Augusta Hall (Lady Llanover) under her bardic name, Gwenynen Gwent, wrote an essay on ‘The Advantages Resulting from the Preservation of the Welsh Language and the National Costumes of Wales’ for the Gwent and Dyfed Eisteddfod, to be held at Cardiff on the 20th-22nd August, 1834. The essay title was set by the Eisteddfod committee. The competition had been announced by the Rev Thomas Price and published in newspapers. The prize of a seal-ring valued at £6/6/0 with a Welsh motto engraved on a Welsh pebble was sponsored by Gwyneddigesan. For the other two essays in the competition, see below.
Lady Llanover did not describe Welsh costume in her essay: it concentrates on the preservation of the Welsh language and suggests that those who had influence should set an example in preserving locally produced warm, waterproof clothing for the good of the health (and morals) of the women of Wales, and of the Welsh woollen industry.
The essay is addressed to those who could influence the working women of Wales, not to the women themselves. It has been suggested that the essay was partly a response to the French revolution and riots in Wales, to encourage Welsh women to stay at home and not threaten the status quo of the upper and middle classes. (Aaron, Jane. Nineteenth Women’s Writing in Wales: Nation Gender and Identity, pp. 65-73, Lady Llanover and her circle). This suggestion is based on the paragraph beginning ‘Naturally active and hardy’ (below) and was emphasized in a newspaper article following the announcement that Welsh costumes were to be worn at the Eisteddfod (there is no evidence that they were), published in the Carmarthen Journal for 23 May, 1834. (see Cardiff Eisteddfod, 1834)
It has been said that the essay bemoaned the loss of picturesque costumes in the landscape which attracted artists and tourists to Wales, but Lady Llanover explicitly noted that this was of secondary importance to the advantages of wearing Welsh costume for the health of the wearers and the industry of Wales.
ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE COMPETITION
The competitors had plenty of time to prepare the essay, even though it was added to the original list of competitions.
Letter from Lady Greenly to Mrs Hastings, 10.11.1833:
Mr Price returned and we had many interesting an important points discussed and arranged touching the Cardiff Eisteddfod, the subscriptions for which now amount to near £1,000. To all, who from ignorance or prejudice oppose these national meetings, let it be said that whatever preserves nationality – that love for the language, customs, habits and appearance of our forefathers which most commonly a strong hold on the uncorrupted mind, ought to be encouraged, for it cannot be doubted that the prevalence of such feelings is the safeguard of a people. …
Lady G [Greenly?] and Mr Price talked of preservation of Welsh language … Col Wood’s daughter is learning Welsh, so is Mrs Hall and her little girl, and so is the eldest Miss Patherus.
NLW Maxwell Fraser bequest, CB5, includes a typed transcript of Lady Greenly’s diary and letters, 1805-1837, pp. 37
Gwent and Dyfed Royal Eisteddfod
To be holden at Cardiff in the Autumn of 1834
Additional Subjects proposed for Prizes [include]
no. 14 [Prize Sponsored] By the Gwyneddigesau
For the best Essay (in English with Welsh translation or in Welsh with an English translation). ‘On the Advantages Resulting from the Preservation of the Welsh Language and the National Costumes of Wales.’
To be sent on or before the 1st July, 1834
J.M.[Rev John Montgomery] Traherne, T.W. Booker, Honorary Secretaries, 12th November, 1833
The Cambrian, 16 November, 1833; Carmarthen Journal 13th November 1833; Merthyr Guardian by ap Iolo [presumably Taliesin ap Iolo, son of Iolo Morganwg]
Letter from Lady Greenly to Mrs Hastings, 26.11.1833:
I received a letter from Mrs Hall with an impression of the seal which the ladies of Gwent (myself among the number) subscribe to give as a prize at the Cardiff Eisteddfod next Autumn for the best essay on the advantages to be derived from the preservation of the Welsh language. [[no mention of costume]. The device is a harp with the motto “Cas charo y Wlad aim ago” Hateful be he who loves not the country which reared him. It is engraved by Strongetharm on a Welsh, that is, on an Aberystwyth pebble. The cost altogether 10 guineas.
NLW Maxwell Fraser bequest, CB5, includes a typed transcript of Lady Greenly’s diary and letters, 1805-1837, pp. 37-38
Report of the Eisteddfod at Cardiff
When the essays on the advantages of preserving the language and dress of Wales were named. Mr Bruce Knight said there were two, and paid very pretty compliments to the style and language of that signed by Llwydlaes, but the other being much longer aspired more to the character of an essay, and had besides some valuable notes. The prize therefore was adjudged to that , and Mrs Hall was called up to receive the ring from Lord Bute amidst a thunder of applause – she kept the secret so profoundly that everybody was as much surprised as pleased, and I hope that even I (Llwydlaes) did not envy her her success too much.
Letter from Lady Greenly to Mrs Hastings, 22.8.1834, NLW Maxwell Fraser bequest, CB5, includes a typed transcript of Lady Greenly’s diary and letters, 1805-1837, p. 40
A summary of the adjudication of the essays by ‘Gwyneddigesan’ was published in local newspapers:
‘On this nationally interesting subject, two essays had been sent. That of Llwydlas possessed evidently the beauties of essay and elegant style in composition, but from its brevity it only left the Judges to regret that so practiced a writer had not pursued the subject further. The other essay was a powerful argument in support of the preservation of the Welsh Language and Costume, enriched with valuable notes and explanations, the Judges awarded the prize to Gwen yn en Gwent [sic]. When Gwen yn en Gwent was announced to be Mrs Hall of Lanover, a universal ‘hurrah’ which continued for some minutes expressed the joyful congratulations of the company, and the noble President [the Marquis of Bute] rose and said ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, as this prize has been won by a Lady, I hope I am not too far presuming in claiming the privilege of presenting it.’ Mrs Hall, conducted by her honourable husband … entered the platform … The appearance of this beautiful and amiable lady receiving the honours which her talents had so eminently won, produced a most powerful interest.’
Glamorgan, Monmouthshire and Brecon Gazette and Merthyr Guardian, 23rd August 1834.
Letter from Lady Greenly to Mrs Hastings, 31.8.1834
Dear Mrs Waddington [Lady Llanover’s mother] with her accustomed kindness told me I ought to have had the Ring [the prize for the essay] for I had no one to assist me in writing the essay, which was the spontaneous production of the moment. To this, however, I could not agree. Mrs Hall took great pains and had opportunities of research which I had not, and deserves a reward for her diligence.
NLW Maxwell Fraser bequest, CB5, includes a typed transcript of Lady Greenly’s diary and letters, 1805-1837, p. 42
Soon after the Eisteddfod, Lady Llanover and her family went on a tour of the continent, from which she wrote the following to Lady Greenly, dated 23.11.1834:
Mama [Mrs Waddington] desires me to say that your accounts of your own activity quite revive her, and what you say of your successful efforts in the cause of our Country Manufacturers quite rejoices me. It is astonishing how small, but repeated our attempts tell at last. A great deal of Welsh manufacture was sold before we left home but I believe not a yard has been disposed of that does not owe its destination to yourself, Mr Price or me, though perhaps the wearers are not all aware of it. Like Ants we work quietly and busily unnoticed … till someday perhaps our ant hill will suddenly appear so strong and well built that it may be deemed advisable not to oppose our further efforts for the benefit of our country. I smuggled over a piece of Welsh stuff – brown, with orange silk stripes, which is now making up for my sister by a French milliner who admires it extremely.
NLW Maxwell Fraser bequest, CB5, includes a typed transcript of Lady Greenly’s diary and letters, 1805-1837, p. 45
Publications of the essay:
Like many Eisteddfod essay and poetry competition winning entries, Lady Llanover’s essay was published. The Cambrian (newspaper) for the 8th Nov 1834 announced the ‘Publication of Works from the Cardiff Royal Eisteddfod. Part IV. An ESSAY in English with a Welsh translation on The Advantages resulting from the Preservation of the Welsh Language and Costumes of Wales, by Mrs. Hall, on the 1st January next but it was not published until 1836.
The English and Welsh versions, each of 18 pages, with separate pagination, were bound with the prize winning poems and other essays entered for the Eisteddfod: Awenyddion Gwent a Dyfed : Sef Y Cyfansoddiadau Barddoniadd a Ennillasant Dlysau, a Gwobrau Eraill, yn Eisteddfod Caerdydd yr hon yn Gynnaliwyd Ar yr 20fed, 21ain, a’r 22ain o Awst, 1834, (Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green and Longman; and William Bird, Cardiff, (1834). However, one essay in the collection was published in 1835, and Lady Llanover’s in 1836. (There are several copies of this volume in the National Library of Wales including Col.15036; Castell Gorfod Amryw 8, and XAC909 (753/2)).
ENGLISH: ‘Gwent and Dyfed Eisteddfod, Cardiff, 1834. The Prize Essay on the Advantages Resulting from the Preservation of the Welsh Language and the National Costumes of Wales. Prize – a Seal Ring, with a Welsh Motto engraved on a Welsh Pebble, value £10 10s. By Gwenynen Gwent. [Mrs. Hall of Llanover.] London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green and Longman; and William Bird, Cardiff, (1836)’ [18 pages.]
WELSH: Eisteddfod Gwent a Dyfed 1834. Y Traethawd Buddugol ar y Buddioldeb a Ddeillia Oddiwrth Gadwedigaeth y Iaith Gymraeg, a Dullwisgoedd Cymru. Gan Gwenynen Gwent. [Mrs Hall, o Lanofer]. Caerdydd: Argraffwyd gan William Bird, (1836) 18 pages.
Only a few copies of the published essay are known to exist: one copy, in each language, unbound or separately bound, is in the following institutions in Britain: National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth; National Museum of Wales, St Fagans; Cardiff University Library.
In the Cardiff Central Library there are three sets of the essay:
(1) bound with a set of the 13 prints – the only known bound volume to include the prints but the paper on which the images were printed is significantly larger than the pages on which the essay was printed. The volume is inscribed: ‘Rhodd Gwenynen Gwent i Caradawc, Tachwedd 1836’ (From Gwenynen Gwent [Lady Llanover] to Caradawc [presumably the antiquary Thomas Bevan (‘Caradawc y Fenni’, 1802-82) who, with Rev. Thomas Price (‘Carnhuanawc’, 1787-1848) and Lady Llanover established Cymdeithas Cymreigyddion y Fenni, (the Welsh Society of Abergavenny) in 1833.]
(2) Both essays with paper cover: Gwent a Dyfed Royal Eisteddfod 1834. The Prize Essay on the Advantages Resulting from the Preservation of the Welsh Language and the National Costumes of Wales. Price 1s.
It has the initials ‘T LL T (or possibly J LL J) on the cover and ‘from Mrs Hall’ written on English title page.
(3) Both essays, recently bound in hard cover.
There are also at least three sets of the essay in America.
The main differences between the Welsh and English essays are:
- The Welsh version is signed GWENYNEN GWENT at the end of the essay (p.13), before the notes
- Note (C) is different: in English it lists the Royal succession in numerical order from Roger Mortimer to George IV; in Welsh it shows the full succession from Cadwaladr Fendigaid and successive Welsh princes to George IV.
- the letter for note (D) is missing in the Welsh
- note G and H are combined in the Welsh.
- the title in Welsh excludes any word equivalent to ‘National’. The implication of the translation is that ‘Dullwisgoedd’ meant ‘National costume’ but dictionaries show that it meant style, fashion or just costume.
[The following letter was published in advance of the Abergavenny Eisteddfod for 1838. As with Augusta Hall’s essay, the emphasis is on supporting the local woollen industry and in the benefit of wearing woollen dress, not in the preservation of traditional styles of costume, although the author could not understand why ladies chose to wear bonnets rather than Welsh hats; in this case, he is referring to ladies of the higher classes.]
The Abergavenny Cymreigyddion Society and the “National Costumes of Wales”
Sir. The members of this society are looking forward for a well-contested Eisteddfod (not an election), in October next, – on which happy occasion, Ivor of the Ivors will preside. I hope, as a warm advocate for Cymreigyddion Societies and Welsh Costumes, that the Committee will lose no time in giving orders to Caradawc to issue out a general order to fill the neighbouring newspapers, calling upon those ladies and gentlemen who intend being present at the Eisteddfod to appear in Welsh Costumes. If this would but take place, there is not the least doubt there will be a refreshing stimulus to our Welsh flannel manufacturers, and much good may be done. This is the most likely way of reviving that branch of our once staple trade – almost lost from our Cambrian Hills, but restored by this society. The Welsh Flannel did credit to our foremothers, who supported it instead of the English manufacture, which our fair sex of the present day give the preference to; – for instance, what has been the result of the prize given by Miss Clara Waddington, at this Society last year, “For the best specimen of Welsh Flannel, &c.?” It has been said that the sale of Welsh Flannel in “Gwent and Morganwg,” alone, has been five times more this year than in 1837 If this be true, is it not sufficient proof that this article – yes, this most useful article-ought to be supported much more by the ladies of “Gwent and Morganwg,” and brought to a general wear; in short, a few more ladies of the patriotism and spirit of Gwenynen Gwent, and Lady Charlotte Guest, would soon settle this matter. But, sir, I am happy to say, that a few of our ladies do support the flannel but will not wear the hat; – what can be the cause? – pride, an evil, which of late has crept in considerably in Wales; – but if our Welsh ladies possess that wrong view of themselves, that by wearing bonnets their beautiful features will attract more attention – I submit it, and will publicly declare that the Welsh Hats are far more fascinating on real beauty, and beat the bonnets “out and out.”. On this subject I beg leave to refer the reader to the interesting prize essay on “The National Costumes of Wales,” by Mrs. Hall, of Llanover, (Gwenynen Gwent,) and I entertain no doubt that, by the perusal of the above essay, he will soon see the necessity of keeping up the Welsh Costumes, and that the usefulness of those articles to our peasantry is far before fourpenny calico prints, and eighteen penny bonnets ;- is this true! as true as “King Arthur is not dead!” Welsh Costumes arc conducive to health and industry. The last generation was more robust and hardy than the present. They are conducive, also, to the prosperity of the country, and to economy. And it is most desirable that they should be patronised by the higher classes. I am, esteemed Sir, yours respectfully, AB OWEN GLYNDWR. July 3rd, 1838
P.S., The “Essay upon the National Costumes of Wales,” is to be had of Longman and Co., London, and Bird, Cardiff, and Webber, Newport, Price one shilling..
Monmouthshire Merlin. 14 July, 1838
Later publications of the essay
Part of the essay was published in Welsh in the second issue of Y Gymraes (February, 1850) which was sponsored by Lady Llanover, but it was edited, possibly to improve the Welsh. It was followed by a series of articles about Welsh women which were written as essays for a prize, for the counties of Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, Breconshire and Anglesey. Many of them included sections on Welsh costume.
The essay was also published in Welsh in Y Geninen (1890), in a collection of winning entries entitled Y Geninen Eisteddfodol (Argraffiad Arbenig o’r “Geninen” Ganol Awst, 1890: Yn Cynwys Cyfansoddiadau Buddugol yn unig mewn Eisteddfodau, etc. [Special edition of Y Geninen, mid August, 1890, including only winning entries], pp. 68-71
AN EISTEDDFODIC “GENINEN.”
A new thing in the history of Welsh periodical literature has just appeared in the shape of an eisteddfodic edition of the Geninen. The literary excellence and the comprehensive platform of the Welsh national magazine have frequently been the subject of comment in this column, so that it is unnecessary to remark that Y Geninen Eisteddfodol is a valuable and an interesting publication. It is remarkable that the contents of the present number are, with but one exception, a series of eisteddfodic prize poems, the exception being a paper on The Welsh Language and Welsh Costumes by Lady Llanover. This paper was contributed by her ladyship to the transactions of the Gwent and Dyfed Eisteddfod, which was held in Cardiff in the year 1834. The long list of poems which now appear in the Geninen Eisteddfodol includes the productions of a score or more of Welsh bards … The poetry is up to the standard of the average eisteddfod, and, on the whole, the eisteddfodic Geninen is a creditable publication. (Weekly Mail, 30 August 1890)
Other entries in the competition
Two other essays were prepared for the Eisteddfod competition. One was written by Lady Llanover’s god-mother, Lady Greenly (1771-1839), under her bardic name ‘Llwydlas’ . It was described by the adjudicators as brief and when J R Jones copied it in the early 1920s, it took up less than 2 pages of foolscap. It was marked ‘Llwyd Lâs. Property of S.B. Gruffydd-Richards, Ty’r Eglwys, Llanover.’ It dealt mostly with the Welsh language; the comments on costumes, which were not described, suggested that they should be worn ‘for the love of our country’. (J R Jones collection, NLW, vol. 1, p. 112-113)
The other essay, which described Welsh costume in much more detail than Lady Llanover’s, was written by the Rev. John Blackwell, but it was sent in too late for adjudication. It was published in Welsh in 1834, and in English in 1851 and 1861.
Extracts from Lady Llanover’s essay (the italics are as in the original printed version):
… we will pass on to the mention of “the advantages resulting from the preservation of the Costumes of the Principality, which of late years have greatly fallen into dis-use through the discouragement they have met with from the higher orders, who, nevertheless, at the present time are frequently known to lament this circumstance, and to regret and deprecate the introduction of foreign luxuries in articles of dress.
The costumes of Wales being chiefly composed of wool, are from the nature of the materials particularly well adapted to defend the wearer against the inclemencies of the weather, and the sudden transition from heat to cold to which our climate is subject. As woollen is undoubtedly the surest preservative against those rheumatic complaints so prevalent amongst persons liable to be often exposed to these sudden changes, and as the recent abandonment of this comfortable and healthful material, and style of clothing is chiefly observable amongst the females of our country, our remarks upon this subject will principally apply to them.
Naturally active and hardy, the Welshwomen of the last generation were taught from their earliest years, as well under the roof of the freeholder, as in the cottage of the labourer, that proper pride which is derived from the practical knowledge and exercise of every variety of household occupation, and they considered that health and strength should constitute the sole limits of domestic industry, and be the only boundaries to domestic usefulness. It is a fact universally allowed by all competent judges of housekeeping, that the best servants are invariably those who have been early exercised in every different branch of housewifery, but of late years a false standard of respectability has been established, which has in a great many instances effected such a change of costume, as is utterly incompatible with a proper discharge of household and agricultural duties –What woman, dressed in the thin and comfortless materials, now so frequently substituted for the substantial produce of the Cambrian loom, is capable of properly discharging the duties of the dairy, or many of the other necessary occupations which in every family, from the Peer to the cottager, must entirely depend upon female exertions? It is not only from the nature of their materials, but likewise from their make and form that the Welsh costumes are admirably adapted for active employments, and it is to the tyranny of fashion that their recent decline is to be attributed ….
There was a time when the garment of home manufacture formed the boast of the wearer … how are circumstances changed! How frequently do we now see the hale and robust mother of fifty, and even grandmother of eighty, returning from church or market secure from the storm, under the protection of the warm woollen gown, and comfortable cloak or whittle of Gwent or Dyfed, with a neat and serviceable beaver hat, and black woollen stockings, pursuing her homeward path unobstructed by the influence of cold or wet, while the delicate and cotton-clad daughter or grand-daughter, with perhaps the symptoms of consumption on her cheek, is shivering in the rain, seeking the precarious shelter of the nearest hedge … while her flimsy straw bonnet, saturated with water, and dyed like the rainbow by the many coloured streams descending from its numerous and once gaudy ribbons, is presenting a deplorable example of the sad effects resulting from that absurd abandonment of ancient and wise habits… While this foolish and perverse system operates so perniciously with regard to the health and morals of the peasantry, its effects are no less detrimental to the pecuniary interests of the people at large. … The prosperity of the principality must of necessity be better forwarded by the home consumption of her native produce, than by any importations however cheap and attractive, and the inhabitants will always be found poorer and more indolent, in proportion as straw bonnets, ribbons, frills, capes ringlets, and all the caprices of fashion flourish amongst us, (Note G), and as our woolpacks are exchanged for bags of cotton, (Note H) … Let us endeavour to impress upon the minds of those whose characters and stations in life enable them to extend their influence over their fellow countrymen … [not only] the rich or the noble … it is also to the small freeholder, the farmer and the labourer ‘ to masters, to tenants and to servants, …. let them in their own persons at least set an example that will have a beneficial effect on those who behold it.
We have not enlarged upon the loss Artists would experience by the destruction of the costumes of Wales, or on their value to the traveler, after the Picturesque, or on their forming one of the most characteristic and ornamental features of the principality. We feel that our arguments for their support are better founded on the firm basis of health and industry, which are the first steps to happiness and prosperity, and the best preventatives of poverty and immorality.
To conclude, we can only express our sincere and fervent hopes that our posterity, clad in the manufactures of their country, may emulate the simple and industrious habits of their ancestors … .
Note G: see my letter signed ‘A Gwentian’ on this subject which appeared in the Merthyr Guardian, May 24th, 1834
Note H: An anecdote may not be misplaced here, to prove the unreasonable increase of expense which has been entailed upon female servants within the last 40 years, as although a suit of clothes of modern materials, without any quantity of trimming, is about half the price, it lasts less than half the time that the Welsh manufactures endure, and the change of fashion induce continual purchases, not merely to procure good clothes, but chiefly to keep up with the mode! An old Welsh woman of Dyfed, at the period we mention, seriously reprimanded her daughter, who was a dairymaid in one of the principal families of Pembrokeshire, for not having, with the surplus of her first year’s wages of five pounds, bought a stone of wool for her to spin, for clothes or blankets against the time this daughter should leave service ; nor were the old woman’s calculations at all overtrained, as at this day five pounds will purchase an entire best suit of Welsh manufacture, and supply shoes and stockings, etc. for twelve months, and leave about one pound in hand at the end of the time, which is now the price of a stone of wool, and which quantity will produce three blankets. What a fund of comforts might not thus be laid by against the demands of sickness, of of a young family? instead of the want we daily witness amongst servant maids without money, or any stores for household use, married to labourers, after having passed eight or nine years in service, and spent eight or ten pounds annually in changing the fashion in their clothes?
The letter which Lady Llanover referred to in her essay, published in the Merthyr Guardian, May 24th, 1834
EISTEDDFOD. TO THE EDITOR OF THE GAZETTE AND GUARDIAN.
It was with the sincerest satisfaction I read in your journal of last week the announcement of the very praiseworthy and patriotic determination of our fair countrywomen to patronise the native costumes of the principality at the approaching Eisteddfod, and whilst I perfectly concur in your very just remarks upon the elegance of the costume itself, and the novel feature it will form upon that interesting occasion, as well as in the surprise you express that so much capability should have been allowed to remain so long unnoticed, I trust you will permit me to add a hope that the effects of this very public spirited arrangement will prove much more permanent than the mere festival in which it originates, and that they will extend themselves to other classes of the community besides those who may honour it with their patronage and presence. As I persuade myself that I perceive in this arrangement the means of restoring something of that propriety and deoorum in dress among the female branches of our Cambrian peasantry, which that curse of society, fashion, has of late years in so great a measure succeeded in supplanting; and that some system of clothing may be introduced more decorous and more suitable to our climate and to the habits of labouring people than the tawdry and rheumatic cotton gown, and the flaunting and slatternly Leg- horn bonnet. The influx of these fruits of folly has long been the source of lamentation among sober minded people, and there are but few families who would not hail with joy some change for the better, and gladly cooperate in producing it did they know what means to have recourse to for that purpose. But as fashion introduced the evil, let the same instrument be employed to effect its expulsion. Let the gentry of the principality set the fashion of returning to the old and national costume of the country and the thing is effected at once. And I humbly suggest that the present is the precise moment for carrying such a plan into execution. I am, Sir, Your obedient servant,
The Glamorgan Monmouth and Brecon Gazette and Merthyr Guardian, 24 May, 1834