Wednesday, May 03, 2017
EDWARD THOMAS AND THE CENTENARY OF HIS DEATH
One of my favourite writers (and a poet) died just over one hundred years ago on 9th April 1917
Thomas was born in London in 1878 and attended St Paul's School and Lincoln College, Oxford. Married to Helen while at university, he worked hard to support his family by accepting a wide range of prose commissions; he wrote many books and was in demand as a reviewer, a biographer and a topographical writer. Despite his fluency he despised much of this work; his marriage was marred by periodic bouts of depression and his restlessness led him to leave home for periods of several weeks at time.
During the Great War, Thomas had trained in the Artists' Rifles at Hare Park, near Romford which was then classed as Essex, now East London. He'd been a poet for little more than two years and his collected works amounted to only a slim volume. Nevertheless he is regarded as among the greatest of English poets. His thoughts and words on the English countryside (particularly our county of Essex) are beautiful.
The BBC Radio Four programme editor, Matthew Hollis, who made last week's programme, followed one of the journeys that Thomas made by bike in the spring of 1913 from London into south west England. It was a journey that produced a prose book for Thomas, In Pursuit of Spring, but it was also a journey that turned him towards poetry. This is where I discovered the work of Robert Frost, the American poet who was a close friend of Edward Thomas during the last years of his life. Fortunately, the BBC was able to supply more information at the beginning of April, which was in perfect time for the production of my essay.