Edward Thomas (Philip Edward Thomas) Biography
(1878–1917), (Philip Edward Thomas), The Woodland Life, George Borrow: The Man and His Books
British poet, critic, and topographical writer, born in Lambeth, London, educated at Lincoln College, Oxford. His earliest publication of note was The Woodland Life (1897), a peripatetic account of rural locations in the manner of Borrow and Jefferies; his enthusiasm for these writers is clear in the biographical studies George Borrow: The Man and His Books (1912) and Richard Jefferies: His Life and Work (1909). Beautiful Wales (1905), The Heart of England (1906), and The Ickneild Way (1913) are among his numerous subsequent topographical works, which combine contemplative elements with a closely observed sensitivity to natural phenomena. Although Thomas was self-effacing about his prolific work as a literary journalist, he was consistent in supporting Yeats, de la Mare, and Masefield when their reputations were uncertain and was among the first to acclaim the poetry of Ezra Pound. His critical works include Walter Pater (1913), which reveals his distaste for the artificiality of late Victorian writing. The fluent plainness of his own prose anticipates the conversational idiom he later developed as a poet. While recovering from a breakdown in 1911, he planned to extend the creative range of his writing. After long discussions with Robert Frost, with whom he began a close friendship in 1913, he began producing poetry in 1914. In 1915 he enlisted in the army and continued to produce verse until his death at Arras, at which time a collection was being prepared under the pseudonym ‘Edward Eastaway’, the name used for the publication of Six Poems in 1916. Of the numerous editions of his work that have succeeded Poems of 1917, the most definitive is Collected Poems (1978), edited by R. George Thomas. The ‘fidelity to the postures which the voice assumes in the most expressive intimate speech’ which Thomas discerned in Frost's poetry is equally characteristic of his own work's rhythmical restraint and avoidance of poetic rhetoric. His imaginative handling of natural imagery provides vividly realized contexts for his poetry's subtly disquieting evocations of psychological states. The fusion of muted lyricism and elegiac detachment in much of his verse produces a tone of great individuality and poise. F. R. Leavis was one of the first to accord Thomas's work a high critical evaluation in New Bearings in English Poetry (1932). Biographical material includes As It Was (1926) and World without End (1931) by his widow Helen Thomas, and R. George Thomas's Edward Thomas (1985).
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