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Madam Bevan 1697-1779

by G.J. Thomas, M.A.

South East Carmarthenshire was a centre of educational activity during the latter part of the 17th century and the early part of the 18th. Here, at Meidrim, the Rev. Stephen Hughes, ejected from his living in 1662, continued to preach, teach, edit and publish until his death in 1688. Like him John Vaughan of Derllys had co-operated with Thomas Gouge and the Welsh Trust. Of the county’s ten Trust Schools seven were in this district. Moreover it was in this area that the S.P.C.K., with the help of Sir John Philipps of Picton Castle, had set up eight of their thirteen Carmarthenshire schools. Here, too, Griffith Jones began his career.

It is fitting, therefore, that in this area, where schools were better known than in most parts of Wales, the parish of Llanfihangel Abercywyn should be the birthplace of Thomas Charles "o’r Bala" in 1755, the parish of Llansadurnen that of Peter Williams in 1723 and Derllys in the parish of Merthyr that of Bridget Vaughan, better known as Madam Bevan, in 1697. She was the daughter of John Vaughan of Derllys1, which had come to the Vaughan family through the marriage of John Vaughan’s grandfather, Richard of Golden Grove, to Elizabeth Prydderch of Hawksbrook. The present house stands in a fold of the hills north of the road leading from Carmarthen to St. Clears. It is "modern and devoid of archaeological interest," a plain, three-storied double-fronted house facing a yard bordered by farm buildings, of which the largest and most solidly built, now used as a barn, is thought to be the house in which Richard Vaughan of Golden Grove settled and in which John Vaughan and his family lived.

Of this house Fenton, in his “Tours of Wales (1804-13)”, wrote:—

"Hence to Court Derllys the old house of the Vaughans, the same as those who went to settle at Derwydd. Of this house were Sir John Vaughan, Judge of the Carmarthen Court, and Sir Henry Vaughan, the Royalist. The house I was disappointed in, expecting to have found it larger and retaining marks of more consequence.”

This was doubtless the “caput” of the mediaeval Manor of Derllys and the administrative centre of the Hundred of Derllys (formed by Act of 1536) which stretched, according to Speed’s Map from Amroth to Cilrhedyn, thence to Llangain and the mouth of the Towy. It was the most important Hundred in the County casting 259 votes in the election of 1754. The house was set in rural surroundings, but the many interests of John Vaughan made it a centre of religious, social, and cultural as well as administrative activity; an admirable milieu for the upbringing of his children, three girls and a boy.

Parents and Marriage.
We know little of the education of Bridget and her sisters. In those days the sons of country gentlemen were sometimes sent to English Public Schools and Universities, or, as in the case of Bridget’s only brother, Richard, to one of the Inns of Court. No such opportunities were open to the daughters who were usually taught at home, perhaps as pupils of the village parson. They were therefore not subject in the same degree as their brothers to anglicising influences, and were often more proficient in their native tongue and more closely in touch with local life, which still had many features of a feudal character in Wales, where agriculture was the main occupation of the people and industrial development was in its early stages. At Derllys the daughters of John Vaughan were brought into contact with many sides of public life. Their father set them a good example of devotion to the duties which fell upon a country gentleman’s family. He was a man of culture and practical capacity, with high ideals of public duty and a clear insight into the needs of the people; purposeful in character and not easily turned from his efforts to attain the objects he had in view. Bridget’s mother was Elizabeth Thomas of Panthenry, a great-grand-daughter of John Prydderch, the astronomer of Hawksbrook and a member of a notable family which had intermarried with the Vaughans on several occasions. She inherited Hawksbrook in 1718 as well as property in Llangynog, Merthyr and Llanstephan.

Life in Derllys with its family traditions, its social and political contacts, its familiarity with county and local government, its preoccupation with religious and educational activities, its interest in books and its correspondence with the S.P.C.K, its visits from local clergy and gentry and its close touch with the age-old life of the countryside, could not fail to stimulate the minds of intelligent girls and broaden their outlook. Their lives were varied by visits to friends and relatives at Golden Grove, Derwydd, Danyrallt, Hawksbrook and other country houses and by social functions in Carmarthen, where many of the county families had town houses. In due course the Vaughan sisters became distinguished figures in the county’s social life, interested not only in local, but also in metropolitan and political affairs through John Vaughan’s brother, Richard, M.P. for Carmarthen, during an engrossing period of history.

Early Influences.
On December 30th, 1721, Bridget Vaughan was married at Merthyr to Arthur Bevan of Laugharne, a friend of Griffith Jones. On December 16th, in anticipation of the marriage, an estate at Llansadurnen of the annual value of £180 was settled on the Bevans and in augmentation of Bridget’s portion, a voluntary gift of £1,000 was made by her uncle, Richard Vaughan, M.P.

Arthur Bevan, was the son of Zachary Bevan (High Sheriff in 1703) and Sarah Bayley. He was educated at Brasenose College, Oxford, and called to the Bar by the Middle Temple. He became Recorder of Carmarthen in 1722, and held the office until his dismissal in 1741. In 1727 he was elected M.P. for the Borough of Carmarthen and in 1735 was appointed Judge of Equity in South Wales. He did not seek re-election in 1741 but remained a member of the Common Council of Carmarthen until his death on March 6th, 1752 at the age of 56. He and his wife had settled at Laugharne where Mrs. Bevan lived until her death in 1779, aged 82, with intervals spent in London and Bath, moving in political, social and religious circles. In Bath she was prominent in the group around the Countess of Huntingdon.

Arthur Bevan’s election to Parliament had brought the two into the social life of London where they had many family connections. Particularly important was that between Madam Bevan and the Duchess of Bolton, before her marriage Lady Anne Vaughan,2 daughter of the last Earl of Carbery of Golden Grove, and a cousin of the 4th Earl of Chesterfield. After the death of John Vaughan in 1721 the affairs of the Llangynog Charity School were administered by the Bevans. This gave them valuable experience and may have stimulated Madam Bevan’s interest in schools for the poor.

Among the influences affecting the early life of Bridget Vaughan we must include that of Griffith Jones. After a short curacy at Laugharne where he made a great reputation as a preacher and taught in Its S.P.C.K. School, he became in 1711 incumbent of Llandeilo Abercywyn which adjoins the Parish of Llangynog where John Vaughan had founded a school in 1705. In June, 1713, he became a member of the S.P.C.K. and in the following November, perhaps under John Vaughan’s influence, he gave up the idea of going to India as a missionary and decided to devote himself to work in Wales-work in which John Vaughan himself was interested and with which Bridget Vaughan, then sixteen years of age, was destined later to be so inseparably associated. Griffith Jones, who became Rector of Llanddowror in 1716, officiated from time to time in the Churches of Merthyr and Llanllwch where the Derllys family worshipped. Deeply moved by his preaching and predisposed towards religion by her life at home, the friendship between Griffith Jones and Bridget Vaughan, begun in those early years, was to last for nearly half a century.

In "Y Trysorfa" for March 1809 Thomas Charles wrote: "Yr oedd Griffith Jones yn gweinidogaethu yn achlysurol yn Llanllwch. Tan ei weinidogaeth yn Llanllwch cafodd Miss Bridget Vaughan, gwedi hynny Mrs. Bevan, o Laugharne ei dwyn i ddwysfeddwl am bethau byd arall ac i ymofyn am wir grefydd. Yr oedd o deulu parchus ac yn landeg synwyrol.”

But Thomas Charles was only six years old when Griffith Jones died and for his article in “Y Trysorfa” he had to rely much on the memories still cherished in his time among the old inhabitants of South West Carmarthenshire. Later writers on Madam Bevan have repeated his statements about her personal attractions and the influence on her of Griffith Jones’s preaching. “ The Christian Guardian “ for September 1809 described her as a handsome, sensible and accomplished young lady of a very respectable family, impressed by Griffith Jones at Llanllwch and, with her two sisters, universally talked of in the County for beauty and good sense. In the “Summary of the Life and Character of the Rev. Griffith Jones “ published at Carmarthen in 1835 the writer remarks of her that

“She dedicated her whole life, talents and property to the service of religion. In her person were united the charms of beauty, the female accomplishments of the day, family respectability and a liberal fortune.”

Her personal attractions and the impressions made on her by Griffith Jones’s preaching are mentioned also by the author of “The Life of the Countess of Huntingdon” published in 1839 and by Miss Curtiss in her “Antiquities of Laugharne.”

Contemporary and 20th Century Opinion
The earliest description we have of Madam Bevan, apart from references in Griffith Jones’s letters, is that given by Howel Harris after his visit to Llanddowror to consult the Rector about “taking orders.” In June 1736 he wrote to his brother Joseph:-

“I have been with Mr. Griffith Jones last week where I was introduced to Mr. A.—B—’s lady who entirely gives herself to do good and lays out hundreds yearly in charity.”

“She distributes Welsh Bibles about, has several Charity Schools on her own foundation.”

“She has (they tell me) about £500 per annum at her command (she has no children) and spends it mostly in charitable uses. I think she is the finest lady I ever saw in all respects, ‘twas a taste of Heaven to be with her. She made me a present of a very fine pocket Testament and encouraged me, whatever happens, to go on with what I am doing and that I should not want a friend.”

The encouragement given to Howel Harris who was not yet 23 shows the sympathy Madam Bevan had for the aspirations of youth and it must have been one of the inspiring features of her character for we see it repeated in the case of Robert Jones, of Rhos-lan some 25 years later.

The Rev. Thomas Shankland writing in “Seren Gomer” (1904) of John Vaughan as the peer of Bishop Humphreys (Bangor and Hereford) and Sir John Philipps in their services to Wales comments:

"Un o’r cymwynasau mwyaf wnaeth Vaughan a Chymru oedd rhoddi iddi Bridget ei ferch a’i aeres sydd erbyn heddyw yn fwy adnabyddus na’i thad—Bridget Vaughan, yr hon trwy briodas a ddaeth yn Fadam Bevan, noddreg Griffith Jones, Llanddowror a’i ddilyneg gyda’r Ysgolion Cylchynol a chymwynasreg fawr i addysg Cymru."
This view, however, is not shared by all writers.

"Ychydig sail sydd genym," wrote Dr. R. T. Jenkins, "i ffurfio barn am Fadam Bevan. A’i ffolog fusneslyd oedd fel y myn rhai neu ynte "the finest lady I ever saw in all respects?"

In justice to her this is a question that should, if possible, be answered. Material for this purpose is not scanty. Contemporaries who provide us with evidence include not only Howel Harris but also Griffith Jones, Robert Jones of Rhos-lan, Rev. John Evans of Eglwys Cymmin, John Player, Daniel Rowlands’ anonymous relative, Williams Pantycelyn, Dr. David Edwards, the surgeon who compiled "Mrs. Bevan’s Dispensatory for the Poor," the writer of the "Sketch of Griffith Jones’s Life," published in 1761 and 1762, Thomas Charles of Bala, the Correspondents who wrote to her when she was in charge of the schools after the death of Griffith Jones in 1761 and the witnesses examined by the Lord Chancellor’s Commission of 1786. To these may be added the author of the "Life of the Countess of Huntingdon," and the Rev. H. F. Vincent, Vicar of St. Dogmaels, a Visitor of the restored schools, both of whom lived near enough to her time to record the memories of men who had known her personally. In this considerable body of contemporary and near contemporary evidence there is no adverse criticism apart from the insinuations of the Rev. John Evans and the comments of John Player, the 19 years old Quaker.

John Evans criticised the activities of Griffith Jones in a book written, as he said, at the request of the “late good and great Bishop (Gibson) of London.” This was published in two parts in 1751 and 1752 under the elaborate title “Some Account of the Welsh Charity Schools and of the Rise and Progress of Methodism in Wales through the means of them, under the sole management and direction of Griffith Jones, Clerk of Llanddowror in Carmarthenshire, in a short history of the Life of that Clergyman as a Clergyman.”

The book was marked by the scurrility characteristic of religious controversy at the time. Virulent and outrageous attacks were made on Methodists and religious enthusiasts in general and on Wesley, Whitefield and Griffith Jones in particular. There were also veiled attacks on Madam Bevan. She was not mentioned by name but as “Mr. Jones’s friend” or as “a certain hand at Laugharne” and “He forebore to insert many stories about Mr. Jones out of pure respect to that person who is highly concerned with him in them.” This is an acknowledgement of Madam Bevan’s close association with Griffith Jones’s work and of John Evans’s grudging respect for her and her family the standing of which, well known to him, must have been some safeguard against more personal abuse.

John Player records a visit to Laugharne on his journey through Wales in 1753 with William Brown, an American Quaker.
"The morrow, being advised that there was a woman of some quality in the Town who was cried up for her piety and charitable acts to the poor and for being a zealous Christian my companion found freedom in his mind to see her."-"We went and saw her who received us with a good deal of fashionable freedom.”—”She was full of Brain knowledge being too wise to learn of Christ and a thorough bigot to the Priests, tho’ at our parting she said she was obliged for the visit and esteemed it a favour.”

These comments throw as much light on the Quaker views of John Player as on the conformist attitude of Madam Bevan.

Modern biographers of Griffith Jones (amongst them the Rev. David Jones, Canon Ambrose Jones and Professor Cavenagh) and historians of Welsh Education, have as a matter of course expressed their opinions of Madam Bevan. Generally these opinions have been favourable, but Professor Cavenagh’s is an exception. He is critical, and in one case unjustifiably so, for he relied on inaccurate and evidently unverified quotations from Griffith Jones’s letters to Madam Bevan. His description of her as a “fussy busybody” (which may perhaps be the source of Professor R. T. Jenkins’s "ffolog fusneslyd") can hardly be acceptable to any careful student of the letters and of Madam Bevan’s many kindnesses to Mr. and Mrs. Jones therein acknowledged.3

Weighing the evidence of her contemporaries and making every allowance for the partiality Griffith Jones may have shown, we cannot but be convinced, if words mean anything, that despite the strictures of John Evans and John Player, Madam Bevan was a woman of fine quality, steadfast in character, zealous in well-doing, sound in judgement, competent in action, a good friend and an outstanding benefactress to her country. It was not her destiny to be the mother of a family, but her maternal instincts found expression in her encouragement of youth and in her “Compassion and love for those young ones” who were pupils in the Welsh Charity 5chools.4 Not least is the effect produced on one’s mind by her loyalty throughout a long life to the religious and educational traditions of her family, to the people and language of Wales, to Griffith Jones and the schools he founded. In all these loyalties she was modest and self-effacing, never thrusting her self forward, content to serve until circumstances compelled her to lead. It is significant that, great though her services had been to Griffith Jones and to the Schools, her name was not mentioned in “Welch Piety” until towards the end of his life. (There is reason to believe that her support, coupled with that of Sir John Philipps, saved him from persecution at a critical time in his career). She had been brought up as a member of the Established Church. She was conservative in wishing to preserve the traditions of that Church, and like most cultured people of the 18th Century, including even Wesley, Watts and Doddridge, she did not approve of “enthusiasm” in religion or the irregular preaching that always accompanied it. Yet like the Evangelicals with whom she had much in common, she was broad-minded enough to welcome the help in her schools of men who stood outside her own church. The only evidence suggestive of narrow-mindedness in her religious attitude is John Player’s remark that, “She was a bigot to the priests” and perhaps the Rev. Evan Davies’s statement that, at Llanybri, she gave Bibles only to those who learnt Griffith Jones’s Catechism. The former presumably had little love for or understanding of priests, while the latter’s statement may be nothing more than evidence of her loyalty to the memory of Griffith Jones, whose “Exposition of the Church Catechism” was used in the schools even after his death.

Status of Women in the 18th Century.
Madam Bevan lived in an age when women generally were ill-educated and not expected to show an interest in matters outside the sphere of domestic life. They were “social ornaments in the upper ranks of society; household drudges in the lower”. It was “genteel for a wealthy woman to have idle hands resting on her lap and all activity reduced to a clacking tongue”. At the beginning of the century, “women moved eccentrically and without grace when they strove beyond the limits of domestic office. Midway through the century, women of the leisured classes sank to the lowest point of intellectual culture for hundreds of years— "They were useless, uneducated, unnatural; their morality false and their modesty false; their intellectual attainments hardly deserving of the name.” Towards the end of the century it was thought by some, “Enough if women were taught to be good daughters, wives, mothers and mistresses of families, submissive in temper, gentle in demeanour, distrustful of their own judgment in the presence of men.” But there were exceptions.

Madam Bevan—an exception.
Lady Huntingdon, Madam Bevan and others in their circles did not conform to the conventional pattern. They were not content to be social ornaments or mere yes-women to their men folk. They had energy and intelligence, individuality, and initiative, opinions of their own and courage to express them. In truth they were pioneers undertaking responsibilities and persevering in the face of every obstacle. In their own way and in their own country both Lady Huntingdon and Madam Bevan showed that women could rise above the habit of graceful and rather stupid indolence which convention imposed upon them. Compared with most of her contemporaries, Madam Bevan was a woman of considerable culture, though perhaps a culture that threw back to the religiously minded 17th Century rather than forward to the era of the “Blue Stockings”. She impressed John Player with her “brain knowledge”; earned the respect of many of the clergy of Wales for her “endowments of mind” and won the admiration of Lady Huntingdon’s friends for the ability with which, in discussions with Chesterfield, she successfully vindicated the right of women to argue freely and on equal terms with men—a right not always recognised in the 18th Century.

Her Circle of Friends at Bath.
“At every visit of Mr. Whitefield to Bath,” wrote the author of “The Life of Lady Huntingdon”, “he preached at Mrs. Bevan’s house. At the period of which we speak the Earls of Chesterfield and Huntingdon and Mr. Stanhope were among the distinguished auditory. Mrs. Bevan’s elegant, accomplished manners attracted Lord Chesterfield’s attention and, having studied the Deistical writers of the age, she was enabled to give all her eminent ability and clearness to the discussion of the topics he was fond of introducing. She easily and solidly refuted his plausible objections to revealed religion.”

Chesterfield though “notoriously loose in his religious opinions”, was one of the great talkers of the age and we may assume that when he was present discussions must have reached a high standard of interest and vivacity. One of the discussions between them is referred to in “Bridget Bevan’s Letter to the Countess of Huntingdon.”

“Lord Chesterfield’s inclinations to subvert Christianity has involved me in many inconsistencies. A greater proof of his prejudices and his being reduced to the last distress in point of argument is his generous clamours and invectives against all historical evidence as absolutely uncertain; and it is not so much the corruptions of Christianity that his Lordship finds fault with as with the Christian revelation itself which he does not scruple to represent as the product of enthusiasm or imposture. Yet, at other times he will agree with me that never were there any facts that had clearer and more convincing evidence attending them than the extraordinary and miraculous facts whereby the divine original and authority of the Christian revelation was attested and confirmed. This strange fluctuation of opinion I can account for only on this ground—that the incontrovertible and undeniable evidence of these facts has overcome the notions and prejudices with which his mind has been so strongly prepossessed; and it is this shaking of the Babel of unbelief that fills me with the hope that the great Dispenser of spiritual benefits will, of His Free Grace and mercy reveal to his Lordship’s mind the grand and harmonious system of revealed truth, the several parts of which are like so many links of a beautiful chain, one part answering to another and all concurring to exhibit an admirable plan in which the wisdom and the grace and goodness and the righteousness of God most eminently shine forth. Your Ladyship’s great intimacy with and friendship for Lord Chesterfield has induced me to be thus minute in what related to him. Of Lord Huntingdon I have not had such opportunity of forming an opinion; but I hear from good Lady Gertrude that Sir Charles and his Lordship are inseparable and have long and interesting discussions on the most interesting topics. He has called frequently on Mrs. Grenfield with whom he seems much pleased. Your Ladyship is well assured she will not lose a favourable opportunity of speaking a word in season.”

The discussion was held presumably at the request of Lady Huntingdon and the letter is a private document written, maybe hastily for an immediate personal object, without thought that it would be published and criticised in ignorance of the circumstances in which it was written. One of the biographers of Griffith Jones, the Rev. David Jones, wrote of it:

“as the only extant production of Mrs. Bevan’s pen and brings before us a person of high intellectual order, well read in the controversies of the 18th Century, profoundly loyal to the fundamental truth of Revelation and deeply anxious to rescue others from the maze of unbelief.”

Another biographer, the Rev. Canon D. Ambrose Jones, referred to it as showing exceptional intelligence and strength of mind. Professor Cavenagh however, in his study of the “Life and Work of Griffith Jones” is less favourable and wrote

“to others it might suggest a conceited busybody, too excited by her intimacy with the great Lord Chesterfield to realise the game he was playing with her, for in spite of all her fuss, it is doubtful whether the harmony of religion was ever fully revealed to his Lordship’s mind, and one cannot help feeling that less money and more family cares would have done her no harm.”

This is a harsh, unchivalrous statement. The more it is examined the less just or generous it seems to be either to Madam Bevan or to Lord Chesterfield. In fairness to both we should not forget the close links between the Stanhope and Vaughan families. We should remember also the friendship between Madam Bevan, Lady Chesterfield and Lady Gertrude Hothan and the respect in which Chesterfield held Lady Huntingdon and her circle. The group which gathered in the houses of Madam Bevan and her friends met on natural and easy terms. They were accustomed to the presence of Chesterfield and the talks must have been marked rather by a spirit of friendly candour than by the unease and insincerity implied by Professor Cavenagh’s unsupported words.

Appreciation of her work and contribution to religious and educational life of the 18th Century.
Madam Bevan’s environment, education and experience favoured the growth of her many-sided character. Though familiar with the life of the privileged classes she also knew the life of small country towns and villages. Her share in Griffith Jones’s work, the letters she received from School Correspondents and her own residence in a rural community made her, more than most of her class, familiar with the virtues, vices, hardships and needs of those who laboured on the land or in small industry. She was able to take a wide view of what could benefit Welsh people and to assess the value of a religious approach to educational and social questions. Ideas of economic and social reform, as we know them, may not have occurred to her. In her day such reform was rather the by-product of charity to the poor than the deliberate object of political policy. The century in which she lived has been described as politically inarticulate where the interests of the poor were concerned. Governments, lacking a real sense of social justice, were indifferent to the claims of those who had no votes and though the age was one of reason and common sense even reasonable men were too apt to accept things as they were—the wealth and privileges of the few; the poverty and subordination of the many—as natural and inevitable. The benevolence of men and women like Madam Bevan helped to remove some of the disabilities which later generations have sought to remove by legislative action.

In the letters to the subscribers to his schools, published in “Welch Piety” Griffith Jones emphasised the economic as well as the spiritual importance of instruction in righteousness and the duty of the rich for their own sake to be charitable to the poor. These letters embody much of what we know to have been Madam Bevan’s practice, but neither Griffith Jones nor Madam Bevan could have realised, as clearly as we do, that at the root of the need for charity lay the injustice inherent in the social system of the time, or that the greater the need for charity, the greater the need for enlightened legislation to counter the injustice. Such legislation was unlikely and charity was to remain as the chief instrument for the amelioration of social conditions.

In Griffith Jones’s last five letters, written when living at Laugharne and possibly the outcome of discussion between him and Madam Bevan, emphasis was laid not only on the responsibility of wealthy people towards the poor but also on the dangers inseparable from the extravagance of the rich; the possibility that the poor and ignorant might be corrupted by their example; the duty of ministers, schoolmasters, parents and householders towards those living under their care; the connection between the religious education of the poor and young and the reformation and security of the country. “To teach and reform the ignorant was work well worthy of the care of Kings and Princes” has its implication that the great work of education should not be left entirely to private effort. It was emphasised that

“Charity was the greatest of heaven-born graces; Liberality to the poor, the safest preservative against the calamities of the world as well as the truest method of thriving in it.”

that “Persons in authority and high rank can do more good than others, but those in lower stations can also do good.”

that “Reformation may come from children of the poor taught Christian doctrine rather than from children of the rich not taught such doctrine but only to qualify them for the honours and lucrative employments of the world.”

These are some of the principles underlying the objects of the teaching in the Welsh Circulating Charity Schools.

Her Devotion to the Circulating Schools.
After Griffith Jones’s death Madam Bevan, forced to rely mainly on herself, showed admirable steadfastness of purpose in her supervision of the schools. She spent the last twenty-eight years of her life almost wholly in Wales, devoting herself laboriously to the schools and striving to maintain them efficiently in the face of many difficulties. On all sides she was recognized as their chief promoter and the letters of her correspondents show an esteem and a depth of gratitude we can neither overlook nor doubt. She was described as “A mother in Israel.” “A Benefactress and Advocate of the poor,” “The greatest supporter and promoter of the most excellent charity in these parts of Wales.”

She was praised for “The well-known multiplicity of her pious and charitable actions,” her “Active and troublesome part in conducting these truly useful seminaries, meriting the best thanks of every inhabitant of the Principality.”

Such were some of the phrases used by clergymen from all parts of Wales with a sincerity that cannot reasonably be questioned. At the beginning of her administration the plea from Llandeilo Talybont was “Go on, Madam, with your wonted zeal for the Glory of God and the public good of those nations in the true faith of Christ.”

On January 15th, 1777 the Rev. John Thomas, Carno near Llanidloes wrote: “To show a hearty concern for the eternal Felicity of our Fellow Creatures (as you Madam, unfeignedly and indefatigably do) will be remembered through future years with great esteem and veneration.”

This letter coming from a part of Wales remote from Laugharne shows how high Madam Bevan’s reputation stood in the evening of her days. She was a central figure towards whom eyes were turned from all parts of Wales; head of an organisation which served the whole country, brought people into contact with one centre and, more than any other organisation or institution then existing, gave them a sense of unity and individuality. The schools were a “comfort to many,” a "boon to those who could not otherwise afford to send their children to school.” They served the poor materially as well as spiritually; taught them the lessons of duty, temperance and industry and, through the use of the Welsh language created a spirit of democratic fellowship probably non-existent in the Gouge or S.P.C.K. Schools.

Apathy of the Higher Clergy.
Though worked chiefly through the Church and generally supported by the lesser clergy, it is questionable whether the Welsh Schools were encouraged by high ecclesiastical authority as the S.P.C.K. Schools had been. Throughout their existence (from 1737 to 1779) the Bishops appointed to Welsh Sees were, almost without exception, Englishmen. They were generally men of learning and character but they looked on appointments in Wales more as stepping stones to preferment in England than as fields for their life-work. They spent little time in Wales, took little interest in the spiritual welfare of the people, had little sympathy with their life or language and filled diocesan offices of importance too often with absentee Englishmen. Usually Whig in politics they were out of touch with the many Tory Squires and lower clergy in Wales. They had supported the S.P.C.K. Schools but there is little evidence that they gave support to the W.C.S. They may have been indifferent because as a rule the Schools were conducted in Welsh or, in their opinion, were being used for purposes unfavourable to the Church, and when Madam Bevan died, they did nothing to save the Schools from extinction. Who can estimate the loss to Wales that, at a critical time in her history, her Sees were filled by men who were alien in spirit from the people and ignorant of their language, culture and customs? Who can question the gain that would have accrued to Wales had those Sees been filled by patriotic Welshmen actively interested in the education and social welfare of their countrymen? Madam Bevan herself counted on the continuance of the schools, as did many others, and when she drew up her last will and testament we are justified in thinking she had in mind their establishment on a permanent basis as a national system which would have maintained the connection of the Church with education during the critical years after 1779. The collapse of the Schools on her death destroyed this prospect and leadership in the work of teaching the people passed into other hands. The Church, popular at the beginning of the 18th Century, sank into disrespect before its end.

Madam Bevan as an Organiser.
One of the distinguishing features in the story of the relations between Griffith Jones and Madam Bevan was the spirit of co-operation that existed between them. They had an understanding and a common purpose which enabled them to work together in the most friendly way. They were complementary to one another, not rivals. Madam Bevan had some advantages over Griffith Jones. She had greater wealth, greater social experience, more important family connections. But she had some disadvantages. She could not avail herself of the pulpit to create goodwill or rouse enthusiasm as Griffith Jones could and she lived in a century which did not favour the prominence of women in public activities. She had to rely on organization, on personal influence and on a wise choice of colleagues. It must be a moot point whether she was inferior to Griffith Jones as an organizer. He himself recognized her as “the greatest mistress of contrivance in directing affairs in an easy methodical way.” Many clergymen respected her for her efficiency, and the failure of the schools in parts of Wales at various times are not necessarily reflections on her capacity for administration. The striking success of the movement while Griffith Jones lived in her house at Laugharne and could consult her every day and the record created in the number of schools and scholars after his death cannot be disregarded as mere accident or coincidence.

At a time when memories of her and of the loss sustained by the suppression of the schools were still vivid the Rev. H. F. Vincent, Vicar of St. Dogmaels and a Visitor of the restored Madam Bevan Schools in 1825 wrote:—

“The education of the people is now the great question of the age in which all except a few prejudiced individuals are agreed. It was not so in Mr. Jones's time nor many generations after him. He stood almost alone and had to contend with the prejudices of those who looked upon the poor as serfs, whose only object in life was (like bruit beasts) to administer to the wants and caprices of their superiors. In this respect he is from his shoulders higher than his fellows. Rowlands may vie with him in eloquence and ministerial success, but as to the education of youth, the instruction of the poor, the founding of schools, he was at least a century before his age. The public are only now beginning to discover what he saw more than a hundred years ago. Uninfluenced by example and unaided by support until Mrs. Bevan came forward, he founded schools in Wales which will be a blessing to generations yet unborn.”

“It is generally stated that Mrs. Bevan left by will £10,000 to support the circulating schools, but I believe the true state of the case to be this:—Mr. Jones left, at the time of his death about £7,500 to which by will she added £2,500 to make the aggregate sum of £10,000. To the former sum she might have contributed largely and incurred considerable expense in carrying on the schools for twenty years after Mr. Jones’s death. Mrs. Bevan might be called the Lady Huntingdon of Wales. These two noble and elect ladies resembled one another in godliness, zeal and charity, and self-consecration to the work of God. They were the two luminaries of the 18th Century.”

Her Place in the History of Wales.
Madam Bevan is unique in the history of Wales. For over forty years she gave her services freely and voluntarily to the cause of religious education. She met with failure at times as well as success. Supporters fell away; some of her masters were unfaithful to their charge; adverse influences were often strong but she carried on her work resolutely— work which began in the most depressing period in the history of English Christianity and laboured whole-heartedly for her countrymen in their time of need. It is doubtful whether we can estimate accurately today the extent and value of her services. The concensus of praise given by those who knew her or knew of her was remarkable. It cannot all be flattery and unquestionably she was a woman of uncommon quality. The “Long date of years in this world for the benefit of mankind” that Owen Bowen of Llangeler prayed for on April 30th, 1772 was granted but, to the infinite loss of Wales, his other prayer that “God would guide some other person to take your place on earth “ was not. The breach of continuity caused by her death was a tragedy.

Her fame has suffered because she worked on a small and comparatively obscure stage. Had she been an English woman; had she done in England work comparable with that she did in Wales, Madam Bevan might be looked on today as one of the outstanding women of the 18th Century.

Between 14th December, 1732 and 4th March, 1738 Griffith Jones wrote 175 letters to Madam Bevan. The letters themselves have been lost, but two transcripts of them have been preserved, one in the N.L.W. and the other in the Museum of the Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society. They deal mainly with religion, schools and health, and there are many references to Madam Bevan’s kindnesses to Griffith Jones and his wife, Margaret, sister of Arabella, wife of her uncle, Richard Vaughan.

On the basis of what are described as quotations from these letters Professor Cavenagh suggests that sometimes Griffith Jones may have become weary of these kindnesses. “Even Griffith Jones,” he wrote in ‘The Life and Work of Griffith Jones of Llanddowror’ “found her attentions burdensome at times; for though he writes to her (February 1736), ‘I am obliged to you for the Physic which I take regularly’ yet in October 1737 (i.e. twenty months later) he has to say ‘Your wine and sugar is too fattening for me. I find plainer food the best’.” Reference to the text of the transcribed letters shows these quotations to be inaccurate. They are taken from an article in the Transactions of the Carms. Antiq. Soc. (Vol. XV, Part 37.) in which many quotations are not literal extracts but seem to be impressionistic summaries of what Griffith Jones had written. In justice to Madam Bevan the quotations should have been given as they are in the transcripts. The first quotation under date 6th February, 1736, should read:

“The Physick we are obliged to you for is taken very regularly. I hope that the Lord in His tender mercy will restore her again. Both of us thank you in the heartiest manner we are able to. Praise God for the love of so valuable a friend as you.”

The medicine was evidently for Mrs. Jones and not for Mr. Jones.

In view of this one may venture an opinion that Professor Cavenagh did not read the transcripts of the letters, but derived his information from the Article mentioned above. The second quotation, under date October, 1737, is not found in any letter written in that month but on November 8th, 1737 Griffith Jones did write:

“In answer to your obliging inquiry about our health my wife is just the same you left her and I am quite well except the old complaint, have just now made use of the pleasant drink you recommend and when I do it it shall be purely in regard to your advice, being otherwise afraid of its being too feeding for one because of the wine and sugar in it, for I find my body now in a very thriving way. But what shall we do Madam that the soul may thrive also?”

The phrase “fits of melancholy often worry me” although quoted as being in the letter of October 27th, 1737, does not appear in that letter which however does contain the phrase “the leanness of my soul.”

Another quotation “kitchen medicines suit me better than Bath” is a very abbreviated version of the letter written on 17th November, 1737:

“my obligations to you dear Madam do increase every day and have a great regard to your good advice but as one of my complaints is owing I think to a sharpness or acrimony in the blood, the Bath waters would increase this and I therefore incline to try kitchen medicines with stricter rules of living for some time longer. I am at present free from pain. Hot water and red wine abates it: am now to confine myself to Gill tea and few other simple things which I hope for some benefit from with respect to all my complaints and do resolve on early hours to bed.”

This letter may imply that Madam Bevan had recommended a visit to Bath—visits which she probably made possible for him by her generosity. (He had visited Bath in 1735, in February and June of 1737 and again in 1739).

On June 23rd, 1737, Griffith Jones wrote:

My own health comes on very comfortably thanks to the good God and his dear servant, whose directions about it (you may depend) shall be always of great weight with me. Good advice cannot be disregarded without great presumptuous contempt that never fails to bring forth bitter fruit whomsoever the advice is from, but when it comes from a person every way so judicious and valuable as my most kind adviser the neglect of it would be very much aggravated.”

The above extracts from the transcripts of the original letters can be supplemented by many other quotations which give a more convincing impression of Griffith Jones’s sincere and profound gratitude for Madam Bevan’s kind concern for him and his wife than do the quotations as given and interpreted by Professor Cavenagh. In the last letter transcribed under date 4th March, 1738, Griffith Jones wrote:

“I am going on with the medicines with grateful regard for the good directions of your kind letter which I love and thank you for, and for much greater things.”

This may be regarded as Griffith Jones’s considered opinion.

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