Octavius Morgan (1803–1888) was born at Tredegar Park, Monmouthshire, and is recognised as one of Wales’ most important antiquaries. He sat as MP for Monmouthshire from 1841 to 1874 for the Conservatives. In a work entitled Memories of Monmouthshire generally attributed to Reginald James Blewitt founder of the newspaper the Monmouthshire Merlin and a fellow Monmouthshire MP, Morgan is described in such a way as to question his sexuality:
Mr Octavius Morgan as a young man was vain, flippant and conceited. Like the Morgans, he was a pygmy in stature, of a pale, languid complexion, rather effeminate. Although he could converse volubly on most subjects, his voice was squeaky. He delivered his opinions in a dogmatic, overbearing and arrogant manner … He was first to rise in the morning and supervised personally the domestic arrangements. Woe to the lazy footman or tardy housemaid who were late for the day’s work. He saw that the horses and cattle were properly attended to and fed, and personally fed the chickens. He made tea for his parents’ breakfast, spreading honey and butter on the dry toast for the young ladies, and made copies of the dinner menu, assisting the butler in decanting and icing the wines. The housekeeper admitted that he was ‘quite at home in a syllabub, and glorious in a trifle’. Many a piece of confectionary, enriched with silver frost-work and clever designs of almond paste and barley sugar were designed and made by him. In the kitchen all the soups, sauces, stews and curries were subject to his fastidious approval, and a new entree of his was unanimously adopted as a standing family dish and called ‘Cervelles de veaude la mode de Tredegar’ … Indifferent at sports and other manly amusements, he sought his recreation in the drawing-room, reading a page or two from the latest novel, helping to unravel a skein of silk or whispering sweet nothings in the ear of some impatient Desdemona who never wished ‘that heaven had made her such a man’. At night he lit the bed-candles for the ladies and provided them with curl-papers. I feel persuaded that, had he offered to assist at her nocturnal toilette, the youngest and fairest of the Tredegar visitors, the most punctilious mother would have said with a smile, ‘Never mind, my dear, it’s only Octavius!’.Anon, Memories of Monmouthshire, unknown date possibly 1860s
No other commentary exists on Morgan’s sexuality and so reliability on one man’s word has to be treated with caution.
The History of Protestant Nonconformity in Wales is published and contains the paragraph:
The celebrated vicar of Llandovery, whose ministry commenced in the year 1602, and closed in the year 1644, states that not one in a hundred of his countrymen could read the Bible; that no copy of the Word of God was to be found, even in the mansions of many of the gentry; that the clergy were sleeping, leaving the people to sin unwarned and unrebuked; that the upper class, with rare exceptions, were totally regardless of religion, and the common people ignorant, and unwilling to receive instruction; and that the unchastity of the Sodomites, the drunkenness of the Parthians, the theft of the Cretians, the falsehood of the Greeks, and the infidelity of the Samaritans, were rampant throughout every part of the Principality.
Source: History of Protestant nonconformity in Wales: from its rise to the present time by Thomas Rees.
The vicar is Rhys Prichard (1579-1644) who was also a poet – his most famous work is Cannwyll y Cymry (usually translated as The Welshman’s Candle) a collection of poetical sermons. A copy was printed in 1681 and became hugely influential in Wales. It was first translated into English in 1771.
CHARGE OF INDECENCY. John James and George Hughes were charged with indecent conduct at Saint Thomas Green, on the morning of Good Friday. Mr. W. John appeared for the prosecution. The accused denied the charge. The magistrates, after hearing the evidence (which is unfit for publication), adjourned the case till the next sessions, for the attendance of additional witnesses.
Source: Pembrokeshire Herald, 25 April 1862
A person called Mills visited Cardiff and Swansea to perpetrate a scam … he was placed at the bar on a charge of sodomy, but after a painful investigation, the particulars of which are totally unfit for publication, he was committed to take his trial for misdemeanour at the next quarter sessions.
Source: Cardiff Times, 18 September 1863
LOCAL NEWS. Sodomy – Thomas Williams, a native of Denbigh, was brought before the borough bench on Thursday, with committing an unnatural crime on a man named Edward Williams, in a lodging-house in this town. He was committed to take his trial at the assizes.
Source: Wrexham Advertiser, 15 July 1865
Sarah Jane Rees (1839 – 1916) wins the National Eisteddfod at Aberystwyth with the poem Y Fodrwy Briodasal (The Wedding Ring). All eisteddfodau entries must be anonymous and when it was revealed a woman had won there was shock and disgust. The poem features four women talking about marriage but at no point is a bridegroom ever mentioned.
Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837–1909) known to have had relationships with men, visits George Powell (1842-82) of Nanteos, Aberystwyth who is also believed to be homosexual.
Throughout history, society has been fascinated by ‘masculine’ women and one of the most famous in Wales was Marged ferch Ifan.
Local Intelligence – The Last of the Celts
Under this romantic heading the papers record the eccentricities of an old worthy, who appears to have been a kind of patriarch Diana, on a peasant scale. She lived in the mountain land of North Wales. It is said that octogenarians can remember till within a few years previous to the commencement of the present century a complete specimen of this hardy race remained, who inhabited a cottage on the borders of the Llanberris lake. This was Margaret Uch Evan, of Penllyn, the greatest hunter, shooter, and fisher of her time. She kept at least a dozen or two of dogs—terriers, grey- hounds, and spaniels—all excellent in their kinds. She killed more foxes in one year than all the confederate hunts did in ten; rowed stoutly, and was queen of the lake; fiddled excellently, and knew all the old Welsh music; nor did she neglect the mechanical arts, for she was a very good joiner and, notwithstanding she was 70 years of age, was the best wrestler of her time, few young men daring to try a fall with her. For many years she had a maid of congenial qualities. Indeed, we have had during the present century many characters among us who may be termed vestiges of another age. We can well remember old Betty-Evan of Carmarthen, the most famous waterwoman of her day, who traded between the former place and Ferry- side. Few watermen could compete with Betty in rowing against wind and tide—
“Alike to her was time or tide,
December’s snow or July’s pride.”
For a long series of years she rowed fleeting generations across the river in all weather and she was essentially the last of the “water witches” that row on the surging waters in rude winter in a mere cockle-shell boat. But referring to the last of the Celts, we may instance in our own “neighbourhood” a descendant of a mighty line of Cambrian Princes, who still adheres to the garb which he imagines decked his forefathers when they ceased to besmear themselves with paint, and observe some of the decencies of civilized life. Dr. Price, of Pontypridd, appears like the relic of other days with head gear, composed of the skins of wild beasts, and his red and green garb of extraordinary fashion.
Indeed, we can instance many other eccentric characters in our midst who were in their day and generation the representatives of defunct races and obsolete notions. The town of Cardiff contains a few of these worthies, who, when they shuffle off this mundane stage. will doubtless be noticed in some future post obit memorial.
Source: Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian, 25 October 1867
PEMBROKESHIRE EASTER QUARTER SESSIONS. Peter Campbell, 19, soldier, was charged with assaulting Williams Griffiths, with intent to commit an abominable crime, at Pwllcrochan (Pembrokeshire), on the 15th of March, 1868. Mr T.R.O. Powell (instructed by Mr Hulm) prosecuted: the prisoner was not defended. The details of this case are unfit for publication. The jury found the prisoner not guilty, and he was discharged.
Source: Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser, 10 April 1868
NEWPORT POLICE INTELLIGENCE. Frederick Nicholls charged with having committed an unnatural offence three years ago, was liberated on his own recognizances to appear next Saturday, the man by whom the charge had been made not now appearing.
Source: Monmouthshire Merlin, 12 September 1868