Powell, David (DNB00)

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POWELL or POWEL, DAVID (1552?–1598), Welsh historian, born about 1552, was son of Hywel ap Dafydd ap Gruffydd of Coedrwg and Bryn Eglwys, near Llangollen. His mother was Catherine, daughter of Gruffydd ab Ieuan ap Dafydd. At the age of sixteen he entered the university of Oxford. In 1571 he joined Jesus College, then newly founded, and graduated B.A. 3 March 1572–3. He had already been collated by Bishop Thomas Davies to the vicarage of Ruabon, Denbighshire (instituted 12 June 1571), to which was soon added (27 Oct. 1571) the rectory of Llanfyllin, Montgomeryshire. He was elected fellow of All Souls' College in 1573, and graduated M.A. 6 July 1576. In September 1579 he resigned Llanfyllin, where he was succeeded by William Morgan, the translator, and received instead the vicarage of Meifod, Montgomeryshire. In addition to his cures, he held in succession the prebends of Meifod and of Llanfair Talhaiarn (second portion) attached to St. Asaph Cathedral. He graduated B.D. from Jesus College 19 Feb. 1582–3, and D.D. on the ensuing 11 April.

Powell must have already won some credit as a student of Welsh history, when in September 1583 he was requested by Sir Henry Sidney, lord president of Wales, to prepare for the press an English translation of the Welsh ‘Chronicle of the Princes’ (commonly known as the ‘Chronicle of Caradoc of Llancarfan’), left in manuscript by Humphrey Llwyd (1527–1568) [q. v.] of Denbigh. The work appeared, under the title ‘The Historie of Cambria,’ in 1584, with a curiously admonitory dedication to Sir Philip Sidney, the president's son; though Llwyd's translation was the basis, Powell's corrections and additions, founded as they were on independent research, made the ‘Historie’ practically a new work. Numerous editions have since appeared, and later historians of Wales have to a large extent drawn their material from it. In the following year Powell published in one volume (1) ‘The British Histories of Ponticus Virunnius;’ (2) the ‘Itinerary’ and ‘Description’ (with notes) of Giraldus Cambrensis (then for the first time printed); and (3) ‘De Britannica Historia recte intelligenda Epistola’ (London, 1585). Powell dedicated the book to Sir Henry Sidney, to whom he had now become chaplain. Pride of race led him to silently omit the second book of Giraldus's ‘Description,’ dealing with the ‘illaudabilia’ of Wales. Powell's version of the treatises by Giraldus was reprinted by Camden in his ‘Anglica, Normannica,’ &c. (1602 and 1603), and by Sir Richard Colt Hoare in 1804. Camden and Hoare followed Powell.

Powell is honourably mentioned in a report, dated 24 Feb. 1587–8, upon the state of the diocese of St. Asaph, as one of the three preachers in the diocese who resided and kept house (Strype, Annals, edit. 1824, iii. ii. 472–3). Dr. William Morgan also refers to him, in the address to the queen prefixed to the translation of the Bible of 1588, as one who had rendered him assistance in the preparation of that work. On 11 June 1588 he received the sinecure rectory of Llansaintffraid yn Mechan, Montgomeryshire. He died early in 1598. Dr. John Davies, who calls him ‘historiarum Britannicarum peritissimus,’ mentions him as one of many Welsh scholars who had at various times planned the publication of a Welsh dictionary (preface to ‘Dictionary,’ 1632).

Powell married Elizabeth, daughter of Cynwrig ap Robert ap Hywel of Bryn y Grog, Marchwiail, by whom he had six sons and six daughters. Of the sons, Daniel, the eldest, founded the family of Powells of Rhyddallt, Ruabon; Samuel (born 1574) succeeded his father as vicar of Ruabon, and Gabriel [q. v.] won distinction as a scholar.

The following are the chief editions of Powell's ‘Historie of Cambria:’ 1. London, 1584 (reprinted for J. Harding, London, 1811). 2. London, 1697, ed. Wynne. 3. London, 1702 (tract on the conquest of Glamorgan omitted). 4. London, 1774 (pedigrees added). 5. Merthyr Tydfil, 1812. 6. Shrewsbury, 1832, ed. Richard Lloyd.

[Dwnn's Heraldic Visitations, ii. 361; Harl. MS. 2299, as quoted in History of Powys Fadog, ii. 340; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. with Bishop Humphreys's additions; Foster's Alumni Oxonienses; Browne Willis's Survey of St. Asaph; Llyfryddiaeth y Cymry, 1869; preface to vol. vi. of Rolls edit. of Giraldus Cambrensis.]

J. E. L.