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The publication of these TRANSACTIONS seems to invite, if not to demand, a few preliminary observations on the nature of the work, or rather, it may be said, on that of the Institution, under whose aupices it is offered to the public. And this appears the more necessary, as the Memoirs of Literary or Philosophical Societies are too often considered, from a hasty decision on the part of readers in general, to embrace only such technical discussions or abstruse researches, as present few or no attractions beyond the immediate circle to which they owe their existence. This, however, is a popular error, and, like most others, has its origin in that indolent proneness of our nature to delight more in superficial inquiries than in those investigations which demand any unusual degree of labour or thought. We glide with pleasure over the surface of that intellectual ocean, the treasures of whose abyss we dread nevertheless to explore. Hence it is that such publications as those above noticed are regarded by the generality of the world as too profound or too dry to excite that interest, without which no literary inquiry can be successfully pursued.
If this be the prevailing prejudice with respect to the productions of such institutions as have for their object the cultivation of general literature or universal science, we cannot be surprised, if it should be directed with an additional weight against the operations of a Society like this, whose views, in the comparison, are apparently of so contracted a nature. Where the sublime theories of the astronomer, the profound researches of the antiquarian, the scholar's learned disquisitions, or all the various discoveries that flow from the inventive faculties of the mechanical genius, fail to interest, what attraction can be expected to belong to the following pages, which, in a general view at least, have no such high pretensions to offer? The superficial reader, who shrinks from any laborious researches even in the most public walks of literature, will necessarily shun, with more than usual caution, the less frequented path to which this volume is dedicated. Unable to appreciate the value of those studies, which he wants the resolution or the talent to encounter, he adopts, as the conclusions of reason, what are, in fact, the offspring of ignorance or indifference. Hence it is that those researches, which, form the peculiar subject of the following TRANSACTIONS, have not acquired with the world that credit to which they are unquestionably entitled. But it is not too late to hope, that the injurious prejudices here adverted to may yet give way to a liberal spirit of inquiry, that shall indemnify the cause of Cambrian literature for the injustice it has experienced, and shall allow us to hope that, in the language of the poet,
- HONOS ERIT HUIC QUOQUE POMO.
The CYMM RODORION*, or METROPOLITAN CAMBRIAN INSTITUTION, may be considered as the revival of a Society of the same name, originally established in London in the month of September, 1751, under the patronage of his late Majesty, at that time Prince of Wales. The object of
* The word implies United Brethren, or Associates,
this.parent Society appears, however, according to its “ Constitutions,” published in 1778, to have been of a more extensive nature than those of the present CYMMRODORION; for, independent of its more immediate purpose of cultivating the language and literature of Wales, the “ Constitutions” alluded to declare it to have been an additional aim of the Society to “ contribute its endeavours towards the instruction of the ignorant and the relief of the distressed part of their countrymen.” What progress, if any, was made in this ulterior design we are not aware ; nor does it enter particularly into the purpose of these prefatory remarks to inquire. Our present concern with the old CYMMRODORION is confined to its literary proceedings; and these appear to have been, in a great measure, directed to the collection of some scarce books and MSS. relating to Wales, and which are now in the library of the Welsh School. But the main object of this national Institution is declared to have been the cultivation of the Welsh tongue, to which, we may therefore presume, the attention of the Society was, in an especial manner, devoted, notwithstanding that the results are, from their nature, at present unknown. The collection of the books and MSS. already noticed must, therefore, be taken as the principal evidence of the exertions of the former CYMMRODORION, who, after an existence of about thirty years, appear to have gradually sunk into a state of inaction, that, at length, terminated in the dissolution of the Society.
From that period to the establishment of the present Institution, an interval of nearly forty years, little or nothing had been publicly done towards promoting the cultivation of the Welsh language, or towards preserving those interesting re-. mains, in which the literature of Wales is known to abound.
The only exception, worthy of being made to this remark, is to be found in the exertions of the GWYNEDDIGION*, a Society formed by the natives of North Wales, resident in
* Natives of Gwynedd, or North Wales.
London, in the year 1771, and which continues to this day in the active pursuit of the same national objects, for which it was originally established. The late Mr. Owen Jones, the liberal publisher of the ARCHAIOLOGY OF WALES, was the founder of this Society, which has confined its operations to the encouragement of the poetry and music of the Principality. With this view, the Gwyneddigion made an effort, several years ago, to revive the old Eisteddvodau* of the Bards, and have also been, for some years, in the practice of rewarding with medals the best Welsh poems on subjects annually proposed for the occasion. Not only has the Awent of Wales been thus prevented from drooping beneath the oblivious shade of neglect, but it is a fact, highly creditable to the efforts of the GWYNEDDIGION in this respect, that their national muse has even derived an accession of vigour from their fostering patronage.
Yet, however, successful these praiseworthy endeavours to revive the energy of poetical genius among the natives of the Principality, it must still be admitted,, that this is the only instance in which, on the recent formation of the CYMMRODORION, public encouragement was, in any way, afforded, in the metropolis, to the cultivation of Welsh literature. And, not only did' no national societies exist for the more liberal promotion of this interesting object, but even individual curiosity (to make use of no higher name) appeared to have lost all relish for the pursuit. A few patriotic exceptions might, no doubt, be made to this observation ; but a general apathy, with respect to the higher distinctions of Cambrian lore, had been, for some time, the prevailing feature of the national character, when the re-establishment of the CYMMRODORION seemed to communicate to the cause a new store of life and of hope.
It may here be proper to intimate, that the foregoing remarks bave reference, more particularly, to the metropolis ; for, with respect to the country, two societies for the general cultivation of Welsh literature, had been established in the
* Sessions or congresses.
† Poetical genius.