Benjamin Heath Malkin
Another such writer was Benjamin Heath Malkin (1769-1842), schoolmaster, scholar and antiquarian1. Throughout his teaching career, Malkin published both historical and creative works on many subjects. The Scenery, Antiquities and Biography of South Wales reveals Malkin's taste for the picturesque; this topographical work was written following Malkin’s 1803 tour of South Wales and is considered one of the best travel books of its kind, displaying his acute observation and considerable knowledge of Welsh history.
In the first chapter “On the Legends, Traditions and History of Wales”, Malkin provides a straightforward description of the extent and history Offa’s Dyke including the legend that:
“King Harold made a law, that whatsoever Welsh transcended this dike with any kind of weapon, should have, upon apprehension, his right hand cut off”
Echoing Camden, Malkin describes the neglect into which the ditch fell following the death of Offa, relating:
“the uncertainty, in which the definition of its limits was involved in after times, as well as to the encroaching spirit of the English, who, while the countries remained separate, broke in upon their neighbours, wherever the evidence of the visible boundary became defective through time and neglect”
Malkin, like Rees, then presents us with an extract from the Poly-Olbion to illustrate his point; here Drayton anthropomorphises the rivers of the Wales, who lament the ambiguity regarding the extent of Welsh territory following the decline of the frontier, and Wales’ vulnerability to its larger neighbour:
To Salop when herself clear Sabrine comes to shew
"On the Severn a few miles from Llanidloes” Pugh, Edward, 1816. Cambria Depicta: a tour through North Wales: illustrated with picturesque views. London: W. Clowes for E. Williams (PHI 01228)
And wisely her bethinks the way she had to go, South-westward cast her course; and with an amorous eye Those countries whence she came surveyeth (passing by) Those lands in ancient times old Cambria claim’d her due, For refuge when to her th’ oppressed Britons flew; By England now usurp’d, who (past the wonted meers, Her sure and sovereign banks) had taken sundry shires, Which she her marches made: whereby those hills of fame And rivers stood disgrace’d; accounting it their shame That all without that mound which Mercian Offa cast To run from north to south, athwart the Cambrian waste, Could England not suffice, but that the struggling Wye Which in the heart of Wales was sometimes said to lye, Now only for her bound proud England did prefer.
Extract from the Eighth Song of Drayton’s Poly Olbion describing the Course of the Rivers Severn (Sabrine) and Wye
From: Malkin, Benjamin, 1804. The scenery, antiquities, and biography, of South Wales: from materials collected during two excursions in the year 1803, embellished with views, drawn on the spot and engraved by Laporte, and a map of the country.London: Printed for T. N. Longman and O. Rees (BUR 00151)
Notes: 1. http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/17885 (accessed 17/07/13)