7 minute read

(Morgan) Glyn Jones Biography

Glyn Jones comments:

Nationality: British. Born: Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorgan, 1905. Education: Castle Grammar School, Merthyr Tydfil; St. Paul's College, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Married Phyllis Doreen Jones in 1935. Career: Formerly a schoolmaster in Glamorgan; now retired. First chair, Yr Academi Gymreig (English Section). Awards: Welsh Arts Council prize, for non-fiction, 1969, and Premier award, 1972. D. Litt.: University of Wales, Cardiff, 1974. Agent: Laurence Pollinger Ltd., 18 Maddox Street, London W1R 0EU, England.



The Valley, The City, The Village. London, Dent, 1956.

The Learning Lark. London, Dent, 1960.

The Island of Apples. London, Dent, and New York, Day, 1965; revised edition, Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1992.

Short Stories

The Blue Bed. London, Cape, 1937; New York, Dutton, 1938.

The Water Music. London, Routledge, 1944.

Selected Short Stories. London, Dent, 1971.

Welsh Heirs. Llandysul, Dyfed, Gomer, 1977.


The Beach of Falesá (verse libretto), music by Alun Hoddinott (produced Cardiff, 1974). London, Oxford University Press, 1974.


Poems. London, Fortune Press, 1939.

The Dream of Jake Hopkins. London, Fortune Press, 1954.

Selected Poems. Llandysul, Dyfed, Gomer, 1975.

The Meaning of Fuchsias. Newtown, Gregynog Press, 1987.

Selected Poems, Fragments, and Fictions. Bridgend, Glamorgan, Poetry Wales Press, 1988.

The Story of Heledd, with T.J. Morgan; edited by Jenny Rowland and engravings by Harry Brockway. Newtown, Powys, Gwasg Grefynog, 1994.

The Collected Poems of Glyn Jones, edited by Meic Stephens. Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1996.


The Dragon Has Two Tongues: Essays on Anglo-Welsh Writers and Writing. London, Dent, 1968.

Profiles: A Visitor's Guide to Writing in Twentieth Century Wales, with John Rowlands. Llandysul, Dyfed, Gomer, 1980.

Setting Out: A Memoir of Literary Life in Wales. Cardiff, University College Department of Extra Mural Studies, 1982.

Random Entrances to Gwyn Thomas. Cardiff, University College Press, 1982.

Editor, Poems '76. Llandysul, Dyfed, Gomer, 1976.

Translator, with T.J. Morgan, The Saga of Llywarch the Old. London, Golden Cockerel Press, 1955.

Translator, What Is Worship?, by E. Stanley John. Swansea, Wales for Christ Movement, 1978.

Translator, When the Rose-bush Brings Forth Apples (Welsh folk poetry). Gregynog, Powys, Gregynog Press, 1980.

Translator, Honeydew on the Wormwood (Welsh folk poetry). Gregynog, Powys, Gregynog Press, 1984.

Translator, A People's Poetry: Hen Benillion. Bridgend, Wales, Seren, 1997.



By John and Sylvia Harris, in Poetry Wales 19 (Bridgend, Glamorgan), 3-4, 1984.

Manuscript Collections:

National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth.

Critical Studies:

Article by Iolo Llwyd, in South Wales Magazine (Cardiff), Autumn 1970; Glyn Jones by Leslie Norris, Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1973, and article by Norris in British Novelists 1930-1959 edited by Bernard Oldsey, Detroit, Gale, 1983; Harri Pritchard-Jones, in Welsh Books and Writers (Cardiff), Autumn 1981; David Smith, in Arcade (Cardiff), February 1982.

I began my literary life as a poet. In 1934 I first became friendly with Dylan Thomas, who suggested I should write short stories, as he himself was doing then. My first published book was a volume of short stories, The Blue Bed. This was written when the great industrial depression was at its most intense in South Wales and the longest story in the book takes this for its subject. South Wales, industrial and agricultural—this is the theme in all the stories in The Blue Bed. Indeed, all my prose, and much of my poetry, is concerned with this region. The novel The Valley, The City, The Village, which is partly autobiographical, tries to convey what it was like to grow up in South Wales; The Learning Lark deals with learning and teaching in the area; The Island of Apples describes childhood and its fantasies in a closely knit community in the Welsh valleys.

The Water Music has stories about both the industrial east of South Wales (Glamorgan) and the agricultural west (Carmarthen, Pembroke, Cardigan). To quote my publisher—I have "carried the medium [i.e., the imaginative short story] to an unexcelled synthesis of realism and fantasy, magic and humor. From the regional contrasts of industrialism and pastoralism, modernity and tradition, he builds up a world of convincing beauty, and expresses himself in a prose style of unusual poetic vitality." I would accept this as a statement of what I have tried to do in my short stories. Whether I've done it is of course quite another question.

* * *

"While using cheerfully enough the English language, I have never written in it a word about any country other than Wales, or any people other than Welsh people," wrote Glyn Jones in The Dragon Has Two Tongues. This deliberate limitation of his material is the only reason I can suggest for any kind of restriction to the general recognition his gifts deserve.

Certainly his stories and novels, although they share a Welsh background, are set in widely separate countries of the mind, pose different problems, and offer to us recognizable human situations. His prose, too, is very much more than the "cheerful use" of the English language. Always exuberant and seemingly spendthrift ("I fancy words," he says in his poem, "Merthyr"), it is also exact, muscular, very energetic. He can range from elegant and mannered writing—and the use of a vocabulary so exotic that it upset some reviewers of his first novel, The Valley, The City, The Village—to the direct, racy, almost physical style, the true, idiosyncratic speaking voice we find in some of the stories and in the two later novels.

His Wales commonly has two contrasting faces, that of the idyllic land of country happiness opposing the suppurating mining towns where the ugly, comical people are unfailingly kindly. But it also exists as a metaphysical universe, and the young people who are to be found in almost everything Jones writes are given early experience of both Heaven and Hell. To some extent this duality reflects Jones's own early life; during his impressionable boyhood he lived in the grimy steel and coal town of Merthyr Tydfil, but spent significant periods in Llanstephan, a beautiful Carmarthenshire village.

His identification with the scenes and characters of his imagination is absolutely complete, and it is noticeable that many of these stories and all three of his novels are told in the first person. Many critics, indeed, thought The Valley, The City, The Village largely autobiographical, although this story of a young painter, aware of his vocation but forced by the obstinate love of his grandmother to go to university to train as a preacher, has only tenuous links with Jones's own life. It is the quality of Jones's visual imagination and the unjudging tolerance that lies behind his observation that make his young artist credible.

For in the end Jones's love of his people is the illuminating quality of his work. He has created a whole gallery of memorable characters, some of them fully realized, some of whom enter his pages but once. He sees their blemishes, particularly their physical shortcomings, as clearly as their virtues, but to him they are lovable because their faults are the faults of human beings. Even in The Learning Lark, that picaresque send-up of the state of education in a corrupt mining valley where teachers have to bribe their way to headships, there is no scalding satire. Both bribed and bribers are seen as only too human and the book is full of gargantuan laughter.

The world of childhood and adolescence, that magical period when the real and the imagined are hardly to be distinguished, has been a particularly fertile area of Jones's concern. The Water Music, for example, is a collection of stories about young people: of his three novels only one is set entirely in the world of adults, and even that one has some very realistic schoolboys in it.

The Island of Apples is a full-scale exploration of the world of adolescence, seen through the eyes of the boy Dewi. It is a remarkable novel, using a prose which is obviously the boy's voice, yet flexible and powerful enough to describe an enormous range of events and emotions. Its sensitivity, its combination of dreamlike confusion and the clear, unsentimental observation which is the adolescent state of mind, the excitement with which the boy invests the commonplace with the exotic, are perfectly balanced attributes of a work which is as individual and complete as Le Grand Meaulnes, that other evocation of vanishing youth.

Perhaps the greatest of Jones's qualities is that of delight in the created world and the people who inhabit it. If he writes of a small and often shabby corner of that world—the first story in The Blue Bed is called "I Was Born in the Ystrad Valley" and it is to Ystrad that he returns for The Island of Apples—yet his writing is a celebration, an act of praise. To this end he has shaped his craftsmanship and inspiration, and his achievement is permanent and real.

—Leslie Norris

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Dan Jacobson Biography - Dan Jacobson comments: to Barbara Knutson (1959–2005) Biography - Personal