Emrys Ap Iwan

views updated


Methodist minister, Welsh critic; b. Abergele, March 24, 1851; d. Rhewl, Denbighshire, Jan. 6, 1906. Robert Ambrose Jones (his real name), who was partly of French origin, studied on the Continent, later taught English in Switzerland, and was ordained a Methodist minister in 1883. His vital contribution to Welsh literary studies was the discovery that the definitive period of Welsh classical prose was the renaissance era between the Protestant reform and the Methodist revival that originated with the work of Gruffydd Robert of Milan. This conclusion was the fruit of his search for the finest instrument of clarity and style for the propagation of the Gospel in Welsh. His study of Welsh classical poetry also brought him face to face with the Catholic past of Wales. His esteem for Pascal deepened his interest in Catholicism as he saw its organic and sacramental strength in contrast with divisive tendencies in Nonconformity. But his hatred of clericalism, reinforced by the influence of the French anticlerical pamphleteer Paul Louis Courier, posed a dilemma that he never resolved. However, he objectified it in Breuddwyd Pabydd Wrth Ei Ewyllys (posthumous, 1931, A Papist's Wishful Dream), which depicted a future Catholic Wales, reconverted by a native clergy, as the link between Welsh Christian culture and Catholic truth. A proper study of the native language, he thought, would aid in this process. This view involved him in public dispute with Methodist leaders over their policy of opening English churches in predominantly Welsh localities, thereby weakening the currency of the Welsh language. He devoted himself to the education of children through the medium of Welsh, and his uncompromising stand for the purity of Welsh was a Christian defense of the cultural bases of Christianity. He was a prolific writer of homilies, sermons, and essays, a master of a rational and discursive style far removed from the evangelical exhortatory fervor of early Methodism. His works, prophetic in their diagnosis of Welsh cultural developments, continue to exercise great influence in contemporary Wales.

Bibliography: emrys ap iwan, Detholiad o erthyglau a llythyrau, ed. d. m. lloyd, 2 v. (Aberystwyth 193740). Dictionary of Welsh Biography down to 1940 (London 1959) 509510. j. s. lewis, Ysgrifau dydd Mercher (Aberystwyth 1945). t. g. jones, Cofiant Emrys ap Iwan (Cardiff 1912).

[c. daniel]