Williams, Thomas (1550?-1620?) (DNB00)

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WILLIAMS, THOMAS (1550?–1620?), Welsh scholar, son of William ap Thomas ap Gronw and Catherine, an illegitimate daughter of Meredydd ab Ifan (d. 1525), founder of the house of Gwydir, was born about 1550 at Arddu r' Mynaich, a little to the north of Trefriw, Carnarvonshire. Wood says that Williams spent several years at Oxford, but doubts his identity with the Thomas Williams who graduated B.A. in 1567 and M.A. in 1573 from Brasenose College. He was known as ‘Sir Thomas Williams’ (Hist. of the Gwydir Family, 1878, pp. 18–19) and ‘Sir Thomas ap William’ (Cambrian Reg. ii. 470, 472), so that it is probable he took orders; Bishop Humphreys notes that there was a curate of the name at Trefriw in 1573. But in his later years he practised as a country physician, and that he was then a papist appears from the fact that proceedings were taken against him as a recusant in 1606 and 1607. Aided by the powerful patronage of his cousin, Morris Wynn of Gwydir (d 1580), and of Morris's son John [q. v.], he devoted himself to the study of Welsh literature. Among the manuscripts written by him are Mostyn MS. 113 (a book of pedigrees written about 1572), Hengwrt MS. 204 (a copy of the Welsh laws, dated 1594), and Mostyn MS. 204 (a collection of proverbs dated 1620). But the great work of his life was the compilation of a Latin Welsh dictionary; the accumulation of the material took him, he says, fifty years, and the actual writing four, during which time ‘I was so instant that often when I came from the book I did not know many a time what day of the week it was and so lost my practice’ (Cambrian Reg. i. 159). The manuscript, in three quarto volumes, is now at Peniarth (Hengwrt MS. 60). It was sent by Sir John Wynn in 1623, Williams having died in the meantime, to Dr. John Davies [q.v.] , who made it the basis of the second part of the dictionary of 1632. In his preface Davies refers to the assistance he derived from Williams's manuscript, but gives the impression that much revision had been necessary to make it presentable; the opinion of those who have examined Williams's work is, on the other hand, that Davies's is little more than an index to it (Williams, Eminent Welshmen, p. 537; Silvan Evans in Llyfryddiaeth y Cymry, p. 113).

[The biographical facts are from the additions of Bishop Humphreys to Wood's Athenæ. See also Williams's preface to the dictionary, as printed in the London ‘Greal’ (pp. 61–7); Hist. of the Gwydir Family (p. 87 of 1878 ed.), and the catalogues of the Hengwrt and Mostyn MSS.]

J. E. L.