Emeritus Professor Frederic J Jones (1925-2011)
Fred Jones was born in 1925 in Blaina, Monmouthshire, attended Nantyglo Grammar School, and in 1943 obtained a place at Pembroke College, Oxford, to read French and Italian. Following his Masters, and a B.Litt in French, he worked for two years for the British Council before returning to academic life at the Sorbonne, where he spent 3 years completing his Paris doctorate on the French symbolist poet Baudelaire. At this stage he seemed set for an academic career in French.
He joined the staff at Cardiff in 1953 with a permanent lectureship in French and Italian. The study of Italian in the university had been initiated as far back as 1930-31, with a single course, ‘An Introduction to the Study of Italian’ within the Department of French. The subject had continued to attract students, with numbers increasing significantly in the late 1940s, sometimes with classes of over 100 students. In 1952-53, 17 students graduated with Italian as part of their final degree, the first to do so in the University of Wales.
It was in this period of growth in Italian that Fred Jones joined the staff in Cardiff. His teaching and research interests began to shift increasingly towards Italian, which was still housed at this time within the Department of French. In 1957, his post was converted to a full-time lectureship in Italian. The subject continued to grow, further posts were added, and in 1966 Senate and Council approved the establishment of a Chair and Department of Italian, and Fred Jones, by this time a senior lecturer, was appointed Head of Department, becoming the first Professor of Italian in the University of Wales.
From 1966-67 the Department, now offering both single and joint honours, grew under his leadership to offer the whole range of Italian literature, to which were added courses in Italian History, Fine Art, Intellectual History and Linguistics, some of these in collaboration with other Departments.
As a teacher, Fred Jones was always very responsive to students, and it is typical of his dedication to their needs in studying the subject that his first book in the field should be his Modern Italian Grammar, joint winner in 1962 of the prize offered by the Society of Italian Studies for filling a void in provision for students at UK universities. The ‘Jones Grammar’ became famous nationally for having nourished generations of students in their initial steps in the study of Italian culture.
His abiding scholarly interest throughout his career, however, was lyric poetry, especially Petrarch and Petrarchism, and late 19th and early 20th century Italian poetry. His academic life, from the 1950s until his retirement in 1987, and beyond, was devoted to study and research in these fields. His originality and creative energy generated a large number of articles, volumes on Modern Italian Poetry, the poet Ungaretti, and the disputed structure of Petrarch’s Canzoniere, alongside a two-volume translation of the latter.
In his administrative capacity, in addition to building up the Department of Italian, Fred Jones acted as Dean of the Faculty of Arts and served on various Senate committees in his own university, and he was frequently external examiner and adviser for appointments to posts in Italian at other institutions. For some years he was President of the Welsh section of the Association of Teachers of Italian, and from 1987 to 1989 he chaired the UK-wide Society for Italian Studies. This was a very difficult time for Higher Education and Fred was pressed by his colleagues to extend his period of office for a further year. His willingness to do so in his retirement was typical of the generosity of spirit which earned Fred Jones the admiration, loyalty and affection of his colleagues and students.
Fred Jones’s constant loyalty to friends and colleagues, the support on which they could always rely, his extreme modesty, courtesy and good humour, are qualities which will be widely missed.
Fred died on 23 January 2011. He is survived by Mair, his wife of 55 years. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to her and to his family and relatives.
May he rest in peace.
Emeritus Professor of Italian, Swansea University
Associate Professor, School of European Studies, Cardiff University