Includes letters from Rev. William Thomas to Martha Davies (his future wife)(1863-1864), a letter from Martha Davies to Rev. William Thomas (1864), a letter from Martha Thomas to Mary (?Jenkins) (1884), an envelope addressed to Rev William Thomas containing two englynions by W Rheidiol Griffiths (1870), and a photograph of Islwyn (1877).
Scope and Content
Administrative / Biographical History
Reverend William Thomas was born on April 3, 1832, at Ynysddu (now in Caerphilly). He was a Calvinist Methodist minister in Ynysddu, but is famous for being the poet Islwyn, a name he took from the mountain, Mynyddislwyn, near Ynysddu. He was married in 1864 to Martha Davies, daughter of William Davies, and died in Ynysddu on November 20th 1878. Islwyn's poems are noted for the expression of confident faith in an eternity of reunion, fulfilment and completion; he had the passion and the faith of the social reformer. He published books of poetry in 1854 and 1867, and in 1897 a complete edition of his Welsh poems, Gwaith barddonol Islwyn , edited by Owen M. Edwards, was published, followed by Gwaith Islwyn in 1903. His greatest work is thought to be The Storm, a philosophical poem in Welsh, over nine thousand lines long. His Welsh poetry, although not greatly regarded during his lifetime, is now though to be amongst the finest of the 19th century. His 29 English poems have survived only by accident after his widow allowed a distant relative, Hannah Williams of Cardiff, to look at the manuscripts, and transcribe them. Nearly thirty years afterwards, as no trace of the originals had been discovered, she published them. Islwyn was also interested in other people's poetry and edited Welsh poetry columns in seven periodicals, including The Cardiff Times and The Star of Gwent Newport (now incorporated in The South Wales Argus ). Reference: Monmouthshire Writers: A literary history and anthology W J Townsend Collins (Newport: R H Johns Ltd, 1945).
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