Arthur Hughes (1878-1965) was a writer, poet, scholar and literary critic.
Hughes came from Bryn Melyn, near Harlech. He was the eldest of the four children of John Hughes Jones, a doctor of medicine, and Annie Harriet Jones. The family lived in London but his mother was originally from Talsarnau, in the Ardudwy area. Writing under the name, Gwyneth Vaughan, Annie was a frequent contributor to Welsh language periodicals, as well as the author of four novels, and was an important influence on Arthur’s literary interests. Arthur appears to have been a precocious child, early trying to learn German and Greek. From an early age he showed great enthusiasm for languages and for Plato, wanting to learn about the works of ancient philosophers such as Homer, Plato and Dante, and to familiarise himself with the literature of Shakespeare and Milton. He also learned to play the harp. However, little is known about his schooling.
Arthur became a Welsh scholar at St David’s College, Lampeter, in 1902; he was awarded the Eldon Scholarship worth £20 annually. He graduated with a First Class Honours BA in 1905 with Robert Williams, a graduate of Merton College, Oxford, being his Welsh tutor in his first year at Lampeter. Hughes also contributed an article entitled Welsh in Lampeter to the college magazine of June 1904. He commented, ‘With regard to the internal life of the College …, perhaps one of the most encouraging signs is the interest which, on the whole, appears to be taken in Welsh questions of the day.’ However, he went on to point out that although the college library contained many books about Wales, books written in Welsh were largely conspicuous by their absence. Furthermore, the Students’ Reading Room did not take the various Welsh-language church periodicals, let alone Cymru and Y Geninen.
Hughes appears to have been in poor health after graduating; his mother described him as a ‘confirmed invalid.’ He also appears to have been asked to repay the scholarship money he had received. Possibly he had joined Lampeter intending to go into the priesthood, but later changed his mind. However, more happily, Hughes published two anthologies of Welsh literature, Cywyddau Cymru (Jarvis a Foster, 1908), and Gemau’r Gogynfeirdd (D. Caradog Evans, 1910). A review of Cywyddau Cymru in The Nationalist described Hughes as ‘a young Welsh scholar of unusual promise,’ concluding ‘We expect great things of Mr Hughes; this his first book does him great credit. The target audience of this publication were schoolchildren and university students and its main focus was on the development of Welsh literature from the middle of the fourteenth century until the end of the nineteenth century. His next scholarly work, namely ‘Gemau’r Gogynfeirdd’ was printed in Pwllheli, as being the editor, he was living there at the time. One of his scholarly friends, the linguist, Ifor Williams, wrote a preface to the publication.
Sadly, Hughes’ mother died in 1910. Following this sad event, Hughes was invited the next year, under the patronage of Eluned Morgan, one of his mother’s friends, to emigrate to the Welsh colony in Patagonia, sailing with the last organised contingent of 113 Welsh emigrants aboard the steamer Orita. The ship arrived in Puerto Madryn on 27 November 1911 and in a letter home to his sister, Laura, in 1912, Hughes wrote that he was beginning to learn Spanish. He only intended to stay a few months but after Eluned Morgan returned to Wales in 1912, Hughes went to live in Fron Deg, in the Gaiman. It was later on in this period, on 10 January 1918, that he married a widow, Mrs H.M. Durrouzet. (His wife’s grandfather, W.E. Williams had been the founder of the district of Treorci in Chubut). Erw Fair (his wife’s home), and located in the Treorci district of Chubut became Arthur and Hannah’s family home.
Hughes was a noted literary critic, and frequently reviewed books published in Wales that would be of interest to the Welsh community in Argentina. His influence on the Welsh culture of Patagonia, as a scholar, writer, poet and harpist was considerable. In particular, he was a frequent contributor to the Welsh paper in Patagonia Y Drafod, writing in Welsh, English and Spanish. A number of his articles were also published in Y Gwerinwr and Gwiliedydd. He also translated poems into Welsh from French and German and some articles were published in the Church magazine, Yr Haul, in 1902 about the language and literature of Hebrew. He appears to have become hard of hearing at a relatively young age. Eventually, his deafness caused him to retire from public life.
Hughes had four children, three daughters and a son. Two of the daughters were acknowledged as renowned poets, with Irma Hughes de Jones becoming a chaired bard of the colony and editor of Y Drafod for almost fifty-years. Hughes died on 25 June 1965.
Biography written by Mark Watkins and Ruth Gooding.
Williams, R.B. (2001). Hughes, Arthur (1878-1965). Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved August 23 2021 from https://biography.wales/article/s2-HUGH-ART-1878?&query=arthur%20hughes&searchType=nameSearch&lang=en&sort=sort_name&order=asc&rows=12&page=1
Hughes, A. (1904). Welsh in Lampeter. St David’s College, Lampeter. The College and School Magazine. 8(7), 302-307.
Cywyddau Cymru. Wedi eu dethol a’u golygu gan Arthur Hughes. (1909). The Nationalist, 2(24), 33. Retrieved August 23 2021 from https://journals.library.wales/view/2407833/2408698/32#?cv=32&m=24&h=&c=&s=&manifest=https%3A%2F%2Fdamsssl.llgc.org.uk%2Fiiif%2F2.0%2F2407833%2Fmanifest.json&xywh=-1017%2C1026%2C4943%2C2545
Parry, T. (1979). Arthur Hughes 1878-1965. Taliesin, 38, 6-23.