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Edward Thomas (1878 – 1917)

Edward Thomas Sergent

Edward Thomas was known during his lifetime as a critic, essayist and writer of books about the countryside. Born in London, his happiest days as a youth were spent either wandering over the commons of South London or with relatives in the countryside near Swindon. Wiltshire was to remain his favourite county. 

As a schoolboy, Thomas was encouraged to write by James Ashcroft Noble, who had recognised the boy’s talent and was himself a distinguished man of letters and a neighbour. At Noble’s home, Thomas met and fell in love with Helen Noble, whom he subsequently married while still an undergraduate at Oxford University. After gaining a second-class degree in History, he decided to pursue a career as a writer, having been encouraged by the publication of some nature essays and especially his first book, The Woodland Life.

Edward Thomas Family ManThat decision, opposed by his father, led to years of poorly paid prose writing, both books and journalism. Life was a struggle for Helen, the three children and himself. Undoubtedly, this contributed to sporadic depressive illness. Nevertheless, his prose work established him amongst the foremost critics of the day. 

He was moving towards the writing of poetry when, in 1913, he met and became close friends with the American poet Robert Frost, who further encouraged him to write verse, which he commenced in December 1914. Into the next two years, he crammed all his verse writing. Before he saw his poetry in print under his own name, he was killed at the Battle of Arras on Easter Monday 1917. Since then, Thomas’s reputation as a poet has increased greatly and, perhaps as important, his posthumous influence on the development of English verse has been crucial. Poets as diverse as WH Auden, Philip Larkin and Derek Walcott have acknowledged their debt to him. 


Chronological List of Significant Works

The Woodland Life, 1897
Horae Solitaire, 1902
Oxford, 1903
Rose Acre Papers, 1904
Beautiful Wales, 1905
The Heart of England, 1906
Richard Jefferies: His Life and Work, 1909
The South Country, 1909
Windsor Castle, 1910
Rest and Unrest, 1910
Feminine Influence on the Poets, 1910
Light and Twilight, 1911
Maurice Maeterlinck, 1911
The Tenth Muse, 1911
Celtic Stories, 1911
The Isle of Wight, 1911
Lafcadio Hearn, 1912
Norse Tales, 1912
Algernon Charles Swinburne: A Critical Study, 1912
George Borrow: The Man and his Books, 1912
The Country, 1913
The Icknield Way, 1913
The Happy-Go-Lucky Morgans, 1913
Walter Pater: A Critical Study, 1913
In Pursuit of Spring, 1914
Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds, 1915
The Life of The Duke of Marlborough, 1915
Keats, 1916
Six Poems [by “Edward Eastaway”], 1916

Published posthumously:~ 

Poems, 1917
Last Poems, 1918
Collected Poems, 1920
Cloud Castle and other Papers, 1922
The Last Sheaf: Essays by Edward Thomas, 1928
The Childhood of Edward Thomas, 1938
The Friend of the Blackbird, 1938
A Literary Pilgrim in England, 1917

Edward Thomas: Towards a Complete Checklist of his Published Writings 
Compiled by Jeff Cooper. First published by White Sheep Press as a book in 2004. Revised edition, 2017, published here as a downloadable .doc document or PDF document.

If anyone finds a publication not listed here, please contact Jeff Cooper with its details. .