Morris, Lewis (DNB00)
MORRIS or MORYS, LEWIS (1700–1765), Welsh poet, philologist, and antiquary, was the son of Morys ap Richard Morys and Margaret, daughter of Morys Owen of Bodafon y Glyn. In the memoir printed in the 'Cambrian Register' (ii. 232) the date of his birth is given as 1 March 1702; in that prefixed to the second edition of the 'Diddanwch Teuluaidd' it appears as 12 March 1700. Both dates must, however, be wrong, for according to the parish register of Llanfihangel Tre'r Beirdd he was baptised on 2 March 1700. His parents at this time lived at Tyddyn Melus, in the parish of Llanfihangel. Not long afterwards they removed to Pentref Eiriannell, in the parish of Penrhos Llugwy, and it was there Lewis and his brothers were brought up. The family numbered five in all Lewis, Richard [q. v.], William, John, and Margaret, William, a customs officer at Holyhead, was specially skilful in plant lore, but, like his two elder brothers, took a keen interest in Welsh poetry. His collection of Welsh poems, 'Y Delyn Ledr' (the Leathern harp), transcribed by himself, is now in the British Museum. He died in December 1763. John entered the navy, and was killed in 1741 in the unsuccessful attack upon Carthagena.
Morys ap Richard came of one of the Fifteen (Noble) Tribes of Gwynedd, that of Gweirydd ap Rhys Goch (Cymmrodorion MSS. in Brit, Mus. No. 14942), and was connected on his mother's side with William Jones the mathematician [q. v.], father of Sir William Jones [q. v.] But he began life as a cooper, and was afterwards a corn factor. He gave his children only an ordinary village education. 'My education,' says Lewis in the important autobiographical letter to Samuel Pegge of 11 Feb. 1761, 'as to language was not regular, and my masters were chiefly sycamore and ash trees [the kind used by coopers], or at best a kind of wooden masters. … The English tongue is as much a foreign language to me as the French is' (Cambrian Register, i. 368). But, in spite of these disadvantages, Lewis and his brothers appear to have accumulated much knowledge and to have acquired facility in the use of English at a comparatively early age. Lewis speaks in the letter to Pegge of his youthful interest in natural philosophy and mathematics, and already in 1728 we find him a facile poet, a student of grammar, and a lover of antiquities (cf. Geninen. iii. 231-2).
On starting in life Lewis took up the business of land surveying, which brought him into association with the men of property in his district, and gave him excellent opportunities of adding to his botanical and antiquarian knowledge. On 29 March 1729 he married, and within a few years settled at Holyhead, obtaining an appointment as collector of customs and salt tax. In these improved circumstances he was able in 1735 to expend a considerable sum upon a printing press, which he set up at Holyhead for the purpose of printing Welsh books and popularising Welsh literature. It was, as he points out in his 'Anogaeth i Argraphu Llyfrau Cymraeg,' the first press established in North Wales. He appealed with much earnestness for public support, since he had gone to considerable expense for a patriotic purpose, viz. 'to entice the Anglophil Welshmen into reading Welsh.' With this object he began to issue in parts 'Tlysau yr Hen Oesoedd,' but soon had to abandon the project for want of patronage.
In 1737 the admiralty resolved, in consequence of the numerous wrecks and casualties on the Welsh coast, to obtain a new survey of it, and the matter was placed in the hands of Lewis Morris. He commenced his task near Penmaen Mawr, and carried on operations for a year, after which he was brought to a standstill by the want of instruments. In 1742 the work was resumed. He had surveyed the whole of the west coast as far as the entrance to the Bristol Channel, when in 1744 there was a second and final interruption, due to the declaration of war between this country and France. Morris now handed in to the lords of the admiralty his report of the work so far as it had been carried out. This it was decided not to publish until it could be completed, but a number of plans which he had prepared for his own convenience during the progress of the survey were, at the suggestion of the admiralty, published separately, appearing in 1748 under the title 'Plans of Harbours, Bars, Bays, and Roads in St. George's Channel.'
Morris was next appointed superintendent of crown lands in Wales, collector of customs at Aberdovey, and in 1750 superintendent of the king's mines in the Principality. Business and family ties now drew him from Holyhead to Cardiganshire, and Gallt Fadog in that county became for several years his home.
Meanwhile his official duties were heavy, and necessitated frequent journeys to London. He was brought, moreover, as a zealous servant of the crown, into conflict with the Cardiganshire landowners, who involved him in, perpetual lawsuits with regard to their mineral rights, and did not scruple to attack his character and credit. An interesting letter to his brother William, dated 'Galltvadog, 24 Dec. 1753,' shows that Lewis was obliged about this time to satisfy the treasury that the aspersions made upon him were groundless by means of sworn testimony from Anglesey (Adffof uwch Anghof, Penygroes, 1883, pp. 4-6). Ultimately the protracted struggle with his powerful neighbours proved too much for him, and he retired to a little property called Penbrvn, which came to him through his second wife, where, as he says, 'my garden, orchard, and farm, [and] some small mine works take a good part of my time' (11 Feb. 1761).
In spite of the pressing character of his business affairs, he contrived to devote much of his time to his favourite Welsh studies. In his youth, he tells us, music and poetry were his chief amusements. He could, according to the 'Diddanwch Teuluaidd,' both make a harp and play it, and the poems of 'Lly welyn Ddu o Fon' (his bardic title) form a substantial part of that collection of Welsh verse. He wrote with equal ease in the 'strict' and the 'free' metres, though little of his work is remembered save the well-known 'Lay of the Cuckoo to Merioneth.' He was familiar with the classical authors and acquainted with modern languages. His English style is clear and good, while his manuscript books show no small knowledge of mechanics, mining, and metallurgy. As he grew older he turned from poetry to Welsh history and antiquities. It became his great ambition to compile a dictionary of Celtic mythology, history, and geography, such as had been planned by Edward Lhuyd (1660-1709) [q. v.], but never carried out. 'I am now,' he says in a letter of 14 July 1751, 'at my leisure hours collecting the names of these famous men and women, mentioned by our poets, with a short history of them, as we have in our common Latin dictionaries of those of the Romans and Grecians ' (Cambrian Register, ii. 332). About 1760 this work, an historical, topographical, and etymological dictionary, to which he gave the title 'Celtic Remains,' was completed. It was not, however, printed until 1878, when it was issued as an extra volume in connection with 'Archæologia Cambrensis,' edited by Canon Silvan Evans. Morris himself calls it the labour of forty years, and it certainly shows him to have been a remarkably industrious and intelligent student of Celtic antiquity, and a proficient in the obsolete philology of that day.
Morris corresponded with his friends with zeal and vivacity. The three brothers wrote constantly to each other, not only on family matters, but also on literary and poetical topics. Lewis maintained a long correspondence on historical questions with Ambrose Phillips, Carte, Samuel Pegge of Whittington, Vaughan of Nannau, and other scholars ; while Welsh poetry he discussed in letters to William Wynn, Evan Evans (leuan Brydydd Hir), Goronwy Owain, and Edward Richard of Ystrad Meurig. He was quick to recognise and encourage poetical talent in others. Goronwy Owain he may almost be said to have discovered, for it was the
opening of a correspondence between them about Christmas 1751 that induced the bard to resume poetical composition after a long silence, during which Goronwy had become unknown in Wales. The friendship between the two and Morris's admiration of 'the chief bard of all Wales' lasted until 1756, when the patron lost all patience with the poet's irregular habits. Shortly afterwards Goronwy emigrated to Virginia, yet he retained enough recollection of Morris's kindness to send to this country ten years afterwards a poem in praise of his benefactor, of whose death he had just heard. The death of Morris's mother Goronwy also lamented in touching verses.
Morris's last years were spent in retirement at Penbryn, and were much broken by ill-health. He died on 11 April 1765, and was buried in the chancel of Llanbadarn Fawr, near Aberystwyth, where a tablet has been placed to his memory. The memoir in the 'Cambrian Register' (vol. ii.) is accompanied by a portrait, which is said to be taken 'from a mezzotinto print, of about the same size, after a drawing done by Mr. Morris of himself.' There is a good picture of him at the W r elsh school at Ashford, Kent.
By his first wife, Elizabeth Griffiths of Ty Wry dyn, Holyhead, he had three children : Lewis (born 29 Dec. 1729), who died young ; Margaret (1731-1761), and Eleanor.
On 20 Oct. 1749 he married his second wife, Ann Lloyd, heiress of Penbryn y Barcut, Cardiganshire. By her he had nine children, Lewis (d. 1779), John, Elizabeth, Jane (died young), a second Jane, William, Richard, Mary, and Pryse. William married Mary Anne Reynolds, heiress of a branch of the Williamses (formerly Boleyns) of Breconshire. Their eldest son, Lewis Morris (d. 1872), was the first registrar of county courts for Glamorganshire, Breconshire, and Radnorshire, and father of Mr. Lewis Morris, of Penbryn, Carmarthenshire, the well-known poet and promoter of higher education in Wales.
Morris's works are : 1. 'Tlysau yr Hen Oesoedd,' Holyhead, 1735. 2. 'Anogaeth i Argraphu Llyfrau Cymraeg,' Holyhead, 1735. 3. 'Plans of Harbours, Bars, Bays, and Roads in St. George's Channel,' 1748 ; 2nd edit., with additional matter, issued by William Morris (Lewis's son), Shrewsbury, 1801. 4. 'A Short History of the Crown Manor of Creuthyn, in the county of Cardigan, South Wales,' 1766. 5. 'DiddanwchTeuluaidd ' contains the bulk of Morris's verse, London, 1763 ; 2nd ed. Carnarvon, 1817. 6. ' Celtic Remains,' Cambrian Archæological Association, 1878. 7. Many manuscript volumes now in the British Museum.
[Life in Cambrian Register, vol. ii.; Diddanwch Teuluaidd, 1817 edit.; Rowlands's Cambrian Bibliography; Correspondence in Cambrian Register, vols. i. and ii.; Life of Goronwy Owain, by the Rev. Robert Jones, 1876; Adgof uwch Anghof, 1883; Geninen, vols. iii. 1885, and iv. 1886; information kindly supplied by Lewis Morris, esq. of Penbryn, Carmarthenshire.]