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Thomas, Edward

Edward Thomas, 1878–1917, English poet, b. London, studied at Oxford. Forced to earn a living for his young family, Thomas began his literary career writing prose: dozens of essays on a wide array of subjects; 20 books, including a novel and many on travel and nature, e.g., The South Country, 1909, that deepened the genre; critical studies of Keats, Swinburne, Pater, and others; and hundreds of book reviews. Discerning and a superb stylist, he was a particularly fine poetry critic. His friendship with Robert Frost, which began in 1912, encouraged him to write poetry, and army life during World War I freed him from the drudgery of prose composition. His first volume, Six Poems (1916), mostly pastoral verse, was published shortly before he was killed in the battle of Arras. A poet of the English countryside, Thomas wrote his 144 poems in the last two years of his life. His gentle verse was marked by a clarity of observation combined with a use of natural speech rhythms that brought him great critical acclaim, especially among his fellow poets.

See his collected poems (1920, rev. ed. 1936); Selected Letters (1996), ed. by R. G. Thomas; G. Cuthbertson and L. Newlyn, ed., Edward Thomas: Prose Writings: A Selected Edition (2 vol., 2011–); biographies by R. P. Eckert (1937) and M. Hollis (2012); studies by W. Cooke (1970) and H. Coombes (1956, repr. 1973).

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