The Edward Thomas Fellowship exists to promote knowledge and appreciation of his life and work. Here you will find information about the poet, essayist and country writer Edward Thomas (1878 – 1917).
Thomas was born in London where he attended Oxford University. For most of his adult life, Edward Thomas lived by writing prose. He wrote topographical works, biographies, critical studies, one novel, some experimental prose pieces, essays about nature and a focus on english countryside poems and a vast number of book reviews.
These writings are of variable quality, but they are always at least worth reading, and some have been reprinted many times on their intrinsic merits, quite separate from how they might anticipate Thomas’s poetry: The Heart of England, The South Country and A Literary Pilgrim in England are such works.
Edward is widely regarded as a major war poet and his posthumous influence on English poetry has been considerable. Edward Thomas poems were all written during the last few years of his life, before this remarkable flowering of genius was cut short by death in action at the First Battle of Arras. Edward Thomas poems remain as much alive now as when they were written, quietly yet surely capturing the essence of the English countryside which Edward Thomas knew through all his senses. He is the least rhetorical of poets, modestly sharing his experiences with his readers and leading them into the reality behind the words until, for instance, we too can almost hear ‘all the birds of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire’.
Early admirers of Edward Thomas’s words include American poet Robert Frost, Walter de la Mare and Ivor Gurney, and leading contemporary poets such as Ted Hughes, RS Thomas and Jeremy Hooker have acknowledged their debt to him.
The literary scholar FR Leavis singled him out as ‘an original poet of rare quality’ and Andrew Motion, the Poet Laureate from 1999 to 2009, nominated ‘Old Man’ by Edward Thomas as one of his favourite poems ‘because it so brilliantly proves, as do all his poems, that you can speak softly and yet let your voice carry a long way’.
Edward Thomas is one of sixteen world war poets commemorated in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey, by pictorial windows in two parish churches, and by a sarsen boulder memorial on the hillside above Steep in Hampshire.