Goronwy Owen (poet)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Goronwy Owen (1 January 1723 – July 1769) was one of the 18th century's most notable Welsh poets. He mastered the traditional bardic metres and, although forced by circumstances to be an exile, played an important role in the literary and antiquarian movement in Wales often described as the Welsh Eighteenth Century Renaissance.[1] A perfectionist who only published reluctantly and whose literary output is consequently relatively small, his work nevertheless had a huge influence on Welsh poetry for several generations and his poetry and tragic life gave him a cult status in Welsh literary circles.


Owen was born on New Year's Day, 1723, in the parish of Llanfair Mathafarn Eithaf in Anglesey. During his childhood he lived at his ancestral home, "Y Dafarn Goch". He was later educated at Friars School, Bangor, and Jesus College, Oxford, although he did not remain long at the college. He was admitted to the college as a servitor on 3 June 1742 but, whilst his name remained on the college's books until March 1748 (albeit with some omissions), he only resided in the college for about one week in the Midsummer Term of 1744 and incurred a debt of 15s 1d which was never paid.[2]

In January 1746 he was ordained and served for a time as curate of St Mary's Church, Llanfair Mathafarn Eithaf. As a young man, he left Anglesey for the last time, wandering to Denbighshire; to Oswestry where he was made a master at Oswestry School and curate of nearby Selattyn in 1746;[3] he was master of the grammar school at Donnington and curate of nearby Uppington close to Shrewsbury from 1748 to 1753;[3] he then moved to Walton, Liverpool and then to Northolt, Middlesex. In November 1757, he emigrated, together with his young family, to take a post at the College of William & Mary, Virginia. Although he did not stay in that post for long, he remained in Virginia until his death in July 1769. The town of Benllech in Anglesey named its village hall and its primary school, Ysgol Goronwy Owen, in his honour.


Owen was mostly noted as an émigré bard, writing with hiraeth ("longing") for his native Anglesey.

He learnt much of his poetic craft from Lewis Morris, a fellow Anglesey man who, with his brothers and others, was a key figure in the Welsh literary circle referred to by Saunders Lewis as a "school of Welsh Augustans".[4]


Published works[edit]

  • Dewisol Ganiadau yr Oes Hon (1759). ("Selected songs of this age") Anthology. Includes a few of his poems.
  • Diddanwch Teuluaidd (1763, 1817). ("A seemly diversion") Anthology in three parts. Includes most of his poems together with works by Lewis Morris and Huw Huws.
  • Corph y Gainc (1810). Selections.
  • John Jones (ed.), Groviana (Llanrwst, 1860). Complete poems and a selection of literary correspondence.
  • Rev. Robert Jones (ed.), Poetical Works of Goronwy Owen (1876).
  • Isaac Foulkes (ed.), Holl Waith Barddonol Goronwy Owen (1878). Complete poems.
  • Isaac Foulkes (ed.), Gwaith Goronwy Owen (1902). Essentially a new edition of the above.
  • W. J. Gruffydd (ed.), Cywyddau Goronwy Owen (1907). Annotated edition of the poems.
  • J.H. Davies (ed.), The Letters of Goronwy Owen (1924).
  • Dafydd Wyn Wiliam (ed.), Llythyrau Goronwy Owen (The Letters of Goronwy Owen) (2014). Annotated edition of the Letters.

Individual poems have also been published in numerous anthologies and other sources, including The Oxford Book of Welsh Verse.

Biographies and studies[edit]

  • Bedwyr Lewis Jones, in Gwŷr Môn (1979), ed. Bedwyr Lewis Jones, Cyngor Gwlad Gwynedd. ISBN 0-903935-07-4
  • Alan Llwyd, Goronwy Ddiafael, Goronwy Ddu. Cofiant Goronwy Owen 1723-1769 (Cyhoeddiadau Barddas, 1997).
  • W.D. Williams, Goronwy Owen (Cardiff, 1951).


  1. ^ See, for instance: Prys Morgan, The Eighteenth Century Renaissance (Christopher Davies, Swansea, 1981).
  2. ^ Baker, J. N. L. (1971). Jesus College, Oxford 1571–1971. London: Oxonian Press Ltd. p. 43. ISBN 0-9502164-0-2.
  3. ^ a b Dickins, Gordon (1987). An Illustrated Literary Guide to Shropshire. Shropshire Libraries. pp. 54, 108.
  4. ^ Saunders Lewis, A School of Welsh Augustans (Cardiff, 1924; reprinted by Cedric Chivers, Bath, 1969).

External links[edit]