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Professor John Jones in 1979

Professor John Jones 1924-2016

April 2016

It was with sadness that the College learned of the death of Professor John Jones earlier in the year. Professor Jones was the 38th Oxford University Professor of Poetry, a position he held from 1979 to 1984.

Henry John Franklin Jones was born in Burma in 1924, and first came to Europe at the age of five. He was a pupil at Blundell's School in Devon before coming up to Merton on a scholarship to study Law in 1942. The following year he was called up, and served in the Royal Navy in the Far East until 1946, returning to Merton in Trinity term that year to continue his studies. Graduating with a first class degree in 1948, he was a Lecturer for Hilary and Trinity terms 1949, and was then made Tutorial Fellow in Law, a position he held until 1955. From 1956 until 1963 he was a Senior Lecturer in English at Oxford, whilst also working as a freelance journalist; an ardent football fan and a supporter of Plymouth Argyle, he was the Observer's football correspondent for three years, and kept a souvenir of this period in his kitchen - a news vendor’s handwritten placard which read ‘Orient vs. Millwall, Report by John Jones’.

According to a former student, John Jones’s approach to tutorials was "on the one hand broad brush and concerned with the big picture, and on the other hand microscopically detailed. You could not say he gave a balanced view of anything, at least when he was younger ... Although personally charming and agreeable towards his students (he could be very amusing and entertaining), he was immensely self-absorbed and selfish, in the way of the traditional don."

In 1963 he returned once again to Merton, this time as Tutor in English, succeeding Hugo Dyson. He lived in Holywell Cottage until his retirement in 1993, when he moved to a flat in Swiss Cottage in northwest London.

He was the author of eight books, including a novel, The Same God, and a book on Shakespeare, Shakespeare at Work, described as 'probably his best book, accessible, humane, scholarly, knowledgeable, unpretentious'.

John Jones died on 28 February 2016, aged 91.