A perceptive biography that traces an author’s trajectory from disillusioned prose scribe to acclaimed poet.
American readers may be forgiven for not knowing the work of Edward Thomas (1878–1917). While lauded as one of England’s best 20th-century poets, his work has been overshadowed in the United States by that of his fellow World War I–era bards Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. Yet Thomas’s life was just as dramatic and his poetry equally haunting, especially considering that he only began composing poems in the last three years of his life. A man tormented by depression, ill-suited to his marriage, aloof toward his children, and disgusted by the hack work that he had to churn out in order to earn a living, Thomas underwent a radical transformation when he met Robert Frost in 1913. Frost had moved to England in hopes of finding the success that was still eluding him back home, and he quickly fell in with Thomas’ literary circle. The two men immediately hit it off, sharing a keen understanding of the importance of cadence and rhythm to creating the mood of a poem. With Frost’s encouragement, Thomas began drafting poems that reflected his keen appreciation of nature as well as his thoughts on romantic love, rural landscapes and, increasingly, the war. By the time of his death, he had left behind a significant oeuvre, but the only poems published in his lifetime were written under a pseudonym. Poet Hollis (Ground Water, 2004), who edited a volume of Thomas’ selected poetry, expertly recreates the upheaval of English society as it made the transition from genteel post-Victorianism to brash modernism. Thomas stood poised on the dividing line between W.B. Yeats and T.S. Eliot and justly remains a towering figure in English poetry.
This diligently researched and masterfully written exposition will appeal to Anglophiles and fans of literary biography.