David Michael Jones was born of an English mother and a Welsh father; both their heritages would become rich sources for his work in words and pictures. In his youth, Jones trained to be an artist at the Camberwell School of Art, but in January, 1915, shortly after World War I broke out, he enlisted as a private in the Royal Welch Fusiliers. He was swept up into an ordeal that would permanently scar him, and his whole generation, psychologically as well as physically. By December he was fighting in the trenches in France. The following July he received a wound at Mametz Wood during the Battle of the Somme and was evacuated to Warwickshire, England. He would eventually base the narrative of his ambitious prose-poem or “writing” entitled In Parenthesis on this harrowing seven-month period. After three months’ convalescence he returned to the front to serve until the Armistice.
A second turning point in Jones’s life and art occurred in 1921 when he met the Catholic sculptor Eric Gill and was himself received into the Roman Catholic Church. Shortly thereafter, he joined Gill and his community of craftsmen at Ditchling, Sussex, where he devoted his energies to his increasingly admired graphic work. It was not until 1928 that he began to work seriously in the medium of words and embarked on In Parenthesis. Jones’s method for this long modernist work was profoundly influenced by T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, not only in its juxtaposition of discontinuous fragments but also in its recourse to ancient myth as a source of inspiration and cohesion in an age of cultural fragmentation.The seven-part narrative centers on Private John Ball (who resembles Jones himself) and his company, but the work draws on Welsh epic, William...
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