Edwards, Lewis (DNB00)

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EDWARDS, LEWIS, D.D. (1809–1887), Welsh Calvinistic methodist, son of a small farmer, was born at Pwllcenawon, Llanbadarn Fawr, Cardiganshire, 27 Oct. 1809. The family library was all Welsh, consisting chiefly of religious books, and of these Edwards made good use. His first school was kept by a superannuated old soldier, the second by an uncle, the third by a clergyman. At this last he began his acquaintance with Greek and Latin. His father intended him to remain at home on the farm. Probably about this time he puzzled his neighbours with metaphysical questions, asking, for instance, whether it were more proper to consider the creation as existing in God or God in creation. A neighbour induced the father to send him to resume his studies at Aberystwyth. He formed a permanent friendship with his new teacher, a Mr. Evans, who was a good mathematician. His resources failing, he set up a school on his own account. About this time he first saw an English magazine. A chance sight of 'Blackwood' gave him a strong desire to know something of English literature.

His next move was to Llangeitho, to a school kept by a Rev. John Jones. Here he read the classics and began to preach. He failed in fluency, and his voice was not good. In 1830 he left Llangeitho to become a teacher in a private family. Here he heard of the new university in London. He knew of no other open to a Calvinistic methodist, and sought the necessary permission of the association to study there. It was at last granted, but his funds only supported him in London through one winter. In 1832 he took charge of the English methodist church at Laugharne in Carmarthenshire, where he remained a year and a half, and had useful practice in speaking English. He next studied at Edinburgh, where he worked hard, and was enabled, through the intervention of Professor Wilson (Christopher North), with whom he was a great favourite, to take his degree at the end of three, instead of four, years. He returned to Wales the first of his denomination to win the degree of M.A. He was ordained at Newcastle Emlyn in 1837, and shortly after opened a school at Bala in conjunction with his brother-in-law, the Rev. David Charles [see Charles, Thomas, ad fin.], and for fifty years was principal of what has now long been known as Bala College. In 1844 he started a small magazine, 'Yr Esponiwr' ('The Expositor'), and in January 1845 he sent forth the first number of 'Y Traethodydd' ('The Essayist'), a quarterly magazine, which has continued to appear regularly ever since. Of this he was editor for ten years, and in it some of his best essays made their first appearance. This magazine took its place at once as the best in the language. There were essays on Homer, Goethe, Kant, Coleridge, Hamilton, Mill, &c. He was one of the most finished writers of Welsh in his day. Most of his essays were afterwards collected and published as 'Traethodau Llenyddol a Duwinyddol' ('Essays, Literary and theological,' 1867, 2 vols. 8vo). In 1847 he started the 'Geiniogwerth' ('Pennyworth').

In 1855 he visited the continent to perfect his knowledge of German and French. His college lectures were at first chiefly classical, but gradually became more theological. He lectured on the evidences, the principles of morality, the laws of thought, the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle. He did not write his lectures, but it was his habit to study each subject thoroughly, smoking the whole time. He spoke without hesitation, but slowly, so that each student could write all while listening. His best-known work is his 'Athrawiaeth yr lawn' ('Atonement'), 1860, of which an English translation appeared in 1886; and a second edition of the original, with a memoir by his son. Principal Edwards, M.A., D.D., of Aberystwyth, in 1887. About 1862 he was offered the honorary degree of D.D. by Princeton College, U.S.A., but he declined it. His own university offered him the same degree in 1865, and he went to Edinburgh to receive it. In 1876 his friends and admirers gave him a handsome testimonial, which placed him for the future in a position of comfort. He died 19 July 1887, and his remains were interred in the same grave as those of Thomas Charles of Bala [q. v.], whose granddaughter he had married.

[Principal Edwards's Memoir, 1887.]

R. J. J.