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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Ebenezer Jones : a study Brookes, Roger Keith

Abstract

A series of misfortunes had the effect of limiting Ebenezer Jones' verse publication to a single volume. Although many notable writers of the time found merit in the work, Studies of Sensation and Event, it was not a popular success; however, Dante Gabriel Rossetti prophesied that one day it would be recovered from its undeserved obscurity. Stimulated by Rossetti, several persons made an attempt to revive interest and the volume was re-issued, posthumously, in 1879. It again failed to generate much interest, however, and it has continued its decline into obscurity to the present. It has been common in the past for critics to dismiss Jones' poetry as "Spasmodic," or "Chartist" labels that are not only inaccurate but, in focussing upon a single aspect, overlook the significance of the whole work. Ebenezer Jones' book is largely significant as a response to the period of crisis during which he lived. In a period of rapid change and grave uncertainties, Jones exemplifies the transitional poet who, adhering to the romantic literary tradition, tries to come to terms in his art with contemporary issues. Many of the foremost writers of the time shared Rossetti's appreciation of Jones' talent. They recognized that many of the faults and weaknesses of Jones' poetry resulted from his attempts to analyze and describe sensation in an original and meaningful way; disatisfaction with conventional diction led Jones to experiment with words in an effort to achieve the desired effect. The revolutionary nature of his work, the choice of unconventional subjects and their treatment in strange and exciting ways, occasionally results in "jaggedness" or obscurity; on the other hand, he frequently succeeds in conveying powerful sensations with clarity and force. Critics in the past have tended to discuss Jones' poetry within the context of his biographical misfortunes. These seriously affected Jones' work and for this reason require discussion, but it will be the intention of this study to indicate that many of Jones' poems may be enjoyed as works of art without recourse to his biography. This thesis, therefore, will consist of two parts: the first three chapters will relate the known facts of Jones' life and the circumstances surrounding the two editions of his Studies of Sensation and Event; and chapter four will examine his poetry as to its, original aspects and as sensitive response to the period.

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