Born 17 July 1859 in Islington, London, son of John Rhys, a native of Carmarthen, who was a publisher's assistant in London, and Emma, daughter of Robert Percival, Hockerell, Herts. Soon after the birth of their son the parents went to live in Nott Square, Carmarthen, from where Ernest Rhys went to his first school; they afterwards proceeded to Newcastle-on-Tyne. It was from Newcastle-on-Tyne that Ernest Rhys was sent to the grammar school at Bishop's Stortford in his mother's native county, after which he attended a Newcastle-on-Tyne day school. Intended by his father for the university, Rhys chose instead to take up mining engineering as his profession. He spent some years at Langley, qualified, but then decided to go to London to pursue a career as an author. He left for London in January 1886.
The name of Ernest Rhys will be inseparably connected with his editorship of J.M. Dent's ‘Everyman's Library’ in which by 1950, nearly a thousand works had been included; Rhys had previously begun (in 1886) to edit the ‘Camelot Series’ for the same publisher. Many of his original publications (and some of the works which he edited) deal with Welsh (or Celtic) poetry, romance, and folklore; for lists see Who's Who, 1946; and the two autobiographical works named in the bibliography below. His wife Grace (died 1929; daughter of Bennett Little, of Co. Roscommon, Ireland) was also an author, one of her works being A Celtic Anthology, 1927. Although he lived for the greater part of his life in London, Rhys and his wife spent much time in Wales. His (Saturday) ‘Welsh Literary Notes’ in the Manchester Guardian during the early years of the twentieth century were very widely read. Among Rhys's works of Welsh (or Celtic) interest were The Fiddler of Carne, 1896, Welsh Ballads, 1898, The Whistling Maid, 1900, Lays of the Round Table, 1908, and The South Wales Coast, 1911; he also wrote Readings from Welsh History which was at one time much used in Welsh schools. He died 25 May 1946 in London.
Published date: 2001
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