Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Price, Thomas (fl.1586-1632)

PRICE or PRYS, THOMAS (fl. 1586–1632), captain and Welsh poet, eldest son of Dr. Ellis Price [q. v.], was ‘a gentleman of plentiful fortune,’ who followed a seafaring life for many years. He joined expeditions both under Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake. In one of his poems he states that he and Captain William Myddelton [q. v.] and Captain Thomas Koet were the first who ‘drank’ (smoked) tobacco in the streets of London. This would be in 1586 (Hume, Hist. of England, ch. xli.; Fairholt, Tobacco, pp. 50–1). Price was present at the camp at Tilbury in 1588. He also fitted out a privateer at his own expense and contributed to the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Subsequently, in conjunction with relatives and friends he did some buccaneering work on the Spanish coast, but when they persisted in such practices after peace was proclaimed they were warned by the English government and called to severe account.

Thomas Price was lord of the manor of Yspytty Ieuan, and by many authorities he is erroneously described as high sheriff of Denbighshire in 1599. His chief residence after the death of his father was Plas Iolyn, but he had a seat also in the Isle of Bardsey, which he had built out of the ruins of the old monastery.

Price and Captain William Myddelton are ranked by the author of ‘Heraldry Displayed’ among the fifteen gentlemen who fostered the literature of Wales during the eras of depression which followed the insurrection of Owen Glendower. The literary works of Thomas Price are in the British Museum. They form a large thick volume of prose and poetry, and are probably in his own handwriting (Addit. MS. 14872). Prefacing the works is a valuable introduction descriptive of the contents, dated November 1736, from the pen of Lewis Morris [q. v.] The chief prose works are: 1. A British history translated out of some Latin or English work until it reaches his own time. It generally agrees as to facts with that of Geoffrey of Monmouth, though very different in style and much shorter. It is full of anglicisms common to this day in Denbighshire. 2. ‘The British Expositor,’ a Welsh dictionary, older than that of Dr. Davies (1632), the first published in Welsh, and containing many words not in Davies. 3. ‘The Art of Poetry.’ 4. A list of contemporaries skilful in British poetry and other branches of learning. The poems range over a period of forty or fifty years. Some bear dates between 1589 and 1632. A few specimens have been published in the ‘Greal’ of 1805 and the ‘Cambrian Quarterly;’ in the ‘Cymmrodor’ of 1889 there appeared a striking satirical ode on ‘Unprincipled Lawyers,’ and a few stanzas on various subjects in the ‘Ymofynydd’ of 1891.

Prys married, first, Margaret, daughter of William Gruffydd of Penrhyn in Carnarvonshire, by whom he had two sons, Ellis and Thomas, and one daughter; and, secondly, Jane, daughter of Robert William of Berthddu, by whom he had no issue. The younger son Thomas succeeded his father as lord of the manor of Yspytty Ieuan. The elder son Ellis died in 1610, and his father wrote an elegy on him. Ellis's remains were interred in the same grave as his cousin's, William Gruffydd of Penrhyn, near Conway.

There is a portrait of Prys at Gloddaeth, the seat of Sir Roger Mostyn.

[Archæologia Cambr. 1856 p. 179, 1860 p. 114, 1869 p. 9, 1874 p. 152; Hist. of Powys Fadog, iv. 102 et seq.; Calendars of Gwynedd; Gweithiau Gwallter Mechain, i. 464–5, ii. 437; Fairholt's Tobacco, pp. 50, 51; Cambro-Briton, i. 271; Pennant's Tours in Wales, iii. 442 et seq.]

R. J. J.