The Foundation of Modern Wales: Wales 1642-1780

By Geraint H. Jenkins | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5 RELIGION, EDUCATION, AND LITERACY

FOLLOWING the storms and tempests of the previous two decades the arrival of the Merry Monarch in May 1660 was welcomed by jubilant churchmen. Indeed, a great wave of relief rippled across Wales as news of the return of the exiled sovereign filtered through to the localities. By 1660 most Welshmen were heartily sick of Puritan rule and the noisy acclamation which greeted Charles II in London was echoed in many Welsh towns. William Phylip declared that the descendant of the last of the Celtic kings had arrived through divine intervention: 'God of Heaven by his power has brought the bones of Cadwaladr home'.1 Conversely, Puritan saints feared the worst. Jenkin Jones of Llanddeti, a former captain in the parliamentary army and a fervent propagator of the gospel, was so discomfited by news of Charles's landing at Dover that he mounted his horse, rode furiously through Llanddeti churchyard, and fired his pistol at the church door, declaiming, 'Ah, thou old whore of Babylon, thou wilt have it all thy own way now'.2 He knew full well that those who had suffered cruel injustices at the hands of Puritan soldiers and zealous sectarians would be loath to extend the hand of friendship to old enemies.

Welsh churchmen were acutely aware that a critical phase lay ahead. Following two decades of civil strife, military occupation, and social upheaval, they yearned for a period of stability and peace. But old animosities and grievances were not easily forgotten and the Restoration years were riven with fear, suspicion, and uncertainty. The ruling classes lived in mortal fear of another civil war and were haunted by the ghost of millers-turned-Roundheads. Lucifer himself shuddered when confronted by Cromwell in the vivid portrait of hell etched by Ellis Wynne in 1703. As late as 1752 Theophilus Evans described the Civil War as a period when the gates of hell had opened and when Satan, with his 'infernal crew', had broken loose.3 Old wounds stubbornly refused to heal.

The traditional rulers of the countryside were convinced that more tranquil, settled times could only be achieved by reimposing Anglican discipline and reinstilling the need to revere the monarchy, obey the law of the land, and submit to the authority of gentlemen and parsons. Driven on by a desire to restore the Church of England to its former glory, an

____________________
1
E. D. Jones, "The Brogyntyn Welsh Manuscripts", NLWJ 8 p. 9.
2
C. Wilkins, The History of Merthyr Tydfil, p. 303.
3
Theophilus Evans, The History of Modern Enthusiasm ( London, 1752), p. 26.

-173-

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The Foundation of Modern Wales: Wales 1642-1780
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The History of Wales i
  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • A Note on Dating and Punctuation x
  • Contents xi
  • List of Maps xii
  • Abbreviations xiii
  • Part I Strife and Upheaval 1642-1660 1
  • Chapter I the Civil Wars and the Interregnum 3
  • Chapter 2 Propagating the Gospel 43
  • Part II the Return to Stability 1660-1730 85
  • Chapter 3 the Social and Economic Structure 87
  • Chapter 4 the Pattern of Politics 132
  • Chapter 5 Religion, Education, and Literacy 173
  • Chapter 6 Cultural and Intellectual Life 213
  • Part III the Age of Improvement 1730-1780 255
  • Chapter 7 Social and Economic Progress 257
  • Chapter 8 Political Conflict and Change 300
  • Chapter 9 the Spirit of Enthusiasm 342
  • Chapter 10 Cultural Revival and Invention 386
  • Bibliography 427
  • Index 465
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