Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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DAVIES , EDWARD (‘ Celtic Davies ’; 1756 - 1831 ), cleric and author ;

b. 7 June 1756 in a farm called Hendre Einion in the parish of Llanfareth, Rads. He was educated by some clergymen who lived near his home, and in 1774 spent a year in Christ College school , Brecon [then under David Griffith ( 1726 - 1816 ) (q.v.) ; Theophilus Jones (q.v.) was his schoolmate]. He became a schoolmaster at Hay , and in 1779 was ordained deacon ; he served as curate in several places in that neighbourhood. In 1783 he became a master in Chipping Sodbury grammar school , Glos. , staying there until 1799 when he became curate of Olveston in the same county. He was made rector of Bishopston , Gower , in 1805 . He remained at Olveston until 1813 , but from that year until his death he made his home at Bishopston . He published collections of English poems and a novel, together with a disquisition on the authenticity of Ossian , 1825 . He is remembered today, however, as the author of two works dealing with Welsh and Celtic subjects — Celtic Researches , 1804 , and The Mythology and Rites of the British Druids , 1809 [hence his nickname]. Although born in a part of the country where the Welsh language was disappearing, and despite the fact that his spoken Welsh was rather imperfect, he nevertheless took a deep interest in the ‘primitive’ Welsh bards and in those of the Age of the Princes , and formed a large collection of their works, a collection that was used by the editors of the Myvyrian Archaiology of Wales . He made a careful study of these works, and in the volume on the Druids he attempted to show that these poems proved the validity of the theory enunciated by Joseph Bryant , namely that what is found in all ancient mythology is the pure patriarchal religion corrupted in the period which came after the Deluge. Although he showed considerable sagacity on occasion, he had no sort of qualification for the interpretation of the old poetry. On the other hand it must be remembered that he was one of the first to doubt the authenticity of what Edward Williams ( Iolo Morganwg ) asserted about the ‘ Gorsedd of the Bards .’ He was an assiduous worker, but was unfortunate in the period in which he happened to live. One imagines that he was a lovable character, and this is borne out by the letters which his old friend, Theophilus Jones , wrote to him. Many of his manuscripts are in the Tonn collection in the Cardiff Public Library . He d. 7 Jan. 1831 .


  • Cambrian Quarterly Magazine , four volumes, 1829–33 , iii, 408-36;
  • Edwin Davies , Theophilus Jones, F.S.A. historian his life, letters & literary remains , Brecon, 1905 , 1905 ;
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography


Emeritus Professor Griffith John Williams, M.A., (1892-1963), Gwaelod-y-garth, Cardiff

Published date: 1959