The Jones-Donner Collection

David Michael Jones was born on November 1, 1895, in Kent, England, to parents of English and Welsh ancestry who encouraged his artistic endeavors and his early preoccupation with drawing. From 1909-1914, Jones studied drawing at the Camberwell Art School. He enlisted in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers in January, 1915, and served as a private on the Western Front from December, 1915, to March, 1918; this experience provided the basis for one of his major poetic works, In Parenthesis. After the war, Jones received a government grant to study drawing and painting at the Westminister School of Art, and his experience as a visual artist who also did engravings and illustrations influenced his poetry and his attempts to illustrate content through form. In 1921, Jones converted to Roman Catholicism. Jones' reliance on tradition and history, including Catholic and Welsh tradition and history, also influenced his writings. His works include The Anathemata, The Dream of Private Clitus, Epoch and Artist, and The Sleeping Lord. His awards include a Doctorate of Letters from the University of Wales, the Russell Loines Memorial Award for poetry from the American National Institute of Arts and Letters, and the Eisteddfod Gold Medal. Although he suffered a series of physical and mental breakdowns in the late 1920's, and later suffered from ill health and depression which his psychiatrist attempted to alleviate. Jones continued to write, and began doing radio broadcasts of his work. American publishers also began to issue copies of his poetry. He died on October 28, 1974, at Calvary Nursing Home.

The Jones-Donner collection contains twelve letters to Pamela Donner, one of Jones' many personal friends, dated from January 9, 1961 - May 11, 1974. Most of these letters were written in 1961 and 1962 at Northwick Lodge, Harrow-on-the-Hill. Two were written during Jones' residence at Montesdene Hotel, and the last letter in the collection was written at Calvary Nursing Home. The form of these letters is uniquely Jones' own--from the characteristic asterisks which explain or elaborate points or ideas in the bodies of the letters to the different colors of ink used in several letters or the hasty postscripts which apologize for any "unintelligible bits or lacunae, etc., in this scribble...but I want to get it posted by someone." Two letters (December 19, 1962 and December 19, 1963) also include calligraphic inscriptions, using different colored inks, in English, Latin, and Welsh.

The letters are largely personal in nature, referring to mutual visits, gifts, and friends, especially Valerie Wynne-Williams and occasionally Clarissa Eden (nee' Spenser-Churchill). They are quite touching at times, as when Jones reminisces about lines his mother used to sing to him or when he recalls his attempt as a young boy to imitate Christ on Good Friday by constructing his own cross to carry. Jones also discusses a wide variety of topics in the letters, including music, archaelogy, languages, linguistics, Welsh history, World War II, and the Catholic Church and changes within it such as the vernacularization of the liturgy which occurred in the 1960's. He even demonstrates his interest in world politics through his succinct criticism of Krushchev.

Jones also refers to his works in the letters, most notably the U.S. editions and reviews of The Anathemata and In Parenthesis. He also mentions Catherine Rousseau's thesis on The Anathemata. He briefly touches on the lack of sales for Epoch and Artist, and twice asks Pamela Donner to listen to his radio broadcast of The Dream of Private Clitus. He also mentions his occasional letters to the press, and confides that "one of the great problems of least, my sort of writing [is that] it very largely depends upon chaps picking up the trends of allusions." (8 May 1962) Jones frequently mentions his ill health and depression in the letters. He alludes to visits to his psychiatrist ("the only person who has ever done me any good" 8/5/62) and changes in his drug medication. He also confesses his fear of going anywhere. However, since Jones was 66-79 years old when these letters were written, it is understandable that illnesses and age might have confined him. His letters, a means of breaking through this confinement, show that he continued to deeply value his friendships with others and continued to greatly enjoy visits and letters. One excerpt from his letters illustrates, with characteristic humor and fondness, the value he placed on his friendships:

These official jobs are ghastly as chaps who do them are never free to see any of their friends, hardly [sic]. Apart from my work--or trying to do my work--I don't care about anything except my nearest friends. (28 April 1962)


Number of Boxes: 1
Extent: .5 linear feet
Provenance: Acquired from Sotheby Parke Bernet & Co. of London, England, 1982
Date Span: 1961-1974
Processed by: Deborah Ann Marrone
Date: March 1, 1988


Box 1 Folder 1
Jones to Donner: "Thank you for the letter..."
Date: 9 Jan 1961
Description: ALS from DJ thanking Pamela for her letter, and apologizing for a mistake made in one of his inscriptions. Mentions his illness and short confinement. References to Valerie [Wynne-Williams] and The Water and the Fire. In P.S., notes call from T.

Box 1 Folder 2
Jones to Donner: "I so enjoyed my visit yesterday."
Date: 16 Jun 1961
Description: ALS from DJ thanking Pamela for having him to tea and expressing pleasure at meeting her friend, Nancy [Smitain]. DJ offers opinions on music, theatre, exams, and Krushchev. References to Christopher Dawson, Valerie [Wynne-Williams], and T.S. Eliot.

Box 1 Folder 3
Jones to Donner: "How jolly nice of you to write..."
Date: 14 Jul 1961
Description: ALS from DJ thanks Pamela for her letter from the Alps and compliments the engraving on the hotel paper which "suggests a pre-1914 world." DJ confesses his fear of going anywhere, and also asks PD to listen to his broadcast of The Dream of Private Clitus.

Box 1 Folder 4
Jones to Donner: "I advertise"
Date: 25 Aug 1961
Description: Brief ALS from DJ reminding PD of the August 31st broadcast of The Dream of Private Clitus. Describes how he is suffering from a summer cold, which prevents him from doing much work. References to Valerie [Wynne- Williams] and Clarissa [Eden?].

Box 1 Folder 5
Jones to Donner: "Thank you so much for your letter."
Date: 28 Apr 1962
Description: ALS from DJ thanking PD for listening to "that radio thing." Expresses his fondness for his dearest friends, and informs PD that his psychiatrist has changed his drugs. References to The Listener and the American reviews of In Parenthesis.

Box 1 Folder 6
Jones to Donner: "Your letter has just come..."
Date: 8 May 1962
Description: ALS from DJ to PD referring to a line DJ used--"Johnny's so long at the fair." Reminisces about his mother singing this line and others. Claims John Pringle misinterpreted him in The Listener. References to Epoch and Artist, In Parenthesis, & Valerie [Wynne-Williams].

Box 1 Folder 7
Jones to Donner: "Yes, Wed., Sept. perfect."
Date: 5 Sep 1962
Description: ALS in green and black ink confirming a visit between DJ and PD. Offers his opinions on modal and non-modal music as well as archaelogy. Also refers to Welsh manuscripts, a letter he wrote to The Times about Owain Glyn Dwr, and his pill treatments.

Box 1 Folder 8
Jones to Donner: "Your most kind Xmas present..."
Date: 19 Dec 1962
Description: ALS thanking P. for her Xmas present, which reminds DJ of a passage in Epoch & Artist. Refers to US editions of his work and his "French friend," who wrote her thesis on The Anathemata. Illustrated inscription in red, yellow, and green.

Box 1 Folder 9
Jones to Donner: "Thank you so much for the Indian rug"
Date: 19 Dec 1963
Description: ALS from DJ thanking PD for her Xmas gift, an Indian rug. Wishes PD "a very happy Christmas" in English, Latin, and Welsh, using red and green ink. Refers to differences in Welsh and British languages, Valerie [Wynne-Williams],and DJ's visit to his doctor.

Box 1 Folder 10
Jones to Donner: "Please...forgive the appalling delay"
Date: 23 Nov 1964
Description: ALS from DJ apologizing to PD for not thanking her for a birthday telegram and for her contribution to a birthday check for DJ organized by Janet Stone. Informs PD of an appeal DJ is helping to write to the Catholic Heirarchy over the vernacularization of the Liturgy.

Box 1 Folder 11
Jones to Donner: "I note that July 4th..."
Date: 3 Jul 1967
Description: ALS from DJ noting that July 4th is also the Feast of St. Martin. Wishes Pamela a happy birthday and tells her that DJ is enclosing prints of copper engravings he did for The Ancient Marinere. Examines different biblical translations of a phrase.

Box 1 Folder 12
Jones to Donner: "It is now the 9th of May..."
Date: 11 May 1974
Description: ALS, written at Calvary Nursing Home, which discusses Maunday Thursday, the Good Friday liturgy, and Easter; DJ reveals how he made his own cross to carry when young. Refers to early Britain, the Celtic development of languages, Professor Kenneth Taskor of Edinburgh University, and The Anathemata.


Anathemata, The 1: 12
- 1: 8
Catholic Church 1: 10
- 1: 12
Dawson, Christopher 1: 2
Dean of Chicester 1: 3
Dream of Private Clitus, The 1: 3
- 1: 4
Eden[?], Clarissa 1: 3
- 1: 4
Eliot, T. S. 1: 2
Epoch and Artist 1: 6
- 1: 8
In Parenthesis 1: 6
- 1: 5 Khrushchev 1: 2 Listener, The 1: 5
- 1: 6
New York Herald Tribune 1: 6
Owain Glyn Dwr 1: 7
Pringle, John 1: 6
Punch, The 1: 5
Rime of the Ancient Mariner, The 1: 11
Stone, Janet 1: 10
Taskor, Prof. Kenneth 1: 12
Times, The 1: 7
Water & the Fire, The 1: 1
Welsh language 1: 9
- 1: 1
- 1: 12
Welsh manuscripts 1: 7
Wynne-Williams, Valerie 1: 1
- 1: 2
- 1: 3
- 1: 4
- 1: 5
- 1: 6
- 1: 8
- 1: 9

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