Session 70: Ystafell 10
Early Modern Wales and Scotland

Chair: Simon Rodway

'[M]y grateful countrymen ...': Thomas Pennant's Welsh connections

Ffion Mair Jones
Canolfan Uwchefrydiau Cymreig a Cheltaidd Prifysgol Cymru (CAWCS)

Embedded in a letter to the lexicographer and prominent London-Welshman, William Owen [Pughe] in October 1794, Pennant's description of his fellow countrymen is full of bitter irony. Here, it relates to his unacknowledged favours to the Welsh school, a charitable institution in the capital, but the sentiment, it appears, was deep-rooted. This paper proposes to examine Pennant's relationship with his Welsh contacts, which developed alongside European-wide recognition, as he received acknowledgement of his scientific achievements from 1757 onwards. It will look, firstly, at Pennant's legacy among the Welsh establishment. Why was such an illustrious person so long left unexplored by successive generations of Welsh people; the breadth of his contribution to learning, of which his scientific work was a crucial feature, so blatantly discarded; and even his travels through his 'native land' only introduced in a Welsh translation under the guise of 'antiquities' in a flurry of interest in such matters at the close of the nineteenth century? The fact that, when a couple of new letters belonging to the Morris brothers of Anglesey were found in 1949, surprise was expressed that one of them was addressed to Pennant, suggests that a great deal of the story of the latter's interaction with the bearers of Welsh Enlightenment thought and activity had been consigned to oblivion. This brings us to the second aim of this paper: to explore the real interaction between Pennant and his countrymen, in particular through his links to the Morris brothers and their society, the Cymmrodorion.

Saviour of the language? The rôle and impact of the Welsh Bible

Anastasia Llewellyn
Université Concordia, Montréal

Although translation played a critical role in the survival of the Welsh language, Wales has been sorely underrepresented in the field of translation studies. The publication of the 1588 Welsh Bible, the result of a political gamble by Elizabeth I, was a turning point in the survival of the Welsh vernacular. At a time when Welsh was banned from use in public life, the Welsh Bible played a fundamental part in the development of Welsh language and culture. In assessing the cultural, political, and religious reverberations of the Welsh Bible, we espouse an approach similar to those of Delisle and Woodsworth, and Berman, taking into consideration the importance of the socio-political context in which a translation occurs. We touch briefly on Tudor language policy, and its rationale. We examine more specifically the results of Elizabeth I’s decision to prioritize religious uniformity over linguistic uniformity. In affording Welsh-speakers a crucial venue for the use of their own language, Elizabeth inadvertently ensured that Welsh would continue to play a role in daily life in Wales. Owing in no small part to the quality of the translation and the background of the translators, the Welsh Bible, and its ubiquity, were vital in securing the continued existence of the language, through normalization and codification, and, further, were key to redefining the Welsh literary system. Drawing on Jauss’s notion of the horizon of expectation and Toury’s work on polysystem theory, we evaluate the lasting impact of this translation on Wales.

The unknown Gaelic Dictionary: the work of the first Gaelic Society, 1767–1780

Domhnall Uilleam Stiùbhart
Sabhal Mòr Ostaig UHI

Following the publication of the Scottish Gaelic translation of the New Testament in 1767, there was need for a Gaelic grammar and dictionary: to assist new readers; to facilitate further religious translations; and, on a wider scale, to polish and refine Gaelic for the world of the Enlightenment.

The religious poet Dugald Buchanan apparently commenced a Gaelic grammar, cut short by his untimely death. The project was taken up by the first Gaelic Society, an ad hoc alliance of ministers and a tacksman-bard under the leadership of an exiled Jacobite carpenter and an impoverished Highland chief then running a notorious Fife sex club. Members not only divided the alphabet among themselves, but also contributed to a grammar and collected Gaelic song exemplars through correspondence and field tours.

Using newly discovered Gaelic manuscript sources, I shall for the first time sketch out the rise and fall of this groundbreaking dictionary project: how this pioneering indigenous scholarly network deepened ties and fostered mutual affinity amongst participants; how its energies were dispersed into anti-Johnsonian animus in one case, and further Biblical translation projects in another; and how it was blighted by a lack of solid financial backing and an individual director, as well as by the unwelcome publication of William Shaw’s rival, Johnson-backed, Galic and English Dictionary (1780). Nevertheless, the Society’s exertions were not in vain, bearing fruit in the Rev. Alexander Stewart’s benchmark Elements of Gaelic Grammar (1801) and as an unrecognised foundation for the Highland Society of Edinburgh’s major Dictionarium Scoto-Celticum (1828).