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OPEN LETTERS TO WELSH LEADERS…

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OPEN LETTERS TO WELSH LEADERS OF OPINION. x). XVII. JOHN RHYS, M.A.. PROFESSOR OF CELTIC IX THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD. MY I)KAR RHYS.—Hitherto I have found but little difficulty in addressing Welsh leaders of opinion, but I confess I am rather at a loss in wiitin-r ta you. Not that there isn't plenty to write about, but because I think so much of you that I am morbidly anxious not to say a word that can hurt your feelings. I am not peculiar in this. All who have known you are equally anxious not to say or do anything- that will even remotely touch the sensitive nature, which is partly hidden beneath a joyous good humour, and which is only rendered endurable to the possessor by a keen sense of the ridiculous. I'1 another way, too, you are different from the others I have addressed. They stood by themselves, while you are inaissolu- bly connected in every one's mind with one of the most charming" women I have ever met. who has been your helpmate and inspirer throughout a successful career, and with the two bright little Welshwomen, Myfanwv and Olwen, of whom I would have spoken more freely a few years ago. and who bid fair to add to the lustre which has already made your home a Gwynva in more than name. Wonderful are the revolutions of the wheel of fate, and strange arc the chances of life Little one would have thought that the peasant boy that first saw light in a humble cot some titty years ago. at Ponterwyd. in the bleakest and wildest part of Cardiganshire, would have become the honoured guest, the equal in the wodd's opinion, the superior in posterity's esteem, of the greatest gentlemen of the Je on a try side. Little would one have thought that the somewhat uncouth lad that for four years taught the young idea how to shoot at the Penllwyn British School. or the short, burly young man that, after a few years' training at the Bangor Normal College. became the dominie of a small Anglesea school at at Rnosybol. would one day make his name familiar to every European scholar, and sit in a professorial chair in the oldest university in the kingdom. Truth is, after all. stranger than fiction, and no one would guess, by glancing at your rather prosaic figure, that your life had been a romance that only a Scott could do justice to. And if I may, without indelicacy, allude to it love also has played his part in shaping your career. It is said that your early efforts were in- spired and directed by the ambitious young daughter of a sturdy old Llanberis Welshman, by her who is now the most popular and the most accomplished or Oxford ladies, who cordially and gracefully welcomes the stream of callers to your Sunday teas, and who has always a kind word and and a pleasant smile for the humblest, out-at- elbowest Welshman, who lightens the pervading dulness of the Jesus College bursary at an under- graduate breakfast, who has deserved the sneer of the Times at her as one "of the talking women of Great Britain" by being a brilliant conver- sationalist. a keen politician, and at one time the president of the Oxford Women's Home Rule League, and whose only fault is that she has been unable to appreciate some of Theodore Dodds' most telling jokes. Ah. my dear John, you are doubly fortunate. Fame is given to many—happiness but to a few, and both are yours. Even more pleasant to me than your fame is the sight of you surrounded by your family, and to note the pride with which your eye lights up when you speak of the successes of Myfanwv, how she gained the Ada Max Mailer Scholarship at the Oxford High School for Ger- man, and how the Lord Kayor presented her with the gold medal given by the French Minister of Public Instruction for proficiency in French, and the loving confidence with which you speak of the future of Olwen. Charming little Welsh- women who can speak the tongues of three or four countries of Europe without forgetting K the old fair treasure of their native speech." Ay, little would one have thought later on when Matthew Arnold, as professor of poetry at Oxford, delivered his well-known lectures on Celtic Liter- ature." and recommended the establishment of a Celtic chair, that the modest, retiring young un- dergraduate, who had just joined the Varsity, would be selected in less than 12 years as the first professor to fill that chair. It is no wonder that you have since said that those lectures of Arnold formed bright spots in the grey monotony of your undergraduate days. It was probably the first time that you ever heard an English man of letters speak in an appreciative way of Welsh literature and can tell how much Arnold's words had to do with strengthening your love for Welsh, and in directing your genius, which otherwise might have been diverted to some other chanuel. What if you had taken to studying the Greak particles, or to manufacturing rariae and emenda- tions for the Greek tragedians ? But you worked hard at Oxford with a steady aim in y;ew. You got a brilliant first in Greats, and within a week you were elected a Fellow of Merton College. But the only place where Celtic could then be studied was on the Continent, and Celtic you were deter- mined to make your own subject so you attended lectures at several French colleges (with such good effect that you could make an eloquent speech in French two years ago to M. Ernest Renan. on behalf of the Cambrian Archiaeological "Sœiety, when it visited Brittany), and you matri- ulated both at Leipsic and Gottingen. There you mastered the works of Zeuss and Curtius. Fick and Schleicher, and of many another Continental philologist, whose name alone is sufficient to dry a vat. and to drive the most moderate yn foreu at y faril." When you returned in '71 to become Inspector of Schools for the counties of Flint and Denbigh, you had to be introduced to your fellow country men at an eisteddfod — they knew nothing about you. and they asked one another. Who is this John Rhys For at that time there was no Dafydd ap Gwilym to advertise the clever Welshmen and to puff up its members tinder the heathenish titles of Archdderwydd and Penoerud. Archoffeiriad and Archarogldarthydd. Archfardd and Archsonedydd, and Welsh journal- ism was still undeveloped in Oxford. (Even now you haven't got quite used to changed circumstances, and are now and then annoyed at the impetuosity with which your merest word is sometimes re- ported in the Cardiff dailies.) Even in '71. however, you were known to scholars by your contributions to Kuhn's Seitroge, to the I?!rue (vltique, and to the Arckmtlogm' Ca-mhrmti*. In. the pages of the last-named journal you soon exploded the theories of the older school as to the interpretation of Welsh ogams. Still ycu were being comparatively ignored, but you were not daunted. Hardly any notice was taken of ycur lectures on Welsh Philology when you de- livered them in'74 at Aberystwyth College, but you had confidence in your own powers, and in '77 you published them. At last you recer-ed your reward. Tae chair of Celtic, which Arnold had recommended, was established at Oxford, and you were called upon to fill it. and you were subse- quently elected Fellow of Jesus and became Bursar of the College property. It is true that Church Defence speakers sometimes sneeringly refer to the fact that the greater portion of your stipend, and of the College property you administer, is derived from tithes, but if Welsh tithes were always applied to such good purpose there would be but little heard of tithe riots in Wales. I will not remind you of your great services to Wales, as ,a member of Lord Aberdare's Commission in 1830 to inquire into the state of Intermediate Educa- tion or as interpreter for Dr. Bridge's Inquiry into the Tithe Riots; or as secretary to the Sunday Closing Commission. (It is, indeed, whispered that you liked the last work better than any of the others but I hope that you will henceforth leave these sort of plums for the nameless throng of briefless barristers to scramble for.) Nor will I say anything of your great services and your un- tiring efforts to secure the establishment of a Welsh University. All who know aught of the history of Wales during the last decade know also how prominently you have figured in all these movements. I must tell you plainly, hswever. that I have not been quite satisfied with your work in recent years. Your own peculiar field is philology, and. if you take my advice, you will stick to it. You were, first of all, allowed to try your prentice hand at writing history from the philologist's point of view. and though your Celtic Britain is an excel- lent little manual, it was a mistake. You went further astray in becoming a l[:h%ft Lecturer fdur studies in Celtic Heathendom ha.ve resulted, I am told, in some brilliant identifications amid a lot of pure guess-work and your most recent work on The Arthurian Legend* and your Rhind Lectures on the early ethnology of the British Isles have increased your reputation for the same kind of ingenious suggestiveness. All this has made you better known to the English public. You have been in demand as a writer of somewhat superficial articles for the magazines, and you were button- holed last month by the folklorists to act as presi- dent of the mythological section of their Congress, in which capacity you distinguished yourself abovs all others, excepting the savant Andrew Lang. And the Goleuad said recently that you are preparing a new work on Welsh Fairy Tales. Why not leave that sort of thing to Andrew Lang, and deal with those subtleties of .philology which baffle the butterfly Scotchman ] Your old subject of Celtic philology has been sadly neglected in the meanwhile, and no one else has taken it up in your place. One, indeed, there was whom we used to think worthy of receiving the mantle from your shoulders but the Welsh Professor of Bangor. in editing "Llvfr yr Ancr," has become a greater hermit than the Anchorite of Llanddewibrefi him- self. There may be some excuse for the line you have taken. We know very well that you are qualifying yourself in the eyes of the public for the Principalship of Jesus College, and no one would be better pleased than yours truly to see you presiding over that ancient establishment. But, for the sake of Celtic scholarship, don't neglect philology. Alrtfidy there are some scholars who regret that you have not kept pace as fully as formerly with the advance in philology made in Germany. I am glad, however, to hear that you have spent your recent vacations in studying Manx. Erse, Gaelic, and Breton, and that ere long you intend studying Basque, and so take the place of the late lamented Prince Lucien Buonaparte. I know you are not above taking a tip from even an obscure disciple, and this is my advice to you—Return again to your first love for Ogam stones. In fact, if you will pardon a new application to a somewhat slangy expression, take care of your (Celtic) P's and Q's—for the problem of these consonants is not yet solved. Many things I admire in you. my dear John, but nothing more than your noble resolve not to give to sect or party what was meant for the whole nation. The Calvinistic Methodists have tried hard to monopolise and appropriate you as their own peculiar property; and I am told that Owen Edwards is still, in a more subtle way. trying to do the same thing. Knowing that your early training was amid Calvinistic surroundings, the Methodists of London, the swells and aristocrats of the denomination, have been inviting you to attend their Christmas eisteddfodau, so that you should be in touch" still with the Corph. I'm afraid: that the unco guid have not studied your Hibbert Lectures, or they would know how enthusiastically you speak of the Unitarians of "my native county of Cardigan," or are they willing to connive at the position you take, in spite of the" Cyffes Fydcl," when you say that you are quite willing to leave the conflict of the creeds to be decided by the inexorable logic of natural selection" Or was it because of this that you, the foremost Welsh scholar of the day, were not asked to attend the opening ceremony of Bala College when the Churchman Lewis Morris and the heterodox Jowetc were among the favoured few ? In poli tic", too. yon are the nation's man and not the party tool. Official Liberalism has not charmed you. But to the claims of Nationalism, whether Irish or Welsh, you have always lent your aid. Your wife canvassed strenuously for the Tory Home Ruler, Sir Robert Peel, at Brighton and you were among the first of Oxford dons to give your hand and hospitality to Irish Home Rulers. Still, the tale is told how you and John DiUon. slunk from h:+e Corn Exchange through a side entrance to avoid the anti-Irish mob outside, how you saved the suffering patriot from an unfriendly arm at the expense of your own professional body, and how fitting it was that Dillon should be the guest of the Jesus Professor of Celtic. It is one of your boasts that you are not a public man. and perhaps you are not one in the ordinary sense of the term. That is. you don't stumn the country on every conceivable occasion, nor do you boast of your services to your country on public platform?. But when the history of Wales during the latter end or the nineteenth century comes to be written. I am much mistaken if your work is not given a more prominent place than is now given to it. Your influence has been exerted and felt in almost every new Welsh move- ment. It was you that first brought Celtic into notice, and though you don't write as much Welsh as you ought, or yield as often as you might, to the blandishments of the courtly Eifionydd and other Welsh editors, still you have done probably more than any other liv- ing man to make Welsh popular. And though you are down on the Welsh of the press and the pulpit, and though your attitude towards the bards (spite of your initiation at Bangor as ovate under the title Rhys Blaen Rheidiol") is, to say the least, rather doubtful, there is no one who bears a truer love for his country and her institudons than Professor John Rhys. After all, it is in your private capacity that you have exerted the greatest influence. Many are the poor Welshmen, trem- bling at the thought of being in the presence of a "Varsity professor, have you put at their ease by your joviality. Who can forget the sight who has once seen you unbending in the social hour I I like to see you on public platforms. Though you are inclined to talk shop," your speeches are always relieved by your keen humour. I like to see you discussing Welsh Nationality or the Welsh University at yonr favourite "vestry" at the National Liberal Club, and to hear your hilarious laughter at the high table in Jesus' Hall. But it is at the Dafydd ap Gwilym you are at your best. There you mix on terms of the most affectionate familiarity with the youngest and obscurest, and encourage, with an appreciative laugh, the mildest attempt at a joke. You are even accused of having been guilty of the most atrocious puns, and of having inveigled unwary juniors into the sanctity of your own drawing- room for the purpose of letting off some of your heartrending jokes. And I have been told that it is even unto this day recorded on the minute-book of that learned society that you once gave a repre- sentation of the Canu Coch Sir Fon" in a voice as unmusical as that of Thomas Charles Edwards or his namesake of Lincoln. I hope they are mis- taken who say that you have been the means of shielding undergraduates who refuse to don their academic caps and gowns, from the clutches of the Proctor, and that you have been known to scoff at some of the most time-honoured statutes of the ancient University. It would be absurd for me to wish you success which you enjoy, or fame which you have achieved. I can only wish you a continued prosperity, and a long enjoyment of the honours you have won. And may your declining years be rendered happy by the good wishes of sincere friends, the com- panionship of a faithful wife, and the successes of your promising daughters, is the heartfelt prajrer of your candid friend. THEODORE DODD. Next week Theodore Dodd will address an Open Letter to LORD ABEEDAUE.

NOTES AND SEWS FROM PONTYCYMMER.

[No title]

PENCOED NOTES.

MID-RHOXDDA GLEANINGS.

FOOTBALL NOTES.

NANTYMOEL NEWS AND! NOTES.

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