Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Oliver, John (1838-1866)

OLIVER, JOHN (1838–1866), Welsh poet, was born on 7 Nov. 1838 at Llanfynydd, a small village in Carmarthenshire, where his parents kept a shop. He spent seven years (1843–50) at the village school, and nearly four at a Carmarthen school. Before he was sixteen he passed on to the presbyterian college in the same town. Here he made great progress with the regular studies, and read widely, on his own account, in English and German literature. He was soon able to preach with equal facility in Welsh and English. He left college in his twenty-first year, and abandoned an intention of continuing his studies at Glasgow, owing to failing health. Subsequently he preached occasionally, and devoted himself to Welsh poetry. Most of his Welsh poems were written during his enforced retirement. His most ambitious poem is one on 'David the Prince of the Lord.' Otherlong poems are 'The Beauties of Nature,' 'The Widow of Nain,' 'The Wreck of the Royal Charter,' all showing great promise. His shorter poems, however, are his best, and there is not a better in the language than 'Myfyrdod,' a meditation or soliloquy. Of his English poems, the be stare perhaps 'Life' and 'When I die;' but being his earliest productions, they are inferior to his Welsh poems. Oliver died on 24 June 1866, in his twenty-eighth year, and his remains were interred in the parish churchyard of Llanfynydd, of which he had sung so sweetly. His collected works (Welsh and English) were published at Newport, Monmouthshire, under the name 'Cerddi Cystudd,' by his brother, the Rev. Henry Oliver, with biographical preface and a photographic portrait, in 1867, small 8vo.

[Biography as above, and biography in Athraw, 1866, from the pen of the Rev. W. Thomas, M.A.; article in Cymru, February, 1894; personal knowledge.]

R. J. J.