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David Jones (Walter David Michael Jones) Biography

(1895–1974), (Walter David Michael Jones), In Parenthesis, The Anathemata, The Sleeping Lord and Other Fragments

artist art graphic prose

British poet and graphic artist, born in Brockley, Kent, educated at Camberwell School of Art and Westminster School of Art. He enlisted for military service in 1915 and was wounded in 1916 at Mametz Wood, the setting for the conclusion of In Parenthesis (1937), his first publication of note, which was acclaimed by T. S. Eliot as ‘a work of genius’. Parts of the book, which develops chronologically around the experience of Jones's persona ‘Private John Ball’, resemble a straightforward memoir of the war; much of it, however, modulates between idiosyncratically mannered free verse and richly lyrical prose. The documentary content fuses with Jones's historical, mythical, and metaphysical concerns as the work moves towards its concluding vision of redemptive transcendence. Throughout the 1920s Jones worked with Eric Gill in Sussex and Wales. His conversion to Catholicism in 1921 was of essential importance to both his graphic art and his writing, which are deeply imbued with his devotional sensibility. Examples of his work as a graphic artist are on permanent exhibition in the Tate Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and other leading galleries. The Anathemata (1952), which W. H. Auden referred to as ‘probably the finest long poem written in English this century’, again moves freely between poetry and prose; its eight parts centre on Jones's concern to relieve the spiritual and cultural impoverishment of the modern era by re-establishing contact with Christian and pre-Christian systems of meaning and symbol. The work, which carries a remarkably extensive apparatus of notes, is densely inlaid with linguistic and archaeological references to Welsh, classical, biblical, and ancient British sources. His opposition to centralized control in modern cultures is stated in The Sleeping Lord and Other Fragments (1974), the title piece of which forms a compelling accumulation of topographical and mythical imagery identifying indigenously sacramental values as sources of possible regeneration. Epoch and Artist (1959) and The Dying Gaul (1974) are collections of his essays and other prose writings. Dai Greatcoat (1980, edited by R. Hague) is subtitled ‘a self-portrait of David Jones in his letters’; David Jones: Artist and Writer, a biography by D. Blamires, appeared in 1971.

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