He himself says (Heraldic Visitations, i, 26) that he was descended from David Dwnn of Kidwelly (brother of Owain Dwnn), ‘who went to Powys after slaying the Mayor of Kidwelly,’ and through his wife Angharad Lloyd became owner of Cefn y Gwestyd. One of the Cefn y Gwestyd family, namely Gwenllian, daughter of Rhys Goch Dwnn, married Rhys ap Owain ap Morus and so became Lewys's mother. The son adopted his mother's surname. The earliest of Lewis Dwnn's poems is dated 1568 and the latest 1616 (Pen. MS. 96 (441, 586)). His wife was Alice, daughter of Meredydd ap Dafydd, and it is possible that James Dwnn the poet was the eldest of his six children.
The best evidence of Lewys Dwnn's early interest in genealogy is to be found in his own introduction to his book of pedigrees where he names the old, grey-headed bards of undoubted reliability whom he knew and the earlier generation of bards such as Gutun Owain, Ieuan Brechfa, and Hywel Swrdwal, with whose works he was acquainted. There is evidence to show that Hywel ap Syr Mathew, Wiliam Llŷn, and Owain Gwynedd (fl. 1550-90), were his teachers and that Rhys Cain was one of his fellow-pupils. In February 1585 he obtained through the influence of friends the post of deputy to Robert Cooke, Clarenceux king-at-arms, and William Flower, Norroy king-at-arms, to work (in his own phrase) ‘as debyt Herawt at Arms for the three provinces of Kymry.’ Flower died in 1588 and Cooke in 1592, but, in spite of all the difficulties he has enumerated in his foreword ‘To the Reader,’ Dwnn continued to collect his pedigrees until 1614, devoting the same care to the later portions of his work as he did to the official portions. Some manuscripts comprising various genealogical tables of his are preserved in the Egerton collection at the British Museum and in the Pen. collection at the National Library of Wales. In 1846, the whole was published in two volumes at Llandovery under the editorship of S. R. Meyrick.
He was an exceedingly prolific poet, but the marks of the decline of the poetic art are only too obvious in his works. Most of these, written in his own hand, are to be found in Pen. MS. 96. His songs were addressed to leading personalities in every part of Wales, but special attention should be paid to his panegyric to ‘Caer Dyf’ (Cardiff), 1601, his cywyddau addressed to Dr. John Davies, Mallwyd, and bishop William Morgan, 1600, and his elegies upon Huw Arwystli, 1583, and Siôn Tudur, 1602.
Published date: 1959
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