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Private Thomas

Andrew Motion

19 December 1985
Edward ThomasA Portrait 
by R. George Thomas.
Oxford, 331 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 19 818527 8
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... R. George Thomas is a cautious man. His life of EdwardThomas (no relation) is ‘a portrait’ not ‘a biography’. Maybe this is just as well. The poet was a cautious man too. He was also a scrupulous one, and when we read in the first few pages that ...
2 April 1981
The Poetry of Edward​ Thomas 
by Andrew Motion.
Routledge, 193 pp., £8.95, November 1980, 0 7100 0471 0
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... The publishers say that The Poetry of EdwardThomas is the first full-length study to deal exclusively with Thomas’s poetry (in Britain, they must mean). On the face of it, a six-decade gap of this sort shows a strange failure in critical husbandry. Yet it is not really so surprising. In the first place, who ...


Penelope Fitzgerald

4 July 1996
Edward ThomasSelected Letters 
edited by R. George Thomas.
Oxford, 192 pp., £30, March 1996, 0 19 818562 6
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... It would be quite possible to read about EdwardThomas and wonder how it was that so many people made such allowances for him. A man who had a house built for himself and then refused to live in it, he tormented his wife and children with his ...
5 May 1988
Under Storm’s Wing 
by Helen Thomas and Myfanwy Thomas.
Carcanet, 318 pp., £14.95, February 1988, 0 85635 733 2
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... The structural ironies of EdwardThomas’s life still condition his reputation. Just as he made a late poetic start, so criticism has been slow to gather momentum. Even the recent spate of studies – by Michael Kirkham, Stan Smith, and ...

Three Poems

Michael Longley: ‘For Eddie Linden at Seventy’, ‘Call’ and ‘The Wren’

7 July 2005
... For Eddie Linden at Seventy I’m thinking of the pope and you, Eddie, As I dander towards the New York Public Library to peek at the field notebooks Of EdwardThomas wandering in England In pursuit of spring before poetry and war. Somewhere between Dorval and La Guardia I encountered John Paul among the clouds Like a surge of energy from the engines. Now he lies ...
7 March 1985
Montaigne’s Tower, and Other Poems 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Secker, 72 pp., £5.95, October 1984, 0 436 18806 6
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Collected Poems: 1963-1980 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 256 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 85031 557 3
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The Faber Book of Reflective Verse 
edited by Geoffrey Grigson.
Faber, 238 pp., £7.95, October 1984, 0 571 13299 5
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Blessings, Kicks and Curses 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 279 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 85031 558 1
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The Private Art: A Poetry Notebook 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 231 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 9780850315592
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Before the Romantics: An Anthology of the Enlightenment 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Salamander, 349 pp., £5.95, September 1984, 0 907540 59 7
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... a context in which achievement is likely to be occasional at best, spends so much spirit in peevishness and rancour. There is evidence that he enjoys walking, curlews, turtledoves, bullfinches, owls, Thomas Moore’s ‘Thee, Thee, Only Thee’ and much that France still offers. There are writers he likes, most of them dead: Ronsard, John Clare, William Barnes (‘love of whose poems seems to me a ...

Two Poems

Peter Porter

12 January 1995
... rate   Ramshackle lines ‘to go’ Like pizzas on a plate   He ordered up: we know His Hardy phase, his Yeats. But as we sort out from   The country metaphors (That almanac birdsong,   Those EdwardThomas spores) The few bits which belong   To his mature scores, We smell death on the Somme. He didn’t write of war   But just like Isherwood Saw straight sex as the flaw   Which cost a ...

I fret and fret

Adam Phillips: Edward Thomas

5 November 2015
Edward ThomasFrom Adelstrop to Arras 
by Jean Moorcroft Wilson.
Bloomsbury, 480 pp., £25, May 2015, 978 1 4081 8713 5
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... EdwardThomas​ believed that up to about the age of four what he called ‘a sweet darkness’ enfolded him ‘with a faint blessing’. It was, though, a darkness and the blessing was faint. ‘From an early ...

Weasel, Magpie, Crow

Mark Ford: Edward Thomas

1 January 2009
Edward ThomasThe Annotated Collected Poems 
edited by Edna Longley.
Bloodaxe, 335 pp., £12, June 2008, 978 1 85224 746 1
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... Prends l’éloquence et tords-lui son cou!’ Verlaine resonantly, and eloquently, declared in his ‘Art poétique’ of 1874. The line must have lodged in EdwardThomas’s mind: in May 1914, some six months before his late efflorescence into verse at the age of 36, he wrote to Robert Frost of his longing to ‘wring all the necks of my rhetoric – the geese’. He ...
2 August 1984
Selected Letters of E.M. Forster: Vol. I: 1879-1920 
edited by Mary Lago and P.N. Furbank.
Collins, 344 pp., £15.95, October 1983, 0 00 216718 2
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... professional relations. They are interesting when they involve Oscar Browning – who brought Forster to see six chickens he tended – G.L. Dickinson, E.J. Dent, Siegfried Sassoon, Forrest Reid and Edward Carpenter. Interesting, too, when they involve places, travels, holidaying. Forster had what sounds like a very long holiday, beginning in October 1901, with his mother in Italy. Five months in ...

Dykes, Drongs, Sarns, Snickets

David Craig: Walking England

20 December 2012
The English Lakes: A History 
by Ian Thompson.
Bloomsbury, 343 pp., £16.99, March 2012, 978 1 4088 0958 7
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The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot 
by Robert Macfarlane.
Hamish Hamilton, 432 pp., £20, June 2012, 978 0 241 14381 0
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... construction … both social history and the story of an imaginative idea.’ By Chapter 1, however, he seems to have settled for discussing the mediated view and we submit to the familiar cavalcade: Thomas West brings out his Guide (1778), which advises on the correct ‘stations’ from which to view this or that Picturesque vista. Wordsworth writes his Guide to the Lakes (1835), which idealises the ...
5 April 1984
The Life of Arthur Ransome 
by Hugh Brogan.
Cape, 456 pp., £10.95, January 1984, 0 224 02010 2
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Bohemia in London 
by Arthur Ransome, introduced by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Oxford, 284 pp., £3.50, January 1984, 0 19 281412 5
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... a writer met an Anglo-Welshman – a native of London, six years his senior – in the same line. They lived for a time in adjacent lodgings. For a week they subsisted on cheese and apples, till Edward, the older man, unexpectedly got a cheque for £25. They had a good meal in a Soho restaurant, crossed the street and sat down to another. Half a bottle of wine could then be had for tenpence. They ...

Green War

Patricia Craig

19 February 1987
Poetry in the Wars 
by Edna Longley.
Bloodaxe, 264 pp., £12.95, November 1986, 0 906427 74 6
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We Irish: The Selected Essays of Denis Donoghue 
Harvester, 275 pp., £25, November 1986, 0 7108 1011 3Show More
The Battle of The Books 
by W.J. McCormack.
Lilliput, 94 pp., £3.95, October 1986, 0 946640 13 0
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The Twilight of Ascendancy 
by Mark Bence-Jones.
Constable, 327 pp., £14.95, January 1987, 0 09 465490 5
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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl 
edited by John Quinn.
Methuen, 144 pp., £8.95, November 1986, 0 413 14350 3
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... Poetry in the Wars is notable for its alertness and assiduity. Edna Longley is a formidable critic, and never better than when she’s proposing a revaluation of someone wrongly discounted, like EdwardThomas. The first two essays in this book deal with Thomas, one relating him to Frost, the other to the English tradition – a sturdier strain of poetry than either the Georgian mode prevalent at ...

It is still mañana

Matthew Bevis: Robert Frost’s Letters

19 February 2015
The Letters of Robert Frost, Vol. 1: 1886-1920 
edited by Donald Sheehy, Mark Richardson and Robert Faggen.
Harvard, 811 pp., £33.95, March 2014, 978 0 674 05760 9
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... late twenties, writing poetry late into the night. ‘It all started in Derry, the whole thing,’ he said. In 1912 Frost moved his family to England and met many writers, including Yeats, Pound and EdwardThomas, who would become his closest friend. Before returning to America in 1915, he wrote home with some news: ‘To be perfectly frank with you I am one of the most notable craftsmen of my time ...

How the sanity of poets can be edited away

Arnold Rattenbury: The Sanity of Ivor Gurney

14 October 1999
‘Severn and Somme’ and ‘War’s Embers’ 
by Ivor Gurney, edited by R.K.R. Thornton.
Carcanet, 152 pp., £7.95, September 1997, 1 85754 348 3
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80 Poems or So 
by Ivor Gurney, edited by George Walter and R.K.R. Thornton.
Carcanet, 148 pp., £9.95, January 1997, 1 85754 344 0
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... fashionable, less thesis-driven anthology, Lads, republished in 1998. In Taylor’s collection, so often are the poems bad, unaware (Ronald-like?) or puny that the best among them – Gurney’s, EdwardThomas’s, Owen’s – rise from the shared world of trench-mud with astonishing freshness. And Gurney, at least, would have approved Taylor’s chosen prelude, a poem by that patron of all things ...

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