Edward Thomas

Scope and Content

Consists of letters and proofs relating to the published poetry works of Edward Thomas.

Administrative / Biographical History

Edward Thomas (1878–1917) called himself ‘mainly Welsh’. He grew up in London, but developed a passion for Nature. Hating the economic forces that had destroyed agricultural communities and expanded cities, Thomas absorbed, as his poetry shows, the literary and folk traditions of the English countryside.

After studying history at Oxford, he lived in rural southern England, particularly Steep in Hampshire. He supported his family by writing reviews, country books, biography and criticism. Overwork caused (sometimes suicidal) depression and creative despair. This self-styled ‘hurried & harried prose man’ could not find a ‘form that suits me’. Yet books such as The South Country (1909) and In Pursuit of Spring (1914) fertilised the poetry which – prompted by Robert Frost – Thomas began to write in December 1914. An influential poetry-reviewer, Thomas had praised Frost’s North of Boston as ‘revolutionary’. And its ‘absolute fidelity to the postures which the voice assumes in the most expressive intimate speech’ clarified his own artistic direction. Thomas's poem ‘The sun used to shine’ celebrates the poets’ friendship, but also suggests Thomas’s darker inspiration – the Great War. Although over-age, he enlisted in the Artists’ Rifles (July 1915). He was killed at Arras (April 1917) before his first collection, Poems, appeared.

Edna Longley's edition of his poetry, The Annotated Collected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2008), has established the most authoritative text of his work, and has the most comprehensive notes and critical apparatus of any edition.

Related Material

Other archival material for Edward Thomas can be found at the University of British Columbia Library, University of Texas at Austin: Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center Library, Oxford University: Lincoln College Archives, Oxford University: Bodleian Library, Special Collections, Eton College, National Library of Wales: Department of Collection Services, Durham University Library, Special Collections, The King's School Canterbury, Wandsworth Heritage Service. British Library, Manuscript Collections and Gloucester Archives.