King's College, London
Reprinted from "The Antiquary" Vol. XI, 1975
Copyright held by The Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society

ALTHOUGH one of the most prolific of translators of that period which has aptly been described as 'the great age of translations', John Davies of Kidwelly remains, historically speaking at least, something of a shadowy figure. His literary work has been discussed frequently; but for information concerning his life, heavy reliance is still generally placed upon the Dictionary of National Biography and its main source, Wood's Athenae Oxonienses, with occasional reference to the comments of John Aubrey, and some facts gleaned from the prefatory material to Davies' own translations. The resulting picture is, not surprisingly, somewhat scanty. Much evidence from Davies' prefaces and dedications has not, however, been exploited, and there has been no attempt to investigate the documentary material from his native Carmarthenshire. As a result, it has not hitherto been known that John Davies was married, nor that, far from being continuously resident in London as is generally supposed, he in fact divided his time between the capital and Carmarthenshire, and seems always to have retained strong connections with the town of Kidwelly, where he eventually became Mayor. This paper seeks to remedy these deficiencies and to provide a more secure historical framework for further investigation of the life of this neglected translator.

1. The Davies Family.

Of Davies' parentage and ancestry little has hitherto been known save the identity of his father, whose name is given as William Davies by Wood and the records of Jesus College, Oxford, where John Davies subsequently studied, while those of St John's College, Cambridge, whither he betook himself during the Civil War, add that William Davies was of yeoman status.1 Further light is cast upon William Davies by two leases among the Muddlescombe deeds at the National Library of Wales. The earlier of these, dated 20 October 1638 (Muddlescombe 349), records a lease taken by William Davies, Alderman of Kidwelly, on a house in Causeway Street, together with twenty-eight and a quarter kyvers of arable land and a 'parcell' of meadowland, on West Hill.2 The duration of the lease was fourteen years; the annual rent payable by Davies to Sir Walter Mansell of Muddlescombe was £11, plus two capons at Michaelmas (or eighteen pence in lieu thereof). In addition, the tenant was obliged to provide a man for a day's reaping at harvest time, and a man and a horse for one day's work at each of the following: carrying coals, carrying wood, carting 'furres' (furze, used for fuel), carrying hay and corn.

The second indenture (Muddlescombe 1718) dates from 31 October 1653 and was clearly taken on the expiry of the earlier lease, as it renews Davies' tenure of the twenty-eight kyvers of arable lands on West Hill. But where Davies had previously held a single parcel of meadow on that hill, he now took four such parcels; and in addition he now leased one kyver of arable and pasture land at 'Park Bach', two kyvers of arable land at 'the Burchland', and some meadows, pasture, and arable land of unspecified extent, as well as a barn and stable. To judge by this extension of his holdings, William Davies was evidently prospering. The Causeway Street house was now replaced by 'one messuage or dwelinge house with a barne and a gardaine to the same adioyening', but its location is unfortunately not indicated. The most interesting feature of this indenture is that Sir Francis Mansell leased the various properties to Davies, who is again described as an Alderman of Kidwelly, 'ffor and dureing the naturall liues of Dauid Dauis, John Dauis & Ann Dauis, childeren of the said William Dauids.'3 The full text of the indenture is given at Appendix 1.

That William Davies was an Alderman of the Borough of Kidwelly, as stated in both these leases, is confirmed by the records of that Borough, which give much additional information on his civic career. He became Town Clerk in 1629, paying £10 for the position after the Corporation had removed the previous occupant, Richard Herbert, for alleged nonattendance (a charge which he disputed, though without success).4 On 30 September 1633 Davies was sworn Principal Burgess, Alderman, and Mayor on the same day. Subsequently, he was sworn Chief Steward on 18 July 1636. He held the office of Town Clerk for another term from 30 August 1642; and was Mayor on a further two occasions, being sworn in on 30 September 1650 and again on 6 October 1662.5 Davies' standing in the community is indicated by the fact that in the year his son matriculated at Oxford he was amongst the commissioners appointed to enquire into the dispersion of the lands of the Chantry of St Nicholas in Kidwelly.6 The commission issued by King Charles I to Charles Stepney, John Vaughan, Jenkin Loyde and 'William Davis gent' required them to

'inquire search try find out and discover as well by viewd oath evidence examinacion of wittnesses uppon oathe as by all and every or any other lawfull wayes or meanes whatsoever to you seeminge meete what quantitie of lands did belong to the said Chauntry of St Nicholas in Kidwelly in the said County of Carmarthen, and in whose possession the same lands now are and who hath and taken the issues and proffits thereof and who ought to pay and contribute towards the payment of the said rent and what part and porcion of the said rent every tennant and occupier of the said Chauntry land ought respectively to pay.'7

The situation must have been a delicate one for Davies, required as he was, to investigate the misappropriation of chantry lands by his colleagues in the local hierarchy. Notwithstanding, the investigation was carried out by Davies and Jenkin Loyde, who, according to their report, examined fourteen witnesses at Kidwelly Town Hall on 6 October 1641 and put to them an 'interrogatory' devised by Sir Francis Mansell.8 In addition the enquiry seems to have involved Davies and Loyde in some documentary research, for they also report that 'by search made' they had found relevant matter in 'an Ancient presentment of xvj honest and lawfull men of the Borough of Kidwelly aforesaid, bearing Date the xijth Day of October in the seaventh yeare of the Raigne of our late soveraigne Lord James.'9

Thus, although technically of 'yeoman' status, William Davies was clearly a prosperous farmer who played an active part in local affairs, serving as Mayor under monarchy, Commonwealth and Restoration alike. It is also obvious that he was literate. It seems that William Davies died in 1670, for the parish register of Kidwelly records the burial of one 'Gulielmus Davies Alder' on 14 September of that year. Of the other members of his family, little is known; an entry in the parish register records the burial on 26 November 1678 of Gwenllian Davies, wife of Alderman William Davies, but her maiden name is unknown. Some facts can be given about the children of William Davies. The youngest, Ann Davies, was baptised at Kidwelly on 3 June 1627, a date whose significance for the biography of her brother the translator is discussed below. The eldest, David Davies, is probably to be identified with the man of that name who was sworn Principal Burgess on 26 June 1654, and Alderman on 18 July 1661. He became Mayor on 1 October 1666, and held office for a second term from 2 October 1676. He was buried at Kidwelly on 4 March 1684 at the parish church where twenty years earlier he had been one of the churchwardens.

2. Early Education: Carmarthenshire, 1625?1641.

The date of John Davies' birth has been disputed. That favoured by most modern authorities, 1627, was first put forward by the Dictionary o f National Biography on the ground that 'in May 1646 he described himself as nineteen years old.'10 However, according to his contemporary Anthony Wood, Davies was born in Kidwelly on 25 May 1625, and there is some independent evidence to suggest that in this Wood may be correct.11 For, although the records of St John's College, Cambridge, give his age in May 1646 as nineteen, those of Oxford, where he matriculated as a member of Jesus College, on 4 June 1641, describe him as then aged sixteen, which would give a date of birth closer to that stated by Wood.12 Moreover, the parish register of Kidwelly, which fortunately survives from 1627, does not record the baptism of any John Davies during that year, but shows that his younger sister Ann was baptised on 3 June. The records of both Oxford and Kidwelly thus suggest that Wood is closer to the truth than are his modern detractors.

If the Cambridge records are reliable in details other than his date of birth, then John Davies was educated at Carmarthen; his mentor is named as one Lambert Thomas.13 The latter was, of course, headmaster of the Free School at Carmarthen, better known as the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, which had been in existence since 1576. It is therefore probable that Davies was a pupil there, as has indeed been suggested elsewhere.14

3. Oxford and Cambridge, 1641?1649.

From Carmarthen, John Davies went up to Oxford in 1641, matriculating as a servitor at Jesus College on 4 June of that year. He was to remain there, in the words of Anthony Wood, 'till Oxford was garrison'd for his Majesty's use, and then being taken away by his Relations, he was sent to S. John's Coll. in Cambridge.'15 There, he was admitted as a sizar on 14 May 1646, his tutor and surety being Mr Beecher.16 Wood informs us that 'being trained up under Presbyterians, made him ever after, till his Majesty's Restoration, keep pace with the times of Usurpation.'17 Davies also made the acquaintance of the poet John Hall, of Durham, to whose friendship and patronage he paid glowing tribute in a biographical note on Hall prefacing the latter's Hierocles. Here Davies reveals that he and Hall for a time, shared the same tutor.18 They also shared activities outside the academic sphere, and of these amusements Davies gives an interesting glimpse in the same brief life of Hall:

'I have diverse times writ down thirty or fourty words, and repeated them twice over leasurely, which done he gave them me in order forwards and backwards, and upon demand any particular number, as the 19th, 25th, 31st, or any other.'

Other than this, Davies tells us little of his time at Cambridge; but Wood notes that it was there that he learned French.19

4. 'Beyond the Seas', 1649-1651.

Davies' preface to his translation of Hall's Paradoxes, published in 1653, informs us that he went abroad early in 1649 and returned late in 1651, and not, as the DNB states, 'about 1652'.20 The passage in question is also of interest for what it reveals of the relations between the translator and his publishers:

'Going about the beginning of 1649 beyond the Seas, I left some three, or four of these PARADOXES imperfect, yet such was the estimation the Authour had gotten by former things, and such the avarice of the plodding Stationer, that he would needs fasten on them as they were, but with a slight promise from the other to divertise so far as to bring them into some considerable bulk. Upon these hopes, some months after my departure, what I left was committed to the press, but as for any advance . . . there was so little done, that returning into England towards the latter end of 1651, I found so much printed, as I had left behind me in writing.'21

Further details of Davies' period of residence abroad are given in the life of John Hall preceding the latter's Hierocles; here Davies reveals that he returned to England in September of 1651.22 From Wood's remarks, it has been generally assumed that he was in France during this time.2323 Unfortunately, Davies himself gives no indication of where he travelled 'beyond the Seas', nor does he inform us of the nature of his activities.24

5. London and Kidwelly, 1651-?1680.

Davies' activities after his return in 1651 are not very fully documented, and the existing accounts are erroneous in certain respects. From Wood's statement that 'upon his return, settling in London (where he continued till some of the last Years of his Life) did make it his livelihood to translate Books from French into English . . . and putting Dedicatory and other Epistles to them, gained much relief by them', it has been generally concluded that Davies was living in London continuously during these years.25 Tucker, for instance, comments that 'for the next twenty?five years he lived chiefly in London with an occasional stay in his native Wales, basing this on what he sees as a reference made by Davies in 1671 to his 'long residence at London'.26 This is, however, a misreading of the text, which in fact states:

'The Obligations I had to your Worthy Brother JOHN HALL, sometime of Grey's Inne Esquire, are no less present to my thoughts, when I am at the greatest distance from his Relations, then [sic] they are during my long Residences at London, where I frequently converse with those, who, knowing his worth, take occasion to celebrate it, upon the least mention of his Name.'27

Rather than the continuous residence inferred by Tucker, the plural 'long Residences' would seem to suggest repeated trips of lengthy duration; and this interpretation is supported by the contrast Davies is drawing between these 'long Residences at London' and the other periods 'at the greatest distance from his Relations', in other words, when furthest from London. This seems to indicate regular absences from the capital; and in the light of other evidence adduced below, it seems reasonable to infer that during these absences from London, Davies was in Wales. That these absences were continuing when Davies wrote these words in 1671 is suggested by the use of the present tense in the passage; and they were clearly a recurrent feature of the translator's life during the entire period of his supposedly continuous residence in London, for he had already referred to them in a dedication of 1666:

'It hath pleas'd that invisible hand, which guides all humane actions, to answer the wishes I made at a great distance hence, to wit, that, at my return, I might find your Honor (as I have) in perfect health.'28

It thus seems that Davies was not continuously resident in London upon his return from foreign parts, but that on the contrary his time was divided between the capital and his native Wales, with long periods of residence in London from time to time. Whether Carmarthenshire or the capital occupied the greater part of his time is difficult to establish; but this dual existence gives to the epithet 'of Kidwelly', by which John Davies chose to style himself on many of his title-pages (and by which he was known by sundry acquaintances), a meaning deeper than mere affectionate recollection of his birthplace. Certainly, his residence in Wales amounted to more than the 'occasional visit' suggested by Tucker, for in a dedication of 1665 Davies refers to a period of nearly two years recently spent in that country:

'When the Books of the former Edition were nigh spent, and that I was call'd upon, to provide for another, it was again my fortune, after almost two years retirement in Wales, to come to your House …'29

To date Davies' periods of residence in Carmarthenshire and London is problematic, but some indications can be given. Since the 'first edition' referred to above was printed, according to Wood, in 1657, and the next edition was published in 1662, the two years spent by Davies in Wales must fall between those dates.30 Some time should, moreover, be allowed for the exhaustion of stocks of the first edition, and for the preparation of the second; this makes it probable that his residence in Wales fell around 1660. There is strong evidence to support the suggestion that he was in Kidwelly in that year, for an entry in the parish register records the birth on 23 July of Elizabeth, third daughter of John Davies, son of William Davies, Alderman. The girl was born at the Glynn (a locality in the valley of the Gwendraeth Fawr near Kidwelly) at about two in the afternoon.

It seems fairly clear that this John Davies, father of Elizabeth and two other children (one of whom, Rose, is recorded in the parish register as being born on Friday 8 January 1657 'about tenne of the clock P.M.'), is to be identified with the translator. Not only is there the evidence of the identity of his father but, in addition it can be stated with some confidence that John Davies the translator was married, although Wood does not record this, since on his death in 1693 the administration of his estate was granted to his relict Rosa Davies (see Appendices II and III). In view of this documentary evidence in support of the marriage, one must assume that Wood did not record Davies' domestic attachments either because they were unknown to him, or because for some reason they were not deemed worthy of notice (see note 34). It is possible, of course, that during his long trips to London, Davies was not accompanied by his wife; indeed, her continuing presence in Kidwelly, together with the existence of a family, would go far towards explaining the dual life Davies seems to have led. After his death, Rosa Davies seems to have remained in Kidwelly, where she was buried on 8 March 1706.

Davies himself must have been back in London before 1662, since in the dedication cited above he refers to having visited Thomas Stanley at Cumberlow, Hertfordshire, to work on the new edition of Scarron's Novels. He was again in the capital, it would appear, on the outbreak of the Plague in 1665, since he mentions this event in the dedication to the History of Algiers (1666), cited above, noting Sir Philip Howard's 'easiness of access, even when the last years Contagion was neer the height of it's rage' in terms which suggest that Davies may perhaps have taken refuge with him in order to avoid the pestilence. The preface to the History of the Carriby Islands (1666) also suggests that the translator was at work in London at the outbreak of the Plague:

'… possibly those of the English Nation, who are inhabitants in the Carribbies, may have peculiar names for divers of the Plants, Beasts, Birds, Fishes, &c, mentioned in this Treatise, much different those which the Publisher hath used. Some of them, upon consultation with such as had lived in those parts he made a shift and in all likelihood might have gotten most of the others, of the breaking forth of the last years Contagion caus'd most Inhabitants of London, to retire to their Country Habitations and Friends.'31

Davies was once more in London in May 1670, when Wood records him (see note 34); and he was there again in October of the year, for the epistle dedicatory of the Ancient Rites and Monuments of the Monastical & Cathedral Church of Durham is dated 'London, 1671' (see note 39). It may be inferred, however, from his evident familiarity with various figures of London society, that his residence in the capital was more extensive than these isolated dates might suggest.

Of John Davies' activities during his periods in London, we are afforded an occasional glimpse from his own prefaces and from the comments of others who knew him there. Apart from the business of translation, of which we can learn something from the preface to the History of the Carriby Islands cited above, Davies seems to have been engagedin a wide round of social activities. From the epistle dedicatory to Scarron's Novels, we learn that he had twice visited Thomas Stanley at Cumberlow, and that whilst there he worked upon the translation of that text:

'At the first coming abroad of the three former of these Novels in English, they were address'd to you, partly upon this accompt, that were rendred into that language at Cumberlow, it being just you should have the Patronage, of what had its birth under your roof . . . When the Books of the former edition were nigh spent, and that I was call'd upon, to provide for another, it was again my fortune . . . to come to your House, where I had the opportunity, to review what was printed, and make what additions I could thereto, out of the same Author's works.'32

Davies was also associated with the circle of Katherine Philips, and it has been suggested that he acted as an intermediary between the literary coteries of the latter and Stanley.33 He seems, in fact, to have circulated fairly widely in the cultural world of the capital; in addition to Thomas Stanley and Katherine Philips, he was acquainted with the antiquary Elias Ashmole, and with John Aubrey. With the former he dined on Sunday, 1 May 1670, as Anthony Wood, who was also present, recorded in his journal.34 A number of references to Davies in the papers of John Aubrey suggest that the latter owed to the translator a certain amount of information concerning various literary figures of the day, and this gives, of course, further insight into the range of Davies' social circulation, in so far as it reveals his acquaintance with the individuals concerned. For instance, Aubrey made a note to enquire of John Davies for details of the life of James Heath, and also names him as having provided news of Thomas Whyte.35 In his life of John Sherburne, Aubrey notes that Sherburne had 'before he dyed, translated Ovid's Epistles, and better (I am informed by Sir Edward and John Davys of Kidwelly) than any we have in print.'36 This respect shown by Aubrey for John Davies' opinion on the merit of a translation of Ovid tends to confirm Tucker's suggestion that Davies was 'something of a Latin scholar': a conclusion based upon Davies' Cambridge training and his early translations of John Hall's Paradoxes and the anonymous Apocalypsis, both of which were available only in Latin versions before Davies rendered them into English.37

Tucker assumes that translating was a full?time occupation for Davies, and that 'for a living he was evidently dependent upon payments from publishers and the fondly?hoped for returns from epistles dedicatory.'38 He continues, 'Davies, the son of a yeoman, and himself certainly a man of no great means, seems to have devoted himself almost exclusively to translation and to have been rewarded with a comfortable existence. I find no sure reference in any of his works to any employment beyond his literary occupations.' Certainly, Wood states that Davies 'gained much relief' by the proceeds from his dedications (see note 25); but whether his income from publishing and gratuities was his only support must surely be queried in view of the existence of his family, and the possibility that he may have spent much of his time in Kidwelly.

Besides his activity as a translator, and his apparent skill as a Latin scholar, Davies seems to have been something of an antiquary. His interests in this field are attested by his publication of the Ancient Rites and Monuments of the . . . Cathedral Church of Durham, which he claims to have found in a manuscript dating from the time of 'the Sup pression'.39 Further evidence, in support of Davies' having had antiquarian pursuits, is provided by a note in John Aubrey's papers to enquire after 'picturae Mri. Davys', if, indeed this Davys, is to be identified with the translator from Kidwelly.40 Moreover, Davies himself mentions this aspect of his interests in the dedication of the Egyptian History of 1672 (itself a work of antiquarian curiosity) to his 'honoured uncle' John Griffith 'of Llangwendraeth' (in the parish of Llangendeirne near the Glynn), whom the translator addresses thus:

'You know how often I have bemoan'd your loss of divers excellent Manuscripts, Prophecies, Poetry, and other Subjects, relating to our own Countrey; for certainly nothing so pleasant as to survey the Genius and Humours of our earliest Predecessors . . . . '41

It is also interesting that this dedication implies a rather more frequent contact between Davies and Griffith than the single 'visit to an uncle in Wales', which Tucker sees in it.42 Moreover, Davies' remark that 'when I was upon the Translation of this Piece, I often entertained you with several Stories of it', seems to suggest either that Griffith visited his nephew in London, or, as might seem more probable, that Davies carried out at least some of his translation in Kidwelly. Since he seems also to have translated Scarron's Novels at Cumberlow, it is clear that by no means all his work was done in London. The capital would seem to have been by no means as dominant a factor in Davies' life as was hitherto believed.

6. Kidwelly, ?1680?1693.

Since John Davies had never been out of contact for long with his birthplace, and seems to have been regularly resident there even during those years when he was an accepted figure in the literary circles of London society, it is easier to understand how he finally withdrew from the capital altogether and returned to Kidwelly, as Wood puts it, 'some of the last years of his life.'43 To date this return to Wales is difficult. The records of the Borough of Kidwelly reveal that one John Davies, gentleman, with abode in Kidwelly, was sworn Burgess on 5 October 1674; but this could well have taken place during one of his periods away from the capital, and is not necessarily an indication that he was permanently in Kidwelly as early as 1674. His last known original translation was published in 1680, and subsequent publications were reprints of earlier editions; it may therefore be that he returned to Kidwelly about this time.44 In this context it is perhaps significant that in this very year his daughter Rose died; she was buried in Kidwelly on 19 June. At all events, Davies certainly had returned to Kidwelly before 1683, for from that year onwards his civic appointments come in quick succession. He was sworn Principal Burgess on 29 May that year, and in the following year was sworn Alderman on 20 March. He finally took office as Mayor on 5 October 1685, and held the position again from 5 October 1691.

Of Davies' circumstances during this period we are better informed than for any other time of his life, by reason of the fortunate survival of an inventory of his goods drawn up on his death by John Howards and John Howell, the latter at that time one of the churchwardens of Kidwelly (see Appendix II). This document, hitherto unknown, suggests that in his last years John Davies' way of life was more consistent with his yeoman origins than with his former position in London society, since it reveals modest agricultural activity, with traditional rural sidelines such as the brewing of beer indicated by the presence of brewing vessels and barrels among his possessions. His furniture and domestic utensils bulk large in the inventory, suggesting adequate, if simple, comfort; the size of the household may possibly be indicated by the presence of four feather beds, although there is of course no indication of whether they were all occupied simultaneously. In addition to ail this, the inventory values his wearing apparel at £2?10?0, and his books (a significant feature) at £2?0?0; these items constituted a sizeable proportion of an estate totalling but £17. Unfortunately, the inventory, so precise over the furniture and the kitchen utensils, does not specify the titles of the books, nor even the number of volumes: a defect it shares with so many others of its kind, to the frustration of the literary scholar.45

It is illuminating to contrast the extent of John Davies' agricultural activity, as revealed by this inventory, with what may be deduced about that of his father from the two Muddlescombe leases. William Davies had held a reasonable acreage of mixed farming land at an annual rent of £18 in 1653, and had obviously been in a position to provide a man and a horse for four days' labour; under the lease of 1638, these obligatory services had amounted to six days' labour. While John Davies clearly held a similar mixture of arable and pastureland, he seems to have operated on a much smaller scale, and had but one horse and one cow. The value of his corn and hay crops was not very great. From this, it would seem that, as one might indeed expect, his agricultural activity was fairly modest.

John Davies seems to have died in July 1693. The parish register records, amongst the burials for that month, the fact that 'Johannes Davies Alder seputus [sic] fuit 22° die mensis Julii'. Since, as Wood makes clear, this was the date of Davies' burial and not that of his death as the DNB assumes, the precise day on which he died remains in doubt.46 Further details of his burial are, however, provided by Wood, whose words may fittingly serve as Davies' epitaph:

'concluding his last day at Kidwelly where he was born, was buried on the north side of the Church there, near the Chancel, on Saturday the 22d of July (S. Mary Magd. Day) . . . leaving then behind him the Character of a genteel, harmless and quiet Man.'



I am deeply indebted to the Rev. Douglas L. Walters, Vicar of Kidwelly, for his kindness in allowing me to examine the parish registers. Mr. W. H. Morris, always so free with both his time and his extensive knowledge of the history of Kidwelly, drew my attention to the two Muddlescombe leases, and to the existence of the Borough records; for these and other favours I am most grateful. In addition, my enquiries were kindly answered by Mr E. C. Thompson, Estates Bursar of Jesus College, Oxford; Dr P. A. Linehan of St John's College, Cambridge; and Miss H. E. Peek, of the University Archives, Cambridge. Mr T. L. Evans, of the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Carmarthen, furnished important information relating to Lambert Thomas; and I owe a particular debt of gratitude to Mr G. Milwyn Griffiths of the Department of Manuscripts at the National Library of Wales, for the provision of a photocopy of the 1693 inventory, reproduced in Appendix II. To them all: diolch yn fawr.


Appendix I

Indenture dated 31 October 1653 between William Davies, Alderman, and Sir Francis Mansell; National Library of Wales, Muddleseombe1718. Abbreviations have been resolved. Reproduced by courtesy of the National Library of Wales.

THIS INDENTURE MADE the last day of October in the yeare of our Lord God One thousand six hundered fifty and three BETWEENE Sir Ffrancis Mansell of Mudlescombe in the Countie of Carmarthen Barronett of the one parte and William Dauids of the Towne of Kidwelly in the Countie afore said Alderman of the other parte WITNESSETH that the said Sir Ffrancis Mansell in Consideration of the yearly rent in these presents mencioned and in hope of performance of the other Couenants duties and services heerafter expressed, hath demised graunted and to farme sett and by these presents doth demise, graunt and to farm sett vnto the said William Dauids One messuage or dwelinge house with a barne and a gardaine to the same adioyening wherein one Thomas Dauid now dwelleth and one parcell of arrable and pasture called parke bach Containeing by estimation One kyver or there abouts Two parcells of arrable lands at a place called the Burchland being Two kyvers or thereabouts One parcell of Meadow ground in the holoway, one meadow called Ellis Meade, One Barne and stable with a smale parcell of ground to the same adioyning at Kidhill Twenty Eight kyuers of arrable lands in seuerall parcells on the west hill ffoure parcells of Meadow ground on the same hill And one parcell of arrable land and pasture adioyning to the lands of Wenhill All which messuage and parcells of lands are and lyeth within the libertie of the Towne of Kidwelly in the said Countie of Carmarthen, TO HAUE AND TO HOULD the said messuage Barnes stables arrable lands and Meadow with all their right members and appurtenances vnto the said William Dauids his Executors and Assignes in as large and ample manner as the said William Dauid and Nicholas Pounsard and Thomas Dauid heerto fore held or occupied the same from the feast day of St. Michaell the Archangell last past before the date heereof, ffor and dureing the naturall liues of David Dauis, John Dauis & Ann Dauis Childeren of the said William Dauids and the longest liuer of them, yealding and paying therefore yearly vnto the said Sir ffrancis Mansell his heires or Assign the annuall rent of Eighteene pounds of lawfull English Money at Two vsuall feastes or dayes of payment That is to say at the feast day of St Phillip and Jacob the appostles, And the feast day of St Michaell the Archangell by equall and euen portions yearly one Couple of Capons at Christmas holydayes or Eighteene pence in lieu thereof, one Couple of hennes at the same time or Eight pence in lieu there of one man and horse ffour dayes to carry Coales yearly or in lieu of euery of the said dayes six pence att the leassor's choyse PROUIDED ALWAYES that if it happen the said yearly rent of Eighteen pounds or any parte thereof to be vnpayd or behinde in parte or in all at the dayes in which the same ought to be payd or within fifteene dayes ther next after and not suffitient distresse to be had or found upon the premisses to discharg the same That then it shall and may be lawfull to and for the said Sir ff rancis' Mansell his heires or Assignes into all and singular the demised premisses to reenter and the same to haue againe and repassesse as in his or their former estate, And the said William Dauids his Executors or Assignes utterly to Expulse put out and amoue (any thing in this Indenture declared to the Contrary not withstanding) AND the said Sir Ffrancis Mansell doth for himselfe his heires and Assignes Couenant promise and graunt to and with the said William Dauids his Executors and Assignes That it shall and may be lawfull to and for the said William Dauids his Executors or Assignes dureing the said terme of Hues to pull downe and rase the old pigian houses and other decayed walles now being upon the Demised lands upon west hill, And the same stones to employ towards the fenceing of the said lands or towards the repayreing or buildeing of any houses or barnes vppon the premisses only And also it shall be tollerated and lawfull for the said William Dauid his Executors and Assignes at any time dureing the sayd Terme to make erect or build vppon the demised parcells of lands on the west hill (for the keeping preseruing or fenceing the same) any hedges ditches or fences And that the said Sir Ffrancis Mansell his heires and Assignes shall warrant and defend the said William Dauids his Executors and Assignes in doeing the same And that the said Sir Ffrancis Mansell his heires and Assignes will allow out of the said annuall rent [ the following erased: or that it shall be lawfull for the said William Dauid his Executors or Assignes to deduct out his or their yearly rent] the moytie or one halfe of all such monthly assessments as the said William Dauid his Executors or Assignes shall pay or be imposed vppan the demised premisses AND the said William Dauids doth for him selfe his Executors and Assignes Couenant, promise and graunt to and with the said Sir Ffrancis Mansell his heires and assignes, That he the said William Dauids his Executors and Assignes shall and will from time to time dureing the said Terme repaire maintaine and keepe in good and sufficient repairacion all houses barnes stables and buildings hedges ditches and fences which now are And all the houses buildings ditches and fences which heerafter shall be made or erected in or vppon the premisses, And the same at the end and Expiration of the said Terme to leaue and yeald vp vnto the said Sir Ffrancis Mansell his heires or Assignes in good and sufficient repairacion And also to pay all theese rents Contributions rates and Taxations (except before excepted) due out of the premisses or lawfully imposed on the same AND the said Sir Ffrancis Mansell for him selfe his heires and Assignes doth Couenant promise and graunt by these presents to and with the said William Dauid his Executors and Assignes That he the said Sir Ffrancis Mansell his heires and Assignes vnder the true payment of the said yearly rent of Eighteene pounds and due performance of other Couenants and duties in these presents before expressed, shall and will warrant and defend the demised premisses with their appurtenances vnto the said William Dauids his Executors and Assignes for and dureing the said Terme against all manner of persons whatsoeuer IN WITTNES whereof the parties aboue named to these present Indentures interchangeably have sett their hands and seales the day and yeare first aboue written.

[on fold: ] William Dauids


Appendix II

Inventory of the estate of John Davies, 8 August 1693, in the National Library of Wales, Probate Records for the Diocese of St Davids. Abbreviations have been resolved. Crown Copyright document reproduced by kind permission of the Controller, HMSO.

A true & perfect jnbentory of the goods Cattle & chatles moveable & imoveable of John Davies of Kidwelly in the County of Carmarthen Alderman Late deceased Apprized by us whose names are heerunto subscribed this 8th day of August 1693.

Imprimis two old brasse kettles & 3 smale brasse panns to
It: three brasse potts & one scillett
It: pewter about the house & 2 brasse candlesticks
It: one cupboard 3 tables & one screen
It: foure feather beds & appurtenances
It: one cowe & one horse
It: Bookes
It: Brewing vessells & barrells
It: Hay in the house
It: Corne in the ground
It: olde chests stooles & other lumber about ye house
It: his wearing Apparell

John Howell
John Howard

22° Augusti 1693°

Fiat Adm° Bonorum etc: dicti Difuncti Rosae Davies ejus relictae salvo jure Cujuscunque jur.

Thomas Bevan.


Appendix III

Was there more than one John Davies of Kidwelly?

In this paper I have argued that the 'John Davies' who is referred to in the parish register and the Borough records of Kidwelly is to be identified with the translator John Davies of Kidwelly. In view of the fact that the former was married with at least three daughters, was an Alderman, and twice Mayor, none of which is recorded by Wood in his account of the translator's life, it may be objected that, in view of the undoubted commonness of the name 'John Davies', I have confused two separate individuals. Against this, and in favour of the identification here proposed, it is worth reiterating the following facts.

1. Wood gives the date of the translator's burial at Kidwelly as 22 July 1693. It has never been suggested by anyone that Wood is in error over this date; and if he is correct, then the translator was obviously an Alderman of Kidwelly, for the only John Davies buried at Kidwelly on that day, and indeed during that entire month, was John Davies the Alderman. Since the only other John Davies mentioned in the Borough records during the last three decades of the seventeenth century is a man who was sworn Principal Burgess on 19 July 1675, but never attained the dignity of Alderman, it follows that John Davies the Alderman who died in 1693 is the same John Davies who was twice Mayor of Kidwelly.

2. The John Davies who died in 1693 was married, since the administration of his estate was granted to his relict, Rosa Davies (see Appendix 11).

John Davies' civic and marital status, are thus confirmed by documents relating directly to his death in 1693, the date of which is given by Wood and accepted by all modern authorities. There is in consequence little doubt that the translator and the Mayor are the same individual; unless, that is, Wood is mistaken over the date of the translator's death, having, for instance, sought this information from a local source who confused the translator with another prominent local figure of the same name. That Wood had such a local informant is a distinct possibility in view of the fact that he gives the date of burial, which could be obtained from the parish register, but not that of death, which is not recorded in the register. For what it is worth, however, it does seem that the information given by Wood is the result of his own enquiries, and cannot be attributed to his continuators; and since Wood himself died in 1695, if he had enquired locally after Davies, the memory of the latter should still have been fairly fresh. The possibility of an erroneous confusion of two separate individuals of the same name thus seems less than convincing.

Wood's account of Davies does not appear in the first edition of the Athenae Oxonienses (1691); it is contained in the second edition of 1721, an edition 'very much Corrected and Enlarged; with the Addition of above 500 new Lives from the Author's Original Manuscript' (see note 1). These additions are explained as follows in the preface 'The Booksellers to the Reader'; Besides, there are above Five Hundred new Lives and Accounts of Oxford Writers and Bishops added to this Edition, being such as Mr. Wood had in the few last Years of Life discovered to have been Oxford Men, or such as had died after 1690, or were alive at the time of his own Death . . . All which new lives were communicated to us by the Person to whom Mr. Wood bequeathed the Original Copy upon his Death?bed; which is still preserved under his own Hand, and may be seen at Mr. Knaplock's Shop by any Gentleman, who has the Curiosity to satisfy himself how faithfully, and with what due regard to the Memory of the Author, and other Persons therein mentioned, the same is now publish'd.'

If, despite its obvious commercial motivation, this information may be taken at face value, then it would seem that Wood had completed the account of Davies' life before his own death in 1695; and this, together with the circumstantial details he gives of Davies' burial, does tend to lend authority to his account.


1 A. Wood, Athenae Oxonienses. An Exact History of all the Writers and Bishops who have had their Education in the most Antient and Famous University of Oxford . . . The Second Edition, very much Corrected and Enlarged; with the Addition of above 500 new Lives from the Author's Original Manuscript (London, for R. Knaplock, D. Midwinter and J. Tonson, 2 vols, 1721), II, 902; J. Foster, The Members of the University of Oxford, 1500-1714 (Oxford, 1891), I, 381; J. E. B. Mayor, Admissions to the College of St John the Evangelist in the University of Cambridge; Part 1: January 1629/30-7uly 1665 (Cambridge, 1882), 78.
2 'A kyver is a dayes yearth somewhat lesse then an Inglyshe acre', according to Gerrard Bromley's Survay of the honor or Lordship of Kydwelly (1609). Cf. W. Rees, A Survey of the Duchy of Lancaster Lordships in Wales, 1609-1613 (Cardiff, 1953), 177.
3 The identification of this Alderman William Davies as the translator's father is supported by this detail in the lease of 1653. Significantly, John Davies himself dedicated his translation of A Treatise of the Sibyls (London, 1661) to Sir Edward Mansell of Muddlescombe, who had by then succeeded to the estate.
4 Calendar of State Papers (Domestic Series), 1629-31, 62, 85; Transactions of the Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society, 1, 22.
5 Borough records in private possession in Kidwelly.
6 A. Weight Matthews, 'Kidwelly, St Nicholas Chantry Lands, A.D. 1641', Transactions of the Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society, XI, part xxix, 1-5. Abbreviations have been resolved in quotations from this edition of the relevant documents (PRO, Rentals and Surveys (Duchy of Lancaster), no. 1198).
7 Weight Matthews, op. cit., 1.
8 Weight Matthews, op. cit., 2.
9 Weight Matthews, op. cit., 5.
10 Dictionary of National Biography, V (London; 1908), 595 ; the date of 1627 is accepted by, amongst others, The Dictionary of Welsh Biography down to 1940, edited by R. Jenkins (Oxford, 1959), 132; and J. E. Tucker, 'John Davies of Kidwelly (1627?-1693), Translator from the French, with an annotated bibliography of his translations', Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, XLIV (1950), 119 note 2.
11 Wood, Athenae Oxonienses, 902.
12 Mayor, loc. cit.; Foster, loc. cit.
13 Mayor, loc. cit.
14'The Free Grammar School of Queen Elizabeth, Carmarthen, AD 1576-1856: Some Scholars' Names', Transactions of the Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society, II, part viii, 217.
15 Wood, loc. cit.
16 Mayor, loc. cit.
17 Wood, loc. cit.
18 Hierocles upon the Golden Verses of Pythagoras, teaching a vertuous and worthy life, Englished by F. Hall, Esquire (London, 1657).
19 Wood, loc. cit.
20 DNB, 595.
21 Paradoxes by J. de la Salle (London, for Francis Eaglesfield, 1657).
22 Hierocles, ed. cit.
23 Wood, loc. cit.
24 It is perhaps wholly coincidental that Davies seems to have known Sir John Berkenhead when the latter was operating as a Royalist agent; and that this encounter may possibly have occurred during the year preceding Davies' departure for the continent, according to P. W. Thomas, Sir john Berkenhead, 1617-1679 (Oxford, 1969), 141-42.
25 Wood, loc. cit.
26 Tucker, op. cit., 120.
27 The Ceremonies of the Vacant See; or, A True Relation of what passes at Rome upon the Pope's Death (London, for Thomas Basset, 1671).
28 The History of Algiers and it's Slavery, with many remarkable particularities of Africk (London, for John Starkey, 1666).
29 Scarron's Novels, viz: The Fruitless Precaution; The Hypocrites; The Innocent Adultery; The judge in his own Cause; The Rival-Brothers; The Invisible Mistress; The Chastisement of Avarice (London, for Thomas Dring, 1665).
30 Wood, op. cit., 903.
31 The History of the Carriby Islands (London, for Thomas Dring and John Starkey, 1666).
32 Scarron's Novels; see note 29.
33 P. W. Thomas, op. cit., 141-42.
34 A. Clark, The Life and Times of Anthony Wood, Antiquary, of Oxford, 1632-1695, described by himself (2 vols, Oxford, 1892), II, 19: 'Dined with Mr Ashmole at his house in Sheer-lane, neare Temple barr; and John Davis of Kidwelly was there. After dinner he conducted A.W. to his lodgings in the Middle temple, where he shewed him all his rarities, viz, antient coins, medalls, pictures, old MSS, &c, which took them up neare two hours time.' Contrary to appearances, the 'he' must surely relate to Ashmole and not to John Davies. That Ashmole had a room in the Middle Temple where he kept his collection is well known; cf. a letter from Evelyn to Pepys, dated 12 August 1689, in R. T. Gunter, The Diary and Will of Elias Ashmole (Oxford, 1927), 147: 'Mr Ashmole . . . had collected all the ancient and modern coins of this kingdom, which were very rare, together with several medals of our British, Saxon and other Kings . . . I know not whether they escaped the burning of his study at the Middle Temple.' Although Wood clearly met Davies on this occasion at Ashmole's, and although he records having written to Davies on 13 January 1680 to request a catalogue of his translations (Life and Times, ed. cit., II, 477), his knowledge of the translator seems to have been slight. In the Athenae Oxonienses (904), Wood specifically states 'what else he hath translated and published I know not, or anything else of him.'
35 A. Clark, Brief Lives, chiefly of contemporaries, set down by John Aubrey between the years 1669 and 1696 (2 vols, Oxford, 1898), I, 306; II, 299.
36 Brief Lives, II, 228.
37 Tucker, op. cit., 126.
38 Tucker, op. cit., 120, 134.
39 The Ancient Rites, and Monuments, of the Monastical, and Cathedral Church of Durham, collected out of ancient manuscripts, about the time of the Suppression, published by J.D. of Kidwelly (London, for W. Hensman, 1672). That Davies made no claim to having compiled this work is clear from the statement that 'this Piece, in Manuscript, came to my hands . . . '
40 Brief Lives, II, 322.
41 The Egyptian History, Treating of the Pyramids, the Inundation of the Nile, and other Prodigies of Egypt, according to the Opinions and Traditions of the Arabians (London, for W. Battersby, 1672).
42 Tucker, op. cit., 120 note 5
43 Wood, op. cit., 902.
44 Tucker, op. cit., 120.
45 The reference to books worth £2 is not particularly illuminating as there is no indication of the number of volumes involved. The problems are illustrated by the fact that among the book-lists in seventeenth?century inventories cited by J. West, Village Records (London, 1962), 117-119, in one dating from 1616, 'Seaven dozen of ould small bookes' total only twenty shillings, while in another of 1639, a single bible was valued at four shillings. The price at which Davies' own works retailed in London is known in two cases: in 1670, Olearius' The Voyages and Travels of the Ambassadors sent by Frederick Duke of Holstein to the Great Duke of Muscovy cost eighteen shillings, and the History of the Carriby Islands cost ten, according to a price list appended to Epictetus Junior; or, Maximes of Modern Morality (London, for T. Basset, 1670). But both these works were large, illustrated folios; and in any case the amounts specified cannot be applied to the interpretation of the Kidwelly inventory because in such contexts (quite apart from the absence of any indication of the number of books being valued), the valuation placed upon books was extremely arbitrary.
46 Wood, op. cit. 904.

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