Dictionary of Welsh Biography



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OWEN , DAVID ( Brutus ; 1795 - 1866 ), editor and littérateur ; b. towards the end of 1795 (he was christened on 25 Dec. 1795 ) in the parish of Llanpumpsaint, Carms. His father, David Benjamin ( Owen ) , was a shoemaker and a sexton , and his mother, Rachel ( Owen ) , was a Baptist . He received a good education, including instruction in the classics. He intended becoming a physician and was apprenticed to John Thomas of Aberduar , near Llanybyther . During his apprenticeship he became a Baptist and decided to enter the ministry. He spent a year at the Baptist Academy at Bristol before settling at Aber , between Bangor and Llanfairfechan , as a schoolmaster and lay preacher . After three years he moved to Llyn to take charge of the chapels of Tal-y-graig , Galltraeth , Tyndonnen , and Rhoshirwaun , and he was ordained as a minister . He made his home at Llangian ; and in addition to his ministerial office, he served also as a country doctor and a schoolmaster . About 1820 he m. Anne , daughter of Thomas Jones , Rhandir , a local farmer and an Independent deacon . It was presumably poverty and his rashness that drove him to appeal for financial aid from the Unitarian Association , claiming that his congregations had accepted Unitarian beliefs. His deception was unmasked and he was expelled by the Baptist Association at Pwllheli .

That which brought him to prominence in Wales was his letter (under the pseudonym Brutus ) in Seren Gomer , March 1824 , attacking the Welsh language. Henceforth it was as ‘ Brutus ’ that he was known. Expelled by the Baptists , he became a member of the Independent church , Capel Newydd , and kept school at Llangian . He was allowed to preach amongst the Independents , but he did not become popular. Later, he moved to Tyddyn-sweep , Maenaddfwyn , near Llannerch-y-medd ( Anglesey ); but he was not very successful there either, and soon afterwards he moved to Bontnewydd , near Caernarvon , and kept a school there.

In 1828 , after being appointed editor of Lleuad yr Oes , a journal published at Aberystwyth , he became a schoolmaster at Llanbadarn-fawr , but when the copyright of the magazine was bought in 1829 by Jeffrey Jones , the Llandovery printer , Brutus moved to Pentre-ty-gwyn . When Jeffrey Jones d. in 1830 , Yr Efangylydd was launched, as successor to Lleuad yr Oes , by a committee of Independent ministers , with Brutus as editor , and Messrs. D. R. and W. Rees (qq.v.) , Llandovery , as printers . Under the editorship of Brutus the new magazine became more political than had been intended, with a tendency towards political and ecclesiastical conservatism, and Brutus was threatened with expulsion from office. To resolve this conflict, Messrs. Rees launched a new journal, Yr Haul , with Brutus as editor , to serve the Established Church , and the Independents launched Y Diwygiwr , with D. Rees ( 1801 - 1869 ) (q.v.) as editor , in 1835 . Brutus returned to the Anglican church , at Llywel , and moved to Pwllmadog , near Pentre-bach , between Llandovery and Trecastle . Later, he resided at Bronarthen , near Half-way . To the end of his life he continued to edit Yr Haul very ably, but he would occasionally attend Horeb , the Baptist chapel at Cwm-dwr . It is remarkable that he never received holy orders in the Church. He d. 16 Jan. 1866 , and was buried at Llywel , where there is a tablet to his memory.

He was a prolific writer , and published many religious and theological books , amongst them — Athrawiaeth Bedydd Babanod , 1828 ; Cwymp Babilon Fawr , 1829 ; Breinniau Babanod , 1830 ; Daearyddiaeth Ysgrythyrol , 1835 ; Allwedd y Cyssegr , 1835 (2nd ed. 1839 ); Christmasia , 1840 (2nd ed. 1861 ; 3rd. ed. 1887 ); Gweithrediadau yr Eglwys Sefydledig , 1841 ; Gwaedd Uwch Gwlad , 1843 ; Eliasia , 1844 ; Darganfyddiadau yn Ninefeh , 1852 (a translation of an English book by A. H. Layard ); Brutusiana , 1855 , a selection of his writings from Yr Haul , and Cofiant y Diweddar Barch. Thomas Williams , 1861 . His importance lies in his work not as a scholar and theologian but rather as a satirist . The chief object of his satire was quackery, in particular the quackery of the worst Nonconformist preachers , the ‘Jacks,’ as they were called. It is these who are reviled in numerous articles, essays, and reviews; in the conversations of Bugeiliaid Epynt ( Yr Haul , 1835-66 ) (Selections by T. Jones , 1950 ); and in Wil Brydydd y Coed (ibid., Sept. 1863-Dec. 1865 ), also published separately in 1876 and 1896 .

Bibliography:

  • Geiriadur Bywgraffyddol o Enwogion Cymru , ii, 353-5;
  • Y Traethodydd , 1867 , 213, 421;
  • The Red Dragon , iii, 385;
  • Seren Gomer , 1898 , 1;
  • introduction by T. Jones to Wil Brydydd y Coed Cofiant Siencyn Bach y Llwywr a Chofiant Dai Hunandyb , Carmarthen, 1876 (new ed. 1950 ).

Author:

Professor Thomas Jones, D.Litt., Aberystwyth