The National Library recently purchased a group of literary papers relating to Edward Thomas (1878-1917), the poet, writer and soldier, all of which were all once in the possession of his friend the Gloucester lawyer Jack Haines (1875-1960).They include two letters from Thomas to Haines and one from Thomas’s widow, Helen – the latter containing a frank description of the relationship between her, Edward and his close friend and fellow poet Robert Frost – as well as an apparently unpublished book review in his hand, dating from 1903, and several typescript copies of his poems.
However by some distance the most significant and interesting item is a school exercise book once used by Myfanwy, Edward Thomas’s daughter, which was reused by him to write his poetry. The majority of the pages were torn out of the book long ago, probably by Thomas himself, but the remaining eight leaves contain multiple drafts of two of his very earliest poems ‘The Mountain Chapel’ and ‘Birds’ Nests’, dated 17 and 18 December 1914. Until now no autograph copies or drafts of these were known to exist and so the manuscript potentially adds significantly to our understanding of his development as a poet.
The manuscript also has a draft of another poem ‘House and Man’, which was one of two published in the journal Root and Branch in 1915, the first of Thomas’s poems to see print.
The manuscripts are a valuable addition to the National Library’s already significant collection of manuscripts and papers of Edward Thomas, which include manuscript drafts of many of his poems, correspondence with his wife, his diaries, among them his 1917 War diary, and his letters to W. H. Hudson.
Rhys M. Jones
Assistant Manuscripts Librarian
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