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Title: A critical study of the works of Charles Edwards (1628-1691?)
Author: Morgan, Derec Llwyd
ISNI:       0000 0004 2742 7880
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1968
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Charles Edwards's works have not, before now, been subject to much critical scrutiny. Of course, there are many other sixteenth and seventeenth-century Welsh writers who have not received the attention they deserve, but they are mostly translators of English works and not original authors. 'Mae'n syn', observes Mr Saunders Lewis in a volume of essays collected in 1945, 'mor araf deg yw beirniadaeth Gymraeg yn cydnabod mawredd Charles Edwards.' In the nineteenth century Lewis Edwards was the only critic who concerned himself with demonstrating Charles Edwards' literary gifts, emphasizing especially his genius for metaphor. William Edmunds, in his 1856 edition of Y Ffydd Ddi-ffuant, Edwards's major work, contributed to the study of that work by attempting to trace and note some of the sources of the historical section of the book. Ivor James in 1886 was the first to write an acceptable history of Edwards's life. In the twentieth century little was heard of Edwards until G.J. Williams's standard edition of Y Ffydd Ddi-ffuant, which included a masterful introduction, was published in 1936, after which Mr Saunders Lewis wrote three illuminating articles on Edwards's chief work (in 1945, 1949, 1950). Mr Hugh Bevan's Hanes y Ffydd yng Nghymru (1948) sought only to stress the importance of one chapter of "Hanes y Ffydd". My study of Charles Edwards, then, is the first comprehensive study of all his works. The first Part of the thesis is devoted to Edwards's life and times. I have outlined nome of the more prominent religious ideas of his age, and attempt to ahow how they, together with Edwards's consciousness of the most pressing needs of Wales during his lifetime, influenced the Puritan preacher to use his literary skills , with a view to reach a public that would attain spiritual benefit from his books. His greatest work, as I have noted, was Y Ffydd Ddi-ffuant. a volume that grew in three editions between 1667 and 1677 from being little more than a sketchy history of the faith to become one of the masterpieces of Welsh prose, a history of the work of God in the affairs of the world and in the soul of man. Part 2 of this thesia deals with the various sections of Y Ffydd Ddi-ffuant. The first throe chapters treat of "Hanes y Ffydd" In Chapter I I trace the growth of the history from 1667 to 1677, note Edwards's revision and innovations and discuss the nice change in his attitude towards Popery. Chapter II constitutes a brief survey of the tradition of Christian historians to which Edwards belongs: as a historian he is at one with the prophets of the Old Testament, with Eusebius and Walter Ralegh no less. Like Isaiah and Jeremiah, he believes the special unity of the nation, and persistently urges the Welsh, his special concern, to please God: the nature of his appeal is discussed at the end of this second chapter of Part 1. The third and final chapter on "Hanes y Ffydd" deals with the main sources (excluding the Bible) of Edwards's history. It is a study of the way in which Edwards manipulates the knowledge he gleans from others to suit his own ends. Chapter IV of this part of the thesis is a description of the ideas portrayed in the second section of Y Ffydd Ddi-ffuant. a 'proof of the 'verity' of the Christian religion. The chapter is closely related to Chapter V, which is an ordered discussion of the various ideas, traditional and contemporary, which constitute Charles Edwards's theological standpoint. These are the ideas alluded to in the images and descriptive passages of "Rhinwedd y Ffydd", the third and greater part of Y Ffydd Ddi-ffuant, where Edwards describes God's work regenerating the human soul. In this chapter I try to describe his partial affinity with tho moderate Anglican writers of the earlier seventeenth century (and with others) and how his brand of Puritanism - for Edwards is invariably described as a 'late Puritan' - is one generously wary of the stricter tenets of Calvinism. Chapter V briefly describes Edwards's purpose in recruiting Welsh poets - some of the pre-Reformation era - to swell his array of witnesses who testify to the goodness of the unfeigned faith. The last chapter of Part 2 of this thesis is a study of Edwards's style of writing in Y Ffydd Ddi-ffuant. i have demonstrated how his (possible) coming under the indirect influence of Ramism affected his method of expression. Part 3 consists of a less detailed study of Edwards's other works, In Chapter I his idiosyncratic preoccupation with the affinities of the Welsh and Hebrew languages is discussed - the possible sources of Edwards's interest and the type of books (lexicographical and instructional) which may have been of assistance to him in his pursuit of this study. The first half of Chapter II is a description of Edwards's first English work, Fatherly Instructions (1686), an anthology of the works of some of the Early Church Fathers. In the second half of the chapter I have shown the nature of the anthology - i.e. the way in which the editor used these early works to defend and advance hia own near-Puritan ideas. Chapter III treats of two separate pieces which Edwards brings together: i) the nature of his abridgement of Gildas's De Excidio Britanniae, published in Y Ffydd Ddi-ffuant; and ii) a series of 'sermons', printed with Fatherly Instructions, under the title Gildas Minimus, written with Gildasian intensity though not with Gildasian insight 'to disswade from Apostacy, and those other Abominations that are like to be very pernicious to these Nations'. In Gildas Minimus there are signs of the mental ill-health more easily detected in Edwards's An Afflicted Man's Testimony Concerning His Troubles (1691), the subject of Chapter IV. The last chapter of Part 3 is a description of the editorial work carried out by Edwards for the Welsh Trust during 1675-1682, and a discussion of the significance of this work. Part 4 of the thesis is an attempt to assess the greatness of Y Ffydd Ddi-ffuant and to show how the one motive of winning souls to God invests all Edwards's works, though all different from each other, with a unity of purpose.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available