By Geraint H. Jenkins
An industrious educational and charmingly eccentric Romantic poet and forger, Iolo Morganwg (1747-1846) left in the back of a floor-to-ceiling stack of unpublished manuscripts in his small Welsh cottage. A Rattleskull Genius, in line with that trove of unpublished fabric now held on the nationwide Library of Wales, offers either a party and a severe reassessment of the writer and his contributions to Welsh cultural culture.
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Extra resources for A Rattleskull Genius: The Many Faces of Iolo Morganwg (University of Wales Press - Iolo Morganwg and the Romantic Tradition)
8, Iolo Morganwg to Edmund Baker, 7 November 1805. NLW 21387E, no. 9. See chapters 18 and 20 below. NLW 21286E, Letter no. 1005, Iolo Morganwg to Taliesin Williams, 17 January 1826. NLW 13222C, pp. 185–6, Iolo Morganwg to William Owen Pughe, 15 August 1805; BL Add. 15030, ff. 1–2, Iolo Morganwg to Owain Myfyr, 15 November 1798. See chapter 20 below; Cambrian Register, 3 (1818), 381–5, Iolo Morganwg to Evan Williams, 31 March 1811. NLW 21286E, Letter no. 994, Iolo Morganwg to Taliesin Williams, 23 September 1823.
Ann Matthew was an intelligent, well-read and socially pretentious woman who plied her eldest son with books and periodicals, and urged him to rise above the ordinary. Mollycoddling and manipulating him by turns, she exerted such a powerful influence on his young mind that he was overcome with grief when she died in 1770. Thereafter, he was determined to live up to her high expectations of him. As he strove to make a living as a stonemason and win approval as a writer, he became acutely conscious of the difficulties of recasting received opinion (as well as deep-seated prejudices) on literary matters.
He became acquainted with Lewis Morris, who took him under his wing and, in all probability, introduced him to William Vaughan of Corsygedol, who gave him support and encouragement over a long period. Later, he was supported by Paul Panton of Plas-gwyn, Anglesey, who provided him with a small annuity. Evans lived his life as a lowly curate, in parishes in England as well as in Wales, often filling posts for no longer than a few months. He lived an unhappy, peripatetic life and was frequently in debt; his life oscillated between periods in gentry houses (from 1771 to 1778 he was employed in the library of Sir Watkin Williams Wynn at Llanforda and later at Wynnstay), brief curacies, and periods spent at home with his mother in Lledrod.