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National Library of Wales
Lewis, John Saunders, manuscripts

Reference code(s): GB 0210 MSSAUND

Held at: National Library of Wales

Title: John Saunders Lewis MSS

Short Title: Lewis, John Saunders, manuscripts

Creation date(s): 1901-1989

Level of description: Fonds

Extent: 44 volumes

Name of creator(s): Saunders Lewis; Margaret Lewis; Kate Roberts; David Jones; and others.


Administrative/Biographical history: Saunders Lewis, dramatist, poet, historian and literary critic, was born in Wallasey, Cheshire to a family of prominent Welsh Calvinistic Methodists. He was educated at a boys's school in Liscard and at Liverpool University, where he studied English and French. His academic career was interrupted by the First World War, in which Lewis served with the South Wales Borderers, but he quickly resumed his studies at the end of the conflict, and, having graduated, worked as librarian in Glamorgan before taking up a post as lecturer in the Welsh department of the University College of Swansea. In 1925, Lewis was one of the pioneering figures involved in establishing the National Party of Wales (later known as Plaid Cymru) and was made President of the fledgeling organisation the following year. Having written about the Roman Catholic church for a number of years, in 1932 Lewis converted to the faith also practised by his wife Margaret. In 1936, Lewis, D. J. Williams and Lewis Valentine set fire to the Royal Airforce's Bombing School in Penyberth on the Lleyn Peninsula, an event which has gone down in the annals of Welsh history and which earned Lewis imprisonment in Wormwood Scrubs and dismissal from his lecturing post in Swansea. He was eventually appointed senior lecturer in Welsh at the University of Cardiff but retired in 1957 to devote his time to writing. Lewis's litarary output is prodigious and he is considered by many to be the most important Welsh literary and political figure of the twentieth century; it is considered that his radio address for 1962, Tynged yr Iaith, was the direct instigating force behind the establishment of the Welsh language movement Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg.


Scope and content/abstract: Papers, 1901-1989, of dramatist, poet and literary critic John Saunders Lewis consisting mainly of correspondence and comprising letters, 1914-1955, between Saunders Lewis and Margaret Lewis (née Gilcriest), including letters written whilst Saunders Lewis was serving in the First World War and whilst he was imprisoned in Wormwood Scrubs in 1937; letters, 1919-1984, to Saunders Lewis from various correspondents, including seventy-three letters, 1923-1983, from Kate Roberts, and fifty-three letters and cards, 1948-1974, from artist and writer David Jones, also seven letters, 1929-1936, from Saunders Lewis to Tegwen M. Clee (afterwards Morris), together with letters, 1937, to Margaret Lewis from David Jones and from various correspondents to her, 1919-1951; letters, 1919-1924, to Saunders Lewis from his father Lodwig Lewis, and letters, 1952, 1984-[c. 1986], to Mair Saunders Jones, daughter of Saunders and Margaret Lewis, including a letter, 1952, from Kate Roberts; together with autograph and typescript drafts of plays by Saunders Lewis, 1936-1983, articles, notes and addresses by him, including students notebooks of 1914-1920, and poetry, 1912-1947, by both Saunders and Margaret Lewis. References include those to Plaid Cymru, Welsh nationalism, contemporary Welsh literature, the state of the Welsh language at the time, and Roman Catholicism.


Language/scripts of material: Welsh, English.

System of arrangement: Arranged according to NLW MSS reference numbers 22723-22727, 22951-22964, 23224-23233, 23430, 23547-23548.

Conditions governing access: Readers consulting modern papers in the National Library of Wales are required to abide by the conditions noted on the 'Modern papers - data protection' form issued with their readers' tickets.

Conditions governing reproduction: Usual copyright laws apply.

Finding aids: Description based on Handlist of Manuscripts in the National Library of Wales, Volume VIII (Aberystwyth, 1999) and Handlist of Manuscripts in the National Library of Wales, Volume IX (Aberystwyth, 2003).


Accruals: No accruals expected.

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition: The majority of NLW MSS 22723-22737 were donated by Saunders Lewis in 1964, 1980, and 1984 (kept under seal until the deaths of Saunders Lewis, Kate Roberts and David Jones), the remainder donated by Mair Saunders Jones, daughter of Saunders Lewis, of Penarth, in 1986. NLW MSS 22951-22964, 23015-23027, 23224-23233, and 23547-23548 were purchased from Mair Saunders Jones in 1991, 1992, 1994, and 1996.


Related material: The letters from Kate Roberts, together with the other half of the correspondence (for these see the NLW typescript catalogue Papurau Kate Roberts I (1990)), have been published in Ifans, Dafydd (ed.), Annwyl Kate, Annwyl Saunders ... (Aberystwyth, 1992). Letters from Saunders Lewis to Margaret Gilcriest have been published in full in Jones, Mair Saunders, Thomas, Ned, & Jones, Harri Pritchard (eds), Saunders Lewis - Letters to Margaret Gilcriest (Cardiff, 1993). Photocopies of the original newspaper articles written by Saunders Lewis for the Workington Star are to be found in NLW ex 1570 (see NLW MS 23027C). See Y Ddraig Goch, March, April, May 1938 for Saunders Lewis's address to the 1938 Caernarfonshire Conference of the Welsh Nationalist Party (see NLW MS 23233C). For material relating to Emyr Humphreys's proposed work The Hidden Kingdom, see the NLW typescript list Emyr Humphreys Papers, BIII/24 (see NLW MS 23547D). For the published version of Edward Glyn Jones's poem Julian in Hercynia, see Jones, Edward Glyn, The Death of Itylus and other poems (London, 1924), pp. 67-77 (see NLW MS 23548C).


Note: Title based on contents.

Archivist's note: Description compiled by Bethan Ifans for the retrospective conversion project of NLW MSS. The following sources were used in the compilation of this description: Handlist of Manuscripts in the National Library of Wales, Volume VIII (Aberystwyth, 1999); Handlist of Manuscripts in the National Library of Wales, Volume IX (Aberystwyth, 2003); Cydymaith i Lenyddiaeth Cymru (Llandysul, 1986).

Rules or conventions: This description follows ANW guidelines based on ISAD(G) second edition, AACR2, and LCSH.

Date(s) of descriptions: March 2009

Lewis, Saunders, | 1893-1985 | Correspondence

Personal names
Lewis , Saunders , 1893-1985

Corporate names


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