Born in Gwyndy Uchaf, Betws yn Rhos, Denbighshire, 10 October 1871, eldest child of Isaac and Jane Jones. His father was a farmer and also a lay-preacher with the Calv. Methodists and a poet. The son began to add Gwynn (from Gwyndy) to his simple baptismal name Thomas about 1890 when, among other pen-names, he used Gwyn(n)vre ap Iwan (or ap Isaac). Apart from elementary education in Llanelian, Old Colwyn and Denbigh, and some instruction in Latin, Greek and mathematics from a neighbouring retired clergyman (to seek admittance to Oxford University, which did not prove possible because of ill-health), T. Gwynn Jones was self-taught. In 1891 he joined the staff of Y Faner under Thomas Gee and he remained in journalism until 1909. He left Denbigh in 1893 to join the staff of Y Cymro in Liverpool under Isaac Foulkes but returned to Denbigh in 1895 as sub-editor of Y Faner and to assist with Gee's recently established North Wales Times. He went to Caernarfon in 1898 to Yr Herald Cymraeg, Papur Pawb and the Carnarvon & Denbigh Herald. He fell ill in 1905 and spent some time in Egypt where he did some free-lance work in English. On his return in 1906 he lived in Denbigh, writing for newspapers, especially for Papur Pawb. In 1907 he went to Mold as editor of Y Cymro, then to Caernarfon in 1908 to the offices of Yr Herald and Papur Pawb before joining the staff of Y Genedl Gymreig.
In 1909 he was appointed a cataloguer at the National Library and spent the rest of his life in Aberystwyth and its neighbourhood. He was appointed a lecturer in Welsh at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, in 1913, and promoted to the Gregynog Chair in Welsh literature in 1919 - its only occupant ever - which he held until his retirement in 1937. He married in June 1899 Margaret Jane Davies : they had a daughter and 2 sons. He died at his home in Aberystwyth 7 March 1949 aged 77 and was buried in Aberystwyth cemetery.
T. Gwynn Jones was influenced by Emrys ap Iwan (R. Ambrose Jones), early in his career and inspired to look beyond the 19th c. for the foundations of Welsh literature. Ap Iwan strengthened his interest in languages and awoke in him the desire to look further than England for literature to read and study. Before the end of the 19th c. he was also influenced by Daniel Rees (1855 - 1931). Jones's memorial essay in Cymeriadau (1933) reveals the close relationship and mutual influence of two remarkable men. Jones's interests in the Celtic languages was awoken in his early years, perhaps by his sympathy with the Irish struggle for Home Rule in the 1880s, and his interest in Ireland was deepened in 3 visits in 1892, 1908 and 1913, the last two affording him an opportunity to meet a number of scholars and writers who became close friends. These interests and contacts are reflected in Iwerddon (1919), Peth nas lleddir (1921), Awen y Gwyddyl (1922) and in many essays.
He obtained an M.A. (Wales) in 1914 for his dissertation 'Bardism and Romance'. His other main academic publications were: Gwaith Tudur Aled (1926), the fruits of many years' work; a detailed introduction to Dwyfol Gân Dante, Daniel Rees's translation of Divina Commedia (1903); Cofiant Emrys ap Iwan (1912); Cofiant Thomas Gee (1913); Llenyddiaeth y Cymry (1915) - vol. 1 only, to the Tudor period; Traethodau (1910); Llenyddiaeth Gymraeg y Bedwaredd Ganrif ar Bymtheg (1920); Cultural Bases (1921); Welsh Folklore and Folk-custom (1930, 2 ed. 1979).
He began writing poetry about the mid-1880s, mainly in the strict metres and many of his first efforts, including prize-winning local eisteddfod entries, were published in Y Faner and the Abergele Visitor, but his first separate publication was Dyddiau'r Parch. Richard Owen (1891), a booklet about half of which was the work of 'Gwynvre ap Iwan' and the rest by 'Gwilym Meredydd' (Reverend W.M. Jones). His satire 'Gwlad y Gân' appeared in Cymru (two cantos in 1896 and 1897) and in Papur Pawb (three cantos in 1898). This was his first substantial poem, and was later published in Gwlad y Gân a Chaniadau Eraill (1902). W.J. Gruffydd in 1949 referred to the poem as juvenilia but recalled its effect on him as a thunderbolt. In 1902 also his poem 'Ymadawiad Arthur' won the chair at the Bangor national eisteddfod, under the adjudication of John Morris-Jones, a poem which secured for him a unique place in the emerging world of new Welsh poetry. He again won the chair at the national eisteddfod in 1909 for his poem 'Gwlad y Bryniau'. The 1902 poem was published in 1910, Ymadawiad Arthur a Chaniadau Eraill, but 'Gwlad y Bryniau' was not published again until the two eisteddfod poems and others appeared in the Gregynog Press selection Detholiad o Ganiadau (1926). This contained a number of Jones's well-known poems both old and new, e.g., 'Tir na n'Og' (1 ed. 1916); 'Madog' (1918, in Y Beirniad); 'Broseliàwnd' (1922); 'Anatiomaros' (1925); 'Gwlad Hud' (1919-25). His main works, prose and verse, were collected and published in 6 vols. by Hughes & Son, Wrexham, between 1932 and 1937. Caniadau (1934) contains more or less the same works as the Gregynog Detholiad but with the addition of 'Argoed' (1927), while Manion (1932) contains the poet's personal selection of the rest of his poetry. He continued to write, however, and under the name 'Rhufawn' he published in Yr Efrydydd in 1935-36 a number of poems, including 'Cynddilig', considered among the finest of his works. These poems were published in Y Dwymyn (1944).
His many translations combine his genius as a poet and his scholarly gifts. He translated works from many European languages, the best known being Macbeth (Shakespeare, Papur Pawb, 1902, separate publication 1942), Dychweledigion (Die Gjengängere, Ibsen, 1920), Faust (Goethe, 1922). His main translation from Welsh to English was Visions of the sleeping bard (Gweledigaethau y Bardd Cwsc, Ellis Wynne, Gregynog Press, 1940). In addition he published novels, plays, a travel book (Y Môr Canoldir a'r Aifft, 1913), reminiscences (Brithgofion, 1944), two books of children's verses (Llyfr Gwion Bach, 1924, Llyfr Nia Fach, 1932) and a variety of other works. Over a long period he wrote and translated words to be set to music. He was a regular adjudicator at the national eisteddfod from 1908 and was unfailing in his support as an adjudicator and lecturer at other eisteddfodau and societies. As a teacher he influenced generations of students. Upon his retirement in 1937 he was awarded hon. D. Litt. degrees by the two universities closest to his heart - Wales and Ireland - and made a C.B.E.
A special memorial number of Y Llenor (28, 2) was published in 1949. There is a good bibliography to 1937 in Owen Williams, A bibliography of Thomas Gwynn Jones (1938), with a supplement by David Thomas (1956). Both are now superseded by D. Hywel E. Roberts, Llyfryddiaeth Thomas Gwynn Jones (1981).
Published date: 2001
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