Rhese, John David

, an English physician and philologist, was born at Llanvaethly in the isle of Anglesea, in 1534. After residing two or three years at Oxford, he was elected student of Christ church, but inclining to the study of medicine, went abroad, and took the degree of doctor in that faculty at Sienna in Tuscany. He acquired so perfect a knowledge of the Italian language, that he was appointed public moderator of the school of Pistoia in Tuscany, and wrote books in that tongue, which were much esteemed by the Italians themselves. On his return, with a high reputation for medical and critical learning of all kinds, he retired to Brecknock, where he passed the greater part of his life in literary pursuits and the practice of his profession, and where he died about 1609. Wood says he died a Roman catholic; and Dodd, upon that authority, has included him among his worthies of that religion, but there seems some reason to doubt this. One of Rhese’s publications was a Welsh grammar, “CambroBritannicae, Cymeraecaeve, linguse Institutiones et | Rudimenta, &c. ad intelligend. Biblia Sacra iiuper in CambroBritannicum sermonem eleganter versa,” Lond. 1592, folio. Prefixed to this is a preface by Humphrey Prichard, in which he informs us that the author made this book purposely for the better understanding of that excellent translation of the Bible into Welsh, and principally for the sake of the clergy, and to make the scriptures more intelligible to them and to the people; a measure which a Roman catholic in those days would scarcely have adopted. Prichard also says that he was “sincere religionis propaganda avidissimus;” and as Prichard was a protestant, and a minister of the church of England, he must surely mean the protestant religion. Rhese’s other works are, “Rules for obtaining the Latin Tongue,” written in the Tuscan language, and printed at Venice; and “De Italicae linguae pronunciatione,” in Latin, printed at Padua. There was likewise in Jesus college library a ms compendium of Aristotle’s Metaphysics in the Welsh language by our author, in which he asserts, what every ancient Briton will agree to, that this tongue is as copious and proper for the expression of philosophical terms, as the Greek or any other language. Several other valuable tracts, which are entirely lost, were written by Dr. Rhese, who was accounted one of the great luminaries of ancient British literature. By Stradling in his epigrams, he is styled “novum antiques linguae lumen;” and by Camden, “clarissimus et eruditissimus vir Joannes David,” for he was sometimes called John David, or Davis. 1


Ath. Ox. vol. I. new edit. Aikin’s Biog. Memoirs of Medicine. Usher’s Life and Letters, p. 168.