WHO WAS IOLO MORGANWG?
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.
Iolo Morganwg on the website of St Fagans, National History Museum
Iolo Morganwg on the website of Gathering the Jewels