wishes, why did you not undeceive me? I might stop here and rest the merits of my cause on what I have already adduced, but I have something more to say - more than you, most probably, wish now to be true. After more than half the time of my stay at London was elapsed, it was determined to put a third volume to the press, consisting of ancient British or bardic ethics. You know, Sir, that you had not a single line in preparation for the press but what had been arranged by me in the country previous to my coming to London - Cattwg Ddoeth, and all that follows, for the first 120 pages. I had copied Cattwg from a manuscript in the possession of my friend and near neighbour Mr James Thomas of Maerdy Newydd. What succeeded I collected from a number of old manuscripts. When the Caer Rhun MSS arrived I employed my time in looking carefully over them, copying from them every little ethical tract or fragment that I could find, till I was unexpectedly sent, I know not certainly with what views of yours, down to Wales to go with Mr W. Davies on a wild goose chace. I have my conjectures, but I suppress them at present. I had not been long in Wales before you wrote to me that, owing to some adverse circumstances, you had for the present, stop'd the Welsh press. You tell me no more, or no more that's applicable to what I have an occasion to say now. Some time after, however, you set the press a going, and nothing put to it but what I had arranged. In what I had prepared of copy from my own manuscripts, there was a very fine little ethical tract by Bardd Glas o'r Gadair. This was printed exactly according to my manuscript; but in turning over the Caer Rhun MSS, I found a copy of this beautiful little piece preferable in many of its readings to that in my manuscript. I transcribed this, with `Geiriau Gwyndaf Hen', `Geiriau Selyf Ddoeth' and other things of the kind. I had apprized you of this, had left my transcripts in your books, and had recommended it in preference to my own copy for printing - at least some of its readings. But in my absence, it was not attended to - it was forgotten, at least neglected, and the worst copy printed. And yet you have the conscience to charge me with not furthering your concern! Do you ever - did you ever - blush, Sir? But the press works on, still, on copy that I had, that I only had, prepared, and on this for more than two years works on. Last summer you apply to me for more copy. I send you some - more than thirteen sheet, closely writen - and about a month ago, send you more than seventeen sheets again. And in answer to my letter that accompanied them you charge me with not having showed any dispositon to forward your concern! Pray, Sir, who is it then that has shown any such disposition? Not one soul, as far as I can understand. You have printed Evan Evans' jumble of ancient and modern proverbs, a most curious hodge podge for an archaiological manuscript. I strongly urged, when I was last in London, the propriety of printing the ancient collection by Gyrys o [of] Iâl in the Macclesfield MS, and the other still more ancient collection of Cattwg Ddoeth. These are properly and truly archaiological articles. But what has a collection of modern proverbs to do with such a work as a Welsh archaiology? After the proverbs of E. Evans' collection you print triades from one of the Macclesfield MSS, written by, at least in the time of, Moses Williams - i.e. written or copied from old manuscripts, for they are in such frequently to be met. I had left in your hands ever since the year wherein I did nothing, as you say, to further your concern, much better copies of those triades from the Hengwrt MSS in Mr Panton's library, but no notice was taken of them, nothing of them recollected. Now, Sir, I think that you have been yourself sufficiently inattentive to your own concerns. I have something, however, more to remind you of respecting the employment of my time in 1802. I have mentioned my perusal of the Caer Rhun MSS, and my searching them for materials for the volume at press. I did something more, however: I copied from my own manuscript into one of yours an old copy of `Ystatud Gruffudd ap Cynan', from a Blaenau Gwent MS. I copied other things besides for you. I was for some days at the British Museum, taking extracts from a difficult Latin manuscript of the extent of north-Wales, hardly a word at length in it, all abbreviations. Several of my days were engaged by you in a way that forwarded no concern. It is necessary to mention even such things whe[n] one is called to an account how he employed his time. It is very true that I employed as much as I could of my time in collecting documents for the history of letters amongst the Cymry [Welsh], a thing obviously to any man of sense of the first consideration and importance in a work which was to contain the history of our ancient literature and civilization. All the time I was thus employed, you expressed your approbation, or affected to do so. If you meant otherwise, why did you not point out my mistake? Was it not for this very purpose that you pressed me to come up to London? Why did you hold out false lights to me? What your real views were, I know not. I now find that you dealt much in mystery, meant something very different from what you ostensibly held out to me as the object of my attention - but you last letter intimates that you meant a very different thing. If you were sincere then, you are not so now. If I am to understand what your last letter intimates, you wheedled me up to London for purpose widely different from that of preparing the `History of the Bards' for the press. There is something in your conduct towards me that is and has been jesuitical in an abominable degree. So much cavil, prevarication, quibbling, shuffling and falsehold I never found crowded into so small a compass as that of your last letter. I believed for more than thirty years that you were the last man in the world to whom I should feel myself under the sore necessity of applying such epithets.
In 1799 I was in north Wales &c for you from the latter end of April, when I set out, to the middle of November, I believe, when I arrived at home. Enquire at Hafod, at Mr Panton's, at Mr Davies, Bangor, at Beaumaris, at Mr Peter Williams, Llan Rug &c, &c whither I did not apply myself with the greatest dilligence to your concerns. When it is considered that in all those places, I perused no less than three hundred volumes, refering at every article of poetry to your catalogues which I had with me, I believe it will appear that I could not be idle. Look at what I sent you from north Wales, and also what I sent you from south Wales in the four thin volumes that I carried with me from Gwynedd to deheudir, collecting into them as I went along. Recollect what I afterwards did for you in the country at home the winter of 1799 &c. I copied Cattwg Ddoeth - consult the note on the first page of it. Of all that has been printed in the Archaiology this is the most valuable, in the same degree that wisdom is superior to every thing else. I prepared afterwards a manuscript volume for you of ethical tracts and fragments, collect from a great number of old manuscripts. I copied for you `Triöedd Ynys Prydain', `Brut y Tywysogion', `Brut Ieuan Brechva', and other historical documents. I copied `Meddygon Myddfai' [The Physicians of Myddfai] for your use. I sent up many curious things besides. I went on many excursion - 50, 60, 80 and more miles from home - in quest of manuscripts. I went in my round about way to Myddfai more than 100 miles and returned the same, so that on this occasion I travelled more than 200. In looking over my journals and itinerary and summing up the whole, I find that I have travel'd afoot for you more than two thousand miles from first to last. During the years 1799, 1800, 1801 and half 1802, my time was almost entirely employed on your concerns and in furthering them as much as lay in my power - years wherein travelling expences were enormously great, so great that what you remitted to me from time to time never left me sixpence a day clear towards the support of my family. I confess that in several of your letters you permit me to draw upon you, but did I ever do so? No, Sir. I left it to your conscience, and with copies of this letter to you, which will in a few days be exhibited before the public, will appear the amount of all that ever I had for my time, and but for your duplicity towards me, and your willfully false accusations of me, every thing should have remained unknown to the world for my part. For I was so much on my own hobby horse that I willing did and suffered every thing in my power for the cause in which I was engaged.
Whilst at London in the spring of 1802, I employed much - tho not all - of my time in furnishing myself with such authorities, documents and assistances as were no where accessible to me but at London, intending that as soon as I had accomplished this, to return to London with some copy ready for the press. For, whatever you might think, who never knew what family affections were, I did not intend to be all the while absent from my family. I say, poor, and that chiefly from my having had any thing to do with you, Sir. But instead of this, you informed me that Mr Walter Davies had through your interference solicited my assistance in the agricultural survey of south Wales. I believed that this had originated with him. I felt an aversion to it, for I had suffered much from such rambles and I found that it greatly frustrate and derange my studies, and of such derangements you know I had several times complained, but I obviously saw that you had a desire for me to do so, to go with Mr W. Davies, and I acquiesced, and on terms that you had proposed. I say I saw that you wished it to be so, but for what reason was not clear to me. I conceived, however, that it might be with a view for me to enquire as I went along for manuscripts for you. Right or wrong I know not, but I took it for granted in my own mind that it was so. However, I found when on my travels in Wales that the nature of my employments there would by no means admit of such enquiries, and tho I picked up a few things they were of no importance. Where you found your views disappointed in this, I know not, for your views were too mysterious for me to understand; but I soon heard from you that the Welsh press was stopt. I strongly suspected then that you wanted to extricate yourself from me, but I afterwards upbraided myself for thus suspecting a man whom I had always till then considered as a person of the most inviolable integrity. So I fairly scouted my suspicions far away, returned home. I divided my studies, part of my time employed on the survey, part on the `History of the Bards', and endeavouring to go on with the last in such a progression which, tho' slow, would be subject to those interruptions that break concaterations of ideas and connections of arrangements, still believing that I should, as you had unsolicitedly promised, be more or less assisted in this study and enabled to pursue it. I had, when I left the country for London in March, informed those that would have gladly employed me at my trade that I could not do their work, that I had otherwise engaged myself. Of course, having expended nearly the whole between myself and family, and the whole distressingly as I was all the while on travelling expences, when I returned home, I found myself destitute of every thing but what I was obliged to take upon credit, and employment at my trade I had not. The depth of winter had now arrived. I wrote to you, told you how every thing was with me, and as you had often charged me verbally as well as in your letters not to suffer myself and family to be in want, I ventured to solicit a small some such as you might be pleased to send me; but for four or five month I never heard a word from you. At last, in April 1809, I received a few lines from you with six pounds, odd shillings - the remaining part of the #40 from W. Davies, after you had been at him for a security for the repayment of it. I understood now how I was to understand the promise of #50 p. annum to enable me to puruse Welsh literature as long as I lived, but I could not wait so many months without some means of getting a little money, and I was obliged to drop both the `History of the Bards' and the Agricultural Survey, and thro' the whole winter ramble the country, on the plan of a travelling tinker, soliciting employment to inscribe the names of desceased persons on gravestones or any thing else that I could get and do. I found by this conduct of yours that I had no friend to do with. I had in my letter beg'd of you to explain yourself how I was now to understand your promises pressed upon me, tho' unsolicited by me, of enabling me to go on with the `History of the Bards'. It was urgently necessary for me to know this, and to know clearly what was most prudent for me to be at. But instead of a candid answer, you give me only the following: `E ddaw etto haul ar fryn - nid ydyw hynn ond cawad. We shall expect I. M. mis y gog yn Llundain. Bydd wµch &c' [The sun will shine again - this is only a shower. We shall expect I. M. in London when the cuckoo comes. Farewell &c]. This, in connection with your former promises, removed all my suspicions. I once more believed you sincere in what you had promised me. Mr Owen in his letter about the same time, April 21st 1803, writes as follows to me. `We had, just as your letter came to hand, been devising means of alluring you to London, in hopes of getting you once more to work on the "History of the Bards", because this is one of the principal things we have at heart of literary affairs to see accomplished, and respecting which you had expressed some discouragement in a former letter. We hope, however, that you will set about the "History" in earnest, and that very soon. Mr Jones will, of course, do what he hinted to you some time ago, and to which you allude in your letter.' I always considered Mr Owens letters as dictated by you, and your letter quoted just now warrants my believing it to be so in the present case. But I was now under the absolute necessity of rambling about for employment, not able to do much on either the 'History of the Bards' or the report. However, I would be now and then, as often as I had a spare hour and at home, at one and the other. Both were creeping on at a snails' pace. Mr Owen, in a letter dated October 4th 1803, having received the Macclesfield MSS, expresses a wish that I would come to London. The same in another letter of January 6th 1804. These things thus continued, I, in March following, packed up my manuscripts in a box properly directed, came up to London, giving orders to send the box after me if I should write for it, but afraid to venture on taking it up with me, and only took with me the 3d and 4th vol. of the `History of the Bards' in commonplace arrangement - the two first in the box, the agricultural surveys also in the same box. But on my arrival at your house I was instantly charged with have been engaged in writing what you called a twopenny pamphlet for the Unitarians. Surely, Sir, you have conceived an unreasonable enmity against Unitarians. Have they ever injured you, Sir - or did you not rather make this a pretence for breaking off with me? I believe now that it was the last, but be it one or the other, neither does you any credit - in one case it is narrowminded prejudice, in the other an effect of rank duplicity. I saw that it was useless to write for my books and manuscripts. I resolved to take what I had in London home. I, however, experienced a wish to look into the Macclesfield MSS - copied a few things, and amongst other things the proverbs of Gyrys of Ial, telling you and Mr Owen that I had copied them, and that they were at your service for the Archaiology whenever you might have occasion for them. But the books and manuscripts that I had brought to London were wanted by me in the country, for I had now done so much on the `History of the Bards' that I was in hopes of turning it to some account (Mr Williams of the Strand had offered either to advance me some money to enable me to go on with it, or to give me the usual price p. sheet for it, to be inserted and continued in the Cambrian Register), and without my manuscripts, I could not go on. When I packed up my manuscripts I consulted Mr Owen, asked him what manuscripts he wished to keep with for the press. He only kept one, entitled by me `Gwersi Doethineb', and about that time it was intended to go on with the 3d vol. I repeatedly told Mr Owen that whatever I could furnish should at any time be sent. You had some manuscripts of mine at Thames Street, and I think that one of them that I miss and which I find on the list of what I sent in a large box directed to you, may be still either at Thames Street or at Pentonville. But I do not in the least mean to insinuate that it [is] unfairly at either the one place or the other - if it is at either, it is doubtless from inadvertency or forgetfulness. I brought my books, you know, to Thames-street. They were there pack'd up and you ordered your man to carry them to the wharf. Recollect this, Sir: you also gave me three skins and a cord to pack up a few that were still at Pentonville. Your man, D. Roberts, came there an evening or two, or more perhaps, and assisted me to pack up what I had there in the skins, and also carried a box for me to Holborn Bridge to the waggon office. This box had nothing but clothes in it. When the books were packed up by D. Lewis for me, it was in the dining room at Pentonville, not a soul there but our selves. I wish to recall these things to your memory, Sir. The reason will soon appear to you. Enquire also with Mr Owen if there were any body with him and myself when he gave me the manuscripts of mine that were in his possession, and whether I did not repeatedly ask him whether he wished to keep with him either one or the other. I certainly asked him, and he told me no. I then earnestly assured him that it was because I wanted to consult them that I took them home with me, and that they should, or copies of any thing in them that might be wanted, sent up any time by only writing to me. Now, Sir, I am going to tell why I am thus circumstantial. Mr Owen in a letter dated