Born 24 March 1851, the eldest child of John and Maria Jones, at Bryn Aber, near Abergele, where his father was a gardener. The knowledge of the fact that his great-grandfather had married a French woman who was a lady's companion at Gwrych Castle helped to foster Emrys's interest in France and the Continent generally. After leaving the elementary school at Abergele, he went, at the age of 14, to Liverpool to serve as an errand-boy to a clothier, but returned in a year's time to work as a gardener at Bodelwyddan. When he was 18 years old he entered Bala C.M. College, and after completing his course he kept school at Rhuallt, and for three months he had charge of an English church at Caergwrle. In 1874, he went for eighteen months to a school at Lausanne to teach English and to learn French and German. Although he came home in 1876, he returned for a few months to Heidelberg, Bonn, and Giessen, and continued from that time on to visit the Continent regularly. About 1877 he began to write to the Gwyddoniadur and to the Baner, living for over two years at Denbigh. He crossed swords in public with the leaders of the Calvinistic Methodist connexion over their policy of setting up English churches in predominantly Welsh -speaking localities, and as a result he was refused ordination at Llanidloes (1881), but after a keen controversy he was ordained at Mold (1883). He served as pastor at Ruthin and at Trefnant, and in 1900 he moved to Rhewl, where he died 6 January 1906, and where he lies buried. He was never married.
The late T. Gwynn Jones appended to his biography of Emrys ap Iwan, 1912, a list of over eighty of his letters and articles to the press which appeared between 1876 and his death. They appeared mostly in Y Faner and Y Geninen. Much of his work is also found in the additions to Y Gwyddoniadur. In the year of his death appeared a volume of his ‘homilies’ (Homiliau), edited by the Rev. Ezra Roberts; another volume appeared in 1909. Yet another collection of his sermons appeared in 1928. Breuddwyd Pabydd wrth ei ewyllys (‘A Papist's wishful thinking’) was reprinted in two volumes in ‘Llyfrau'r Ford Gron,’ and the Welsh Book Club has published three volumes of his writings, 1937-40. His Welsh grammar appeared in 1881, and I. Ffoulkes published his cheap edition of Y Bardd Cwsc in 1898. Much of his unpublished work is to be found in the National Library of Wales, including his translation of Renan's Job.
As a literary critic, his chief work was to trace the main stream of Welsh classical prose tradition, and he strove to restore simplicity and purity in prose, in accordance with the standards which he found exemplified in the Welsh prose classics — a task similar to that of Sir John Morris-Jones in the field of Welsh verse.
Emrys ap Iwan was strongly influenced by Pascal and Paul-Louis Courier, and learnt from them the value of a well-written and succinct pamphlet as an instrument for challenging the opinion of his time and commanding attention. The technique of his writings owes much to these two writers. His underlying aim was to restore to the Welsh nation a sense of self-respect and confidence. He strove against every form of servility, and carried the fight to the field of his own denomination and to the Welsh and general politics of his day. His pen was his sword. Even his ostensible ‘election address’ to the electors of Anglesey was a pamphleteer's device. In this address he purported to offer himself as a ‘Welsh candidate,’ and outlined a specifically Welsh policy including home-rule, and a pledge to remain separate from all English parties. This was the first election address along these lines.
He wrote out his sermons in extenso, and they were thus assured of a place among Welsh literary masterpieces. Whilst remaining loyal to the Welsh evangelical tradition, he sought to widen it through his contacts with the Catholic and Protestant mind of Europe in its various aspects, and to safeguard it from excesses of emotionalism and individualism by laying stress on conduct, on knowledge, and on social obligation.
His challenge to the prevailing outlook of his age in Wales, and his mordant style, made him suspect to many, and his influence was, therefore, largely delayed until after his death, and indeed until after the appearance of his biography by T. Gwynn Jones. His sterling qualities of character were, however, appreciated by those among whom he served as pastor, particularly his complete absence of self-seeking and his unsparing and highly original work among children and young people.
Published date: 1959
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Born 24 March 1848 (and his sister Priscilla 10 December 1849) in one of the houses in Ffordd-las, Abergele. Emrys ap Iwan's mother was Maria Jones, daughter of Margaret Coates who was the daughter of George Coates, a miner in the copper works in Drws-y-coed (1769-72) before moving to Llanddulas to live. The French great-grandmother he was alleged to have is fictitious.
Published date: 1997