Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 39.djvu/108

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Morris
Morris
102

fihangel Tre'r Beirdd he was baptised on 2 March 1700. His parents at this time lived at Tyddyn Melus, in the parish of Llanfihangel. Not long afterwards they removed to Pentref Eiriannell, in the parish of Penrhos Llugwy, and it was there Lewis and his brothers were brought up. The family numbered five in all Lewis, Richard [q. v.], William, John, and Margaret, William, a customs officer at Holyhead, was specially skilful in plant lore, but, like his two elder brothers, took a keen interest in Welsh poetry. His collection of Welsh poems, 'Y Delyn Ledr' (the Leathern harp), transcribed by himself, is now in the British Museum. He died in December 1763. John entered the navy, and was killed in 1741 in the unsuccessful attack upon Carthagena.

Morys ap Richard came of one of the Fifteen (Noble) Tribes of Gwynedd, that of Gweirydd ap Rhys Goch (Cymmrodorion MSS. in Brit, Mus. No. 14942), and was connected on his mother's side with William Jones the mathematician [q. v.], father of Sir William Jones [q. v.] But he began life as a cooper, and was afterwards a corn factor. He gave his children only an ordinary village education. 'My education,' says Lewis in the important autobiographical letter to Samuel Pegge of 11 Feb. 1761, 'as to language was not regular, and my masters were chiefly sycamore and ash trees [the kind used by coopers], or at best a kind of wooden masters. . . . The English tongue is as much a foreign language to me as the French is' (Cambrian Register, i. 368). But, in spite of these disadvantages, Lewis and his brothers appear to have accumulated much knowledge and to have acquired facility in the use of English at a comparatively early age. Lewis speaks in the letter to Pegge of his youthful interest in natural philosophy and mathematics, and already in 1728 we find him a facile poet, a student of grammar, and a lover of antiquities (cf. Geninen. iii. 231-2).

On starting in life Lewis took up the business of land surveying, which brought him into association with the men of property in his district, and gave him excellent opportunities of adding to his botanical and antiquarian knowledge. On 29 March 1729 he married, and within a few years settled at Holyhead, obtaining an appointment as collector of customs and salt tax. In these improved circumstances he was able in 1735 to expend a considerable sum upon a printing press, which he set up at Holyhead for the purpose of printing Welsh books and popularising Welsh literature. It was, as he points out in his 'Anogaeth i Argraphu Llyfrau Cymraeg,' the first press established in North Wales. He appealed with much earnestness for public support, since he had gone to considerable expense for a patriotic purpose, viz. 'to entice the Anglophil Welshmen into reading Welsh.' With this object he began to issue in parts 'Tlysau yr Hen Oesoedd,' but soon had to abandon the project for want of patronage.

In 1737 the admiralty resolved, in consequence of the numerous wrecks and casualties on the Welsh coast, to obtain a new survey of it, and the matter was placed in the hands of Lewis Morris. He commenced his task near Penmaen Mawr, and carried on operations for a year, after which he was brought to a standstill by the want of instruments. In 1742 the work was resumed. He had surveyed the whole of the west coast as far as the entrance to the Bristol Channel, when in 1744 there was a second and final interruption, due to the declaration of war between this country and France. Morris now handed in to the lords of the admiralty his report of the work so far as it had been carried out. This it was decided not to publish until it could be completed, but a number of plans which he had prepared for his own convenience during the progress of the survey were, at the suggestion of the admiralty, published separately, appearing in 1748 under the title 'Plans of Harbours, Bars, Bays, and Roads in St. George's Channel.'

Morris was next appointed superintendent of crown lands in Wales, collector of customs at Aberdovey, and in 1750 superintendent of the king's mines in the Principality. Business and family ties now drew him from Holyhead to Cardiganshire, and Gallt Fadog in that county became for several years his home.

Meanwhile his official duties were heavy, and necessitated frequent journeys to London. He was brought, moreover, as a zealous servant of the crown, into conflict with the Cardiganshire landowners, who involved him in, perpetual lawsuits with regard to their mineral rights, and did not scruple to attack his character and credit. An interesting letter to his brother William, dated 'Galltvadog, 24 Dec. 1753,' shows that Lewis was obliged about this time to satisfy the treasury that the aspersions made upon him were groundless by means of sworn testimony from Anglesey (Adffof uwch Anghof, Penygroes, 1883, pp. 4-6). Ultimately the protracted struggle with his powerful neighbours proved too much for him, and he retired to a little property called Penbrvn, which came to him through his second wife, where, as he