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It is the purity and strength of the ore which a true judge regards, and not the forma in which it has been manufactured.
A History of the County of Breckrock, Vol. I. containing the
Chorography, General History, Religion, Laws, Customs, Manners, Language, and System of Agriculture used in that County; by Theophilus Jones, Deputy Registrar of the Archdeaconry of Bręcon. 4to. pp.
with Preface, &c. 398. Plates and Maps, 14. 1805. A History, &c. of Brecknock. Vol. II. containing the Anti
quities, Sepulchral Monuments and Inscriptions, Natural Curiosities, Variations of the Soil, Stratification, Mineralogy, a copious List of rare and other Plants, and also the Genealogies and Arms of the Principal Families, properly coloured or blazoneil, together with the Names of the Patrons and Incumbents of all the Parishes and Livings in that County, 8c. 4to. pp. 874. Plates, &c. 17. 1809. Printed for the Author at Brecknock;
and sold by J. Booth, London. 71. 17s. 6d. WHOEVER has reflected on the progress of literature in
Great Britain, during the course of the last century, cannot but have been struck with the great increase of topographical and local histories within that period. In England they have become particularly abundant, and a similar taste is now fast spreading in Wales. The pages of Giraldus, Pennant, Rowland, Enderbie, Powel, Malkin, Bingley, &c, furnish us with sufficient general information in respect to the principality; but that more minute detail which falls within the province of the county historian to display, . was yet wanting; and we must acknowledge our obligations to No. 129. Vol. 32. Mar. 1809.
Mr. Jones, even at the outset of our remarks, for that publica spirited liberality, which led to the publication of this elabo rate work; in which one of the districts of South Wales is described at large. When an author, after all the pains of research and composition, offers the result of his labours to the world at his own risk, he deserves an enlarged portion of encouragement; and especially so, if, as in the present case, his investigations are really interesting.
Breeknockshire, or Breconshire, formerly called Garthmadrin, or the Fos-hold, derived its present name from a prince of the country named Brychan, who died about the year 450. After establishing the fact of this county having formed a part of the ancient Dyfed, or Demetzé
, instead of Siluria, as has been commonly supposed, our author in the first chapter proceeds to trace its boundaries ; which he does so minutely, that the proper names alone occupy four pages. He then proceeds to state various particulars of the population, rivers, mountains, soil, climate, &c. after which in Chap. II. he commences the history of Brecknockshire, from the Roman invasion to the decease of Brychan Brecheiniog, the chieftain before mentioned, from whon the county derived its name. This chapter contains many judicious observations on the Roman roadsand stations in this part of the principality, together with some corrections of the mistakes of Camden, Horsley, Baxter, Polwhele, King, and other writers, whom ignorance of the Welsh language has led into various errors, when speaking of the antiquities of Wales; and in contradiction to most of these authorities, the Gaer near Brecknock is declared to be the scite * of the Bannio of the Romans, With these observations, however, is mingled a jejune flippancy of remark (and the defect in some degree pervades both volumes) that detracts from the general merit of the investigation, and ought never to be admitted to degrade the dignity of sober history: for example, on a quotation from Horsley, enough confused no doubt, our author exclaims
* This word is so spelt throughout the volume and our author thus apologises for it in his preface. “The word scite, I am aware, is spelt differently in the work from the modern way: it is so written in ancient muniments, and to me it appears to give greater stability to the spot described than its flitting substitute of the present day; if, however, the voice of the learned is against it, 'in my" next it shall be site." P. X,
« Gently! gently! good Sir! a little scepticism is allowable upon this occasion,
The Roman dress has certainly made a wonderful alteration in the appearance of our Welsh ladies; and it must be admitted, that those who have introduced them to us, have made them dance the hay in a very ridiculous manner: those however who have been brought up in the same school from infancy, may possibly be able to identify them even “under their disguises, and may succeed, though with disticulty, in restoring them to their proper places." P. 28.
Now, besides the confusion of the metaphors in this paragraph, and the affected smartness of the phraseology, we must observe that to contrast a Welsh female dancing the hay in a Roman vest, with the attempt to trace the etymology and fix the site of a Roman station, can never be allowable in any other latitude of comparison than Hudibras arrived at, when,
• Like a lobster boild, the morn
From black to red began to turn. In a similar strain of false taste, our author, in detailing the subjugation of the Silures, thus writes :
“ These barbarians, we are told, had a remarkable turn of thinking: the Emperor Claudius had threatened them; that like the Sugambri or Sicambri (who were almost exterminated, and the remainder of them carried into Gaul) the name and memory of the Silures should not remain upon the earth. He had called to them (no doubt) by the mouth of his governors, proprætors, and prætors, and had commanded them to come peaceably to Rome to be killed: proclamation after proclamation, most likely, followed to the same effect; but such was their peculiar obstinacy, says Tacitus, * præipui Silurum pervicacia,' that they would not submit to have their throats cut quietly. This tenaciousness of life, which is observable in eels, and some few animals not endowed with the faculty of reasoning, may be excused in the uncivilised natives of South Wales. There are those (I am satisfied), who will not be surprised at their stubbornness on this occasion, or think them to blame in their determination, and their descendents may even be permitted to applaud their spirit, &c.".. P. 31.
There is too much triling in all this; for although a certain liveliness of style inay be very necessary to embellish a dry subject, yet it should never be permitted to fall into mere verbiage
For the historical notices of this part of Wales during the four first centuries of the Christian era, Mr. Jones acknowledges himself indebted to the Roman historians; for the next series of ages, down indeed almost to the Norman conquest, his chief authorities are the manuscripts
of the Arwydd-feirdd; or Welsh heralds, who have long
“ to be found that treat of that part of the principality
The third chapter pursues the history of Breconshire, from the reign of Brychan Brecheiniog to that of Cradoc Fraich-fras, or Cradoc of the Mighty Arm. In this chapter, there is a great deal too much irrelevant matter. The actions of Brychan, as prince of the country, were perhaps necessary to be detailed; yet these, with the exception of his having from thirty-four to fifty children (for the accounts differ) by three wives, are passed over in a few words ; whilst those of his offspring, the “saints and saintesses of the family,” are dwelt upon with more complacency, than their legends warrant, or that their slight connexion with the proper subject of this work required. The ninth daughter, called Gwawr, signifying Aurora, or the dawn, was wife to Elydr Llydanwyn, and mother to Llywarch Hên, or Llywarch the Old, the celebrated poet. Cradoc Fraich-fras, a grandson of Brychan, was one of the knights
of King Arther's Round Table, and lord - keeper of
author conceives it should be written, Teg ei Fron ---- that
one of the thirteen curiosities of Britain," as it “would
In the fourth chapter, the history is continued till the conquest of Breconshire about 1092, by Bernard Newanarch, a Norman soldier, said in several Welsh pedigrees to have been uterine brother to William the Conqueror; but very erroneously. Here we have some account of the wars between the Britons and the Saxon King Offi, who, as a boundary of the two countries, formed the well-known
dyke which bears his name, and which till the period of the Norman invasion was regarded as such a complete line of demarcation, that Earl Harold ordained that every Welshman found on the English side of it without license, should have his right hand cut off by the king's officer. Offa, who gave a final defeat to the confederated Welsh at Morfa Rhuddlan, or Rhuddlan Marsh in the Vale of Clwyd, in Flintshire, marked his victory with almost indiscriminating slaughter; and even carried his vengeance so far, as to massacre his prisoners in cold blood. The memory of this tragic event has been peculiarly transmitted to our age, by the ancient Welsh tune called Morfa Rhuddlan, the music of which, as set in a natural key by "the late celebrated blind Parry," is given by Mr. Jones; who, in proof of its impressive and affecting melody, acquaints us that, when it was first played upon the harp to the late Colonel Chabbert, “it brought tears into his eyes, while he observed, that he was sure it commemorated the defeat of a great army."
In the fifth chapter, we learn that Bernard Newmarch, the better to secure the stability of his new possessions, married Nest, grand-daughter of Griffith ap Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales, a lady of meretricious character, and who, before her marriage, had. by Fleance, son of Banquo King of Scotland (who fled to Wales, to avoid punishment for a murder), a son, afterwards called Walter Stuart, or the Steward, ancestor to the royal house of Stuart. After Bernard's decease, she became the means of depriving her eldest son, Mahel, of his inheritance, by swearing before Henry the First, of England, that he was not the child of her late husband. This she did in revenge for the disclosure of an intrigue which Mahel had discovered that she carried on with a certain knight whose name has not den scended to us.
In consequence of this, the lordship of Brecknock, as it had now revolved into from a petty kingdom, became the possession of Milo Fitzwater, Earl of Gloucester, jure uxoris; he having been married to Sybil, daughter of Bernard Newmarch. This was the nobleman who, in reward for the eminent services which he rendered to the Empress Maud, during her contention for sovereignty with the usurper Stephen, was created by her Earl of Hereford by patent; and this is the first creation of the kind that occurs in English history. By the instrument, as given in Rymer's Federa, tome i.. p. 8, it appears also, that together with the "moat and castle of Hereford, with