While Sinclair was happy to report tittle-tattle and impolite observation, Edward Pugh went out of his way to include tales and illustrations of freaks and oddities, seeking out the bizarre and unusual, as he travelled the length and breadth of Wales. Pugh (1761-1813) was a painter of miniatures and a topographer. It was Pugh's association with John Boydell, the publisher of prints, which led him in 1804 to commence his most important work, Cambria Depicta. Pugh spent the following nine years travelling extensively on foot through north Wales, and both wrote the substantial text and provided the original drawings for the book.
"Moel Famma” Pugh, Edward, 1816. Cambria Depicta: a tour through North Wales: illustrated with picturesque views. London: W. Clowes for E. Williams (PHI 01228) Presented to St. David’s College by Thomas Phillips in 1847
Cambria Depicta is written in the first person in a lively and entertaining style, presenting Wales from the perspective of a native Welsh-speaker, rather than of an English traveller. In addition to detailed descriptions of the scenery, Pugh regales his readers with little incidents, such as the loss of his dog on Moel Famau, the highest hill within the Clwydian Range.
"The Infant Hercules” Pugh, Edward, 1816. Cambria Depicta
More sensational though are Pugh’s lurid tales and images of the ‘strange’ people he meets along the way such as ‘Mary Thomas the Fasting Woman’ (unsurprisingly, since dead), ‘Bella the Fortune Teller’, ‘Shane Bwt’ (a reputed witch) and the ‘Infant Hercules’, a boy:
“of a size so extraordinary, as to attract the attention of all travellers coming that way”.
Pugh’s 19th century ‘reportage’ is not the only source of lurid tales in the Roderic Bowen Library and Archives…