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Dylan Thomas:

An Inventory of His Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

Creator: Thomas, Dylan, 1914-1953
Title: Dylan Thomas Collection
Dates: 1920-1991
Extent: 28 document boxes, 1 oversize box, 10 galley folders, 2 oversize folders (13.34 linear feet)
Abstract: The collection of Welsh poet and dramatist Dylan Thomas consists of manuscripts, correspondence, notebooks, drawings, financial records, photographs, proofs, and broadcast scripts.
RLIN Record #: TXRC06-A2
Language: English
Access:

Open for research




Acquisition:

Purchases and gifts, 1960-2006

Processed by:

Amanda Price, 2006

Repository:

The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center


Dylan Marlais Thomas was born at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive in the Uplands district of Swansea, Wales, on October 27, 1914. Before his birth, Thomas's parents, David John (D. J.) and Florence Hannah, had moved to the primarily Anglophone suburb from rural Welsh-speaking Carmarthenshire. Although both D. J. and Florence were bilingual, they raised Dylan and his sister Nancy to speak only English, even sending the children to elocution lessons.

Dylan was an unremarkable student at the local grammar school in Swansea where his father taught English. Given unlimited access to his father's library at home, however, he engaged a precocious interest in English literature and began composing poetry, publishing some of it in school magazines. At sixteen, he left school to work for the local evening paper as a reporter. Journalism proved an unsuitable occupation for Thomas, and he quit the following year.

Between the ages of sixteen and twenty, Thomas kept a series of notebooks (now at the Lockwood Memorial Library in Buffalo) in which he developed the challenging and dense style of his earliest adult poetry. As a teenager his poems were published in New Verse and in the Sunday Referee 's" Poets' Corner ." In 1934, Thomas received the" Poets' Corner" Prize, an award that included the publication of a first book of poetry.

During the mid-1930s--the years between the publication of his first two volumes of poetry, 18 Poems (1934) and Twenty-five Poems (1936)--Thomas embedded himself in the London artistic scene, earning a reputation as a poet, drinker, and storyteller. Sometime in 1936, Thomas met Caitlin Macnamara, an aspiring dancer and former mistress of the painter Augustus John. The following year they eloped in Penzance, Cornwall. The couple were penniless and often lived off the money and housing they could borrow from family and friends. Shortly before Caitlin learned she was pregnant with their first child, Llewelyn, they moved to the Carmarthenshire fishing village of Laugharne.

During the war years, Thomas managed to avoid military service, probably on medical grounds. He moved between Laugharne and London, having secured work as a scriptwriter for Donald Taylor 's Strand Films, a contractor for the Ministry of Information. Thomas's lifestyle in wartime London was relatively controlled and predictable; for the first time since his teenage foray into journalism, he was earning a steady income.

Following the war, however, Thomas's life became more chaotic. Deaths and Entrances (1946), a pocket-sized volume of poems in a more accessible style, was an immediate success. Despite this, Thomas's domestic life grew more problematic: he and Caitlin were struggling to support two children (daughter Aeronwy was born in 1943), and the pair's relationship was becoming increasingly dysfunctional. Thomas no longer had the steady income from his wartime documentaries, and he began to rely instead on income from scriptwriting for feature films and radio broadcasts for the BBC. In 1949, the Thomases moved back to Wales and into the Boat House, a property in Laugharne purchased for them by their benefactor Margaret Taylor. In July of that year, a third child, Colm, was born.

In 1949 John Malcolm Brinnin, director of the Poetry Center at the Young Men's and Young Women's Hebrew Association in New York, invited Thomas to visit the United States and cash in on his growing fame in America. He traveled there in 1950, giving readings at the Poetry Center and at college campuses as far west as San Francisco and Vancouver.

Three more American tours followed, one in 1952 and two in 1953. By this time, Thomas had been drafting for several years a play for voices about a day in the life of Llareggub, a fictional Welsh town with a backwards-reading name. During his third American tour, Thomas more or less finished the play, by then titled Under Milk Wood, and it was first performed on stage at Harvard University in May 1953. Under Milk Wood would posthumously become his best-known work.

Meanwhile, Thomas's health and marriage were deteriorating; years of heavy drinking were exacting a cumulative toll. As he began his fourth and final American tour in October 1953, his marriage appeared to be unsalvageable, and Thomas succumbed to despair. He began a regimen of self-destructive behavior, drinking copiously and often to the point of delirium. On November 4, after a doctor's well-intentioned but ultimately fatal injection of morphine, Thomas collapsed and fell into a coma. He died on November 9, 1953, at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City.


Ferris, Paul. Dylan Thomas: The Biography. New York: Dial Press, 1977.

-----." Thomas, Dylan Marlais (1914-1953) ." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, http://www.oxforddnb.com (accessed 24 July 2006).

Middleton, David E. "Dylan Thomas." Dictionary of Literary Biography Online, http://galenetgroup.com (accessed 22 March 2006).


The Dylan Thomas Collection consists of manuscripts, correspondence, notebooks, drawings, financial records, photographs, galley proofs, page proofs, and broadcast scripts. The collection is arranged in four series: I. Works, ca. 1920s to 1954 (8 boxes), II. Career-Related Materials and Personal Papers, ca. 1934-1953 (2 boxes), III. Correspondence, ca. 1935-1953 (2 boxes), and IV. Third-Party Works and Correspondence, ca. 1930s-1991 (17 boxes). This collection was previously accessible through a card catalog but has been re-cataloged as part of a retrospective conversion project.

The collection contains a miscellany of works, correspondence, and personal papers. Present are manuscripts for a number of Thomas's best known works, including Under Milk Wood," Poem on His Birthday ,"" Lament ,"" In the White Giant's Thigh ,"" Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night ," and" Elegy ," the unfinished poem he was writing during the last year of his life. Also present are a selection of juvenilia, work for radio and film, and a significant body of correspondence from Thomas to his literary agents David Higham Associates. Series IV. Third-Party Works and Correspondence contains material concerning Dylan Thomas, including works and correspondence of his wife Caitlin and letters sent between mutual friends immediately following his death. The bulk of this series documents the research processes of two of Thomas's early biographers, Constantine FitzGibbon and Bill Read. Located at the end of this guide are three indices: an Index of Correspondents, an Index of Works, and an Index of Works by Other Authors.

Elsewhere in the Ransom Center are sixty-four Vertical File folders containing material related to Thomas, including newspaper and magazine clippings, printed materials, announcements, posters, souvenirs, and playbills for productions of Under Milk Wood, Dylan Thomas Growing Up, and the Group Theatre 's Homage to Dylan Thomas .

The Literary Files of the Photography Collection contain more than 280 photographs related to Thomas. Included are portraits of Dylan and Caitlin, their children, other family members, friends, and associates, as well as photographic reproductions of sketches by Thomas, scenes from a production of Under Milk Wood, and views of Laugharne, Wales.

The Art Collection's holdings under Thomas's name contain doodles, cartoons, self-portraits, portraits, and sculpture, including twenty-seven works by Thomas and depictions of Thomas by Michael Ayrton, Robert Colquhoun, Rosa Freedman, Gordon T. Stuart, Oloff de Wet, and Gordon Ziegler. One painting by an unidentified artist depicts the house of novelist Constantine FitzGibbon, one of Thomas's biographers. Depictions of Thomas can also be found in the art collections of Zdzislaw Czermanski, Mervyn Levy, Ivan Oppfer, and Oloff de Wet .


Additional materials relating to Dylan Thomas may be found in the following manuscript collections at the Ransom Center:

  • Armstrong, Terence Ian Fytton
  • Barker, George
  • Bates, Herbert Ernest
  • Bottrall, Ronald
  • Braybrooke, Neville
  • Campbell, Roy
  • Church, Richard
  • Connolly, Cyril
  • Corman, Cid
  • Daiken, Leslie
  • David Higham Associates
  • Day-Lewis, Cecil
  • FitzGibbon, Constantine
  • Ford, Charles Henri
  • Gardiner, Wrey
  • Lehmann, John
  • Maclaren-Ross, Julian
  • MacNeice, Louis
  • Meyerstein, Edward Harry William
  • New Mexico Collection
  • Palmer, Herbert Edward
  • Patmore, Derek
  • PEN
  • Prokosch, Frederic
  • Reavey, George
  • Rodgers, William Robert
  • Sitwell, Edith
  • Stanford, Derek
  • Todd, Ruthven
  • Treece, Henry
  • Walpole, Hugh
  • Weeks, Edward
  • White, Eric Walter

Other collections of Dylan Thomas manuscripts are housed at the Lockwood Memorial Library at the State University of New York at Buffalo, Harvard University's Houghton Library, the New York Public Library, the British Library, and the National Library of Wales.


People

Davenport, John, 1908-1966

David Higham Associates, Ltd.

Eliot, T. S. (Thomas Stearns), 1888-1965

FitzGibbon, Constantine, 1919-

Jones, Daniel

McAlpine, Helen

Read, Bill, 1917-

Sitwell, Edith, Dame, 1887-1964

Stravinsky, Igor, 1882-1971

Subjects

Poets, Welsh. 20th century

English poetry

Document Types

Cartoons (humorous images)

Drawings

Galley proofs

Juvenilia

Negatives

Photographs

Postcards

Scripts