Lewis Morris and the Mabinogion
The Electronic British Library Journal (2012)
In 1764 the antiquarian Lewis Morris described the medieval Welsh texts known as the Four Branches of the Mabinogi in a notebook now in the British Library (BL, Additional MS. 14024). This is the first description of those texts which were to become the centrepiece of medieval Welsh prose literature with their publication some seventy-five years later. This article examines Morris’s response to the texts and demonstrates that while he anticipated some later approaches to them, in other ways his attitudes differed markedly from those of subsequent scholars. While he made connections between some elements of the texts and other constituents of the Welsh literary tradition, such as the triads and poetry, for him the stories themselves were mere ‘wild romances’. It is uncertain whether Morris would have given these texts the exalted place in Welsh scholarship which they now enjoy.