|Born||Dylan Marlais Thomas|
27 October 1914
Swansea, Wales, United Kingdom
|Died||9 November 1953 (aged 39)|
Greenwich Village, New York City, United States
|Resting place||Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, Wales|
|Occupation||Poet and writer|
|Children||3, including Aeronwy Bryn Thomas|
Dylan Marlais Thomas (27 October 1914 – 9 November 1953) was a Welsh poet and writer whose works include the poems "Do not go gentle into that good night" and "And death shall have no dominion", as well as the "play for voices" Under Milk Wood. He also wrote stories and radio broadcasts such as A Child's Christmas in Wales and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog. He became widely popular in his lifetime and remained so after his death at the age of 39 in New York City. By then, he had acquired a reputation, which he had encouraged, as a "roistering, drunken and doomed poet".
Thomas was born in Swansea, Wales, in 1914. In 1931, when he was 16, Thomas, an undistinguished pupil, left school to become a reporter for the South Wales Daily Post. Many of his works appeared in print while he was still a teenager. In 1934, the publication of "Light breaks where no sun shines" caught the attention of the literary world. While living in London, Thomas met Caitlin Macnamara. They married in 1937 and had three children: Llewelyn, Aeronwy, and Colm.
He came to be appreciated as a popular poet during his lifetime, though he found earning a living as a writer difficult. He began augmenting his income with reading tours and radio broadcasts. His radio recordings for the BBC during the late 1940s brought him to the public's attention, and he was frequently featured by the BBC as an accessible voice of the literary scene.
Thomas first travelled to the United States in the 1950s. His readings there brought him a degree of fame, while his erratic behaviour and drinking worsened. His time in the United States cemented his legend, and he went on to record to vinyl such works as A Child's Christmas in Wales. During his fourth trip to New York in 1953, Thomas became gravely ill and fell into a coma. He died on 9 November 1953 and his body was returned to Wales. On 25 November 1953, he was interred at St Martin's churchyard in Laugharne, Carmarthenshire.
Although Thomas wrote exclusively in the English language, he has been acknowledged as one of the most important Welsh poets of the 20th century. He is noted for his original, rhythmic, and ingenious use of words and imagery. His position as one of the great modern poets has been much discussed, and he remains popular with the public.
Dylan Thomas was born on 27 October 1914 in Swansea the son of Florence Hannah (née Williams; 1882–1958), a seamstress, and David John 'Jack' Thomas (1876–1952), a teacher. His father had a first-class honours degree in English from University College, Aberystwyth, and ambitions to rise above his position teaching English literature at the local grammar school. Thomas had one sibling, Nancy Marles (1906–1953), who was eight years his senior.
At the 1921 census, Nancy and Dylan are noted as speaking both Welsh and English. Their parents were also bilingual in English and Welsh, and Jack Thomas taught Welsh at evening classes. One of their Swansea relations has recalled that, at home, "Both Auntie Florrie and Uncle Jack always spoke Welsh." There are three accounts from the 1940s of Dylan singing Welsh hymns and songs, and of speaking a little Welsh.
Thomas's father chose the name Dylan, which could be translated as "son of the sea" after Dylan ail Don, a character in The Mabinogion. His middle name, Marlais, was given in honour of his great-uncle, William Thomas, a Unitarian minister and poet whose bardic name was Gwilym Marles. Dylan, pronounced ˈ [ˈdəlan] (Dull-an) in Welsh, caused his mother to worry that he might be teased as the "dull one". When he broadcast on Welsh BBC early in his career, he was introduced using this pronunciation. Thomas favoured the Anglicised pronunciation and gave instructions that it should be Dillan //.
The red-brick semi-detached house at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive (in the respectable area of the Uplands), in which Thomas was born and lived until he was 23, had been bought by his parents a few months before his birth.
Thomas has written a number of accounts of his childhood growing up in Swansea, and there are also accounts available by those who knew him as a young child. Thomas wrote several poems about his childhood and early teenage years, including "Once it was the colour of saying" and "The hunchback in the park", as well as short stories such as The Fight and A Child's Christmas in Wales.
Thomas' four grandparents played no part in his childhood. For the first ten years or so of his life, Thomas' Swansea aunts and uncles helped with his upbringing. These were his mother's three siblings, Polly and Bob, who lived in the St Thomas district of Swansea and Theodosia, and her husband, the Rev. David Rees, in Newton, Swansea, where parishioners recall Thomas sometimes staying for a month or so at a time. All four aunts and uncles spoke Welsh and English.
Thomas' childhood also featured regular summer trips to the Llansteffan peninsula, a Welsh-speaking part of Carmarthenshire. In the land between Llangain and Llansteffan, his mother's family, the Williamses and their close relatives, worked a dozen farms with over a thousand acres between them. The memory of Fernhill, a dilapidated 15-acre farm rented by his maternal aunt, Ann Jones, and her husband, Jim Jones, is evoked in the 1945 lyrical poem "Fern Hill", but is portrayed more accurately in his short story, The Peaches.[nb 1] Thomas also spent part of his summer holidays with Jim's sister, Rachel Jones, at neighbouring Pentrewyman farm, where he spent his time riding Prince the cart horse, chasing pheasants and fishing for trout.
All these relatives were bi-lingual, and many worshipped at Smyrna chapel in Llangain where the services were always in Welsh, including Sunday School which Thomas sometimes attended. There is also an account of the young Thomas being taught how to swear in Welsh. His schoolboy friends recalled that "It was all Welsh—and the children played in Welsh...he couldn't speak English when he stopped at Fernhill...in all his surroundings, everybody else spoke Welsh..." At the 1921 census, 95% of residents in the two parishes around Fernhill were Welsh speakers. Across the whole peninsula, 13%—more than 200 people—spoke only Welsh.
A few fields south of Fernhill lay Blaencwm, a pair of stone cottages to which his mother's Swansea siblings had retired, and with whom the young Thomas and his sister, Nancy, would sometimes stay. A couple of miles down the road from Blaencwm is the village of Llansteffan, where Thomas used to holiday at Rose Cottage with another Welsh-speaking aunt, Anne Williams, his mother's half-sister who had married into local gentry. Anne’s daughter, Doris, married a dentist, Randy Fullylove. The young Dylan also holidayed with them in Abergavenny, where Fulleylove had his practice.
Thomas' paternal grandparents, Anne and Evan Thomas, lived at The Poplars in Johnstown, just outside Carmarthen. Anne was the daughter of William Lewis, a gardener in the town. She had been born and brought up in Llangadog, as had her father, who is thought to be "Grandpa" in Thomas's short story A Visit to Grandpa's, in which Grandpa expresses his determination to be buried not in Llansteffan but in Llangadog.
Evan worked on the railways and was known as Thomas the Guard. His family had originated in another part of Welsh-speaking Carmarthenshire, in the farms that lay around the villages of Brechfa, Abergorlech, Gwernogle and Llanybydder, and which the young Thomas occasionally visited with his father. His father's side of the family also provided the young Thomas with another kind of experience; many lived in the towns of the South Wales industrial belt, including Port Talbot, Pontarddulais and Cross Hands.
Thomas had bronchitis and asthma in childhood and struggled with these throughout his life. He was indulged by his mother, Florence, and enjoyed being mollycoddled, a trait he carried into adulthood, becoming skilled in gaining attention and sympathy. But Florence would have known that child deaths had been a recurring event in the family's history, and it's said that she herself had lost a child soon after her marriage. But if Thomas was protected and spoilt at home, the real spoilers were his many aunts and older cousins, those in both Swansea and the Llansteffan countryside. Some of them played an important part in both his upbringing and his later life, as Thomas's wife, Caitlin, has observed: "He couldn't stand their company for more than five minutes... Yet Dylan couldn't break away from them, either. They were the background from which he had sprung, and he needed that background all his life, like a tree needs roots.".
Thomas's formal education began at Mrs Hole's dame school, a private school on Mirador Crescent, a few streets away from his home. He described his experience there in Reminiscences of Childhood:
Never was there such a dame school as ours, so firm and kind and smelling of galoshes, with the sweet and fumbled music of the piano lessons drifting down from upstairs to the lonely schoolroom, where only the sometimes tearful wicked sat over undone sums, or to repent a little crime – the pulling of a girl's hair during geography, the sly shin kick under the table during English literature.
Alongside dame school, Thomas also took private lessons from Gwen James, an elocution teacher who had studied at drama school in London, winning several major prizes. She also taught "Dramatic Art" and "Voice Production", and would often help cast members of the Swansea Little Theatre (see below) with the parts they were playing. Thomas's parents' storytelling and dramatic talents, as well as their theatre-going interests, could also have contributed to the young Thomas's interest in performance.
In October 1925, Thomas enrolled at Swansea Grammar School for boys, in Mount Pleasant, where his father taught English. There are several accounts by his teachers and fellow pupils of Thomas’ time at grammar school.  He was an undistinguished pupil who shied away from school, preferring reading and drama activities. In his first year one of his poems was published in the school's magazine, and before he left he became its editor. Thomas' various contributions to the school magazine can be found here:
During his final school years he began writing poetry in notebooks; the first poem, dated 27 April (1930), is entitled "Osiris, come to Isis". In June 1928, Thomas won the school's mile race, held at St. Helen's Ground; he carried a newspaper photograph of his victory with him until his death.
In 1931, when he was 16, Thomas left school to become a reporter for the South Wales Daily Post, where he remained for some 18 months. After leaving the newspaper, Thomas continued to work as a freelance journalist for several years, during which time he remained at Cwmdonkin Drive and continued to add to his notebooks, amassing 200 poems in four books between 1930 and 1934. Of the 90 poems he published, half were written during these years.
The stage was also an important part of Thomas's life from 1929 to 1934, as an actor, writer, producer and set painter. He took part in productions at Swansea Grammar School, and with the YMCA Junior Players and the Little Theatre, which was based in the Mumbles. It was also a touring company that took part in drama competitions and festivals around South Wales. Between October 1933 and March 1934, for example, Thomas and his fellow actors took part in five productions at the Mumbles theatre, as well as nine touring performances. Thomas continued with acting and production throughout his life, including his time in Laugharne, South Leigh and London (in the theatre and on radio), as well as taking part in nine stage readings of Under Milk Wood. The Shakespearian actor, John Laurie, who had worked with Thomas on both the stage and radio thought that Thomas would "have loved to have been an actor" and, had he chosen to do so, would have been "Our first real poet-dramatist since Shakespeare."
Painting the sets at the Little Theatre was just one aspect of the young Thomas's interest in art. His own drawings and paintings hung in his bedroom in Cwmdonkin Drive, and his early letters reveal a broader interest in art and art theory. Thomas saw writing a poem as an act of construction "as a sculptor works at stone," later advising a student "to treat words as a craftsman does his wood or stone...hew, carve, mould, coil, polish and plane them..." Throughout his life, his friends included artists, both in Swansea and in London, as well as in America.
In his free time, Thomas visited the cinema in Uplands, took walks along Swansea Bay, and frequented Swansea's pubs, especially the Antelope and the Mermaid Hotels in Mumbles. In the Kardomah Café, close to the newspaper office in Castle Street, he met his creative contemporaries, including his friend the poet Vernon Watkins and the musician and composer, Daniel Jones with whom, as teenagers, Thomas had helped to set up the "Warmley Broadcasting Corporation". This group of writers, musicians and artists became known as "The Kardomah Gang". This was also the period of his friendship with Bert Trick, a local shopkeeper, left-wing political activist and would-be poet, and with the Rev. Leon Atkin, a Swansea minister, human rights activist and local politician.
In 1933, Thomas visited London for probably the first time.[nb 2]
Thomas was a teenager when many of the poems for which he became famous were published: "And death shall have no dominion", "Before I Knocked" and "The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower". "And death shall have no dominion" appeared in the New English Weekly in May 1933. When "Light breaks where no sun shines" appeared in The Listener in 1934, it caught the attention of three senior figures in literary London, T. S. Eliot, Geoffrey Grigson and Stephen Spender. They contacted Thomas and his first poetry volume, 18 Poems, was published in December 1934. 18 Poems was noted for its visionary qualities which led to critic Desmond Hawkins writing that the work was "the sort of bomb that bursts no more than once in three years". The volume was critically acclaimed and won a contest run by the Sunday Referee, netting him new admirers from the London poetry world, including Edith Sitwell and Edwin Muir. The anthology was published by Fortune Press, in part a vanity publisher that did not pay its writers and expected them to buy a certain number of copies themselves. A similar arrangement was used by other new authors including Philip Larkin.
In May 1934, Thomas made his first visit to Laugharne, "the strangest town in Wales", as he described it in an extended letter to Pamela Hansford Johnson, in which he also writes about the town's estuarine bleakness, and the dismal lives of the women cockle pickers working the shore around him.
The following year, in September 1935, Thomas met Vernon Watkins, thus beginning a lifelong friendship. Thomas introduced Watkins, working at Lloyds Bank at the time, to his friends, now known as The Kardomah Gang. In those days, Thomas used to frequent the cinema on Mondays with Tom Warner who, like Watkins, had recently suffered a nervous breakdown. After these trips, Warner would bring Thomas back for supper with his aunt. On one occasion, when she served him a boiled egg, she had to cut its top off for him, as Thomas did not know how to do this. This was because his mother had done it for him all his life, an example of her coddling him. Years later, his wife Caitlin would still have to prepare his eggs for him.
In December 1935, Thomas contributed the poem "The Hand That Signed the Paper" to Issue 18 of the bi-monthly New Verse. In 1936, his next collection Twenty-five Poems, published by J. M. Dent, also received much critical praise. Two years later, in 1938, Thomas won the Oscar Blumenthal Prize for Poetry; it was also the year in which New Directions offered to be his publisher in the United States. In all, he wrote half his poems while living at Cwmdonkin Drive before moving to London. It was the time that Thomas's reputation for heavy drinking developed.
By the late 1930s, Thomas was embraced as the "poetic herald" for a group of English poets, the New Apocalyptics. Thomas refused to align himself with them and declined to sign their manifesto. He later stated that he believed they were "intellectual muckpots leaning on a theory". Despite this, many of the group, including Henry Treece, modelled their work on Thomas's.
During the politically charged atmosphere of the 1930s, Thomas's sympathies were very much with the radical left, to the point of holding close links with the communists, as well as decidedly pacifist and anti-fascist. He was a supporter of the left-wing No More War Movement and boasted about participating in demonstrations against the British Union of Fascists. Bert Trick has provided an extensive account of an Oswald Mosley rally in the Plaza cinema in Swansea in July 1933 that he and Thomas attended.
In early 1936, Thomas met Caitlin Macnamara (1913–1994), a 22-year-old dancer of Irish and French Quaker descent. She had run away from home, intent on making a career in dance, and aged 18 joined the chorus line at the London Palladium. Introduced by Augustus John, Caitlin's lover, they met in The Wheatsheaf pub on Rathbone Place in London's West End. Laying his head in her lap, a drunken Thomas proposed. Thomas liked to comment that he and Caitlin were in bed together ten minutes after they first met. Although Caitlin initially continued her relationship with John, she and Thomas began a correspondence, and in the second half of 1936 were courting. They married at the register office in Penzance, Cornwall, on 11 July 1937.
In May 1938, they moved to Wales, renting a cottage in the village of Laugharne, Carmarthenshire. They lived there intermittently for just under two years until July 1941, and did not return to live in Laugharne until 1949. Their first child, Llewelyn Edouard, was born on 30 January 1939.
In 1939, a collection of 16 poems and seven of the 20 short stories published by Thomas in magazines since 1934, appeared as The Map of Love. Ten stories in his next book, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog (1940), were based less on lavish fantasy than those in The Map of Love and more on real-life romances featuring himself in Wales. Sales of both books were poor, resulting in Thomas living on meagre fees from writing and reviewing. At this time he borrowed heavily from friends and acquaintances. Hounded by creditors, Thomas and his family left Laugharne in July 1940 and moved to the home of critic John Davenport in Marshfield near Chippenham in Gloucestershire.[nb 3] There Thomas collaborated with Davenport on the satire The Death of the King's Canary, though due to fears of libel the work was not published until 1976.
At the outset of the Second World War, Thomas was worried about conscription, and referred to his ailment as "an unreliable lung". Coughing sometimes confined him to bed, and he had a history of bringing up blood and mucus. After initially seeking employment in a reserved occupation, he managed to be classified Grade III, which meant that he would be among the last to be called up for service.[nb 4] Saddened to see his friends going on active service, he continued drinking and struggled to support his family. He wrote begging letters to random literary figures asking for support, a plan he hoped would provide a long-term regular income. Thomas supplemented his income by writing scripts for the BBC, which not only gave him additional earnings but also provided evidence that he was engaged in essential war work.
In February 1941, Swansea was bombed by the Luftwaffe in a "three nights' blitz". Castle Street was one of many streets that suffered badly; rows of shops, including the Kardomah Café, were destroyed. Thomas walked through the bombed-out shell of the town centre with his friend Bert Trick. Upset at the sight, he concluded: "Our Swansea is dead". Thomas later wrote a feature programme for the radio, Return Journey, which described the café as being "razed to the snow". The programme, produced by Philip Burton, was first broadcast on 15 June 1947. The Kardomah Café reopened on Portland Street after the war.
In five film projects, between 1942 and 1945, the Ministry of Information (MOI) commissioned Thomas to script a series of documentaries about both urban planning and wartime patriotism, all in partnership with director John Eldridge: Wales: Green Mountain, Black Mountain, New Towns for Old, Fuel for Battle, Our Country and A City Reborn.
In May 1941, Thomas and Caitlin left their son with his grandmother at Blashford and moved to London. Thomas hoped to find employment in the film industry and wrote to the director of the films division of the Ministry of Information. After being rebuffed, he found work with Strand Films, providing him with his first regular income since the South Wales Daily Post. Strand produced films for the MOI; Thomas scripted at least five films in 1942, This Is Colour (a history of the British dyeing industry) and New Towns For Old (on post-war reconstruction). These Are The Men (1943) was a more ambitious piece in which Thomas's verse accompanies Leni Riefenstahl's footage of an early Nuremberg Rally.[nb 5] Conquest of a Germ (1944) explored the use of early antibiotics in the fight against pneumonia and tuberculosis. Our Country (1945) was a romantic tour of Britain set to Thomas's poetry.
In early 1943, Thomas began a relationship with Pamela Glendower; one of several affairs he had during his marriage. The affairs either ran out of steam or were halted after Caitlin discovered his infidelity. In March 1943, Caitlin gave birth to a daughter, Aeronwy, in London. They lived in a run-down studio in Chelsea, made up of a single large room with a curtain to separate the kitchen.
The Thomas family also made several escapes back to Wales. Between 1941 and 1943, they lived intermittently in Plas Gelli, Talsarn, in Cardiganshire. Plas Gelli sits close by the River Aeron, after whom Aeronwy is thought to have been named. Some of Thomas's letters from Gelli can be found in his Collected Letters. The Thomases shared the mansion with his childhood friends from Swansea, Vera and Evelyn Phillips. Vera's friendship with the Thomases in nearby New Quay is portrayed in the 2008 film, The Edge of Love.[nb 6]
In July 1944, with the threat in London of German flying bombs, Thomas moved to the family cottage at Blaencwm near Llangain, Carmarthenshire, where he resumed writing poetry, completing "Holy Spring" and "Vision and Prayer".
In September that year, the Thomas family moved to New Quay in Cardiganshire (Ceredigion), where they rented Majoda, a wood and asbestos bungalow on the cliffs overlooking Cardigan Bay. It was there that Thomas wrote the radio piece Quite Early One Morning, a sketch for his later work, Under Milk Wood. Of the poetry written at this time, of note is "Fern Hill", believed to have been started while living in New Quay, but completed at Blaencwm in mid-1945.[nb 7] Thomas' nine months in New Quay, said first biographer, Constantine FitzGibbon, were "a second flowering, a period of fertility that recalls the earliest days…[with a] great outpouring of poems", as well as a good deal of other material. His second biographer, Paul Ferris, agreed: "On the grounds of output, the bungalow deserves a plaque of its own." Thomas' third biographer, George Tremlett, concurred, describing the time in New Quay as "one of the most creative periods of Thomas's life." Professor Walford Davies, who co-edited the 1995 definitive edition of the play, has noted that New Quay "was crucial in supplementing the gallery of characters Thomas had to hand for writing Under Milk Wood."
Although Thomas had previously written for the BBC, it was a minor and intermittent source of income. In 1943, he wrote and recorded a 15-minute talk titled "Reminiscences of Childhood" for the Welsh BBC. In December 1944, he recorded Quite Early One Morning (produced by Aneirin Talfan Davies, again for the Welsh BBC) but when Davies offered it for national broadcast BBC London turned it down. On 31 August 1945, the BBC Home Service broadcast Quite Early One Morning and, in the three years beginning in October 1945, Thomas made over a hundred broadcasts for the corporation. Thomas was employed not only for his poetry readings, but for discussions and critiques.
In the second half of 1945, Thomas began reading for the BBC Radio programme, Book of Verse, broadcast weekly to the Far East. This provided Thomas with a regular income and brought him into contact with Louis MacNeice, a congenial drinking companion whose advice Thomas cherished. On 29 September 1946, the BBC began transmitting the Third Programme, a high-culture network which provided opportunities for Thomas. He appeared in the play Comus for the Third Programme, the day after the network launched, and his rich, sonorous voice led to character parts, including the lead in Aeschylus's Agamemnon and Satan in an adaptation of Paradise Lost. Thomas remained a popular guest on radio talk shows for the BBC, who regarded him as "useful should a younger generation poet be needed". He had an uneasy relationship with BBC management and a staff job was never an option, with drinking cited as the problem. Despite this, Thomas became a familiar radio voice and within Britain was "in every sense a celebrity".
By late September 1945, the Thomases had left Wales and were living with various friends in London. In December, they moved to Oxford to live in a summerhouse on the banks of the Cherwell. It belonged to the historian, A.J.P. Taylor. His wife, Margaret, would prove to be Thomas's most committed patron.
The publication of Deaths and Entrances in February 1946 was a major turning point for Thomas. Poet and critic Walter J. Turner commented in The Spectator, "This book alone, in my opinion, ranks him as a major poet".
The following year, in April 1947, the Thomases travelled to Italy, after Thomas had been awarded a Society of Authors scholarship. They stayed first in villas near Rapallo and then Florence, before moving to a hotel in Rio Marina on the island of Elba. On their return, Thomas and family moved, in September 1947, into the Manor House in South Leigh, just west of Oxford, found for him by Margaret Taylor. He continued with his work for the BBC, completed a number of film scripts and worked further on his ideas for Under Milk Wood, including a discussion in late 1947 of The Village of the Mad (as the play was then called) with the BBC producer Philip Burton. He later recalled that, during the meeting, Thomas had discussed his ideas for having a blind narrator, an organist who played for a dog and two lovers who wrote to each other every day but never met.
In March 1949 Thomas travelled to Prague. He had been invited by the Czech government to attend the inauguration of the Czechoslovak Writers' Union. Jiřina Hauková, who had previously published translations of some of Thomas's poems, was his guide and interpreter.[nb 8] In her memoir, Hauková recalls that at a party in Prague, Thomas "narrated the first version of his radio play Under Milk Wood." She describes how he outlined the plot about a town that was declared insane, mentioning the organist who played for sheep and goats and the baker with two wives.
A month later, in May 1949, Thomas and his family moved to his final home, the Boat House at Laugharne, purchased for him at a cost of £2,500 in April 1949 by Margaret Taylor. Thomas acquired a garage a hundred yards from the house on a cliff ledge which he turned into his writing shed, and where he wrote several of his most acclaimed poems. He also rented "Pelican House" opposite his regular drinking den, Brown's Hotel, for his parents who lived there from 1949 until 1953.
Caitlin gave birth to their third child, a boy named Colm Garan Hart, on 25 July 1949.
In October, the New Zealand poet, Allen Curnow, came to visit Thomas at the Boat House, who took him to his writing shed and "fished out a draft to show me of the unfinished Under Milk Wood" that was, says Curnow, titled The Town That Was Mad. This is the first known sighting of the script of the play that was to become Under Milk Wood.
American poet John Brinnin invited Thomas to New York, where in February 1950 they embarked on a lucrative three-month tour of arts centres and campuses. The tour, which began in front of an audience of a thousand at the Kaufmann Auditorium of the Poetry Centre in New York, took in about 40 venues.[nb 9] During the tour, Thomas was invited to many parties and functions and on several occasions became drunk – going out of his way to shock people – and was a difficult guest. Thomas drank before some of his readings, though it is argued he may have pretended to be more affected by it than he actually was. The writer Elizabeth Hardwick recalled how intoxicating a performer he was and how the tension would build before a performance: "Would he arrive only to break down on the stage? Would some dismaying scene take place at the faculty party? Would he be offensive, violent, obscene?" Caitlin said in her memoir, "Nobody ever needed encouragement less, and he was drowned in it."
On returning to Britain, Thomas began work on two further poems, "In the white giant's thigh", which he read on the Third Programme in September 1950, and the incomplete "In country heaven". In October, Thomas sent a draft of the first 39 pages of 'The Town That Was Mad' to the BBC. The task of seeing this work through to production as Under Milk Wood was assigned to the BBC's Douglas Cleverdon, who had been responsible for casting Thomas in 'Paradise Lost'.
Despite Cleverdon's urgings, the script slipped from Thomas's priorities and in January 1951 he went to Iran to work on a film for the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, an assignment which Callard has speculated was undertaken on behalf of British intelligence agencies. Thomas toured the country with the film crew, and his letters home vividly express his shock and anger with the poverty he saw around him. He also gave a reading at the British Council and talked with a number of Iranian intellectuals, including Ebrahim Golestan whose account of his meeting with Thomas has been translated and published. The film was never made, with Thomas returning to Wales in February, though his time in Iran allowed him to provide a few minutes of material for a BBC documentary, 'Persian Oil'.
Later that year, Thomas published two poems, which have been described as "unusually blunt." They were an ode, in the form of a villanelle, to his dying father, Do not go gentle into that good night, and the ribald Lament.
Although he had a range of wealthy patrons, including Margaret Taylor, Princess Marguerite Caetani and Marged Howard-Stepney, Thomas was still in financial difficulty, and he wrote several begging letters to notable literary figures, including T. S. Eliot. Taylor was not keen on Thomas taking another trip to the United States, and thought that if he had a permanent address in London he would be able to gain steady work there. She bought a property, 54 Delancey Street, in Camden Town, and in late 1951 Thomas and Caitlin lived in the basement flat. Thomas would describe the flat as his "London house of horror" and did not return there after his 1952 tour of America.
Thomas undertook a second tour of the United States in 1952, this time with Caitlin – after she had discovered he had been unfaithful on his earlier trip. They drank heavily, and Thomas began to suffer with gout and lung problems. The second tour was the most intensive of the four, taking in 46 engagements. The trip also resulted in Thomas recording his first poetry to vinyl, which Caedmon Records released in America later that year. One of his works recorded during this time, A Child's Christmas in Wales, became his most popular prose work in America. The original 1952 recording of A Child's Christmas in Wales was a 2008 selection for the United States National Recording Registry, stating that it is "credited with launching the audiobook industry in the United States".
A shortened version of the first half of The Town That Was Mad was published in Botteghe Oscure in May 1952, with the title Llareggub. A Piece for Radio Perhaps. Thomas had been in Laugharne for almost three years, but his half-play had made little progress since his time living in South Leigh. By the summer of 1952, the half-play's title had been changed to Under Milk Wood because John Brinnin thought the title Llareggub would not attract American audiences. On November 6, 1952, Thomas wrote to the editor of Botteghe Oscure to explain why he hadn't been able to "finish the second half of my piece for you." He had failed shamefully, he said, to add to "my lonely half of a looney maybe-play".
On 10 November 1952 Thomas's last collection Collected Poems, 1934–1952, was published by Dent; he was 38. It won the Foyle poetry prize. Reviewing the volume, critic Philip Toynbee declared that "Thomas is the greatest living poet in the English language". Thomas's father died from pneumonia just before Christmas 1952. In the first few months of 1953, his sister died from liver cancer, one of his patrons took an overdose of sleeping pills, three friends died at an early age and Caitlin had an abortion.
In April 1953, Thomas returned alone for a third tour of America. He performed a "work in progress" version of Under Milk Wood, solo, for the first time at Harvard University on 3 May. A week later, the work was performed with a full cast at the Poetry Centre in New York. He met the deadline only after being locked in a room by Brinnin's assistant, Liz Reitell, and he was still editing the script on the afternoon of the performance; its last lines were handed to the actors as they were putting on their makeup.
During this penultimate tour, Thomas met the composer Igor Stravinsky who had become an admirer after having been introduced to his poetry by W. H. Auden. They had discussions about collaborating on a "musical theatrical work" for which Thomas would provide the libretto on the theme of "the rediscovery of love and language in what might be left after the world after the bomb." The shock of Thomas's death later in the year moved Stravinsky to compose his In Memoriam Dylan Thomas for tenor, string quartet and four trombones. The first performance in Los Angeles in 1954 was introduced with a tribute to Thomas from Aldous Huxley.
Thomas spent the last nine or ten days of his third tour in New York mostly in the company of Reitell, with whom he had an affair. During this time, Thomas fractured his arm falling down a flight of stairs when drunk. Reitell's doctor, Milton Feltenstein, put his arm in plaster and treated him for gout and gastritis.
After returning home, Thomas worked on Under Milk Wood in Laugharne. Aeronwy, his daughter, noticed that his health had "visibly deteriorated...I could hear his racking cough. Every morning he had a prolonged coughing attack...The coughing was nothing new but it seemed worse than before." She also noted that the blackouts that Thomas was experiencing were "a constant source of comment" amongst his Laugharne friends.
Thomas sent the original manuscript to Douglas Cleverdon on 15 October 1953. It was copied and returned to Thomas, who lost it in a pub in London and required a duplicate to take to America. Thomas flew to the States on 19 October 1953 for what would be his final tour. He died in New York before the BBC could record Under Milk Wood. Richard Burton starred in the first broadcast in 1954, and was joined by Elizabeth Taylor in a subsequent film. In 1954, the play won the Prix Italia for literary or dramatic programmes.[nb 10]
And death shall have no dominion.
Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.
From "And death shall have no dominion"
Twenty-five Poems (1936)
Thomas left Laugharne on 9 October 1953 on the first leg of his fourth trip to America. He called on his mother, Florence, to say goodbye: "He always felt that he had to get out from this country because of his chest being so bad." Thomas had suffered from chest problems for most of his life, though they began in earnest soon after he moved in May 1949 to the Boat House at Laugharne – the "bronchial heronry", as he called it. Within weeks of moving in, he visited a local doctor, who prescribed medicine for both his chest and throat.
While waiting in London before his flight, Thomas stayed with the comedian Harry Locke and worked on Under Milk Wood. Locke noted that Thomas was having trouble with his chest, "terrible" coughing fits that made him go purple in the face. He was also using an inhaler to help his breathing. There were reports, too, that Thomas was also having blackouts. His visit to the BBC producer Philip Burton, a few days before he left for New York, was interrupted by a blackout. On his last night in London, he had another in the company of his fellow poet Louis MacNeice.
Thomas arrived in New York on 20 October 1953 to undertake further performances of Under Milk Wood, organised by John Brinnin, his American agent and Director of the Poetry Centre. Brinnin did not travel to New York but remained in Boston to write. He handed responsibility to his assistant, Liz Reitell. She met Thomas at Idlewild Airport and was shocked at his appearance. He looked pale, delicate and shaky, not his usual robust self: "He was very ill when he got here." After being taken by Reitell to check in at the Chelsea Hotel, Thomas took the first rehearsal of Under Milk Wood. They then went to the White Horse Tavern in Greenwich Village, before returning to the Chelsea Hotel.
The next day, Reitell invited him to her apartment, but he declined. They went sightseeing, but Thomas felt unwell and retired to his bed for the rest of the afternoon. Reitell gave him half a grain (32.4 milligrams) of phenobarbitone to help him sleep and spent the night at the hotel with him. Two days later, on 23 October, at the third rehearsal, Thomas said he was too ill to take part, but he struggled on, shivering and burning with fever, before collapsing on the stage.
The following day, 24 October, Reitell took Thomas to see her doctor, Milton Feltenstein, who administered cortisone injections and Thomas made it through the first performance that evening, but collapsed immediately afterwards. "This circus out there," he told a friend who had come back-stage, "has taken the life out of me for now." Reitell later said that Feltenstein was "rather a wild doctor who thought injections would cure anything."
At the next performance on 25 October, his fellow actors realised that Thomas was very ill: "He was desperately ill…we didn't think that he would be able to do the last performance because he was so ill…Dylan literally couldn't speak he was so ill…still my greatest memory of it is that he had no voice."
On the evening of 27 October, Thomas attended his 39th birthday party but felt unwell and returned to his hotel after an hour. The next day, he took part in Poetry and the Film, a recorded symposium at Cinema 16.
A turning point came on 2 November. Air pollution in New York had risen significantly and exacerbated chest illnesses such as Thomas had. By the end of the month, over 200 New Yorkers had died from the smog.
On 3 November, Thomas spent most of the day in his room, entertaining various friends. He went out in the evening to keep two drink appointments. After returning to the hotel, he went out again for a drink at 2 am. After drinking at the White Horse, Thomas returned to the Hotel Chelsea, declaring, "I've had eighteen straight whiskies. I think that's the record!" The barman and the owner of the pub who served him later commented that Thomas could not have drunk more than half that amount.
Thomas had an appointment at a clam house in New Jersey with Ruthven Todd on 4 November. When Todd telephoned the Chelsea that morning, Thomas said he was feeling ill and postponed the engagement. Todd thought he sounded "terrible". The poet, Harvey Breit, was another to phone that morning. He thought that Thomas sounded "bad". Thomas's voice, recalled Breit, was "low and hoarse". He had wanted to say: "You sound as though from the tomb", but instead he told Thomas that he sounded like Louis Armstrong.
Later, Thomas went drinking with Reitell at the White Horse and, feeling sick again, returned to the hotel. Feltenstein came to see him three times that day, administering the cortisone secretant ACTH by injection and, on his third visit, half a grain (32.4 milligrams) of morphine sulphate, which affected Thomas's breathing. Reitell became increasingly concerned and telephoned Feltenstein for advice. He suggested she get male assistance, so she called upon the painter Jack Heliker, who arrived before 11 pm. At midnight on 5 November, Thomas's breathing became more difficult and his face turned blue. Reitell phoned Feltenstein who arrived at the hotel at about 1 am, and called for an ambulance.[nb 11] It then took another hour for the ambulance to arrive at St. Vincent's, even though it was only a few blocks from the Chelsea.
Thomas was admitted to the emergency ward at St Vincent's Hospital at 1:58 am. He was comatose, and his medical notes state that "the impression upon admission was acute alcoholic encephalopathy damage to the brain by alcohol, for which the patient was treated without response". Feltenstein then took control of Thomas's care, even though he did not have admitting rights at St. Vincent's. The hospital's senior brain specialist, C.G. Gutierrez-Mahoney, was not called to examine Thomas until the afternoon of 6 November, some thirty-six hours after Thomas's admission.
Caitlin flew to America the following day and was taken to the hospital, by which time a tracheotomy had been performed. Her reported first words were, "Is the bloody man dead yet?" She was allowed to see Thomas only for 40 minutes in the morning but returned in the afternoon and, in a drunken rage, threatened to kill John Brinnin. When she became uncontrollable, she was put in a straitjacket and committed, by Feltenstein, to the River Crest private psychiatric detox clinic on Long Island.
It is now believed that Thomas had been suffering from bronchitis, pneumonia, emphysema and asthma before his admission to St Vincent's. In their 2004 paper, Death by Neglect, D. N. Thomas and former GP Principal Simon Barton disclose that Thomas was found to have pneumonia when he was admitted to hospital in a coma. Doctors took three hours to restore his breathing, using artificial respiration and oxygen. Summarising their findings, they conclude: "The medical notes indicate that, on admission, Dylan's bronchial disease was found to be very extensive, affecting upper, mid and lower lung fields, both left and right." The forensic pathologist, Bernard Knight, who examined the post-mortem report, concurs: "death was clearly due to a severe lung infection with extensive advanced bronchopneumonia...the severity of the chest infection, with greyish consolidated areas of well-established pneumonia, suggests that it had started before admission to hospital."
Thomas died at noon on 9 November, having never recovered from his coma. A nurse, and the poet John Berryman, were present with him at the time of death.
Rumours circulated of a brain haemorrhage, followed by competing reports of a mugging or even that Thomas had drunk himself to death. Later, speculation arose about drugs and diabetes. At the post-mortem, the pathologist found three causes of death – pneumonia, brain swelling and a fatty liver. Despite the poet's heavy drinking, his liver showed no sign of cirrhosis.
The publication of John Brinnin's 1955 biography Dylan Thomas in America cemented Thomas's reputation as a "roistering, drunken and doomed poet"; Brinnin focuses on Thomas's last few years and paints a picture of him as a drunk and a philanderer. Later biographies have criticised Brinnin's view, especially his coverage of Thomas's death. David Thomas in Fatal Neglect: Who Killed Dylan Thomas? claims that Brinnin, along with Reitell and Feltenstein, were culpable. FitzGibbon's 1965 biography ignores Thomas's heavy drinking and skims over his death, giving just two pages in his detailed book to Thomas's demise. Ferris in his 1989 biography includes Thomas's heavy drinking, but is more critical of those around him in his final days and does not draw the conclusion that he drank himself to death. Many[quantify] sources have criticised Feltenstein's role and actions, especially his incorrect diagnosis of delirium tremens and the high dose of morphine he administered. Dr C. G. de Gutierrez-Mahoney, the doctor who treated Thomas while at St. Vincents, concluded that Feltenstein's failure to see that Thomas was gravely ill and have him admitted to hospital sooner "was even more culpable than his use of morphine".
Caitlin Thomas's autobiographies, Caitlin Thomas – Leftover Life to Kill (1957) and My Life with Dylan Thomas: Double Drink Story (1997), describe the effects of alcohol on the poet and on their relationship. "Ours was not only a love story, it was a drink story, because without alcohol it would never had got on its rocking feet", she wrote, and "The bar was our altar." Biographer Andrew Lycett ascribed the decline in Thomas's health to an alcoholic co-dependent relationship with his wife, who deeply resented his extramarital affairs. In contrast, Dylan biographers Andrew Sinclair and George Tremlett express the view that Thomas was not an alcoholic. Tremlett argues that many of Thomas's health issues stemmed from undiagnosed diabetes.
Thomas died intestate, with assets worth £100. His body was brought back to Wales for burial in the village churchyard at Laugharne. Thomas's funeral, which Brinnin did not attend, took place at St Martin's Church in Laugharne on 24 November. Six friends from the village carried Thomas's coffin. Caitlin, without her customary hat, walked behind the coffin, with his childhood friend Daniel Jones at her arm and her mother by her side. The procession to the church was filmed and the wake took place at Brown's Hotel. Thomas's fellow poet and long-time friend Vernon Watkins wrote The Times obituary.
Thomas's widow, Caitlin, died in 1994 and was buried alongside him. Thomas's father, "DJ", died on 16 December 1952 and his mother Florence in August 1958. Thomas's elder son, Llewelyn, died in 2000, his daughter, Aeronwy in 2009, and his younger son, Colm, in 2012.
Thomas's refusal to align with any literary group or movement has made him and his work difficult to categorise. Although influenced by the modern symbolism and surrealism movements he refused to follow such creeds.[need quotation to verify] Instead, critics[which?] view Thomas as part of the modernism and romanticism movements, though attempts to pigeon-hole him within a particular neo-romantic school have been unsuccessful. Elder Olson, in his 1954 critical study of Thomas's poetry, wrote of "... a further characteristic which distinguished Thomas's work from that of other poets. It was unclassifiable." Olson continued that in a postmodern age[clarification needed] that continually attempted to demand that poetry have social reference, none could be found in Thomas's work, and that his work was so obscure that critics could not explicate it.
Thomas's verbal style played against strict verse forms, such as in the villanelle "Do not go gentle into that good night". His images appear carefully ordered in a patterned sequence, and his major theme was the unity of all life, the continuing process of life and death and new life that linked the generations.[need quotation to verify] Thomas saw biology as a magical transformation producing unity out of diversity, and in his poetry sought a poetic ritual to celebrate this unity. He saw men and women locked in cycles of growth, love, procreation, new growth, death, and new life. Therefore, each image engenders its opposite. Thomas derived his closely woven, sometimes self-contradictory images from the Bible, Welsh folklore, preaching, and Sigmund Freud.[date missing][need quotation to verify] Explaining the source of his imagery, Thomas wrote in a letter to Glyn Jones: "My own obscurity is quite an unfashionable one, based, as it is, on a preconceived symbolism derived (I'm afraid all this sounds wooly and pretentious) from the cosmic significance of the human anatomy".
Who once were a bloom of wayside brides in the hawed house
And heard the lewd, wooed field flow to the coming frost,
The scurrying, furred small friars squeal in the dowse
Of day, in the thistle aisles, till the white owl crossed
From "In the white giant's thigh" (1950)
Thomas's early poetry was noted[by whom?] for its verbal density, alliteration, sprung rhythm and internal rhyme, and some critics detected the influence of the English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. This[clarification needed] is attributed[by whom?] to Hopkins, who taught himself Welsh and who used sprung verse, bringing some features of Welsh poetic metre into his work. When Henry Treece wrote to Thomas comparing his style to that of Hopkins, Thomas wrote back denying any such influence. Thomas greatly admired Thomas Hardy, who is regarded[by whom?] as an influence. When Thomas travelled in America, he recited some of Hardy's work in his readings.
Other poets from whom critics believe Thomas drew influence include James Joyce, Arthur Rimbaud and D. H. Lawrence. William York Tindall, in his 1962 study, A Reader's Guide to Dylan Thomas, finds comparison between Thomas's and Joyce's wordplay, while he notes the themes of rebirth and nature are common to the works of Lawrence and Thomas.[nb 12] Although Thomas described himself as the "Rimbaud of Cwmdonkin Drive", he stated that the phrase "Swansea's Rimbaud" was coined by poet Roy Campbell.[nb 13] Critics have explored the origins of Thomas's mythological pasts in his works such as "The Orchards", which Ann Elizabeth Mayer believes reflects the Welsh myths of the Mabinogion.[nb 14] Thomas's poetry is notable for its musicality, most clear in "Fern Hill", "In Country Sleep", "Ballad of the Long-legged Bait" and "In the White Giant's Thigh" from Under Milk Wood.
Thomas once confided that the poems which had most influenced him were Mother Goose rhymes which his parents taught him when he was a child:
I should say I wanted to write poetry in the beginning because I had fallen in love with words. The first poems I knew were nursery rhymes and before I could read them for myself I had come to love the words of them. The words alone. What the words stood for was of a very secondary importance ... I fell in love, that is the only expression I can think of, at once, and am still at the mercy of words, though sometimes now, knowing a little of their behaviour very well, I think I can influence them slightly and have even learned to beat them now and then, which they appear to enjoy. I tumbled for words at once. And, when I began to read the nursery rhymes for myself, and, later, to read other verses and ballads, I knew that I had discovered the most important things, to me, that could be ever.
Thomas became an accomplished writer of prose poetry, with collections such as Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog (1940) and Quite Early One Morning (1954) showing he was capable of writing moving short stories. His first published prose work, After the Fair, appeared in The New English Weekly on 15 March 1934. Jacob Korg believes that one can classify Thomas's fiction work into two main bodies: vigorous fantasies in a poetic style and, after 1939, more straightforward narratives. Korg surmises that Thomas approached his prose writing as an alternate poetic form, which allowed him to produce complex, involuted narratives that do not allow the reader to rest.
Not for the proud man apart
From the raging moon, I write
On these spindrift pages
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art.
Thomas disliked being regarded as a provincial poet and decried any notion of 'Welshness' in his poetry. When he wrote to Stephen Spender in 1952, thanking him for a review of his Collected Poems, he added "Oh, & I forgot. I'm not influenced by Welsh bardic poetry. I can't read Welsh." Despite this his work was rooted in the geography of Wales. Thomas acknowledged that he returned to Wales when he had difficulty writing, and John Ackerman argues that "His inspiration and imagination were rooted in his Welsh background". Caitlin Thomas wrote that he worked "in a fanatically narrow groove, although there was nothing narrow about the depth and understanding of his feelings. The groove of direct hereditary descent in the land of his birth, which he never in thought, and hardly in body, moved out of."
Head of Programmes Wales at the BBC, Aneirin Talfan Davies, who commissioned several of Thomas's early radio talks, believed that the poet's "whole attitude is that of the medieval bards." Kenneth O. Morgan counter-argues that it is a 'difficult enterprise' to find traces of cynghanedd (consonant harmony) or cerdd dafod (tongue-craft) in Thomas's poetry. Instead he believes his work, especially his earlier more autobiographical poems, are rooted in a changing country which echoes the Welshness of the past and the Anglicisation of the new industrial nation: "rural and urban, chapel-going and profane, Welsh and English, Unforgiving and deeply compassionate." Fellow poet and critic Glyn Jones believed that any traces of cynghanedd in Thomas's work were accidental, although he felt Thomas consciously employed one element of Welsh metrics; that of counting syllables per line instead of feet.[nb 15] Constantine Fitzgibbon, who was his first in-depth biographer, wrote "No major English poet has ever been as Welsh as Dylan".
Although Thomas had a deep connection with Wales, he disliked Welsh nationalism. He once wrote, "Land of my fathers, and my fathers can keep it". While often attributed to Thomas himself, this line actually comes from the character Owen Morgan-Vaughan, in the screenplay Thomas wrote for the 1948 British melodrama The Three Weird Sisters. Robert Pocock, a friend from the BBC, recalled "I only once heard Dylan express an opinion on Welsh Nationalism. He used three words. Two of them were Welsh Nationalism." Although not expressed as strongly, Glyn Jones believed that he and Thomas's friendship cooled in the later years as he had not 'rejected enough' of the elements that Thomas disliked – "Welsh nationalism and a sort of hill farm morality". Apologetically, in a letter to Keidrych Rhys, editor of the literary magazine Wales, Thomas's father wrote that he was "afraid Dylan isn't much of a Welshman". Though FitzGibbon asserts that Thomas's negativity towards Welsh nationalism was fostered by his father's hostility towards the Welsh language.
Thomas's work and stature as a poet have been much debated by critics and biographers since his death. Critical studies have been clouded by Thomas's personality and mythology, especially his drunken persona and death in New York. When Seamus Heaney gave an Oxford lecture on the poet he opened by addressing the assembly, "Dylan Thomas is now as much a case history as a chapter in the history of poetry", querying how 'Thomas the Poet' is one of his forgotten attributes. David Holbrook, who has written three books about Thomas, stated in his 1962 publication Llareggub Revisited, "the strangest feature of Dylan Thomas's notoriety—not that he is bogus, but that attitudes to poetry attached themselves to him which not only threaten the prestige, effectiveness and accessibility to English poetry but also destroyed his true voice and, at last, him." The Poetry Archive notes that "Dylan Thomas's detractors accuse him of being drunk on language as well as whiskey, but whilst there's no doubt that the sound of language is central to his style, he was also a disciplined writer who re-drafted obsessively".
Many critics have argued that Thomas's work is too narrow and that he suffers from verbal extravagance. Those that have championed his work have found the criticism baffling. Robert Lowell wrote in 1947, "Nothing could be more wrongheaded than the English disputes about Dylan Thomas's greatness ... He is a dazzling obscure writer who can be enjoyed without understanding." Kenneth Rexroth said, on reading Eighteen Poems, "The reeling excitement of a poetry-intoxicated schoolboy smote the Philistine as hard a blow with one small book as Swinburne had with Poems and Ballads." Philip Larkin in a letter to Kingsley Amis in 1948, wrote that "no one can 'stick words into us like pins'... like he [Thomas] can", but followed that by stating that he "doesn't use his words to any advantage". Amis was far harsher, finding little of merit in his work, and claiming that he was 'frothing at the mouth with piss.' In 1956, the publication of the anthology New Lines featuring works by the British collective The Movement, which included Amis and Larkin amongst its number, set out a vision of modern poetry that was damning towards the poets of the 1940s. Thomas's work in particular was criticised. David Lodge, writing about The Movement in 1981 stated "Dylan Thomas was made to stand for everything they detest, verbal obscurity, metaphysical pretentiousness, and romantic rhapsodizing".
Despite criticism by sections of academia, Thomas's work has been embraced by readers more so than many of his contemporaries, and is one of the few modern poets whose name is recognised by the general public. In 2009, over 18,000 votes were cast in a BBC poll to find the UK's favourite poet; Thomas was placed 10th. Several of his poems have passed into the cultural mainstream, and his work has been used by authors, musicians and film and television writers. The BBC Radio programme, Desert Island Discs, in which guests usually choose their favourite songs, has heard 50 participants select a Dylan Thomas recording. John Goodby states that this popularity with the reading public allows Thomas's work to be classed as vulgar and common. He also cites that despite a brief period during the 1960s when Thomas was considered a cultural icon, that the poet has been marginalized in critical circles due to his exuberance, in both life and work, and his refusal to know his place. Goodby believes that Thomas has been mainly snubbed since the 1970s and has become "... an embarrassment to twentieth-century poetry criticism", his work failing to fit standard narratives and thus being ignored rather than studied. In June 2022, Thomas was the subject of BBC Radio 4's In Our Time.
See also: Cultural depictions of Dylan Thomas
In Swansea's maritime quarter are the Dylan Thomas Theatre, home of the Swansea Little Theatre of which Thomas was once a member, and the former Guildhall built in 1825 and now occupied by the Dylan Thomas Centre, a literature centre, where exhibitions and lectures are held and setting for the annual Dylan Thomas Festival. Outside the centre stands a bronze statue of Thomas, by John Doubleday. Another monument to Thomas stands in Cwmdonkin Park, one of his favourite childhood haunts, close to his birthplace. The memorial is a small rock in an enclosed garden within the park cut by and inscribed by the late sculptor Ronald Cour with the closing lines from Fern Hill.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.
Thomas's home in Laugharne, the Boathouse, is a museum run by Carmarthenshire County Council. His writing shed is also preserved. In 2004, the Dylan Thomas Prize was created in his honour, awarded to the best published writer in English under the age of 30. In 2005, the Dylan Thomas Screenplay Award was established. The prize, administered by the Dylan Thomas Centre, is awarded at the annual Swansea Bay Film Festival. In 1982 a plaque was unveiled in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey. The plaque is also inscribed with the last two lines of "Fern Hill".
In 2014, the Royal Patron of The Dylan Thomas 100 Festival was Charles, Prince of Wales, who in 2013 made a recording of "Fern Hill" for National Poetry Day.
In 2014, to celebrate the centenary of Thomas's birth, the British Council Wales undertook a year-long programme of cultural and educational works. Highlights included a touring replica of Thomas's work shed, Sir Peter Blake's exhibition of illustrations based on Under Milk Wood and a 36-hour marathon of readings, which included Michael Sheen and Sir Ian McKellen performing Thomas's work. The same year, Thomas was among the ten people commemorated on a UK postage stamp issued by the Royal Mail in their "Remarkable Lives" issue.
The actor Dylan Sprouse is named after him. Thomas is mentioned in the song "Dylan Thomas" from Better Oblivion Community Center's 2019 album.
Main article: List of works by Dylan Thomas
Florence was fiercely proud of her son's achievements and was desperately keen to protect her son. This did have its disadvantages. A friend of Dylan's, Tom Warner describes Dylan's first trip to his house, "the first time Dylan came, we noticed that he was just sitting in rather a helpless way with his egg untouched, and by general gestures we realised he wanted someone to take the top off for him-he'd never done it himself". Years later, his wife Caitlin would remove the tops off his eggs and would prepare him sugared bread and milk cut neatly into squares when he was ill, just as mam would have done. Despite her overindulgence, she had a strong bond with her children.
Dylan Thomas, the great lost Welsh poet of his century, was killed not by his heavy drinking but by the mistakes and oversights of his physician, according to new evidence in a biography to be published on Monday.
The book discloses that Thomas was found to be suffering from pneumonia by doctors who examined him when he was admitted in a coma to the New York hospital where he died in November 1953 shortly after his 39th birthday.
The originality of his work makes categorization difficult. In his life he avoided becoming involved with literary groups or movements [...].
Thomas can be seen as an extension into the 20th century of the general movement called Romanticism, particularly in its emphasis on imagination, emotion, intuition, spontaneity, and organic form.
There was a further characteristic which distinguished Thomas's work from that of other poets. It was unclassifiable.
The age was fond of explicating obscure poetry; the poetry of Thomas was so obscure that no one could explicate it.
((cite journal)): Cite journal requires