The Wynn Papers. By Prof. J. F. Rees, M.A. HE National Library of Wales is to be congratulated on the good fortune which JL has enabled it to gather together under its own roof the vast majority of the papers which were in the old paper-room at Uwydir until the end of the eighteenth century. At that time they were scattered, and even lost sight of, until our own days. Their recovery has been suitably celebrated by making them more accessible to students through the publica- tion of a Calendar of Wynn (of Gwydir) Papers, 1515-1690.' The Calendar registers no less than 2,891 documents (2,806 of these are at Aberystwyth and the remainder mostly in the Cardiff Public Library). The collection largely consists of private letters; but the Wynns played such a prominent part in the history of North Wales that the letters they wrote and received give a vivid picture of their times. Documents relating to the public offices they filled also throw much light on local government. There are only some 240 entries until the death of Elizabeth, but from that date to the end of the seventeenth century most years are well represented. The entries are particularly inter- esting during the last thirty years or so of the life of Sir John Wynn (died 1st March, 1627). Sir John Wynn was the real founder of the greatness of his family. Born in 1553, he belonged to the second generation of the Welsh landed proprietors who had profited by the legis- lation which had assimilated Wales to England. He had been a student of the Inner Temple before he succeeded to the family estates in 1580. From that time he devoted himself to the firm establishment of his dynasty in North Wales for it is clear he aimed at making his word law and contriving that everything that happened should accrue to the honour and benefit of the Wynns. Sir John shared the vanity of his age and class in alleged descent from the Welsh princes, and he compiled the History of the Gwydir Family (well-known, though not pub- lished until 1770) to vindicate the antiquity of his house. In it he contrasts the good order of his days with the anarchy of the early sixteenth cen- tury, and, like his contemporary, George Owen of Henllys, lauds the effects of Tudor legislation. He tells us that his ancestor, Maredudd, left Eifonydd, in South Carnarvonshire, for Nant- conwy because he preferred to contend against thieves and bondmen in the latter place than to be murdered by his kinsmen in any sudden quarrel. However this may be, Maredudd and his descendants seem to have flourished in the new environment, outdoing the thieves and profiting at-the expense of the bondmen. For the Wynns were realists. They had no squeam- ishness about driving a hard bargain, and no false pride prevented them for adopting any course which promised financial gain. Sir John himself was not over-scrupulous as a landlord. Nor did he see any objection to using his public position to the advantage of his family. Loyalty to his house and to the neighbours who acknowledged his leadership over-ruled all other considerations. The Lord President of the Council of Wales told young John Wynn that his father would be a great commonweal man, were it not that he affects his neighbours and countrymen too much and it very loath to certify as to who is able to lend the king money."1 He resisted increases in assessments on his own lands,2 and advised Sir John Salusbury to avoid rousing the people who are never willing to be taxed."3 It would appear, indeed, that the collection of taxes was normally heavily in arrears. The Welsh gentry were always ready to plead the poverty of their country and the impossibility of remitting money to London owing to the lack of currency. The Privy Council notified Sir John Wynn in 1613 that he had not paid an instalment of his baronetage fee amounting to 2365, and he was ordered to pay or appear before the Lord Privy Seal and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.4 To this he replied that the greater part of their corn and the grass is burnt up by the unseasonable weather and that this had affected the sale of their cattle, which, being his tenants' only means of livelihood, has made them backward in paying their rents. "5 This excuse, it must be admitted, has every sign of being genuine. The seasons of 1612 and 1613 were bad. He tells his correspondent at White- hall, Maredudd Morgan, who advised immediate payment, that the Lords may take what course they list, the money cannot be paid until Michael- mas term, when the drovers return from Kent." In 1622, the next year of scarcity," as contem- poraries called bad harvests, Sir John declared to Lord Keeper Williams that he was 23,000 in debt, for his rents and revenues had fallen over £ 400 in the year. For two years past," he writes, neither cattle, wool, sheep nor butter, nor any other commodity which land yields have borne any price. Bread corn is at such a rate in this country that many die of hunger, and the rest bear the impression of hunger in their faces."6 The greater part of Sir John Wynn's income was derived from rents, and one would gather from his correspondence that the greater part of his time was spent in disputes about land and in attempting to make advantageous purchases. (1) The references are to entries in and not to pages of the "Calendar." (2) 620: (3) 367; (4) 624; (5) 627; (6) 1,073.