Jon Stallworthy (1935-2014)

jon stallworthy

I was very sad to learn today of the death of Jon Stallworthy, who did so much for First World War literary studies.

He was the external examiner for my doctorate, and I treasure the memory of the afternoon I spent being gently but meticulously questioned about my thesis by someone who knew so much about the subject.

Too ill to attend the conference banquet at Wadham College last September, he was the guest of honour in absentia, but sent a stimulating (indeed, challenging) speech that Tim Kendall read for him. It as about truth in poetry, and about the need to make a stand against war.

Jon Stallworthy was a fine critic of war poetry, as is shown by his Survivors’ Songs: From Maldon to the Somme.

More than that, he was, of course, a poet himself. This is a short poem of this that I like very much. It is from his 1995 collection, The Guest from the Future:

The Naming
For Daphna Erdinast-Vulcan

What’s in a name? For you, and now for me,
the echo from a sepia century

of soldiers’ boots in a ghetto lane,
pounded doors, the census-taker’s refrain:

‘What are you?’ Baker.’ ‘Tailor’ And the flash
of rabbinical wit – ‘I am earth and ash.’



  1. John SERIOT
    Posted November 20, 2014 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing this sad news. I met Pr Stallworthy at the Oxford Spring School on War Poetry in April this year, and I remember his kind words and encouragement to two of us…

  2. Posted November 20, 2014 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    Sad news indeed. Jon Stallworthy’s contribution to the study of war poetry was massive and he was a strong literary talent in his own right. Condolences to his friends and family.

  3. Posted November 20, 2014 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    A very sad day. Stallworthy was Owen’s first and, with great respect to Dominic Hibberd, in many ways best biographer, and a splendid editor of Owen’s poetry. No one can write about Owen without reference to the “Complete Poems and Fragments”. Regretfully, I never knew Jon personally, although we corresponded by email. He came through in those communications as a courteous, gentle, and generous man. May he rest in peace.

  4. Steve Paradis
    Posted November 25, 2014 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    For kind and conscientious thesis examiners/advisors, there is a special place in Heaven–where all the papers are clearly typed and formatted, all the references are pertinent and fresh, and none of the metaphors are mixed.

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