Welsh Journals

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TWELVE UNPUBLISHED LETTERS My writing it seems daily to become poorer though my mind is slowly growing. My letters perhaps improve, and perhaps indicate the line of my future efforts. But as it is I feel before the world as Sidney before Stella (Sonnet L) So that I cannot chuse but write my mind, And cannot chuse but put out what I write.2 IT cannot be claimed that the twelve letters by Edward Thomas published here for the first time 'indicate the line' of his 'future efforts' as richly as those he sent to his wife Helen, say, or to his friends Harry Hooton and Ian MacAlister in the same period (July 1900 — September 1902). And the first letter in the wonderful correspondence with Gordon Bottomley was written just as this particular correspondence with O.M.Edwards ended. Edward Thomas was a penetrative reader of Keats's poetry, and his deepest letters remind us of those of Keats: '[Keats] was himself the first discoverer of that "morbidity of temperament". That he did discover it, that he had a wonderful self-knowledge not mere self-analysis calm and penetrating, never coldly submissive, is a proof that it was not the whole truth. The morbidity was the occasional overbalancing of his intense sympathy, his greatest passive power.'3 Edward Thomas's own best letters are of the same rich revelatory power. The twelve letters published here are much more functional than that. They are mainly letters seeking help. They are also, nevertheless, letters to the man who had most influenced him at Oxford his History Tutor at Lincoln College, O.M.Edwards (1858-1920), arguably the greatest Welsh-language cultural figure at the turn of the century, and to whose Welsh influence much in Edward Thomas's subsequent make-up as a writer can be traced. The letters request above all else practical advice in securing future work, now that he had gained (in July 1900) a creditable Second in the Oxford School of Modern History (letter 1). It is interesting that the help he imagined was not just of the kind that would extend the range of his freelance publishing, the vocation and avocation that most attracted his talents and deepest wishes. This is worth stressing because we should remember that, throughout his Oxford period (October 1897 — July 1900), Edward Thomas had succeeded in publishing papers in London journals. He was convinced early that a full-time writing career was already within his reach. And in fact, during the first two years after graduating he was able to earn £ 168 through such writing. Even though he had EDWARD THOMAS: TO O. M. EDWARDS1