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This article is taken from PN Review 22, Volume 8 Number 2, November - December 1981.

Speak That I May See Thee: 'Dai Greatcoat' John Matthias

IN Dai Greatcoat: A self-portrait of David Jones in his letters, the maker of In Parenthesis and The Anathemata, of the Vexilla Regis and The Four Queens, has once again been loyally served by his old friend and colleague René Hague. Hague has drawn before on his correspondence with David Jones both for biographical and exegetical purposes in his essential and meticulous volume of 1977, A Commentary on the Anathemata of David Jones, as well as in his earlier monograph in the Writers of Wales series and his essays on Jones in periodicals. Readers of David Jones will doubtless have savoured these excerpts, and they will also very likely know the Letters to Vernon Watkins edited by Ruth Pryor, the Letters to William Hayward edited by Colin Wilcockson, and certain important letters published singly or in smallish groups such as those to Saunders Lewis in the 1973/4 David Jones issue of Agenda. Even so, few readers will be fully prepared for the sustained experience of reading the nearly fifty years of correspondence gathered together in Dai Greatcoat.

Hague tells us in his preface that his early plan for the book 'changed as it was being put together'. He had at first intended something more in the nature of a proper biography which was to have been generously illustrated by the letters. As he worked away at the mass of correspondence, 'the material itself took control and determined the form. It very soon became clear that, left to ...

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