- 1804-1943 (accumulated [c.1880]-1943) (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
0.998 cubic metres (36 boxes; 4 volumes)
Name of creator
Owen Morgan Edwards was a prominent man of letters, author, editor, tutor in history at Oxford University, 1889-1907, and the first Chief Inspector of Schools under the new Welsh Education Department.
O. M. Edwards was born at Coed-y-pry, Llanuwchllyn, Merioneth, on 26 December 1858, the eldest son of Owen and Elizabeth Edwards. With the original intention of entering the nonconformist ministry, he attended Bala College, and subsequently spent the period 1880-1883 at the young University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, where he studied English, history and philosophy. He spent the academic year 1883-1884 at Glasgow studying philosophy, and the years 1884-1887 at Balliol College, Oxford, where he enjoyed a notably distinguished career, winning three major university prizes, and graduating with first class honours in history in 1887. During this formative period of his life he came heavily under the influence of the aestheticism of Ruskin and William Morris, and of the Dafydd ap Gwilym Society which much enhanced his indigenous love of his native Wales. It was primarily within this Society that Edwards formed an enduring bond of friendship with prominent Welshmen such as Edward Anwyl, J. Puleston Jones, John Morris-Jones and D. Lleufer Thomas
O. M. Edwards spent the year 1888-1889 on the continent, and in the latter year was appointed Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford, and tutor in history there and at other colleges. He remained in this position until 1907 and was notable for his dedication to his lecture preparation and tutorial work. His academic publications were few until 1901 when his popular volume entitled Wales - a book on the history of Wales - was published. From 1890 onwards he also became engaged in editing a number of Welsh periodicals that compelled him to spend an inordinate amount of his time in drafting numerous articles and proof correcting. These periodicals included Cymru Fydd (begun in 1890), Cymru (1891), Cymru'r Plant (1892), Wales (1894), Y Llenor (1895) and Heddyw (1897). He also published a number of slim volumes such as Cartrefi Cymru (1896), and set in train a scheme to re-publish considerable numbers of the Welsh classics, primarily in the series Cyfres y Fil. This service was critical in ensuring the survival of a distinctive Welsh culture by providing the Welsh people with a knowledge of their past history and literature, and nurturing a school of young Welsh writers. His contribution in this sphere may be compared with that of Thomas Gee. In 1906 he also established 'Urdd y Delyn', a children's society which was a precursor of 'Urdd Gobaith Cymru' set up by his son Ifan ab Owen Edwards in 1922.
In 1907 Edwards was appointed the first Chief Inspector of Schools under the aegis of the recently established Welsh Education Department. Here, he reformed the Welsh education system by encouraging the teaching of Welsh and improving the atmosphere of Welsh schools. But he did come into conflict with the Central Welsh Board set up in 1896 over his conviction that the new intermediate schools established in the 1890s were severe anglicising influences in Wales.
Following the premature death of Thomas Edward Ellis MP in April 1899, Edwards served for one session as the Liberal MP for his native Merionethshire, but he disliked the reality of political life and decided not to stand for re-election in the general election of 1900. His intense nationalism was primarily cultural rather than political. He was knighted in January 1916 and received the degree of D.Litt honoris causa from the University of Wales in 1918. He died, still in post, at his home Neuadd Wen (an adaptation of Whitehall, the headquarters of the Board of Education in London) Llanuwchllyn, in 1920. His wife, Ellen Davies of Prys Mawr, Llanuwchllyn, had predeceased him the previous year. There were three children of the marriage, but the elder son died in infancy.
It appears that the early family papers were accumulated at the family home at Llanuwchllyn, whilst some of O.M. Edwards's letters to persons outside the family were returned to the family in the hope that they might be employed in the writing of a biography. This also applies to the stray papers from after 1920 which exist in the archive. After O.M. Edwards's death in 1920 the papers were inherited by his son Ifan ab Owen Edwards, and by Lady Eirys M. Edwards following Sir Ifan's death in 1970. Some of the papers had been arranged in series prior to their arrival at the NLW; these original series have been retained in the present catalogue. This applies particularly to the papers in AG. Parts of O.M. Edwards's papers (the present classes AD and B) were catalogued at NLW between 1978 and 1982. These have all now been re-numbered and listed afresh.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Donated by Lady Eirys M. Edwards, Aberystwyth, O.M. Edwards's daughter-in law, in July 1980, apart from AD2/53 which was deposited by Mrs Baden Powell, Farndon, Cheshire, in April 1958.
Content and structure area
Scope and content
The fonds comprises letters from Edwards to various members of his family, 1882-1920, together with letters to him from his wife, son, daughter and other members of the family and early family papers, 1804-1943; letters from friends, leading figures in Welsh public life and academic associates, 1880-1920; diaries and notebooks, 1875-1920; papers deriving from his work as a publisher and editor, 1890-1920, and as Chief Inspector of Schools in Wales, 1907-1920. There are also some papers relating to the proposed biography of Edwards, and a collection of printed material accumulated by him.
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
Accruals are not expected.
System of arrangement
Arranged into five groups: Personal papers; Professional papers; Family papers; Papers relating to the proposed biography of Edwards; and Printed published material collected by O.M. Edwards.
Conditions of access and use area
Conditions governing access
Readers consulting modern papers in the National Library of Wales are required to sign the 'Modern papers - data protection' form.
Conditions governing reproduction
Usual copyright laws apply.
Language of material
Script of material
Language and script notes
Welsh, English, Italian, German, Latin, French, Greek and Breton.
Physical characteristics and technical requirements
A hard copy of the catalogue is available at NLW.
Allied materials area
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related units of description
See AF3 series level description.
Some of the papers are dated after the death of O.M. Edwards. These comprise family letters and papers relating to the proposed biography of Edwards.
Virtua system control number
GEAC system control number
Subject access points
Place access points
Name access points
Genre access points
Description control area
Rules and/or conventions used
This description follows NLW guidelines based on ISAD(G) Second Edition; AACR2; and LCSH.
Level of detail
Dates of creation revision deletion
The following sources were used in the compilation of the catalogue: Dictionary of National Biography, 1912-1921 (London, 1927), Dictionary of Welsh Biography (Cardiff, 1959), Stephens, Meic (ed.), The New Companion to the Literature of Wales (Cardiff, 1999), Gruffydd, W.J., Owen Morgan Edwards (Cardiff, 1937), Jones, Gwilym Arthur, Bywyd a Gwaith Owen Morgan Edwards (Cardiff, 1958), Davies, Hazel Walford, O.M. Edwards (Cardiff, Writers of Wales, 1988), Idem, O.M. Edwards (Cardiff, Bro a Bywyd, 1988), and idem (ed.), Llythyrau Syr O.M. Edwards ac Elin Edwards (Caerdydd, 1991).
Compiled by J. Graham Jones.