Thomas, Dylan, 1914-1953

Alternative names
Birth 1914-10-27
Death 1953-11-09
French, Arabic, English, Swedish, Welsh

Biographical notes:

Dylan Thomas was a Welsh poet who first achieved recognition with "Eighteen Poems" (1934). He wrote both prose and radio plays, including "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog" (1940), "Deaths and Entrances" (1946), "Under Milkwood" (1954), and "Adventures in the Skin Trade" (1955).

From the description of Dylan Thomas collection. [1935-1953]. (University of Victoria Libraries). WorldCat record id: 660196437

Welsh author Dylan Thomas occupies a controversial place among 20th century poets. His highly individual verse was uneven and often inaccessible, but, when it was good, it was breathtaking; his obsession with words, their sounds and meanings, fused with iconoclastic meters and wild symbology to create memorable and definitive images. His troubled private life, dominated by his highly publicized alcoholism, ended abruptly, and has colored his legacy. He also wrote short stories and plays.

From the description of Dylan Thomas articles and papers, 1952-1954. (Pennsylvania State University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 55482569

Welsh poet and dramatist.

From the description of Dylan Thomas Collection, ca. 1920s-1991. (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (HRC); University of Texas at Austin). WorldCat record id: 84696401

Thomas was a Welsh poet.

From the description of Papers, 1936-1954. (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 82295813

From the guide to the Dylan Thomas miscellaneous papers, 1942-1967., (Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University)

From the guide to the Papers, 1936-1954., (Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University)

Welsh poet.

From the description of Ephemera, 1954-1962. (Rosenbach Museum & Library). WorldCat record id: 122475429

From the description of Fern Hill : AMs, [1945?]. (Rosenbach Museum & Library). WorldCat record id: 122490307

From the description of Autograph letters signed "Dylan" (2) : [n.p.], and Boat House, Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, to Miss Ellen Kay, [ca. 1952 Dec. 2] and 1952 Dec. 9. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270571982

From the description of Under Milk Wood : ms., [ca. 1951-1953]. (Rosenbach Museum & Library). WorldCat record id: 122316946

From the description of Under Milk Wood : radio script, 1954 / by Dylan Thomas ; produced by Douglas Cleverdon. (Rosenbach Museum & Library). WorldCat record id: 122475423

From the description of Into her lying down head : TS, [ca. 1940]. (Rosenbach Museum & Library). WorldCat record id: 122684205

Thomas was a Welsh poet

From the description of Miscellaneous papers, 1942-1967. (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 82445466

Dame Edith Sitwell was an English poet.

From the guide to the Dame Edith Sitwell collection of papers, 1926-1965, (The New York Public Library. Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature.)

Dylan Thomas was a British poet, short-story writer, essayist and scriptwriter.

From the description of Dylan Thomas collection of papers, [1935]-1965. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122313916

From the guide to the Dylan Thomas collection of papers, 1935]-1965, (The New York Public Library. Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature.)

Dylan Marlais Thomas was born at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive in the Uplands district of Swansea, Wales, on October 27, 1914. Before his birth, Thomas's parents, David John (D. J.) and Florence Hannah, had moved to the primarily Anglophone suburb from rural Welsh-speaking Carmarthenshire. Although both D. J. and Florence were bilingual, they raised Dylan and his sister Nancy to speak only English, even sending the children to elocution lessons.

Dylan was an unremarkable student at the local grammar school in Swansea where his father taught English. Given unlimited access to his father's library at home, however, he engaged a precocious interest in English literature and began composing poetry, publishing some of it in school magazines. At sixteen, he left school to work for the local evening paper as a reporter. Journalism proved an unsuitable occupation for Thomas, and he quit the following year.

Between the ages of sixteen and twenty, Thomas kept a series of notebooks (now at the Lockwood Memorial Library in Buffalo) in which he developed the challenging and dense style of his earliest adult poetry. As a teenager his poems were published in New Verse and in the Sunday Referee 's " Poets' Corner ." In 1934, Thomas received the " Poets' Corner " Prize, an award that included the publication of a first book of poetry.

During the mid-1930s--the years between the publication of his first two volumes of poetry, 18 Poems (1934) and Twenty-five Poems (1936)--Thomas embedded himself in the London artistic scene, earning a reputation as a poet, drinker, and storyteller. Sometime in 1936, Thomas met Caitlin Macnamara, an aspiring dancer and former mistress of the painter Augustus John . The following year they eloped in Penzance, Cornwall. The couple were penniless and often lived off the money and housing they could borrow from family and friends. Shortly before Caitlin learned she was pregnant with their first child, Llewelyn, they moved to the Carmarthenshire fishing village of Laugharne.

During the war years, Thomas managed to avoid military service, probably on medical grounds. He moved between Laugharne and London, having secured work as a scriptwriter for Donald Taylor 's Strand Films, a contractor for the Ministry of Information. Thomas's lifestyle in wartime London was relatively controlled and predictable; for the first time since his teenage foray into journalism, he was earning a steady income.

Following the war, however, Thomas's life became more chaotic. Deaths and Entrances (1946), a pocket-sized volume of poems in a more accessible style, was an immediate success. Despite this, Thomas's domestic life grew more problematic: he and Caitlin were struggling to support two children (daughter Aeronwy was born in 1943), and the pair's relationship was becoming increasingly dysfunctional. Thomas no longer had the steady income from his wartime documentaries, and he began to rely instead on income from scriptwriting for feature films and radio broadcasts for the BBC . In 1949, the Thomases moved back to Wales and into the Boat House, a property in Laugharne purchased for them by their benefactor Margaret Taylor . In July of that year, a third child, Colm, was born.

In 1949 John Malcolm Brinnin, director of the Poetry Center at the Young Men's and Young Women's Hebrew Association in New York, invited Thomas to visit the United States and cash in on his growing fame in America. He traveled there in 1950, giving readings at the Poetry Center and at college campuses as far west as San Francisco and Vancouver.

Three more American tours followed, one in 1952 and two in 1953. By this time, Thomas had been drafting for several years a play for voices about a day in the life of Llareggub, a fictional Welsh town with a backwards-reading name. During his third American tour, Thomas more or less finished the play, by then titled Under Milk Wood, and it was first performed on stage at Harvard University in May 1953. Under Milk Wood would posthumously become his best-known work.

Meanwhile, Thomas's health and marriage were deteriorating; years of heavy drinking were exacting a cumulative toll. As he began his fourth and final American tour in October 1953, his marriage appeared to be unsalvageable, and Thomas succumbed to despair. He began a regimen of self-destructive behavior, drinking copiously and often to the point of delirium. On November 4, after a doctor's well-intentioned but ultimately fatal injection of morphine, Thomas collapsed and fell into a coma. He died on November 9, 1953, at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City.

From the guide to the Dylan Thomas Collection TXRC06-A2., 1920-1991, (The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center)


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  • English poetry
  • Poets, English--20th century
  • English literature--20th century
  • Poets, Welsh--20th century
  • Poets, Welsh--20th century--Correspondence
  • English poetry--Welsh authors--20th century
  • English poetry--20th century
  • English literature--Welsh authors


  • Poets


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