“Comrades in Letters” – Edward Thomas and Gordon Bottomley
Gordon Bottomley and Edward Thomas were close friends for many years, from the late 1890s until Thomas’s death. The fact that they lived about three hundred miles apart, Bottomley in the Lake District and Thomas in the South, meant that they only met at long intervals, and that their friendship was conducted chiefly by correspondence.
Thomas regarded his rare visits to Bottomley and Emily, his wife, among the high moments of his life.
We are beneficiaries in that the many letters of Thomas to Bottomley have survived. Those from Bottomley to Thomas are thought to have perished in the great bonfire that Thomas lit before enlisting. Much of what survives was edited by Professor R. George Thomas and published by OUP in 1968.
Now, William Cooke, author of ‘Edward Thomas, A Critical Biography,’ (Faber 1970) has found twenty-five unpublished letters, which he has set in context in a new book published by the Fellowship. Full of information, the volume charts the two men’s lives and worries, Bottomley’s as an invalid and Thomas’s as a professional, some would say hack, writer.
At over 270 pages long and full of information, this is a worthy and welcome addition to what we know of the two men.
Here is an excerpt from the introduction to the book, written by the author:
“Bottomley carefully preserved the bulk of Thomas’s letters and eventually donated them to the Cardiff University College Library. There are 238 letters or postcards in all, dating from 1902 to 1917, and in 1968 Professor R. G. Thomas published 182 of them in Letters from Edward Thomas to Gordon Bottomley. A further fourteen letters were published in the Edward Thomas Fellowship Newsletter 59 (January 2008). It was long thought that only Bottomley’s last letter to Thomas had survived, but 27 such letters were sold by G. F. Sims in the 1960s and are now held in the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library.
These are reproduced here along with a number of Thomas’s letters that relate to them so that for the first time the two-way nature of their correspondence can be read. Both men delighted in their fireside chats whenever they met, and the letters became a substitute for their talks, allowing us a flavour of their conversations, from the forthright expression of Thomas – ‘Good God, what a bitch Madame Georgette Leblanc Maeterlinck is’ – to the amused geniality of Bottomley: ‘How naughty you are about Madame Wilcox in the current issue of ‘Poetry and Monro’.”
Thomas: A Critical Biography (1970), p. 282.
Thomas by Emily Bottomley.
Ordering and Despatch details
The book is available from the Fellowship at £25.00, but members are able to order copies at £20.00 each – both plus postage and packing which is currently set at £4.00 per copy.
Please send your orders with payment to Barbara Kinnes at Tudor Cottage, Gasden Lane, Witley, Surrey GU8 5RJ, or by email to email@example.com.
Our preferred order process is (i) send an email to Barbara with your order details and (ii) make payment by bank transfer (currently free of charge to the Fellowship following new transaction charges of 40 pence per cheque being imposed by HSBC).
The Fellowship’s bank details are:
Sort Code: 40-08-21
Account Name: The Edward Thomas Fellowship
Account No: 11250205
Reference: [Surname] ‘Comrades’ (for example)
Cheques should be made out to The Edward Thomas Fellowship.
Payment may also be made by PayPal and if required a link can be provided.
Copies are also available for direct purchase from the Edward Thomas Thomas Study Centre at Petersfield Museum, where a small stock is held.