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William’s Friend

Described in December 2011, John Idris Jones told of the poet laureate

William Wordsworth’s visit to Ruthin

Throughout his life (1770-1850), William Wordsworth held this man in high esteem. He was his friend at Cambridge; they took a 3,000 mile journey through France and Switzerland together in 1790 and, for the rest of his life, he kept in touch, through visits and letters. In January, 1825, he wrote “… a most affectionate Man and verily believe the best tempered Creature imaginable to me, who am apt to  be irritable at travelling, an inestimable qualification…” (Letters; ed. De Selincourt; Oxford U.P., p297).  His friend was Robert Jones, of Llangynhafal, Ruthin. His prefatory address to the reader  and the following extract from his poem “Descriptive Sketches” avows this: Tonight my friend within this humble cot Be scorn and fear and hope alike forgot In timely sleep, and when at break of day With a light heart our course we shall renew. On the top road between Llanbedr D.C. and Llangynhafal, a minor road turns up towards the hills; on it is the only church dedicated to St. Cynhafal, on a site dating back to the 7th century. Next to it is a handsome black-and-white property with Tudor chimneys. This is Plas yn Llan, where Wordsworth spent some four months of his life. He was here in 1791, 1793 and 1824. During his continental tour, Wordsworth had enthused about the new events in the French Revolution:  Jones! As from Calais southwards you and I Went pacing side by side, this public Way Streamed with the pomp of too-credulous day When faith was pledged to new-born liberty. In 1791, Wordsworth was in London. Jones wrote to him in May inviting him to Plas yn Llan. He travelled
up and stayed until the third week in September. His sister  Dorothy wrote in a letter, “… my brother… is now in Wales where he intends making a pedestrian tour along with his old friend and companion Jones at whose house he is at present staying”.  On June 26, Dorothy wrote, “My brother William who is now in Wales where think he seems so happy that it is probable he will remain there all the  summer or the greater part of it. Who would not be happy enjoying the company of three young ladies in the Vale of Clwyd and without a rival? His friend Jones is a charming young man and has five sisters, three of whom are at home at present and then there are mountains, rivers, woods,  and rocks, whose charms would be sufficient to tempt  William to continue amongst them as long as possible...” In later 1792, the poet returned from France, in a  distressed state over the vicious turn of the Revolution and over his relationship with Annette Valon. In August 1793 he travelled from Bristol, up the Wye, to Tintern Abbey. He was with the Jones family in Plas yn Llan in September. His sister writes that “He is now quietly sitting down in the Vale of Clwyd. He is staying with his friend Jones… and  passes his time as happily as he could desire; exactly according to his taste... He says that their house is ‘quite a cottage just such a one that would suit us’ and oh! how sweetly situated in the most delicious of all vales, the Vale of Clwyd.” (de Selincourt; p 105). In 1824, the poet came to Wales again, this time with his wife and daughter. He says that “Rev R. Jones arrived and in his can we all proceeded to the Falls of Conwy… Next morning we [visited] the ‘Valley of Meditation’ (Glyn Mafyr) (sic) where Mr Jones has a curacy. We called upon the celebrated recluses [in Llangollen] and next day I sent them a sonnet from Ruthin. We passed three days in the Vale of Clwyd.” Robert Jones, who was for Wordsworth “the best of companions, and a most affectionate man died, according to the tablet on the wall of Llangwyfan church, on April 4, 1835.