Born at Penparchell Isaf, parish of Llanefydd, Denbighshire. His parents moved when he was a child to Nant, near Nantglyn. He learned to read at one of Griffith Jones's circulating schools, and was later put to school for a fortnight at Denbigh. In his autobiography he states that he had written songs and two interludes before he was 9 years of age, and had taken part in interlude playing when he was 12. At his marriage in 1763 to Elizabeth Hughes of Pont-y-garreg, Llanfair Talhaearn, Evan Evans (Ieuan Fardd), the renowned poet and antiquary, officiated. Twm and his wife made their home at Denbigh, and he earned his living by hauling timber. Owing to certain misfortunes he soon became involved in heavy debts, with the result that he had to turn for a while to writing interludes and acting in them. When his fortunes took a turn for the better, he returned to timber hauling in Denbighshire and Montgomeryshire, until he found himself once more in financial difficulties through having become surety for an uncle of his who became bankrupt. This time he betook himself to South Wales, where he maintained himself and his family by timber hauling at Abermarlais and other places, farming a turnpike gate, and later keeping an inn at Llandilo. On his return to North Wales in 1786 he had to fall back once again on interlude acting, but eventually settled down at Denbigh, where he worked as a stonemason. For a short time in 1808 he was employed by W. A. Madocks on the building of the Portmadoc embankment. He died 3 April 1810 and was buried at Whitchurch near Denbigh.
It was Twm o'r Nant's custom, having acted an interlude for a time, to have it printed and published in pamphlet form. The interludes which he wrote in his youth have disappeared, but the following have survived: Tri Chydymaith Dyn, Cyfoeth a Thlodi, Cain ac Abel, Pleser a Gofid, Tri Chryfion Byd, Pedair Colofn Gwladwriaeth, Cybydd-dod ac Oferedd, Y Farddoneg Fabilonaidd. These interludes contain a good deal of social criticism. Twm's two main characteristics, his ready wit and his facility in versification, account for many a scathing passage in his works, and also for the fact that some of his verses remained in the popular memory for generations. (It will be recalled how Mari Lewis, in Daniel Owen's novel, Rhys Lewis, was continually quoting ‘Tomos o'r Nant.’) A collection of his poems, entitled Gardd o Gerddi and printed at Trevecka, appeared in 1790. An occasional well-turned couplet in his cywyddau proves that he was conversant with the works of the 15th and 16th century poets. He had collected a number of manuscripts, which he sold to William Owen Pughe and which are now at the British Museum.
Twm o'r Nant was a prominent competitor in the early eisteddfodau patronized by the Gwyneddigion Society. In the eisteddfod held at Corwen in May 1789 the adjudicators failed to agree as to who should be given the prize, and the productions of Twm o'r Nant, Jonathan Hughes, and Gwallter Mechain were submitted for judgement to the Gwyneddigion Society of London, who decided in favour of Gwallter. David Samwel, however, favoured Twm, and sent him a silver writing-pen as a consolation prize. Twm was again unsuccessful at the eisteddfod held at Bala in September 1789, but he staged an interlude in the town for a few days after the eisteddfod. In 1790, at S. Asaph, he was given the prize for extempore verse-writing, but won nothing at Denbigh in 1792 or at Caerwys in 1798.
Published date: 1959
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