Literary Forger and Forger of a Nation

• EDWARD WILLIAMS (1747-1826) was, and remains, better known by his bardic name IOLO MORGANWG.

• As his bardic name suggests, Iolo was a native of GLAMORGAN, and it is this county and its history that became the focal point of his bardic vision.

• Like his father, Iolo worked at his trade as a STONEMASON.

• Iolo was a prolific POET in both Welsh and English, writing in the guise of other poets as well as in his own voice. The forged poems which he attributed to the fourteenth-century poet Dafydd ap Gwilym are the most famous of his works as a LITERARY FORGER. As a result, he gained a posthumous reputation as one of Europe's most successful forgers.

• He is also considered an ARCHITECT OF THE WELSH NATION on the strength of his contribution to the eighteenth-century cultural renaissance. He upheld Wales's reputation as a civil nation in Bardism and the Gorsedd of the Bards. He was also the first to suggest that Wales should have its own national institutions: a library, an academy, a museum and a folk museum.

• Iolo was a self-taught POLYMATH and his manuscripts attest to the sheer diversity of his interests: druidism, poetry, folk songs, antiquities, architecture, agriculture, geology, language and dialect, pedigrees, radicalism and abolitionism.

• As eighteenth-century Wales's most prodigious letter-writer, Iolo has left a rich and varied corpus of CORRESPONDENCE which captures all the dynamism and contentiousness of his life and times.

• Iolo embraced political and religious RADICALISM. As well as being involved with the London-Welsh Gwyneddigion society who supported 'Freedom in State and Church' ('Rhydd-did mewn Gwlad ac Eglwys'), Iolo moved in London's radical circles during the 1790s. Inspired by the foremost radical thinkers of his time, he became acquainted with many of them: George Dyer, William Godwin, Joseph Johnson, Thomas Paine, Joseph Priestley, Robert Southey, John Thelwall, Horne Tooke, Gilbert Wakefield, and David Williams. In religious terms, Iolo was a Rational Dissenter and was instrumental in establishing the UNITARIAN cause in south Wales.

• Iolo's poetry and bardic vision bear the hallmarks of ROMANTICISM. His Romantic image of Wales and its past had a far-reaching effect on the way in which the Welsh envisaged their own national identity during the nineteenth century.

External Links:
Iolo Morganwg on the website of St Fagans, National History Museum

Iolo Morganwg on the website of Gathering the Jewels