Harris, John Ryland (DNB00)

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HARRIS, JOHN RYLAND (Ieuan Ddu o Lan Tawy) (1802–1823), author, only son of the Rev. Joseph Harris (Gomer) [q. v.], was born at Swansea 20 Dec. 1802, When nine years old his delight was to be at the compositor's frame, and when thirteen his father, finding him more inclined to the frame than to study, took him to the printing office, and for the next four years he did all the compositor's work, which included in 1818 and 1819 the printing of his father's newspaper, the ‘Seren Gomer,’ and other works of importance. After this he returned to his books, and studied Latin, Greek, Hebrew, German, French, and Italian. The progress, however, was effected at the expense of his health, which had never been strong. His first literary effort, made when he was between eleven and twelve, was ‘Cymorth i Chwerthin’ (‘Aids to Laughter’), and it passed through two editions. His contributions to ‘Seren Gomer’ from 1818 till 1823 were numerous and striking. They appeared anonymously, embraced a great variety of subjects, and soon arrested considerable attention. In 1819 Dr. W. O. Pughe sent him, in consideration of their merits, a copy of his ‘Coll Gwynfa,’ the Welsh translation of Milton's ‘Paradise Lost,’ long passages of which Harris committed to memory, this probably induced him later on to undertake the translation of the ‘Paradise Regained,’ specimens of which appeared in the ‘Cambro Briton’ and met with great approval. In 1821 he carried on a warm controversy in the ‘Cambrian’ concerning the Welsh language, which he passionately loved, and this brought him correspondence from many men of letters. He wrote two of the hymns in his father's hymn-book, and one of them continues popular. An article of his appeared in the ‘Monthly Magazine’ on the Welsh sounds ‘ch’ and ‘ll.’ His last published work was ‘Grisiau Cerdd Arwest,’ a guide to the reading of music. Two large editions were speedily sold. At the time of his death he had a Welsh and English dictionary on a large scale in preparation, and had made some progress with his ‘Geirlyfr Barddonol,’ a kind of rhyming dictionary. He died of consumption 4 Dec. 1823, when barely twenty-one.

The memoir (‘Cofiant Ieuan Ddu’) by his father is one of the most touching things in the Welsh language.

[Jones's Geiriadur Bywgraffyddol, i. 473–8.]

R. J. J.