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David Jones - Pamela Donner Collection

Identifier: GTM-820629

Scope and Contents note

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)


  • 1961 - 1974

Conditons Governing Access note

Most manuscripts collections at the Georgetown University Booth Family Center for Special Collections are open to researchers; however, restrictions may apply to some collections. Collections stored off site require a minimum of three days for retrieval. For use of all manuscripts collections, researchers are advised to contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in advance of any visit.

Biographical note

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.


0.5 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials


David Jones - Pamela Donner Collection
Georgetown University Library Booth Family Center for Special Collections, Washington, D.C.
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Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington DC 20057