Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lhuyd, Edward
LHUYD, EDWARD (1660–1709), Celtic scholar and naturalist, born in 1660, was the natural son of Edward Llwyd of Llanvorda, near Oswestry. The father was the son of another Edward Llwyd, who died in 1662, and he was the last male representative of this branch of the Llwyd family (Byegones, i. 122; York, Royal Tribes of Wales, ed. 1887, p. 196). His mother was Bridget, second daughter of a Mr. Pryse of Gogerddan, Cardiganshire, and it is said that Llwyd was born at Glan Ffraid, in the parish of Llanfihangel Geneu'r Glyn in that county. He entered Jesus College, Oxford, 31 Oct. 1682. Wood (Athenæ, iv. 723), confusing him with another Edward Lloyd from Kidwelly in Carmarthenshire, wrongly gives the date as 1687. He did not proceed to a degree, but in 1684 was appointed under-keeper of the recently established Ashmolean Museum, and in 1690, on the resignation of Dr. Robert Plot, he was appointed head keeper. He travelled much for the purpose of collecting specimens in natural history for the museum, and in 1693 he was employed by Dr. Gibson to collect materials in Wales for a new edition of Camden's ‘Britannia,’ which was published in 1695. Soon after Lhuyd issued a circular inviting subscriptions to enable him to undertake an extended antiquarian and scientific tour for five years. A public subscription was opened in 1697, whereupon he issued an elaborate syllabus, in the form of ‘Parochial Queries in order to a Geographical Dictionary and Natural History, &c., of Wales, by the Undertaker Edward Lhuyd,’ and set out for Wales. He visited every county there, made extracts from manuscripts, copied inscriptions, and collected curiosities.
From Montgomery, he dated (under 1 Nov. 1698) the preface to his first published work, ‘Lithophylacii Britannici ichnographia; sive Lapidum aliorumque Fossilium Britannicorum singulari figura insignium distributio … cum Epistolis de quibusdam circa marina fossilia et stirpes minerales præsertim notandis,’ London, 1699, 8vo. This work, which is a methodical catalogue of the figured fossils of the Ashmolean Museum, Lhuyd had expected the university to print at its own expense, but this being refused, it was printed at the expense of Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Hans Sloane, and a few other of Lhuyd's learned friends, and the issue was limited to 120 copies. Owing to Lhuyd's absence from Oxford at the time, it proved full of inaccuracies, and he prepared a second edition, which was published after his death by W. Huddesford, Oxford, 1760, 8vo. In 1699 Lhuyd went to Scotland, and the following year to Ireland, thence returning towards the end of 1700 to Cornwall, where he spent three or four months studying Cornish. He was at first accompanied by William Jones, Robert Wynn, and David Parry, but the first left him in Cornwall. They were regarded with suspicion almost everywhere, being looked upon as conjurers in Pembrokeshire, while at Helston in Cornwall they were arrested as thieves (Pryce, Archæologia Cornu-Britannica). In 1701 he, with probably two of his companions, crossed to Brittany, and had been there scarcely three weeks when he was arrested at St. Pol de Léon as a spy, but after an imprisonment of eighteen days at Brest he was released on condition of leaving the country forthwith (Rowland, Mona Antiqua, pp. 315–17).
Returning to Oxford, he was created M.A. honoris causa by the convocation 21 July 1701, on condition that he should read six ‘solemn lectures upon natural history, one every year, during the space of six years.’ These lectures were published, under the title of ‘De Stellis Marinis,’ in a work of that name by J. H. Luick, Leipzig, 1733, fol., but were subsequently incorporated by Huddesford in his second edition of the ‘Lithophylacium.’ The next few years Lhuyd spent in arranging the results of his research, and in 1707, after much delay on the part of the printers, was published the first volume of his ‘Archæologia Britannica: an Account of the Languages, Histories, and Customs of Great Britain, from collections and observations in Travels through Wales, Cornwall, Bas-Bretagne, Ireland, and Scotland. Vol. i. Glossography.’ This volume consists of an elaborate ‘comparative etymology’ of the Celtic languages with Welsh, Irish, Cornish, and Breton grammars and dictionaries. At the commencement a list of the subscribers towards the author's travels is inserted, but we know from another source (Owen, British Remains, p. 152) that the whole amount subscribed within the five years was only 365l. 5s. Most of the subscribers were dissatisfied that the first volume should be purely philological (Hearne, Collections, ed. Doble, ii. 58), and no second volume appeared.
Lhuyd circulated in Ireland and Scotland some separate copies of his Irish-English dictionary from his ‘Archæologia Britannica,’ in order to obtain corrections. His dictionary is based upon a manuscript ‘Vocabularium Hibernicum et Latinum,’ compiled by Richard Plunket at Trim, co. Meath, in 1662, with additions from Keating's ‘Foras Feasa ar Eirinn,’ from Michael O'Clery's ‘Seanasan nuadh,’ from Sheridan's version of the Old Testament, and O'Donnel's version of the New Testament. It is preceded by an Irish grammar extracted from that of Francis O'Molloy and by a preface in Irish words, but with very few of the characteristics of Irish prose. The writer no doubt had the help of some native in writing it, but certainly not of a scholar. The Irish preface was translated by David Malcolm, and was published in 1732 in a prospectus of a proposed Gaelic dictionary (probably a reprint of Lhuyd's), and was subsequently included in a collection of Malcolm's ‘Letters, Essays,’ &c., London, 1738, 8vo.
In November 1708 Lhuyd was elected fellow of the Royal Society in spite of the hostility of Dr. Woodward. Woodward had quarrelled with Lhuyd respecting the origin of marine fossils, which Woodward had ascribed to the effects of the deluge. On 11 March 1709 Lhuyd was elected superior beadle of divinity, his friend Hearne retiring from the candidature in his favour (ib. ii, 175). But he did not long survive his election. He had suffered from asthma for many years, an attack of pleurisy supervened, and he died at the museum 30 June 1709. He was buried in St. Michael's Church, in the south aisle, appropriated to Jesus College, and known as the Welsh aisle, but no monument marks the spot.
Lhuyd is described by Hearne as a ‘person of singular modesty, good nature, and uncommon industry.’ He is often referred to by his contemporaries as ‘honest Lhuyd.’ When at home he lived a retired life at Eynsham, near Oxford, and was not in the least ambitious of preferment. The keepership of the museum was a ‘mean place, seeing there is no salary’ (ib. i. 244), and his chief source of income must have been the fees paid by visitors for seeing the curiosities (Owen, British Remains, pp. 151–2).
In addition to Lhuyd's two larger and best-known works already mentioned, he supplied some materials for Ray's ‘Synopsis Stirpium,’ Lister's ‘Conchyliorum,’ Baxter's ‘Glossary’ (which includes a posthumous tract by Lhuyd, ‘De Fluviorum, Montium, Urbium, &c., in Britannia nominibus’), Nicholson's ‘Historical Library,’ Hickes's ‘Thesaurus’ (Hearne, i. 55), Gibson's edition of ‘Camden's Britannia,’ and Collier's ‘Historical Dictionary.’ He is said to have had a hand in composing ‘Χοιροχωρογραφία, sive Hoglandiæ descriptio,’ Oxford, 1709, 8vo, in reply to Holdsworth's ‘Muscipula,’ which was a satire on Wales (Notes and Queries, 5th ser. xi. 154; Chalmers, Biog. Dict. ed. 1815, xx. 235). Lhuyd also wrote an ode in Cornish on the death of William III, ‘Carmen Britannicum Dialecto Cornubiensi,’ &c. He also contributed a great number of papers to the ‘Philosophical Transactions’ (Nos. 166, 200, 208, 213, 229, 243, 252, 269, 292, 295, 314, 316, 334, 335, 336, the last seven being published after his death).
Lhuyd's manuscript collections relating to Celtic antiquities consisted of above forty volumes in folio, ten in quarto, and above a hundred of a smaller size. About four years after his death they were offered for sale both to the university and to Jesus College, but owing to a quarrel which Lhuyd had with Dr. Wynne, then fellow of Jesus, and afterwards bishop of St. Asaph, the purchase was declined, and they were sold to Sir Thomas Sebright of Beechwood in Hertfordshire (Williams, Eminent Welshmen, p. 290). The Irish portion of these were given in 1786 by Sir John Sebright to Trinity College, Dublin, where they are still preserved (Notes and Queries, 5th ser. iv. 89, 90). Another portion of Lhuyd's collection, including four volumes of parchment Welsh manuscripts, known as the ‘Didrefn Gasgliad,’ now form MSS. 113 C. 18–21 in the collection of the Earl of Macclesfield at Shirburn Castle, being probably a part of a bequest of books made to the second earl by William Jones (1675–1749) [q. v.] The rest were sold at Sotheby's in London in April 1807, when most of them were bought by Sir Watkin Williams Wynn of Wynnstay, Denbighshire (sale catalogue of the Sebright library; an account of the sale is given in Gent. Mag. 1807, i. 419); but the best part of these were destroyed a few years later by a fire that broke out in the establishment of a binder in London, whither they had been sent (Eminent Welshmen, l.c.) Rawlinson MSS. B. 464–9 in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, which relate to Wales, probably belonged to Lhuyd, No. 464 being one of two existing autograph copies of his so-called ‘Itinerary’ (Owen, Pembrokeshire, ed. 1892, p. xx, note).
A great number of Lhuyd's letters to different correspondents have been preserved and published: sixty-four are among the Peniarth MSS., of which twenty were printed in the ‘Cambrian Quarterly Magazine,’ and the remainder in the ‘Archæologia Cambrensis’ (see General Index to Arch. Cambr. 1892, sub ‘Lhuyd’). Besides these there have been printed from other sources four in the ‘Cambrian Register’ and four in the ‘Cambro-Briton.’ Twelve letters written by him to T. Tonkin with reference to Cornish antiquities are appended to Pryce's ‘Archæologia Cornu-Britannica,’ Sherborne, 1790, 4to. His correspondence with Henry Rowland is printed in that author's ‘Mona Antiqua,’ pp. 301–18; his letters to Dr. Richard Richardson are given in Nichols's ‘Literary Illustrations,’ i. 316–21, while his letters to Aubrey between 1686 and 1694 are still preserved at the Bodleian Library, Oxford. It appears that William Huddesford [q. v.] had collected materials for a memoir of Lhuyd, but died before publishing it (Nichols, op. cit. i. 586, vi. 474); it is very probable that his materials were utilised by Nicholas Owen, who in 1777 published in his ‘British Remains,’ London, 8vo, a memoir of Lhuyd, ‘transcribed from a manuscript in the Ashmolean Museum,’ with valuable notes by the editor himself.
[The most authentic account is given in Owen's British Remains, vide supra; but a great many details as to Lhuyd's life have been gathered from his numerous letters. See also Chalmers's Biog. Dict. ed. 1815, xx. 232–6 (where there are several anecdotes about Lhuyd contributed by the Rev. David Jones of Welwyn); Foster's Alumni Oxon. p. 913; Parry's Cambrian Plutarch; Hearne's Collections, ed. Doble, i. 244, ii. 58, 63, 172–5, 218–19, 224); a very full memoir in Welsh by O. M. Edwards, esq., in Ceninen Gwyl Dewi, 1891, pp. 19–21; Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub.; Borrow's Wild Wales, 1865, pp. 277 sq.]