I fret and fret

Adam Phillips

  • BuyEdward Thomas: From Adelstrop to Arras by Jean Moorcroft Wilson
    Bloomsbury, 480 pp, £25.00, May 2015, ISBN 978 1 4081 8713 5

Edward Thomas 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 age’, Jean Moorcroft Wilson writes, Thomas ‘felt cursed by a self-consciousness he believed the chief cause of his later problems and depression’. It made him at once shy and withdrawn but also equivocal in his writing, careful to qualify what he said, and wary of self-assertion. A schoolfriend remembered him as ‘exceptionally reserved and quiet’, but he was curious about things, interested in reading and in nature – ‘I like birds more than books,’ he wrote in poor Latin on the flyleaf of one of his algebra books. That he became a writer seems unsurprising.

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