Edward Thomas (poet)
Overview
 
Philip Edward Thomas was an Anglo
English poetry
The history of English poetry stretches from the middle of the 7th century to the present day. Over this period, English poets have written some of the most enduring poems in Western culture, and the language and its poetry have spread around the globe. Consequently, the term English poetry is...

-Welsh
Welsh poetry
Welsh poetry may refer to poetry in the Welsh language, Anglo-Welsh poetry, or other poetry written in Wales or by Welsh poets.-History:Wales has one of the earliest literary traditions in Northern Europe, stretching back to the days of Aneirin Welsh poetry may refer to poetry in the Welsh...

 writer of prose and poetry. He is commonly considered a war poet
War poet
A War poet is a poet writing in time of and on the subject of war. The term, which is applied especially to those in military service during World War I, was documented as early as 1848 in reference to German revolutionary poet, Georg Herwegh.-Crimean War:...

, although few of his poems deal directly with his war experiences. Already an accomplished writer, Thomas turned to poetry only in 1914. He enlisted in the army in 1915, and was killed in action during the Battle of Arras
Battle of Arras (1917)
The Battle of Arras was a British offensive during the First World War. From 9 April to 16 May 1917, British, Canadian, New Zealand, Newfoundland, and Australian troops attacked German trenches near the French city of Arras on the Western Front....

 in 1917, soon after he arrived in France.
Thomas was born in Lambeth
Lambeth
Lambeth is a district of south London, England, and part of the London Borough of Lambeth. It is situated southeast of Charing Cross.-Toponymy:...

, London. He was educated at Battersea Grammar School
Battersea Grammar School
Battersea Grammar School was a Voluntary-Controlled Secondary Grammar School in South London. It was established in Battersea by the Sir Walter St John Trust in 1875 and moved to larger premises in Streatham in 1936....

, St Paul's School and Lincoln College, Oxford
Lincoln College, Oxford
Lincoln College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. It is situated on Turl Street in central Oxford, backing onto Brasenose College and adjacent to Exeter College...

.
Encyclopedia
Philip Edward Thomas was an Anglo
English poetry
The history of English poetry stretches from the middle of the 7th century to the present day. Over this period, English poets have written some of the most enduring poems in Western culture, and the language and its poetry have spread around the globe. Consequently, the term English poetry is...

-Welsh
Welsh poetry
Welsh poetry may refer to poetry in the Welsh language, Anglo-Welsh poetry, or other poetry written in Wales or by Welsh poets.-History:Wales has one of the earliest literary traditions in Northern Europe, stretching back to the days of Aneirin Welsh poetry may refer to poetry in the Welsh...

 writer of prose and poetry. He is commonly considered a war poet
War poet
A War poet is a poet writing in time of and on the subject of war. The term, which is applied especially to those in military service during World War I, was documented as early as 1848 in reference to German revolutionary poet, Georg Herwegh.-Crimean War:...

, although few of his poems deal directly with his war experiences. Already an accomplished writer, Thomas turned to poetry only in 1914. He enlisted in the army in 1915, and was killed in action during the Battle of Arras
Battle of Arras (1917)
The Battle of Arras was a British offensive during the First World War. From 9 April to 16 May 1917, British, Canadian, New Zealand, Newfoundland, and Australian troops attacked German trenches near the French city of Arras on the Western Front....

 in 1917, soon after he arrived in France.

Early life

Thomas was born in Lambeth
Lambeth
Lambeth is a district of south London, England, and part of the London Borough of Lambeth. It is situated southeast of Charing Cross.-Toponymy:...

, London. He was educated at Battersea Grammar School
Battersea Grammar School
Battersea Grammar School was a Voluntary-Controlled Secondary Grammar School in South London. It was established in Battersea by the Sir Walter St John Trust in 1875 and moved to larger premises in Streatham in 1936....

, St Paul's School and Lincoln College, Oxford
Lincoln College, Oxford
Lincoln College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. It is situated on Turl Street in central Oxford, backing onto Brasenose College and adjacent to Exeter College...

. His family were mostly Welsh
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

. Unusually, he married while still an undergraduate and determined to live his life by the pen. He then worked as a book reviewer, reviewing up to 15 books every week. He was already a seasoned writer by the outbreak of war, having published widely as a literary critic and biographer, as well as a writer on the countryside. He also wrote a novel, The Happy-Go-Lucky Morgans (1913).

Thomas worked as literary critic for the Daily Chronicle
Daily Chronicle
The Daily Chronicle was a British newspaper that was published from 1872 to 1930 when it merged with the Daily News to become the News Chronicle.-History:...

in London and became a close friend of Welsh tramp poet W. H. Davies
W. H. Davies
William Henry Davies or W. H. Davies was a Welsh poet and writer. Davies spent a significant part of his life as a tramp or vagabond in the United States and United Kingdom, but became known as one of the most popular poets of his time...

, whose career he almost single-handedly developed.

From 1905, Thomas lived with his wife Helen and their family at Elses Farm near Sevenoaks
Sevenoaks
Sevenoaks is a commuter town situated on the London fringe of west Kent, England, some 20 miles south-east of Charing Cross, on one of the principal commuter rail lines from the capital...

, Kent
Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

. He rented a tiny cottage nearby for Davies and nurtured his writing as best he could. On one occasion, Thomas even had to arrange for the manufacture, by a local wheelwright, of a makeshift wooden leg for Davies.

Even though Thomas thought that poetry was the highest form of literature and regularly reviewed it, he only became a poet himself at the end of 1914. Living at Steep
Steep
Steep is a village and civil parish in the East Hampshire district of Hampshire, England. It is north of Petersfield, just off the A3 road.The nearest railway station is Petersfield, south of the village....

, in East Hampshire
East Hampshire
East Hampshire is a local government district in Hampshire, England. Its council is based in Petersfield. Other towns are Alton, Horndean and Whitehill-Bordon....

, he initially published some poetry under the name Edward Eastaway.

By August 1914, the village of Dymock
Dymock
Dymock is a small village in the Forest of Dean district of Gloucestershire, England about four miles south of Ledbury, with a population of approx. 300 people....

 in Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire is a county in South West England. The county comprises part of the Cotswold Hills, part of the flat fertile valley of the River Severn, and the entire Forest of Dean....

 had become the residence of a number of literary figures, including Lascelles Abercrombie
Lascelles Abercrombie
Lascelles Abercrombie was a British poet and literary critic, one of the "Dymock poets"...

, Wilfrid Gibson and American poet Robert Frost
Robert Frost
Robert Lee Frost was an American poet. He is highly regarded for his realistic depictions of rural life and his command of American colloquial speech. His work frequently employed settings from rural life in New England in the early twentieth century, using them to examine complex social and...

. Edward Thomas was a visitor at this time.

The (now-abandoned) railway station at Adlestrop
Adlestrop railway station
Adlestrop railway station was a railway station serving the village of Adlestrop in Gloucestershire, England. It was on what is now called the Cotswold Line. The station was immortalised by the poet Edward Thomas when his train made an unscheduled stop there shortly before the First World...

 in the Cotswolds was immortalised in a well-known poem by Thomas after his train made an unscheduled stop there on 24 June 1914, shortly before the outbreak of the First World War.

War service

Thomas enlisted in the Artists Rifles in July 1915, despite being a mature married man who could have avoided enlisting, in part after reading Frost's "The Road Not Taken". He was promoted Corporal
Corporal
Corporal is a rank in use in some form by most militaries and by some police forces or other uniformed organizations. It is usually equivalent to NATO Rank Code OR-4....

 and in November 1916 was commissioned into the Royal Garrison Artillery
Royal Garrison Artillery
The Royal Garrison Artillery was an arm of the Royal Artillery that was originally tasked with manning the guns of the British Empire's forts and fortresses, including coastal artillery batteries, the heavy gun batteries attached to each infantry division, and the guns of the siege...

. He was killed in action soon after he arrived in France at Arras
Battle of Arras (1917)
The Battle of Arras was a British offensive during the First World War. From 9 April to 16 May 1917, British, Canadian, New Zealand, Newfoundland, and Australian troops attacked German trenches near the French city of Arras on the Western Front....

 on Easter Monday, 9 April 1917. Although he survived the actual battle, he was killed by the concussive blast wave of one of the last shells fired as he stood to light his pipe.

Close friend W. H. Davies was devastated by the death and his commemorative poem "Killed In Action (Edward Thomas)" was included in Davies' 1918 collection "Raptures".

Thomas is buried in the Military Cemetery at Agny
Agny
Agny is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in northern France.-Geography:A farming village located 3 miles southwest of Arras, at the D3 and D60 road junction.-History:...

 in France (Row C, Grave 43).

Personal life

Thomas was survived by his wife, Helen, his son Merfyn and his two daughters Bronwen and Myfanwy.

After the war, Helen wrote about her courtship and early married life with Edward in the autobiography As it Was (1926); later she added a second volume, World Without End (1931). Myfanwy later said the books were written by her mother as a form of therapy to help lift her out of a deep depression to which she succumbed following Edward's death.

Helen's short memoir My Memory of W. H. Davies was published in 1973. Her Under Storm's Wing was published in 1997 and is a collection of writings including the two earlier autobiographies along with various other writings and letters.

Commemorations

Thomas is commemorated in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

 in London and by memorial windows in the churches at Steep
Steep
Steep is a village and civil parish in the East Hampshire district of Hampshire, England. It is north of Petersfield, just off the A3 road.The nearest railway station is Petersfield, south of the village....

 and at Eastbury
Eastbury, Berkshire
Eastbury is a small village in the valley of the River Lambourn in the English county of Berkshire. The village is situated on the old river level road from Newbury to Lambourn, and is east of Lambourn and west of East Garston...

 in Berkshire
Berkshire
Berkshire is a historic county in the South of England. It is also often referred to as the Royal County of Berkshire because of the presence of the royal residence of Windsor Castle in the county; this usage, which dates to the 19th century at least, was recognised by the Queen in 1957, and...

.

East Hampshire District Council have created a "literary walk" at Shoulder of Mutton Hill in Steep dedicated to Thomas. which includes the memorial stone erected in 1935. The inscription includes the final line of his essays: "And I rose up and knew I was tired and I continued my journey."

As "Philip Edward Thomas poet-soldier" he is commemorated with "Reginald Townsend Thomas actor-soldier died 1918" (who is buried at the spot) and other family members at the North East Surrey
Surrey
Surrey is a county in the South East of England and is one of the Home Counties. The county borders Greater London, Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex, Hampshire and Berkshire. The historic county town is Guildford. Surrey County Council sits at Kingston upon Thames, although this has been part of...

 (Old Battersea) Cemetery.

Poetry

Thomas's poems are noted for their attention to the English countryside and a certain colloquial style. A short poem of Thomas's serves as an example of how he blends war and countryside throughout his poetry.

On 11 November 1985, Thomas was among 16 Great War poets commemorated on a slate stone unveiled in Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

's Poet's Corner. The inscription, written by fellow Great War poet Wilfred Owen
Wilfred Owen
Wilfred Edward Salter Owen MC was an English poet and soldier, one of the leading poets of the First World War...

, reads: "My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity."

Thomas was described by poet laureate Ted Hughes
Ted Hughes
Edward James Hughes OM , more commonly known as Ted Hughes, was an English poet and children's writer. Critics routinely rank him as one of the best poets of his generation. Hughes was British Poet Laureate from 1984 until his death.Hughes was married to American poet Sylvia Plath, from 1956 until...

 as "…the father of us all."

Poetry collections

  • Six Poems, under pseudonym Edward Eastaway, Pear Tree Press, 1916.
  • Poems, Holt, 1917.
  • Last Poems, Selwyn & Blount, 1918.
  • Collected Poems, Selwyn & Blount, 1920.
  • Two Poems, Ingpen & Grant, 1927.
  • The Poems of Edward Thomas, R. George Thomas (ed), Oxford University Press, 1978
  • Poemoj (Esperanto
    Esperanto
    is the most widely spoken constructed international auxiliary language. Its name derives from Doktoro Esperanto , the pseudonym under which L. L. Zamenhof published the first book detailing Esperanto, the Unua Libro, in 1887...

     translation), Kris Long (ed & pub), Burleigh Print, Bracknell, Berks, 1979.
  • Edward Thomas: A Mirror of England, Elaine Wilson (ed), Paul & Co., 1985.
  • The Poems of Edward Thomas, Peter Sacks (ed), Handsel Books, 2003.
  • The Annotated Collected Poems, Edna Longley (ed), Bloodaxe Books
    Bloodaxe Books
    Bloodaxe Books is a British publishing house specialising in poetry.-History:It was founded in 1978 in Newcastle upon Tyne by Neil Astley, who is still editor and managing director. Joined in 1982 by chairman Simon Thirsk, Astley was later awarded an honorary D.Litt by Newcastle University in 1995...

    , 2008.

Essay collections

  • Horae Solitariae, Dutton, 1902.
  • Oxford, A & C Black, 1903.
  • Beautiful Wales, Black, 1905.
  • The Heart of England, Dutton, 1906.
  • The South Country, Dutton, 1906 (reissued by Tuttle, 1993).
  • Rest and Unrest, Dutton, 1910.
  • Light and Twilight, Duckworth, 1911.
  • The Last Sheaf, Cape, 1928.

Additional sources

  • Hollis, Matthew, Now All Roads Lead to France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas, 2011, Faber and Faber. ISBN 978‐0‐571‐24598‐7

External links

images of Thomas' War poetry manuscripts, letters, war diary, plus a searchable full text corpora.... It contains a bibliography of related materials....
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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