Skip to topic | Skip to bottom

The Carmarthenshire Historian


Start of topic | Skip to actions

William Jenkins Rees 1772-1855

William Jenkins Rees was a member of a notable family of scholars and publishers who brought more than a local renown to the little town of Llandovery in the nineteenth century. He was born the son of Rice Rees at Llandovery on the 10th January, 1772. After attending Carmarthen Grammar School, he went to Oxford and graduated from Wadham College in 1795, taking his M.A. degree in 1797.

Following ordination in 1796, he held curacies in Herefordshire during the next ten years and in 1806 became rector of Cascob in Radnorshire, where he spent the rest of his life. In 1820 he was made a prebendary of Christ College, Brecon. Although he spent much of his life away from his native county, he retained close family ties with the town of his birth and when his father died in 1826 he inherited property in Llandovery.

Rees was a man of great industry, whose letters form a large collection; in addition, he left a great output of printed works. Early among his published works was A Short and Practical Account of Christianity (1803), followed by essays on clerical elocution and pastoral work. But if he is remembered nowadays it is probably for his work as an editor for the Welsh MSS. Society, though his scholarship has since been criticised. He was, however, esteemed as an antiquary far beyond his adopted county of Radnor and in 1840 he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. He should be remembered too for his part, with other clergymen, in giving new life to the Eisteddfod and reviving the Cymmrodorion Society.

In 1839, he inherited the task of editing an edition of the Liber Landavensis for the Welsh MSS. Society, a work left unfinished by the sudden death of his brilliant nephew, Rice Rees (1804-39), a professor and librarian at St. David's College, Lampeter, who had earlier written The Welsh Saints, long afterwards approved by J. E. Lloyd as a "full and luminous" essay. The new edition of the Liber Landavensis, which appeared in 1840, was printed by another nephew, William Rees (1808-73), who brought his measure of distinction to the Rees of Tonn family by printing many of the more important books of his time, including Lady Charlotte Guest's Mabinogion in three handsome volumes.

Rees later edited The Lives of the Carnhro-British Saints for the Welsh MSS. Society, a work which was printed in 1853 by William Rees, who was responsible for bringing out all the society's books. But in neither case has his scholarship altogether stood the test of time, and had he been spared to enhance the brilliance of his early promise it is likely that his nephew, Rice Rees, would have been much more successful.

William Jenkins Rees died at Cascob on the 18th January, 1855, a week after his eighty-third year.
to top

You are here: Historian > HistorianVol9 > WilliamJenkinsRees17721855

to top