MORRIS, LEWIS (1703-1796),

Lewis Morris (Llewelyn Ddu o Fon; (?) 1701-1765), poet and scholar, eldest
son of Morris ap Rhisiart Morris (q.v.), and brother of Richard, William and
John Morris (qq.v); born in 1701(christened 2nd March 1700/1 in the parish
of Llanfihangel Tre’r Beirdd, Anglesey. Like his brothers, he learnt his
father’s craft; it would appear from his own words that he had little formal
education, but in view of the attainments he displayed later, this may well
be doubted. In his twenties, still living with his parents at Pentrerianell,
he had a practice as land-surveyor, and was employed by the Meyrick family
(q.v.) of Bodorgan, a connection which proved of great advantage to him and
to his brothers. In 1729 he was appointed ‘searcher’ to the customs at
Beaumris and Holyhead, still retaining his private practice during his
tenure (till 1743) of that office. Through the influence of the Myricks upon
Thomas Corbett of the navy office, he was, from 1737, employed to make a
survey of some of the Welsh ports, and though this project was temporary
suspended, it was resumed in 1741- it was in 1748 that his Plans of Harbours,
Bays, and Roads in St. George’s and the Bristol Channels was published
(2nd ed. by his son William). Meanwhile, Morris had visited Cardiganshire (as
early as 1742, says his brother William) to prospect for lead-he never
returned to Anglesey . In 1746 William Corbett (brother of the above Thomas
Corbett) appointed him his deputy in the stewardship of the Crown manors of
Cardiganshire -Morris had already made a survey of Perfedd, one of those
manors; and he became also collector of tolls at Aberdovey.

Thenceforth, he knew no peace. The squires of Cardiganshire challenged the
Crown’s rights to mine for lead, and their ire fell naturally upon Lewis
Morris as the Crown’s local representative - on one occasion (1753) they got
him imprisoned for a short time in Cardigan Goal. He got little support from
his headquarters, partly because of political pressure exerted in London,
and partly because of his own omission to render accounts punctually - the
authorities claimed that he owed them much money. Then again, he engaged in
private prospecting for lead - quite legitimately yet to some extent to the
detriment of his official duties. Altogether, he was perpetually in hot
water. He had to visit London four times (1753, 1754, 1755, 1756-8) to
defend his cause; he lost his post at Aberdovey (1756) and he almost had to
‘repay’ large sums of money. The matter was settled in 1760, and he was
appointed J.P. for Cardiganshire, but beyond doubt he suffered much
financial loss, and though he spent much of his wife’s money in attempts to
recoup himself by private lead-prospecting, these attempts were not over
successful. It is sometimes said that he died poor; but his own words at the
close of his life say that he was ‘neither in want nor in great plenty’ ;
true, his personality at death was put at only £66, but his wife had a
small estate and it is possible that the lead-ventures eventually brought
something in. Yet at best this would not have compared with the days when
(in his brother Richard’s words) he was ‘rolling in money, bags full of
thousands’. He died 11 April 1765 and was buried within his parish church of
Llanbadarn-fawr-his wife’s house was Penbryn, near Goginan. Llewelyn Ddu, as
his pseudonym suggests, was a dark complexion,tall. ruddy, stout, healthy in
appearance, boy (like his brothers) perpetually bothered by asthma and gout
and melancholia. He cannot be called a pleasant man-he was proud, scornful,
boastful and peppery.

With all this, he was an exceptionally patriotic Welshman, one of the
foremost benefactors of his people. Remember as we may his vitriolic words
about Goronwy
Owen (q.v.)-words written in a blaze of anger which was not altogether
unreadable- we must also remember that throughout his life he gave vigourous
and unstinting support to Welsh literati, however caustic his judgements
upon them may have been. His letters to them are evidence of the care and
patience expended in advising them and in amending their work. It is often
said that he and his brothers despised verse in the free meters,. but this
is a misunderstanding; the Morrises did indeed rank free verse below verse
written in ‘strict’ metres, but they quite appreciated it in its own right.
Indeed Lewis Morris was in advance of his age in his appreciation of the
“harp -verse’ (penillion), and ironically enough he is today best
remembered, as a poet, for his penillion in praise ofMerioneth. For all
that, the older cynghanedd poetry was nearest to his heart (he composed a
cywydd as early as 1720, and his chief contribution to Welsh literature lay
in his success (and that of his ‘school’) in reviving that type of verse.
his interest in the older technique involved an interest in the Welsh
language itself and in Welsh antiquities. In grammatical and lexical
studies, his patterns were John Davis of Mallwyd and Edward Lloyd (qq.v)
and his immediate project was an enlargement of Davies’s Dictionarium,
which (as Morris rightly said in 1761) was based on too limited a knowledge
of the older poetry, seeing that Davies had been unable to command a
sufficient range of older MS. texts. Morris, therefore, set to work to
collect MSS or copies of them), and to arrive at meanings and forms and
constructions scientifically in this way. With his rather parochial
contempt for South Walians, he was not quite fair to the work of Moses
Williams and William Gambold and Thomas Richards (qq.v), yet it should be
noted that he and his brothers helped the publication of Richards’s
Dictionary (1753). It is certain that Lewis Morris, by the middle of the
18th cent., was the highest authority on the language,
acknowledged as such in Wales as outside it.

Morris’s projected dictionary was drowned in the sea of his troubles. So too
was another project of his-a dictionary of Welsh place names, which he
entitled Celtic Remains. He finished this in 1757, but the Cymmrodorion
Society had no funds for its publication; the first part was not published
until 1878 (by Daniel Silvan Evans, q.v.), and the second is still in MS.,
at the National L library- on this matter, see G.J.Williams in the 1943
Supplement to N.L.W. Jnl., 30-2. Then, again his private press (on which,
see Ifano Jones, Printing and Printers in Wales), from which he intended to
issue reprints of the older literature, had to be abandoned after the issue
of a single item, Tlysau o’r Hen Oesoedd (1753). When his brother Richard,
in 1751, founded the Cymmrodorion Society, Lewis conceived of this as a sort
of ‘academy’ like the French Academy or the Royal Society, and drew up a
long list (printed in the Society’s ‘Constitutions’) of topics for inquiry.
And disappointed as he was in the actual meetings of the Society(which he
attended during his visits to London), he continued to send up learned
papers to be read at them. Altogether, if we accept the Tylsau, and Plans
and Harbours, and the Short History of the Manor of Creuthyn (1756), the
only work of Lewis Morris’s published in his own lifetime was the poems of
his which were included in Diddanwch Teuluaidd, published in 1763 by Huw
Jones (q.v.) of Llangwm. There are many volumes of his MSS. in the British
Museum and in National Library of Wales.

Lewis Morris was twice married. In 1729 he married a young girl, Elizabeth
Griffiths of Ty-wriddyn, Rhoscolyn, who died before 1741. Of their three
children, two daughters survived to maturity: Margaret (1731-61), who
married rashly and died in misery, and Ellen (1731-61) who married twice and
had eight children of her first marriage and four of her second. On 20 Oct.
1749 Morris (then living at Galltfadog, near Aberystwyth) married Anne
Lloyd, heiress to the small estate of Penbryn (Goginan)-they moved to
Penbryn in 1757. Ann Morris has been variously judged; she got on well with
her two brothers in law, but their nephew, JohnOwen (died 1759,q.v.), who
had to live in her house, speaks of her in the most scathing terms. Ten
children were born of this marriage (six survived their father)- a fact that
can hardly have lightened Morris’s burdens in his last years. The only one
that calls for mention is the fourth son, William Morris (1758-1808, who
married the heiress of Blaen-nant, LLanfeugan, Brecknock (Theophilus Jones,
Hist. Brecknock, 3rd ed., iv 31). and republished his father’s Plans and
Harbours.He was the father of Lewis Edward William Morris a lawyer at
Carmarthen, who was the father of the poet Sir Lewis Morris (q.v.) In 1772,
Ann Morris became the second wife of William Jones of Gwynfryn, Langynfelyn,
Cards, from whose first marriage was descended the bishop and antiquary
William Basil Jones (q.v.). She died in 1785.

R.T.J.