Daniel Owen (20 October 1836 – 22 October 1895) was a Welsh novelist, generally regarded as the foremost Welsh-language novelist of the 19th century, and as the first significant novelist to write in Welsh.
Daniel Owen was born in Mold (Yr Wyddgrug), Flintshire, the youngest of six children in a working-class family. His father, Robert Owen, was a coal miner, while his mother belonged to the family of Thomas Edwards, poet and writer. His father and his two brothers, James and Robert, were killed on 10 May 1837 when the Argoed mine became flooded. The loss impacted heavily on the family, who remained in poverty. Owen received little formal education, but he acknowledged his debt to his Sunday School.
At the age of 12, Owen was apprenticed to a tailor, Angel Jones, an Elder with the Calvinistic Methodist Church. Owen described his apprenticeship as a "kind of college", and began writing poetry after being influenced by one of his colleagues there. Owen found at the tailor's shop opportunities to discuss and argue topics with workers and customers.
Owen began writing poetry under the pseudonym Glaslwyn, entering his work into local eisteddfodau and succeeding in publishing some pieces. 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. This was published in a fortnightly called Charles o'r Bala. Owen then trained unsuccessfully for the ministry of his church, preaching from 1860. He 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 prevented by illness.
Thereafter his mentor, Roger Edwards, suggested that he try his hand at writing instead. Owen's first attempt at fiction was a short story, "Cymeriadau Methodistaidd" (Methodist Characters) about the election of chapel elders. Modest success with it led Edwards to encourage Owen to embark upon his first novel, Y Dreflan, which described a fictionalized 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 he again explored a fictionalized version of Mold and its Methodist chapel culture, blending comedy with satire and psychological introspection. His work is sometimes compared with 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
- Deng Noswaith Yn y `Black Lion` (1859)
- Offrymau Neilltuaeth (1879)
- Y Dreflan (1881)
- Rhys Lewis (1885)
- Y Siswrn (1886)
- 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 novel writing in the Welsh language and of influencing many later fiction writers, such as Kate Roberts and T. Rowland Hughes.
Owen is commemorated in Mold by a statue and in the name of a shopping precinct and cultural centre. His name is also remembered in the Daniel Owen Memorial Prize (Gwobr Goffa Daniel Owen), awarded at the National Eisteddfod for the best unpublished novel of no less than 50,000 words with a strong story. The prize has been awarded since 1978, although if none of the entries have been deemed to be of a high enough quality, no award is presented. Mold also holds an annual cultural festival centred on the life and works of Daniel Owen called the Daniel Owen Festival.
- "Daniel Owen". BBC Northeast Wales Arts. Retrieved 21 January 2013.
- National Library of Wales Retrieved 19 April 2017.
- 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. Archived from the original on 26 March 2012. Retrieved 21 January 2013.
- Quayle, Kathryn (11 October 2012). "Daniel Owen Festival to kick off in Mold". flintshirechronicle.co.uk/. Retrieved 21 January 2013.