Edwards, Charles (DNB00)

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EDWARDS, CHARLES (d. 1691?), Welsh author, was entered in 1644 as a student of All Souls' College, Oxford, at the age of sixteen, his father being described as a plebeian. It is supposed that his father was Robert Edwards of Cynlleth, that he was born at Rhyd-y-Croesau in Denbighshire, and that he received his early education either at Ruthin or Oswestry. It is almost certain he never received episcopal ordination. In 1648 Edwards replied to the parliamentary visitors at Oxford, 'I humbly submit to this visitation as far as its proceedings be according to the laws of the land and the statutes of this university,' and this answer was not deemed satisfactory. On 14 June he was expelled, but through the kind offices of some friends he was elected to a scholarship at Jesus College 27 Oct. 1648, On 30 Oct., when the old fellows and scholars were expelled, Edwards was allowed to remain. In June 1649 he was appointed to make a Latin declamation in praise of clemency, and his freedom of speech appears to have given great umbrage. He says: 'Whether my discours of clemency procured me severity I cannot tell, but sure I am that soon after it was used towards me.' Yet he was afterwards made an honorary fellow. In the same year he was awarded the place and emolument of Bible reader. In the same year he took his bachelor's degree. He seems to have lingered at the university, hoping, perhaps, that his friends would be able to obtain him an appointment at some other college. Failing this, he settled in Denbighshire and married. In 1653 the 'sine cura' of Llanrhaiadr was conferred on him. This had been vacant since the death of Dr. John Owen, bishop of St. Asaph, 16 Oct. 1651. He preached as an itinerant, catechised the children on Sundays, and held monthly fasts on a week day in public and private. On the accession of Charles II his troubles were greatly increased, and the benefice was soon taken out of his hands. In 1666 soldiers broke into his house at night, went into his cellar, got drunk on his beer, called him a traitor, and with great violence took him prisoner and carried him to the county gaol. His release cost him time and money, and on his return home he seems to have found one of his children dead from fright. 'Within a few months afterwards,' says he, 'my wife and some of my surviving children, being discouraged in their obedience by the many injuries they saw inflicted on me, became undutiful....' His children were persuaded that it was better for them to be without him, and his wife was so far alienated from him that she importuned him to part from her and live asunder, though for sixteen years they had lived together as lovingly as any couple in the country. They separated by mutual consent, and he returned to Oxford in 1666. Henceforward he devoted himself mainly to Welsh literature, and the next few years were employed on the book by which he is best known, 'Hanes y Ffydd Ddiffuant,' which is a kind of history of christianity, interspersed with much interesting information respecting the tenets of the ancient Welsh bards. He maintains their orthodoxy, and shows that the primitive British church was independent of that of Rome. The book was published at Oxford in 1671, with a Latin recommendation from the pen of Dr. Michael Roberts, the principal of Jesus College at the date of Edwards's expulsion. In 1675 he was in London busy with the printing of some Welsh books.. In this year he published his curious little work, of which several editions have appeared, 'Hebraicorum Cambro-Britannicorum Specimen.' It is intended to show the Hebrew origin of the Welsh language. The second edition of 'Hanes y Ffydd' appeared in Oxford in 1676, the third in 1677, the fourth at Shrewsbury in 1722, fifth and sixth at Dolgelley in 1811 and 1812, seventh at Carmarthen in 1856. His 'Plain Pathway' appeared in 1682, 'Book of the Resolution' in 1684, and in 1686 'Fatherly Instructions* and 'Gildas Minimus.' About this time he probably eked out a precarious living as a bookseller, for in 'Fatherly Instructions' he says that 'British books are to be had with the publisher hereof.' His last known work is his autobiography (1691), bearing the title 'An Afflicted Man's Testimony concerning his Troubles.' It is probable that he died soon after this.

Notwithstanding the great amount of additional information discovered and recently made public in the paper read by Mr. Ivor James of Cardiff, at a meeting of the Cymmrodorion Society, 26 March 1886, still, as Mr. James adds, 'a mystery remains — how came this man, the object of so much malevolence,to be the mouthpiece of a body of gentlemen, who comprised among their number Tillotson, Stillingfleet, Baxter, Stephen Hughes, and Jones of Llangynwyd. Had he friends? They stood aloof from him; his relatives, his wife, his children, kindred and acquaintances, all leagued, according to his story, against his character, estate, and life.'

[Ivor James's Paper; Williams's Eminent Welshmen; Foulkes's Geirlyfr Bywgraffiadol.]

R. J. J.