David Jones' Brocker

Brockley isn't only the birthplace of a spinning-wheel-legged England winger, a superflous-eyepatch-wearing MOR singer and a racist otter-botherer. We have also given the world David Jones, the 20th century poet and painter, whose work is celebrated here by the New Statesman. It notes:


He was born in Brockley in south-east London (then Kent) to a Welsh father and cockney mother. At the age of 14 he was still wearing short trousers; five years later he enlisted with the Royal Welch Fusiliers and was marching to Southampton for the boat to France and the Western Front. Jones was an enthusiastic combatant. Asking "Is it worth it?" in the columns of the Brockley parish magazine, he answered his own question with an unequivocal "Yes".

Thanks to JPM (rapidly becoming BC's unofficial historian) for the spot.


49 comments:

Tressilliana said...

He lived on Howson Road, I believe. Can't remember if he has a plaque.

Anonymous said...

Nothing to do with Davy Jones locker I suppose.

Node said...

No nothing to do with it. A fantastic poet, one of the great lost english writers, his grave is in Brockley cemetery.

Tarka said...

Fascist writer about otters maybe.

Where did you hear the rumour about otter "bothering?" And rascism for that matter? He quite liked the Germans.

Beecroftian said...

By strange coincidence, I was only reading about this chap yesterday on the Friends of Brockley and Ladywell Cemetries blog where he is buried

Tressilliana said...

I think the racism is beyond doubt. Henry Williamson was in the British Union of Fascists and was briefly interned at the outset of the war. After the war he wrote a novel whose leading character apparently 'puts the blame for the mass deaths in German concentration camps partly on the Allied bombing of the German transport system. '

http://www.oswaldmosley.com/henry-williamson.htm

I note that Colfe's claims him as an alumnus but doesn't mention any of the above, just lovable old Tarka.

Transpontine said...

Yes, David Jones lived on Howson Road, see here.

On Henry Williamson's stiff right arm habits see 'Brockley's most famous fascist'

Didn't realize until I read that New Statesman article that Daivd Jones also had a dubious Hitler fan club phase.

TJ(O) said...

I've checked Ancestry.co.uk and he lived in several places in Brockley. In the 1901 census the 5 year old David (actually Walter David) was at 67 Arabin Road (end of the street) However 10 years later he is at 128 Howson Road (also at the end of the street). Neither of the house have blue plaques. I think the custom is to choose the place the esteemed person lived the longest. Time to start a campaign perhaps..?

TJ(O) said...

...also noticed he was living at Arabin Road at the time of his baptism in Feb 1896.

Rachel said...

Wow, impressed by that ancestry.co.uk info. TJ(O), is it easy to use? Am thinking about embarking on a bit of family fossicking but don't want to cough up for a subscription if it's a faff.

David Jones stuff very interesting too!

Anonymous said...

Good to see that the area has links with The Monkees

Val said...

Does that Anonymous have anything to add, other than a twisted wit? Surely a nine-year old.

lb said...

David Jones is my second-favourite British Modernist...


"I looked for his symbol at the door.
I have looked for a long while
at the textures and contours.

I have run a hand over the trivial intersections.
I have journeyed among the dead forms
causation projects from pillar to pylon"

etc.

Pity he fell in with deviant Catholic loon Eric Gill, really.

Anonymous said...

A Picture of David Jones

http://nyrb.typepad.com/classics/2008/02/big-at-the-awp.html

I think I've seen one of his paintings somewhere.

A view over some gardens from a back window?

Might have been at an exhibition at Tate Britain of London artists.

Anonymous said...

On Ancestry there is a family tree for Walter David Jones, with details of where he lived plus photos.

In the 1911 census he is shown as living at 128 Howson Road.

why don't you come on over.. said...

Does that Anonymous have anything to add, other than a twisted wit? Surely a nine-year old.

Nice to see you are as pleasant as always, Val.

Anonymous said...

his ww1 paybook gives his next of kin as his mother living at 115 Howson Road.

Anonymous said...

Rachel - ancestry.co.uk is excellent, they've been desperately buying up all the records they can so it's now a one stop shop for anything you might need. It's easy to use but very addictive! You can still get pay as you go credits so that's probably the way to start before you fork out for a subscription, just bear in mind they don't let you access quite as much as the subscriptions.

Headhunter said...

I think many people were admiring of Hitler on some level before the onset of WW2 and the discovery of concentration camp atrocities. It's easy for us to condemn people who had some respect for the man now with hindsight, but initially he must have appeared to be working an economic miracle, reversing hyper inflation and providing Germans with a firm leader at a time of near anarchy. Obviously he went on to commit crimes against humanity and was largely responsible for the deaths of millions across Europe, however in an age before the net and the incredible freedom of information we have nowadays, he must have been thought to be a bit of a hero!

Tressilliana said...

Well, yes, HH, but most of those people changed their minds pretty rapidly once the war started and very few clung to the view that Hitler was a great man once the war was over and the newsreels from the concentration camps were shown in cinemas. Williamson appears (from my scanty internet-derived research) to have been one of the few who still admired him.

Headhunter said...

Yep, not defending holocaust deniers and people like Henry Williamson.

Brockley Nick said...

@lb - you have a list of your favourite British modernists in rank order? Who is your fourth favourite?

Monkeyboy said...

"...Obviously he went on to commit crimes against humanity..."

Simon Sachma must be worried about position as the nations fav historian.

David Irving said...

I don't know, he wasn't *all* bad, give the guy a chance!

adelad said...

What's that thing about almost all discussions on t'internet quickly trending towards Hitler and his regime called again?

Brockley Nick said...

To be fair, I don't think it's meant to apply to discussions about Hitler sympathisers.

drakefell debaser said...

It's called Godwins Law.

Emperor Hirohito said...

Hitler velly velly good man, bit soft though

lb said...

My fourth favourite? Probably the painter Edward Wadsworth, if we're allowing all media.

Unfortunately quite a few prominent Modernists ended up admiring Fascism (although there were just as many left-wingers). Part of the problem was that in the 1930s the intelligentsia felt that either that or Communism represented the 'future' and felt obliged to make a public choice. Those with more traditionalist or elitist tendencies (or religious belief; the Spanish Civil War would have pitted many Catholics against Communism, for example) often went to the right.

W. B. Yeats was an appallingly right-wing individual incidentally.

Monkeyboy said...

It's the uniforms, awfully smart.

Orwell was a bit of a misogynistic homophobe and actually a bit of a snob in many ways. Still one of my heros.

Headhunter said...

Modernism was all part of the drive for industrialisation and efficiency. There was no namby pamby looking wistfully back at the past. The past represented fedualism and repression of the many for the good of the few. Modernism with its clean lines represented the people, Gothic cornicing and classical architectural embellishment was a unnecessary hindrance to the progress of economics, militarism and strength which at the time was considered something all nations should strive for.

lb said...

"There was no namby pamby looking wistfully back at the past"

The intellectual project of Modernism was enormously backward-looking in some ways. How about Pound and his Cantos, or Eliot and his cyclical vision of history? He ended up as an Anglo-Catholic for God's sake! They were all fascinated by ritual, history and myth (including David Jones).

It was the combination of 'tradition' - specifically, "national" tradition, e.g. myth - and modern methods that made the right-wing expressions of Modernism so dangerous.

Orwell rose above it all by actually critically looking at his own responses, something none of the High Modernists ever managed to fully do.

Headhunter said...

You're probably right, I haven't looked into the philosophy behind modernism, I was just thinking from an architectural point of view, it's clean, unembellished lines would have represented efficiency and rejection of older ways of life.

lb said...

...actually, another thing to remember is war guilt. David Jones fought in WWI, and some veterans felt that Versailles had been ufairly harsh on their defeated opponents. Support for Hitler (at least until he started murderously rampaging his way round Europe) was to some degree seen as a 'natural' German response to Versailles.

lb said...

Brockley also gave the world David Lodge, though I'm not sure this is anything to boast about.

Headhunter said...

To some extent the German response was inevitable and correct, however unfortunately led to a breeding ground for extremist politics. Versailles was heavy on reparations and punishment and made very little if any provision for rebuilding Germany and prevention of a 2nd war.

TJ(O) said...

So I'll go ahead with the plaque thing, then?

Headhunter said...

To who now, Hitler or David Jones?

Danja said...

A plaque on both their houses?

TJ(O) said...

Well Williamson's got one already -s o that covers off Hitler..

Brockley Nick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brockley Nick said...

@TJ - I think it would be brilliant if you did.

TJ(O) said...

The application doesn't look so difficult to put togehter - so I'll go ahead - I'll get a few local society's to back it too - Broc Soc and Friends of Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries; and also get in touch with the David Jones Appreciation societies (there is one here and one in the US). He seems to fit the criteria. The whole process for English Heritage to decide takes 3 years (yes 3 years); and they also might decide that his home in Harrow is where they want to place the plaque. We have a good chance here though, as he lived in Brockley before his 1WW experience and he obviously wanted to be buried back here.

TJ(O) said...

I think I'll ensure that my spelling and grammar is not so appalling on the application though..

Transpontine said...

I'm not opposed to a plaque to David Jones, an interesting figure and certainly my favourite 1930s Brockley modernist!

However, I think we can be a bit too understanding of people who supported Hitler before the war on the basis that they didn't know the Holocaust was coming. Anti-Jewish laws were passed soon after Hitler came to power, such as the 1935 laws banning Jews from marrying non-Jews. These were widely reported in the British press at the time, so people couldn't really plead ignorance.

lb said...

"However, I think we can be a bit too understanding of people who supported Hitler before the war"

I don't think anyone is "understanding" of them in the sense you mean. The National Socialists clearly pursued an anti-Semitic agenda before they were even in power: it was part of their 'narrative', and indeed of the Freikorps before them. Anyone who admired or even had a slight regard for them would have known this. It wasn't concealed. Unfortunately this repulsive prejudice was also shared by large swathes of English, and to some degree American, society at the time. It wasn't just that the English supporters of German nationalism were able to ignore anti-Semitism, they were often guilty of it themselves. The idea that they were somehow blind to it is usually postwar revisionism by those desperate to hide their own guilt.

I don't recall anything in Jones's work that explicitly hints at these attitudes, though some of the people he was associated with (such as Eric Gill, Douglas Pepler, etc) were part of the whole Belloc-Chesterton group of conservative Catholics. On the other hand, Jones's interest in specifically Welsh identity would have placed him outside the very English chauvinism of Gill and the others.

Anyway, that's enough lit crit for this time of the morning.

TJ(O) said...

Maybe enough lit crit, but very well put lb.

Anti-semitism was rife in the UK through all classes from the aristocracy to the East End workign classes. Reading Saki's 'light hearted' stories from the turn of the century, one can see an ingrained prejudice towards the jewish, gypsies etc.

Anti-semitism was not unique to National Socialism and a general undercurrent to a lot of political thinking at the time throughout Europe.

St. Anthony said...

So who is lb's favourite British Modernist?
Can I vote for that Godlike genius and undefeated heavyweight champion of Modernism, James Joyce, since surely he carried a British passport?
Failing that, for myself, I'll put dear old Wyndham Lewis at the top of the pile ... who had a few jackbooted skeletons of his own in his closet.
Don't think either had any local links, though.

Barbara said...

There is a tenuous James Joyce link... Joyce in his youth was great friends with Dr Patrick Quinn, who went on to be a GP in Brockers for many years.

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