and as the first significant novelist to write in Welsh.
Owen was born in Mold, Flintshire, into a working-class family, his father, Robert Owen, being a coalminer. His father and two brothers, James and Robert, were killed on 10 May 1837 in a mining accident when the Argoed mine became flooded. The loss impacted heavily on the family who remained in poverty. Owen received no formal education, but he acknowledged his debt to his Sunday school. At the age of 12, Owen was apprenticed to a tailor, Angel Jones, who was an elder with the Calvinistic Methodist. Owen described his apprenticeship as a 'kind of college', and began writing poetry after being influenced by one of his work colleagues. Owen used the tailor shop as an opportunity to discuss and argue topics with workers and customers.
Owen began writing poetry under the nom-de-plume Glaslwyn, entering his work into local eisteddfodau and succeeding in publishing some his work. His first significant work in Welsh was a translation of Timothy Shay Arthur's novelette Ten Nights in a Bar-Room and What I Saw There. Owen then trained unsuccessfully for the ministry, preaching from 1860. He intended to enter the ministry as a Methodist preacher and enrolled in Bala Theological College in 1865, but failed to complete the course. From 1867 until the end of his life, he worked as a tailor in Mold, preaching on Sundays until forced to give the latter up after an illness.
After illness forced him to give up preaching, his mentor Roger Edwards, leading to the production of a short story followed by his first novel, Y Dreflan, which described a fictionalised version of Mold.
Although Y Dreflan was popular in its time, Owen's reputation rests mainly on his three later novels, particularly Rhys Lewis and its sequel Enoc Huws. In these novels he once again explored a fictionlised version of Mold and its Methodist chapel culture, blending comedy with satire and psychological introspection. His work is sometimes compared to that of Charles Dickens, who was a likely influence, although Owen's work is uniquely informed by his own Welsh-language culture and chapel background.
List of Works
- Y Dreflan (1881)
- Rhys Lewis (1885)
- Enoc Huws (1891)
- Gwen Tomos (1894)
- Straeon y Pentan (short stories) (1895)
Although not the first to write novels in Welsh, Owen is the earliest Welsh-language novelist whose works are still widely read. He is credited with starting the tradition of the Welsh language. He was an influence on many later novelists, such as Kate Roberts and T. Rowland Hughes.
Owen is commemorated in Mold, his hometown, by a statue, shopping precinct and cultural centre. Owen also gives his name to the Daniel Owen Memorial Prize (Gwobr Goffa Daniel Owen), awarded at the National Eisteddfod for the best unpublished novel of not less than 50,000 words with a strong story. The prize has been awarded since 1978, though if none of the entries are deemed to be of high enough quality the award is not presented. Mold also holds an annual cultural festival centered around the life and works of Daniel Owen.
- "Daniel Owen". BBC Northeast Wales Arts. Retrieved 21 January 2013.
- Davies, John; Jenkins, Nigel; Menna, Baines; Lynch, Peredur I., eds. (2008). The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. p. 637. ISBN 978-0-7083-1953-6.
- Morgan, Sion (3 August 2011). "National Eisteddfod: Daniel Davies wins Daniel Owen novel prize". walesonline.co.uk. Retrieved 21 January 2013.
- "Daniel Owen Memorial Prize". eisteddfod.org.uk. Retrieved 21 January 2013.
- Quayle, Kathryn (11 October 2012). "Daniel Owen Festival to kick off in Mold". flintshirechronicle.co.uk/. Retrieved 21 January 2013.