- 1895-[?1978] (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
Name of creator
Edward Thomas (1878-1917), poet and writer, was born Philip Edward Thomas in Lambeth to Welsh-born parents on 3 March 1878. He was educated at St Paul's School, London and Lincoln College, Oxford. Having left St Paul's, Thomas studied for the civil service examination, a move which expressed parental ambition rather than his own as he had reacted against the wordly views of his father, who worked for the Board of Trade and was prominent in Liberal politics. He was encouraged in his early literary ambitions by the critic James Ashcroft Noble and Thomas's first book, The Woodland Life, inspired by his love of the natural world, appeared as early as 1897. Thomas married Noble's daughter Helen (1877-1967) in 1899 and, having graduated from Lincoln College in 1900, made a precarious living as a literary reviewer for the Daily Chronicle whilst also writing essays, anthologies, guidebooks and folk-tales. He also published further books, including The Heart of England (1906), as well as biographical writings, most notably those on Richard Jefferies (1909), Maurice Maeterlinck (1911), Algernon Charles Swinburne (1912) and Walter Pater (1913). This period also produced his autobiographical works The Happy-Go-Lucky Morgans (1913), The Icknield Way (1913) and In Pursuit of Spring (1914). Possibly from an overwhelming feeling that his creativity was shackled and frustrated, Thomas at this time suffered recurrent physical and psychological breakdowns which once took him to the brink of suicide. It was not until 1914 that he wrote his first 'real' poem, entitled 'Up in the Wind'. The wartime collapse of the literary market at last afforded Thomas more time to write poetry; over a space of two years, he was to write over one hundred and forty poems. In 1915 Thomas joined the Artists' Rifles; he was commissioned second lieutenant in 1916 and volunteered for service overseas. In April 1917 he was killed during the first hour of the battle of Arras in northern France and buried the following day on the outskirts of the town; he therefore did not live to see the publication of his Poems (1917) (under his pseudonym Edward Eastaway), nor the subsequent Last Poems (1918) and Collected Poems (1920). His wife Helen wrote of their time together in As It Was (1926) and World Without End (1931). Thomas numbered amongst his poetical and literary influences Robert Frost, Thomas Hardy, W. B. Yeats, D. H. Lawrence, Walter de la Mare, and W. H. Davies.
Name of creator
NLW MSS 22900-22918 were purchased from a collector who had previously acquired them from Helen Thomas in about 1960; they were subject to a ten-year embargo and became available in 1992.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
NLW MS 10617B: Rev. Jesse Berridge; Chelmsford; Donation; March 1936.
NLW MS 21750D: Friends of NLW; Donation; November 1981; B1981/17.
NLW MSS 22900-18: Anonymous seller, per Sotheby's; Purchase; December 1981; B1981/19.
NLW MS 21859C: Anonymous seller, per Sotheby's; Purchase; August 1982; B1982/23.
NLW MS 22919B: David J. Holmes; Philadelphia; Purchase (with contributions from the Edward Thomas Fellowship); February 1992; B1992/5.
NLW MSS 22920-1A: Edward Cawston Thomas, grandson of Edward and Helen Thomas; Donation; March 1992; A1992/41.
NLW MS 23077C: David Thomas, nephew of Edward and Helen Thomas; Newhaven; Donation; November 1992; A1992/197.
NLW MS 24030i & iiA: Mrs Jennifer Thomas; Halesworth, Suffolk; Donation; August 2012; 006297149.
NLW MS 24064C: Gorringes Auction House; Lewes; Purchased at auction (with NLW ex 2879 and NLW MS 24044D, ff. 12-14), lot 30; 2-3 July 2014; 006765587.
Content and structure area
Scope and content
Papers, in the main diaries and correspondence, 1895-[?1978], of Edward and Helen Thomas, comprising diaries of Edward Thomas, 1895-1917; correspondence, 1896-1917, of Edward Thomas and his wife Helen; correspondence, 1895-1896, of Edward Thomas and his father-in-law James Ashcroft Noble; autograph drafts of poems, 1914-1917, by Edward Thomas, all of which were published in The Collected Poems of Edward Thomas, ed. by R. George Thomas (Oxford, 1978); the original manuscript of The Heart of England (London, 1906); an autograph prose piece, 1912, entitled 'A Castle of Cloud'; and fragments of Edward Thomas's journals, memoranda, photographs, etc., 1895-1916.
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
System of arrangement
Arranged according to NLW MSS reference numbers: NLW MSS 10617B, 21750D, 21859C, 22900-21, 23077C, 24030A, 24064C.
Conditions of access and use area
Conditions governing access
Readers consulting modern papers in the National Library of Wales are required to abide by the conditions set out in information provided when applying for their Readers' Tickets, whereby the reader shall become responsible for compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998 in relation to any processing by them of personal data obtained from modern records held at the Library.
Conditions governing reproduction
Usual copyright laws apply. Information regarding the ownership of Edward Thomas and Helen Thomas copyright can be found at http://tyler.hrc.utexas.edu/ (viewed February 2012).
Language of material
Script of material
Language and script notes
Physical characteristics and technical requirements
NLW MSS 22900-21 and 23077C are described more fully in NLW, Edward & Helen Thomas Manuscripts (1993): https://www.library.wales/fileadmin/fileadmin/docs_gwefan/casgliadau/archifau/edward_thomas/catalog_edward_helen_thomas_en.pdf
The contents of NLW MSS 22900-21, 23077C are indexed in greater detail in Handlist of Manuscripts in the National Library of Wales, vol. 9 (Aberystwyth, 2003).
Allied materials area
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Photocopies of the letters in NLW MSS 22914-8C are available in NLW Facs 754-758, and of the letters in NLW MS 22919B in NLW Facs 927.
Related units of description
Daniel Huws, 'Edward Thomas's private writing' in The Times Literary Supplement, 20 March 1992.
Title based on contents of fonds.
Virtua system control number
Subject access points
Place access points
Genre access points
Description control area
Rules and/or conventions used
Description follows NLW guidelines based on ISAD(G) 2nd ed.; AACR2; and LCSH
Level of detail
Dates of creation revision deletion
March 2009 and August 2018.
The following sources were used in the compilation of this description: Handlist of Manuscripts in the National Library of Wales, Vol. 8 (Aberystwyth, 1999); Handlist of Manuscripts in the National Library of Wales, Vol. 9 (Aberystwyth, 2003); Oxford Dictionary of National Biography WWW site.
Description compiled by Bethan Ifan for the retrospective conversion project of NLW MSS, and revised by Rhys M. Jones.