A Rattleskull Genius: The Many Faces of Iolo Morganwg by Geraint H. Jenkins

By Geraint H. Jenkins

An industrious educational and charmingly eccentric Romantic poet and forger, Iolo Morganwg (1747-1846) left at the back of a floor-to-ceiling stack of unpublished manuscripts in his small Welsh cottage. A Rattleskull Genius, in line with that trove of unpublished fabric now held on the nationwide Library of Wales, presents either a party and a severe reassessment of the writer and his contributions to Welsh cultural culture.

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Additional resources for A Rattleskull Genius: The Many Faces of Iolo Morganwg (University of Wales Press - Iolo Morganwg and the Romantic Tradition)

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45 An audience with Iolo in London was an occasion to savour and his loud, persistent and often querulous voice dominated conversations. Never drawn to the dull-witted or the ponderous, he enjoyed the company of unconventional or challenging men. He was especially friendly with the naval surgeon David Samwell, a combative, cosmopolitan figure whose tales of Tahitian beauties, cannibalism, the epic journeys of Captain James Cook and Maori songs became the stuff of legend among the Gwyneddigion. According to Edward Charles, Samwell was ‘tall, stout, black-haired, pock-marked, fierce-looking, wondrous friendly in company, and very fond of the cup’,46 characteristics with which Iolo could 43 44 45 46 NLW 13221E, pp.

78–87. NLW 13221E, p. 13, Iolo Morganwg to William Owen Pughe, 12 March 1788. Elsewhere he wrote: ‘Some Deudneudians [inhabitants of north Wales] arrogate to themselves the modern Literary dialect. ’ NLW 13138A, p. 129. See also Cathryn Charnell-White, Barbarism and Bardism: North Wales versus South Wales in the Bardic Vision of Iolo Morganwg (Aberystwyth, 2004). Roy Porter and Dorothy Porter, In Sickness and in Health:The British Experience 1650 –1850 (London, 1988), pp. 217–25;Virginia Berridge and Griffith Edwards, Opium and the People: Opiate Use in Nineteenth-Century England (London, 1987), p.

This gathering of factual material relating to certain counties or localities covered diverse fields, ranging from the study of dialects, archaeological remains and agricultural practices to the recording of social customs. Iolo’s incessant travels on foot throughout Wales were part of this localized fact-finding mission. Lewis Morris, that other towering polymath of eighteenth-century Wales, had also undertaken such journeys for his projected great work, ‘Celtic Remains’, which remained unpublished until 1878.

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