Books > Lost in the trenches

20 April 2017 | by Michael Alexander

Lost in the trenches


David Jones: Engraver, Soldier, Painter, Poet

David Jones was regarded by Kenneth Clark as the greatest living British artist. His writing was rated equally highly by judges including T. S. Eliot, Igor Stravinsky and Seamus Heaney. The military historian Michael Howard regarded In Parenthesis (1937), Jones’ epic poem about the First World War, as the most remarkable piece of writing to emerge from either world war. W.H. Auden recommended Jones’ The Anathemata (1952) as the finest long poem of the twentieth century written in English. Rowan Williams, welcoming this biography, thinks Jones’ reputation has never been higher. It may be so: the reception given to the 2015-16 exhibition of Jones’ work at the Pallant House Gallery confirmed for many the range and quality of Jones’ achievement.  

Jones was a Catholic, and his writing and art are thoroughly Catholic. For David Jones, all forms of creaturely life are sacred. Not that his work is blind to suffering: on the contrary –  many of the deepest instances of his painting and writing reflect the Mass, and the Mass as a reenactment of sacrifice. (He was sad to find that the vernacular reforms of the 1960s had “buggered up the Mass”.)


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