Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Jones, Richard Roberts
carpenter and fisherman, often made voyages in a small boat to Liverpool, accompanied by his son, whom he treated badly. ‘Dick’ never attended school, and he was about nine years of age when he first learnt to read Welsh. He afterwards acquired a practical knowledge of English, in which he was never very proficient. At fifteen he commenced to study Latin, at nineteen Greek, and a year later Hebrew. About 1804 he accompanied his father on a voyage to Liverpool, and was presented there with some books, which he lost by shipwreck off the Carnarvon coast on the return journey. Soon afterwards Jones ran away from home. At Bangor he was befriended by Dr. William Cleaver, then bishop of the see, who gave him Greek books and employed him in his gardens. He subsequently spent a year with the Rev. John Williams at Treffos in Anglesea, devoting his time principally to the study of Greek, but also acquiring French, with the aid of some refugees in the neighbourhood. Later on in life he learned Italian and Spanish, and was able to converse freely in them. In the summer of 1807 he journeyed to London, with many books concealed about his ragged dress. He proceeded to Dover, where he was engaged in menial work, and paid Rabbi Nathan for instruction in Hebrew, at the same time gaining some acquaintance with Chaldaic and Syriac. In 1810 he returned to Wales, and was for six months supported by the Rev. Richard Davies of Bangor, for whom he copied and corrected the Hebrew words in Littleton's Latin Dictionary. A useless attempt to teach him a printer's trade in Liverpool followed, but he attracted attention there, and in 1822 his patron, William Roscoe, published an account of his career, and appealed for subscriptions. It is said that Jones compiled a Greek and English lexicon, a Hebrew grammar, and a volume of Hebrew extracts, with vocabulary, to which were added brief Latin treatises on Hebrew music and the accents of Hebrew. But his chief work was a Welsh Greek and Hebrew dictionary, which he commenced in 1821. When it was finished in 1832 he went to an Eisteddfod at Beaumaris, endeavouring unsuccessfully to obtain assistance for its publication. The remaining years of his life were spent partly in Liverpool and partly in journeys made in search of subscribers.
On 10 Oct. 1843 he left Liverpool for St. Asaph, where he died on the 18th of the following December. He was buried on the 21st in St. Asaph churchyard, and a stone with an inscription (quoted in Byegones for 16 Jan. 1889) was placed over his grave. Jones published nothing. He was at all times slovenly in his dress and unmethodical in his habits. A somewhat fanciful portrait, etched by Mrs. Dawson Turner of Norwich, was prefixed to the ‘Memoir’ written by Roscoe, and an engraving by Burt, accompanied by a short article (reprinted in Gent. Mag. 1824, i. 65), was published. An original portrait in oils by William Roose is preserved at Kinmel, Flintshire.
[Memoir (by Mr. Roscoe of Liverpool), London, 1822, 8vo, repr. with additions, Llanidloes, 8vo (no date); Y Gwladgarwr (Chester), iv. 223, v. 29–32 (with portrait); Chester Chronicle, 23 Dec. 1843; Y Beirniadur Cymreig for 1845; Byegones relating to Wales, 1889–90, pp. 16, 20, 112, 125, 130, 164.]