Memoirs of Thomas Jones, Pencerrig

Reference: NLW MS 23812D

Thomas Jones kept a journal for many years and this daily record of his life formed the basis for his Memoirs, which were compiled during the years after his return from Italy. The narrative opens with a brief history of the family leading up to Jones's birth and childhood, before describing his education, his eventual choice of career as an artist, his apprenticeship wth Richard Wilson and life as a young man in London. His time in Italy and return voyage are recounted in detail, after which the years after his return are summed up extremely briefly.

The Memoirs are signed and dated 1798 (f. 220v), but Jones has added the date 1803 inside the front cover. He appears to have used a number of notebooks of similar but not identical size, in which he first wrote out his Memoirs on the left hand pages, but later returned to this first draft to make corrections and additions to his text. Some words, lines or even several paragraphs were deleted, new material or corrections added on the facing pages and in some cases (e.g. ff. 88, 105-6) leaves were cut out leaving a stub, whilst new leaves were added here and there (e.g. ff. 82-7, 88a). These changes seem to reflect a concern to improve the style, rather than self-censorship, though in a few cases he appears to have softened his original statements. His account remains very frank and often unheroic, especially in his tales of being cheated or deceived. The only area of extreme coyness is his relationship with Maria Moncke, whom he met in Italy, but once she has been introduced into the narrative, references to her companionship and housekeeping creep in and eventually we learn that the couple have had two daughters.

Although the artist does not document his work in great detail, he often notes major works in progress and some sales. Disappointment in great men's failure to act on promises forms a constant theme and Thomas Jones emerges as a rather marginalised figure.

Thomas Jones's Memoirs demonstrate his awareness of his Welsh identity. As a young man in London he moves in Welsh circles and even when in Italy he makes a point of celebrating St David's Day. Jones was a natural story-teller and his lively narrative conveys an attractive and modest personality, a gifted writer as well as a painter.