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FORMATION OF THE ST. DAVID'S CLUB.
At a Meeting of Literary Gentlemen held in London, on Saturday,
the 12th of November, 1831,
JAMES CONOLLY, ESQ. IN THE CHAIR,
IT WAS RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY, that the gentlemen who have sent in their names do constitute a Club, to be entitled the “St. David's Club," and that no further admissions into it be allowed for the present, the meeting being fully sensible that the power and vigor of any literary or scientific institution are not constituted by the numerical strength of its members, but rather by the strenuous and intellectual co-operation of a small number of able men, zealous in the cause.
It was also resolved, that the members of the St. David's Club be not confined to natives of Wales, as the designation would seem to imply, but that those of other countries, who may be distinguished for their patriotism and love of learning, be admitted.
It was also resolved, that the permanency and usefulness of any literary undertaking must, in a great measure, depend upon the selection of a secretary, active, able, and intelligent; and the enrolled members of the St. David's Club, being well aware that the unremitting perseverance evinced by the secretary of the Cambrian Quarterly Magazine, in the establishment and conduct of that valuable periodical, has been such as to merit the thanks of the Principality at large, and he, having been offered and having accepted the office of secretary in promotion of the objects to be embraced by the St. David's Club, is hereby appointed secretary the same.
It was also resolved, that the offer made by that gentleman, of rendering the Cambrian Quarterly the organ and medium of intelligence through which the members of the St. David's Club may report their proceedings to the public, be accepted with the most cordial acknowledgments of the meeting.
It was also resolved, that the patriotic and highly valuable proceedings of “The Literary and Translation Society of Wales" having, shortly after its commencement, been frustrated, in consequence of the serious illness of its learned and estimable founder, the St. David's CLUB, as far as possible, without intending to usurp or interfere wlth any future sphere of action of “The Literary and Translation Society," do co-operate and render all the support in their power to the furtherance of the objects of such society; and that the secretary of this Club do attend to all communications (post paid,) to be addressed “to the secretary of the St. David's Club, Cambrian Quarterly Office, 15, St. Martin's-le-Grand.”
It was also resolved, that the reports of the meetings of the Sr. David's Club be introduced to the public in the form of dialogues, being the conversations actually occurring at their meetings, and that they be printed in the Cambrian Quarterly.
The chairman having vacated the chair, the thanks of the meeting to him were proposed, seconded, and carried in the usual way.
THE SECRETARY'S REPORT.
In pursuance of the above resolutions, the St. David's Club held their first meeting at their chambers in Jermyn street, St. James's. A gentleman was voted to the chair,—whom we shall introduce as Professor Northwold, of Lincolnshire.
The Secretary was directed to read his report, the chief points of which were,—that the correspondents in the country, from whom he had the honour of receiving letters, had impressed him with the belief that the present state of Welsh literature was far more respectable as to the quality of its composition, as well as the topics it embraced, than it had been at any period since the decline of the Bards; that several Welsh periodicals now in existence, if they could not boast of those high pretensions which are assumed by those of their Saxon contemporaries, still avoided absurdity of diction, ignorance of grammar, and that stupid prejudice against admitting any thing which did not originate in matter indigenous to Wales, however inapplicable a vast portion of the ancient records or manners of that country might be to the feelings and customs of the present day: for instance, as regards national feeling, twenty or thirty years ago, a gentleman from the wolds of Lincolnshire would have been no more admitted into a Welsh Club than the hideous Zealander or disgusting Hottentot would now be tolerated in the salons of the city, par excellence Paris; but, happily, good sense and increased information, both in Wales and in the rest of the kingdom, has had the effect of dissipating prejudices which could belong but to an age of barbarism.
Amongst the Welsh literature of the day, the Seren Gomer (Gomer's Star,) was a magazine published in Caermarthen monthly; its circulation extended to upwards of 2000, and, though in the interest of the Dissenters, its pages were never sullied by harsh disputation on subjects of religious controversy.
The Gwyliedydd (the Watchman,) was another monthly periodical, ably supported by the clergy of the church of England: there were several articles in the Gwyliedydd written by men of high attainments, and, without any invidious distinction, he believed that many contributions to that work were deserving the greatest attention: that they were entitled to a station among the standard theological writings of the nineteenth century; but how was such exertion patronized! Unfortunately the Gwyliedydd obtained a very disproportionate share of public attention: after being established a considerable time, it barely reimbursed the spirited publisher, and he believed the services of the writers in the Gwyliedydd had been gratuitous. Its sale did not at that moment amount to the disposal of seven hundred copies: strange to say, this neglect of a sound theological work was attributable to a total reaction of feeling among the middle classes of the Welsh, for, as had been observed formerly, an exclusive attachment (as far as it went,) to native lore absorbed their attention, though fifty years ago the middle classes paid but little attention to any kind of literature. Unfortunately now, as had been fully demonstrated by a writer in the Cambrian Quarterly,* a considerable portion of the important class alluded to considered it, in spirit and acquirement, a degradation to be thought Cambrian: how contrary in its chilling consequences was this apathy compared to sectarian enthusiasm! The Dissenters supported any polemical effort, no matter from what quarter proceeding, if in it were advocated their principles: he ventured his opinion, that in the present remarkable period of
public irritability, such a state of things in Wales to all reflecting men, anxious for the maintenance of the Church of England, must appear fraught with apprehension, and perhaps alarm.
He did not mean to say that the gentry in Wales neglected their devotional duties,—he believed otherwise, that they set an example, as regarded a proper discharge of such duties, to many parts of the kingdom; and, as to honour and spirit, they were on a par with the English gentleman, and that was saying enough. But as long as their present distaste prevailed, how was it possible that Welsh history could be attractive, -a history which displayed brilliant examples of every ennobling virtue, tinged though not obscured by the dark mists of semi-barbarism.
It had been seen that little encouragement was afforded by the members of the Church of England in Wales towards literary productions in their own language, and regarding literature in a translated form; he regretted that several attempts to establish periodicals devoted to subjects of Celtic interest had failed, and the Cambrian Quarterly itself would have fallen, had it not been unusually supported by the scholars of that country to whose cause it was chiefly devoted. This gratifying circumstance, assisted by private friendship, coupled with that attention which the Club had been pleased so flatteringly to notice in their third resolution, sustained the Cambrian Quarterly; and, after surmounting more difficulties than he cared to mention, he was proud to assert, that no power on earth could effacethe “Cambrian” from the station it now occupied; and in taking the distinction of being the only Anglo-Welsh periodical, he could honestly assure them, that the supporters of that work did not seek so mortifying a distinction; yet he feared it would long—very long, occupy its solitary power; for how could authors of ordinary attainments hope to succeed, when one of the ablest Celtic scholars the world ever produced, had long laboured (and at the present time continued to do so, although almost without hope) to print a work, the manuscript of which was ready for the press, and the publication of which is only delayed by the want of adequate patronage.
The Cymmrodorion Society had taken up the subject as far as their limited funds permitted them, but that patriotic body could not effect impossibilities, and the Mabinogion* remained a sealed book from the world: he had been assured by his respected friend, Dr. Samuel Meyrick, himself an honour to Cambria, that the learned of England were anxiously expecting the appearance of this most interesting relic of the early Welsh. If there was any one circumstance more discouraging to a man of genius than another, it was the very unfair system pursued by the large publication warehouses in London: and he was most happy to assure the St. David's Club, that arrangements had been made for printing the Mabinogian at Denbigh, should the learned translator meet with the encouragement to which his acquirements and abilities so justly entitled him.
This report, which he had prepared according to the instructions of the Club, contained perhaps no new point; indeed, he had obtained his information from authorities known to most men ordinarily acquainted with the topics he had dwelt upon. This he preferred doing to subjecting himself to the charge of arrogating a knowledge of more than he understood, and because otherwise it would be impossible for the St. David's Club to proceed with effect, constituted as it was of gentlemen, who, however great their knowledge might be, could not possibly be fully conversant with the affairs of Wales, both as to their past and present import.
* Nursery tales of the Ancient British; most ancient and very curious.
On the conclusion of the report, the Club held an adjourned meeting, in St. David's Hall, to which, and to several Members of the Club, we will forthwith introduce our readers.
Nothing exteagate, nor set down aught in malice.''
Scene-Sr. David's HALL.
Time, 9 o'clock, P.M. Persons present: Professor NORTHWOLD (in the chair)—The Colonel—The
DOCTOR-A SILENT MEMBER –The SECRETARY, &c. The round table in the midst of the hall is amply furnished with the immortal
Metbeglin, the choicest wines, fruits, &c., the various bottles and the Epergne decorated with the leek, Cambria's old and glorious emblem, pre-eminent, entuined with the white and red roses, the thistle, and the shamrock. The sideboard is ornamented with rich and massive plate, in the midst of which is seen, in mantling pride, the foaming bowl of genuine Llangollen, as imported from “the King's Head.” Ancient and portly Morgan, the grand butler, attired in his suit of state livery, blue and gold, (blue, of course, in honour of the bards;) the crest on his buttons, the Lion of Britain, surmounted by the Prince of Wales's plume; the motto from Taliesin, “Cymru vy Cymru vydd,” viz. “Wales has been, and Wales shall be.” He stands by the sideboard, straight and sedate as one of our glorious Fusileers on guard; his embroidered napkin in hand, his look and mien indicative of the most profound respect and attention, with no small consciousness of his own importance, as chief minister of the banquet. Two footmen are placed behind the chairman, and one behind each of the other members. Professor Northwold, (filling his glass.) Gentlemen, “Brenin ac Eglwys !" (Church and King.) [The toast is drank with three times three, so heartily given, that the old walls of St. James's neighbouring church shake with the lusty sound, while the glasses dance, the bottles tremble, and the bowl of Llangollen, on the sideboard, scatters its foam (resembling the cataract of Pistyl Caen, or the torrent under Pont ar Vynach,) over the profusely powdered head of Morgan, who, nevertheless, remains ficed as Eryri himself.]
Northwold (rises.) Gentlemen, you having done me the high honour of calling me to the chair, it is my pride and pleasure to beg you will accept my sincere thanks for so great and unmerited a distinction: I feel as an Englishman ought to feel, that by so placing me, you have identified me with an association of gentlemen, to whose erudition I shall be indebted for much valuable, as well as interesting knowledge. That you have also identified me with a people, whose actions, in former times, obtained for them, (according to Cæsar,) the title of "the bravest of all barbarians ;” and let it be recollected, that the Romans classed the whole world, excepting Rome, as barbarous; whilst, in these happier days, we are proud to acknowledge them under the glorious title of “ Ancient Britons," (applause.) Allow me then, as an ailopted son of Wales, most cordially to thank you, and to assure the St. David's Club that, in every possible way in which my humble services can be rendered available towards its interests, they will ever be most entirely and devotedly at its disposal, (great applause.) Gentlemen, I shall now, with the assistance of our able secretary, proceed to inquire into the past and present state of the various Cambrian societies established in London, what their services have been, how they may render themselves most useful, and to explain, in the best way we are able, their proceedings through the medium of our Club.
We will begin with the Gwyneddigion, the parent society of them all. But come, gentlemen, some wine- I will give you "The Queen,” (drank with enthusiasm, and three times three.)
Colonel. By the by, Morgan, how is it that William Prichard, the harper, is not in waiting? Did you not write to him, according to our request?
Morgan. Yes, sir, I obeyed the commands of the Club.
Secretary Gentlemen, I was about to apologise for honest William's absence. One of the attachés of the Welsh Ambassador, last evening, succeeded in making himself super-glorious at court, and unfortunately disabled our Bard, by tumbling bead foremost through the national instrument, causing flats, sbarps, and naturals to give up the ghost, with a sound surpassing the unearthly melody of the supernatural fiddle of lolo ap Hugh. However, at our next meeting, I hope to introduce honest William and his newly strung harp to the attention of the St. David's Club.
Doctor, (very gravely.) Mr. Secretary, I fear this humourous apology of yours will not suit the taste of some of your Cambrian readers, who look for “the Welsh, the whole Welsh, and nothing but the Welsh.”
Secretary Great as my obligations are to my countrymen for their support of the Welsh Quarterly, and highly as I esteem their friendship, I must, in the conduct of that work, beg to speak, think, and act for myself, without being fed with ideas, like an infant with a spoon. It must be recollected that I have to cater for rather a heterogeneous company: my country I will always place in the van ; but wbile I honour Wales, let me not turn my back upon the beauties of others, so that we may entwine them with our own, in a national emblem(pointing to the epergne,) of that leek, thistle, shamrock, and “England's fair rose.” But, gentlemen, I will so far take the advice of our staid friend, the Doctor, as to recur to the chief subject before us.
The Gwyneddigion, was instituted by Owen Jones, of Thames street, a furrier, in 1971, though some preliminary meetings had before taken place. It is but fair to state that I am chiefly indebted for my information, on this subject, to a work published a few months ago, by the zealous secretary of that institution; a book which, as a repertory of matter of fact, ought to be read by every bistorian; the author is sometimes in error, as all authors are, and as far as we can, we may correct him: for instance, the Gwyneddigion (men of North Wales) are not only Venedocians, (as Mr. Leathart implies, although the error is a pardonable oversight,) for the Gwyneddigion never consisted of natives of Gwynedd only, but those also of Pouis, therefore, in part, they were Ordovices.
The society has, unfortunately, been neglected by our Welsh noblesse, and, bearing this discouraging fact in mind, it is a matter of astonishment how they have done so much. Besides a great quantity of modern Welsh poetry and music, it is to the Gwyneddigion we are indebted for the works of David ab Gwylym, in a printed form, which appeared in 1789. In 1791, a discussion arose as to the probability of the existence of a tribe, originally Welsh, having settled in America, and, whatever may be said on the score of the “extravagance” of such an asser. tion, still to the liberal and philosophical inquirer, the investigation must have afforded gratification beyond the effect of mere curiosity, particularly when it is recollected that Queen Elizabeth endeavoured to claim part of America, on the express ground of her Welsh subjects having been the first Europeans who discovered the new world.t We are of opinion that the story is a fallacy, but that there were, at one time, powerful inducements to think otherwise, we are free to admit, and we will assert, without fear of contradiction, that no literary society in Europe ever discussed a question of more singular interest. Such is the society apparently destined, I am sorry to add, to receive from the fine gentlemen of the day, a neglect and apathy which is anything but creditable to their understanding or patriotism.
Colonel. Why, these gentlemen of Wales must, in their generation, be as mistaken in their ideas of national prosperity, as your exclusive Welshmen, wbo brag up Twm o'r Nant, but damn Shakspeare.
Poctor. With due deference to our Cambrian enthusiasts, may I beg the favor of a song from Northwold, whom the veriest Cambrian will, doubtless, acknowledge to be a bard of considerable powers?
• See Cambrian Quarterly, No. 1, page 40.