Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Evans, Evan (1731-1789)

EVANS, EVAN (1731–1789), Welsh poet and antiquary, son of Jenkin Evans, was born at Cynhawdref, in the parish of Lledrod, Cardiganshire, on 20 May 1731. He received his education at the grammar school of Ystrad Meurig, under the scholar and poet, Edward Richard. Thence he removed to Oxford, and was entered at Merton College in 1751. He conveyed a small freehold in Cardiganshire to his younger brother for 100l., in order to support himself at the university. After leaving Oxford without taking a degree he officiated as curate at Newick, Sussex, at Towyn, Merionethshire, at Llanberis and Llanllechid, Carnarvonshire, and at Llanvair Talhaiarn, Denbighshire. From an early age he cultivated poetry, and he was soon noticed by Lewis Morris the antiquary. He diligently applied himself to the study of Welsh literature, and employed his leisure time in transcribing ancient Welsh manuscripts, for which purpose he visited most of the libraries in Wales. At one time he received small annuities from Sir Watkin Williams Wynn and Dr. Warren, when bishop of St. David's, to enable him to prosecute these researches. His first publication was entitled ‘Some Specimens of the Poetry of the Antient Welsh Bards, translated into English; with explanatory notes on the historical passages, and a short account of men and places mentioned by the Bards; in order to give the curious some idea of the tastes and sentiments of our Ancestors, and their manner of writing,’ London, 1764, 4to, reprinted at Llanidloes [1862], 8vo. This work gained for its author a high reputation as an antiquary and a critic, and furnished Gray with matter for some of his most beautiful poetry. In it is included a Latin treatise by Evans, ‘De Bardis Dissertatio; in qua nonnulla quæ ad eorum antiquitatem et munus respiciunt, et ad præcipuos qui in Cambria floruerunt, breviter discutiuntur.’ He next published an English poem, now of extreme rarity, entitled ‘The Love of our Country, a poem, with historical notes, address'd to Sir Watkin Williams Wynn. … By a Curate from Snowdon,’ Carmarthen, 1772, 8vo. He also composed various poems in Welsh, which are printed in the ‘Dyddanwch Teuluaidd.’ In 1776 he published two volumes of Welsh sermons, translated from the works of Tillotson and other English divines. In one notice of him it is stated that having passed a great part of his life in the cultivation of Welsh literature, ‘without being able to procure the smallest promotion in the church, his fortitude deserted him, and, to chase away his vexations, he fell into a habit of drinking, that at times produced symptoms of derangement.’ The fact that he cultivated Welsh literature is, however, of itself sufficient to account for his non-preferment, as the Welsh prelates of that period were for the most part Englishmen who were ignorant of the language of the country. Paul Panton, esq., of Plâsgwyn in Anglesey, allowed him towards the close of his life an annuity of 20l., on condition that all Evans's manuscripts should at his death become his property; and in consequence the whole collection, amounting to a hundred volumes, was deposited in the Plâsgwyn library, where it still remains. Evans was tall and athletic, and of a dark complexion. From his height he obtained the bardic appellation of Prydydd Hir, or the ‘tall poet.’ He died at Cynhawdref, the place of his birth, in August 1789, and was buried in Lledrod churchyard. The suddenness of his death gave rise to entirely false reports that he died by his own hand, or of starvation on a mountain.

The Rev. Daniel Silvan Evans, B.D., published a collection of Evan Evans's miscellaneous writing under the title of ‘Gwaith y Parchedig Evan Evans (Ieuan Brydydd Hir) golygedig gan D. Silvan Evans, B.D., Caernarfon: argraffedig gan H. Humphreys, 1876,’ 8vo. This volume contains numerous poems in Welsh, the English poem on ‘The Love of our Country,’ forty-six of Evans's letters, mostly in English, ‘A Short View of the State of Britain,’ reprinted from the ‘Cambrian Quarterly Magazine,’ vol. i., and an English translation of Evans's Latin introduction to his intended publication of the Welsh Proverbs.

[Information from the Rev. Daniel Silvan Evans, B.D.; Owen's Cambrian Biography, p. 101; Meyrick's Cardiganshire, p. 325; Gent. Mag. lviii. pt. ii. 934; Williams's Biog. Sketch of Eminent Individuals, p. 10; Williams's Eminent Welshmen, p. 149; Rowlands's Llyfryddiaeth y Cymry, pp. 448, 477, 510, 515 n., 535, 537, 572; Cat. of Printed Books in Brit. Mus.; Nichols's Illustr. of Lit. v. 600; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ii. 428.]

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