Price, Thomas (1787-1848) (DNB00)


PRICE, THOMAS (1787–1848), Welsh historian, best known as ‘Carnhuanawc,’ born 2 Oct. 1787 at Pencaerelin in the parish of Llanfihangel Bryn Pabuan, Brecknock, was second son of Rice Price, vicar of Llanwrthwl, Brecknock (d. 1810), and Mary Bowen, his wife. In 1805 he entered Brecon grammar school. There he attracted the notice of Theophilus Jones [q. v.], who was then engaged upon the second volume of his ‘History of Breconshire.’ His talent for drawing was turned to good account in the illustration of this book, and a lasting interest in Welsh history was at the same time kindled in him. A letter to Jones, in which he described some Roman remains near Llandrindod, was printed in ‘Archæologia,’ vol. xvii. On 10 March 1811 he was ordained deacon, and licensed to the curacies of Llanyre and Llanfihangel Helygen in Radnorshire. His ordination as priest (12 Sept. 1812) was soon followed (April 1813) by his removal to Crickhowel. Thence he served the parishes of Llangenny, Llanbedr Ystrad Yw, and Patrishow as curate-in-charge. To these were added in 1816 the neighbouring parishes of Llangattog and Llanelly. In 1825 he received the vicarage of Llanfihangel Cwmdu, augmented in 1839 by the curacy of Tretower. Crickhowel, however, continued to be his home until 1841, when he built himself a house on the glebe land at Cwmdu.

Price first appeared as a Welsh writer in 1824, when he contributed a series of papers on ‘The Celtic Tongue’ to ‘Seren Gomer,’ under the name ‘Carnhuanawc,’ which became his recognised literary title. He was already known as a well-informed and eloquent speaker upon bardism and similar topics at eisteddfodau, and in 1824 he won a prize at Welshpool Eisteddfod for an essay upon the relations between Armorica and Britain. The Celtic connections of the Welsh interested him greatly, and during the next few years he travelled a good deal in Celtic countries. In 1829 he published ‘An Essay on the Physiognomy and Physiology of the present Inhabitants of Britain,’ in which he maintained against John Pinkerton [q. v.] the doctrine of the single origin of the human race.

In 1836 he commenced the great task of his life, the compilation of a history of Wales in Welsh. ‘Hanes Cymru’ appeared in fourteen parts, the first of which was issued in the above year, the last in 1842. Price's desire to secure as great a degree of accuracy as possible led to long delays (Archæologia Cambrensis, 1st ser. iv. 148). A cumbrous and pedantic style and the absence of any constructive treatment of his material detract from the merits of this work, but it remained for many years the most trustworthy history of Wales.

Price was an indefatigable worker in all movements which appealed to his fervid patriotism. He took an active part in the foundation of the Cymreigyddion, or Welsh Society of Brecon (1823), and that of Abergavenny (1833), sent regular communications to Welsh magazines, and corresponded with a large number of persons on Celtic topics. He took an especial interest in the Welsh (triple) harp, and through his exertions a school for players of this instrument was for a time maintained at Brecon. In October 1845 he won the prize of 80l. offered at Abergavenny Eisteddfod for the best essay on the comparative merits of Welsh, Irish, and Gaelic literature. In 1847 he published a pamphlet (Llandovery) on ‘The Geographical Progress of Empire and Civilisation,’ an expansion of Berkeley's theory that ‘westward the course of empire takes its way.’

Price died on 7 Nov. 1848, and was buried at Llanfihangel Cwmdu. In 1854–5 his ‘Literary Remains’ were published at Llandovery, the second volume containing a biography by Miss Jane Williams (Ysgafell), with many illustrative letters. To the first volume is prefixed a portrait, photographed from an oil painting at Llanover; to the second a photograph of a bust executed by W. M. Thomas.

[Literary Remains, Llandovery, 1854–5; Archæologia Cambrensis, 1st ser. iv. 146–50.]

J. E. L.