Thwaite, Anthony (Simon) 1930-
THWAITE, Anthony (Simon) 1930-
PERSONAL: Born June 23, 1930, in Chester, England; son of Hartley (in banking) and Alice Evelyn (Mallinson) Thwaite; married Ann Harrop (a writer), August 4, 1955; children: Emily, Caroline, Lucy, Alice. Education: Christ Church, Oxford, B.A. (with honors), 1955, M.A., 1959. Hobbies and other interests: Antiquarian beachcombing, collecting a variety of things.
ADDRESSES: Home—The Mill House, Low Tharston, Norfolk NR15 2YN, England.
CAREER: Tokyo University, Tokyo, Japan, visiting lecturer in English literature, 1955-57; British Broadcasting Corporation, London, England, radio producer, 1957-62; The Listener, London, literary editor, 1962-65; University of Libya, Benghazi, assistant professor of English literature, 1965-67; New Statesman, London, literary editor, 1968-72; Encounter, London, coeditor, 1973-85; Kuwait University, visiting professor, 1974; Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, poet in residence, 1992; Andre Deutsch Ltd. (publishers), London, editorial director, 1986-92, editorial consultant, 1992-95. Military service: British Army, 1949-51; became sergeant.
AWARDS, HONORS: Richard Hillary Memorial Prize, 1967, for The Stones of Emptiness: Poems 1963-66; University of East Anglia Henfield Writing Fellow, 1972; Royal Society of Literature fellow, 1977; Cholmondeley Award, Society of Authors (Great Britain), 1984; Japan Foundation fellow, Tokyo University, 1985-86; Honorary D.Litt., University of Hull, 1989; Order of the British Empire, 1990.
(Poems), Fantasy Press (Oxford, England), 1953.
Home Truths, Marvell Press (Hessle, Yorkshire, England), 1957.
The Owl in the Tree: Poems, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1963.
The Stones of Emptiness: Poems 1963-66, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1967.
Points (limited edition), Turret (London, England), 1972.
Inscriptions: Poems 1967-72, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1973.
Jack, Cellar Press (Hertfordshire, England), 1973.
New Confessions, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1974.
A Portion for Foxes, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1977.
Victorian Voices, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1980.
Telling Tales (limited edition), wood engraving by Simon Brett, Gruffyground Press (Somerset, England), 1983.
Poems, 1953-1983, Secker & Warburg (London, England), 1984, expanded and published as Poems, 1953-1988, Hutchinson (London, England), 1989.
Letter from Tokyo, Hutchinson (London, England), 1987.
Selected Poems, 1956-1996, Enitharmon Press (London, England), 1997.
The Dust of the World, Sinclair-Stevenson (London, England), 1994.
A Move in Weather: Poems, 1994-2002, Enitharmon Press (London, England), 2003.
(With Hilary Corke and William Plomer) New Poems 1961: A PEN Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, Hutchinson (London, England), 1961.
(And translator, with Geoffrey Bownas) The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse, Penguin (London, England), 1964.
(With A. Alvarez and Roy Fuller) Penguin Modern Poets 18, Penguin (London, England), 1970.
(With Peter Porter) The English Poets: From Chaucer to Edward Thomas, Secker & Warburg (London, England), 1974.
Poems for Shakespeare 3, Globe Playhouse (London, England), 1974.
(With Dannie Abse, D. J. Enright, and Michael Longley) Penguin Modern Poets 26, Penguin (London, England), 1975.
(With Fleur Adock) New Poetry 4, Hutchinson (London, England), 1978.
Larkin at Sixty, Faber & Faber (London, England), 1982.
(With John Mole) Poetry 1945 to 1980, Longman (London, England), 1983.
(And author of introduction) Collected Poems of Philip Larkin, Faber & Faber (London, England), 1988.
(And author of introduction) Selected Letters of Philip Larkin, Faber & Faber (London, England), 1992.
Further Requirements: Interviews, Broadcasts, Statements, and Book Reviews, Faber & Faber (London, England), 2001.
R. S. Thomas, Phoenix (London, England), 2002.
(And author of introduction) Collected Poems: Philip Larkin, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2004.
Selected Poems: George MacBeth, Enitharmon Press (London, England), 2002.
Essays on Contemporary English Poetry: Hopkins to the Present Day, Kenkyusha (Tokyo, Japan), 1957, revised as Contemporary English Poetry: An Introduction, Heinemann (London, England), 1959, Dufour (Chester Springs, PA), 1961, 3rd edition, 1964, revised and published as Twentieth-Century English Poetry: An Introduction, Barnes & Noble (New York, NY), 1978.
Japan in Colour, photographs by Roloff Beny, McGraw (London, England), 1967.
The Deserts of Hesperides: An Experience of Libya, Roy (New York, NY), 1969.
Poetry Today 1960-1973, Longman (London, England), 1973, revised and expanded as Poetry Today: A Critical Guide to British Poetry, 1960-1984, Longman (London, England), 1985; and as Poetry Today: A Critical Guide to British Poetry, 1960-1995, Longman (London, England), 1996.
(With Peter Porter) Roloff Beny in Italy, photographs and design by Beny, Harper (New York, NY), 1974.
Beyond the Inhabited World: Roman Britain (juvenile), Deutsch (London, England), 1976, Seabury Press (New York, NY), 1977.
Odyssey: Mirror of the Mediterranean, photographs and design by Roloff Beny, Harper (New York, NY), 1981.
(With Howard Sergeant) Gregory Awards Anthology, 1981 and 1982, Carcanet New Press for the Society of Authors (Manchester, England), 1982.
(Compiler and author of introduction) Six Centuries of Verse (companion to Thames TV/Channel 4 series), Thames Methuen (London, England), 1984.
Anthony Thwaite in Conversation with Peter Dale and Ian Hamilton, Faber & Faber (London, England), 2001.
Contributor of poems to British periodicals and to anthologies, including Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse, Penguin Book of Contemporary Verse, New Poets of England and America 2, and New Lines 2. Collections of Thwaite's manuscripts are housed at the University of Hull, Yorkshire, in the Brynmor Jones Library, and at the University of Leeds, Yorkshire, in the Brotherton Library.
ADAPTATIONS: The English Poets: From Chaucer to Edward Thomas was adapted for audio cassette, Longman, 1980.
SIDELIGHTS: Anthony Thwaite is an accomplished author and editor whose poetry is noted for its reflective, perceptive quality. In his early work, Thwaite focused on domestic themes and everyday life, while his later verse reflects his well-traveled existence. Thwaite, who is British, has often been compared to Philip Larkin; both men have shown their talent for weaving stories into their poems. Thwaite has devoted some scholarship to Larkin, editing collections of his work, his letters, and a collection of anecdotes about the late poet. In his prose, Thwaite has produced textbooks, histories, and even the text for a book of photographs about Japan.
Thwaite was born in Chester, England, on June 23, 1930. His extensive travels began early in life, as his father, a banker, was promoted from one position to the next around Great Britain. When he was ten years old, Thwaite was evacuated to the United States during World War II in order to escape the German bombing of Britain. He returned to his homeland when he was fourteen, and attended Kingswood School, an institution founded by John Wesley. There he nurtured his interests in poetry and archeology. He even intended to become an archeologist for a time, but by the time of his graduation, he had decided on a career in literature. His first position was as a teacher of English at Tokyo University. His first book, the poetry collection Home Truths, was published in 1957, soon after his move to Japan.
Places, objects, and historical times are the basis for Thwaite's poetry. In New Confessions he reworks St. Augustine of Hippo's Confessions to create his own personal volume of meditation and reflection, while revealing his interpretation of the saint's life and thought. A sequence written in both prose and verse, set in an exotic North Africa, New Confessions drew the attention of many critics. A reviewer in Choice found that "many lines are memorable," and another critic, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, noted "a new, fragmentary intensity, and a new breadth" in the poems. Andrew Crozier, on the other hand, declared in the Spectator that "the reflections are unmotivated," but later went on to praise Thwaite's "classy personal eloquence."
In Thwaite's next volume of poetry, A Portion for Foxes, he turned from historic figures to historical objects and ancient places. England, Yugoslavia, and the Arabian Gulf, as well as a Victorian stereoscope and Romano-British altars are a few of the starting points for poems in this volume, many of which had previously been published in newspapers and magazines. While a reviewer in Choice contended that Thwaite "has changed little as a poet" since Home Truths was published, other critics reacted more favorably to A Portion for Foxes. Russell Davies, writing in the New Statesman, noted Thwaite's "fine instinct for matching textures" within poems and within the book. Spectator contributor Anthony Burgess labeled the volume "very intelligent … witty, with a wide stretch of subject-matter and a great boldness." Roy Fuller, in the Times Literary Supplement, also noted the "critical intelligence," and praised the "verbal power" of Thwaite's technique, commenting that "Thwaite is a poet who cares about interesting (and, often, amusing) his readers, as well as delineating the poignant histories of cultures, creatures and human beings."
Interested in both history and poetic voices, Thwaite explores the past age with Victorian Voices, a series of fourteen dramatic monologues. Based on twelve actual, lesser-known Victorians, such as Philip Henry Gosse who knew Darwin and was the father of critic Edmund Gosse, the volume also includes two representational characters, one a malicious Oxford don recording his colleagues' foibles. George Meredith's first wife, Mary Ellen, is also one of the voices, sounding as if she's responding to Meredith's poem of marital breakup, Modern Love, even mimicking his stanza form. While Richard Tobias, writing in World Literature Today, panned Victorian Voices as containing thirteen monologues in "blank-verse lines that seem alike," regardless of who is speaking, other critics were more enthusiastic. London Observer contributor Hilary Spurling called the volume "part history, part impersonation," and Andrew Motion in the New Statesman praised the monologues as "earnest and absorbing." Several critics commented on Thwaite's emotional input into each piece, with Dick Davis noting in the Listener the poet's "aim … to awaken sympathy for the varieties of loneliness he charts." Times Literary Supplement contributor Robert Bernard Martin praised the effects of "Thwaite's warm vein of compassion for the also-rans," and concluded: "In its easy maturity, its generous understanding of character, and its deliberate neglect of flashy effects or attempts to startle, Victorian Voices seems to me the best of Anthony Thwaite's fine volumes of poetry. It is a book that invites rereading and rewards it thoroughly."
Thwaite has also published several collections of his verse culled from both previously printed and new poems, including Poems, 1953-1983. Published in 1984, this volume contains works from the preceding thirty years, and was expanded and republished in 1989 as Poems, 1953-1988. The original release was given generally good reviews, most of which centered on Thwaite's poetic style. "Technical virtuosity combined with a keen observant eye" place Thwaite amongst the finest of the same generation of poets, declared Thom Tammaro in the Library Journal. John Bayley commented in the Times Literary Supplement that Thwaite "is an excellent poet, even an original one, his originality having about it a deliberate sort of blankness which comes from the contrasts he makes between efficiency and mastery of conventional form." John Lucas, writing in the New Statesman, was with the minority of critics in lamenting, "Writing like this is the … death of art," specifically referring to the poem "Mr. Cooper." The second release, Poems, 1953-1988, received much the same response, with Times Literary Supplement contributor Simon Rae concluding: "And looking back over 270 pages of poems written over thirty-odd years, one is struck by the integrity of purpose with which Thwaite has pursued his often pained, but sometimes funny and always compassionate exploration of human existence."
Looking closely at one human in particular, poet and novelist Philip Larkin, Thwaite uses his skills as editor and as prose author to examine another's life and work. In 1982, Thwaite edited a collection of essays written in honor of Larkin, titled Larkin at Sixty. These glimpses of the man behind the verse, written by his friends and associates, explore his achievements and put them in perspective. "The reminiscences and anecdotes both amuse and inform," wrote D. J. Enright in the London Observer. A reviewer in Choice noted that while the book does not reveal any new information, it helps to "flesh out" Larkin as a professional poet. "All the friends who write about him seem anxious to stress the anti-literary side of his character," remarked Derwent May in the Listener. Several critics, however, commented that the book might infringe on Larkin's sense of privacy, with Spectator contributor Peter Levi labeling the stories as an "invasion," noting that Eliot and Tennyson were not treated in the same manner. "All this in a collection of thin essays, without those advantages of slow pace or serious analysis or nourishing drabness which a full biography might offer," Levi contended, adding, "Outsiders owe a debt to Anthony Thwaite all the same." After Larkin's death, Thwaite edited the Collected Poems of Philip Larkin and Selected Letters of Philip Larkin.
Thwaite has also collected and published several volumes of other poets' work. Six Centuries of Verse was produced as a companion book to a British television series. From early English poetry to poems of the twentieth century up until 1984, including some American authors like Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, Thwaite attempts to encompass centuries of thought, change, and language all written in verse. Reviews of the volume were favorable, with many critics commending his poetic selections. British Book News contributor R. B. Kennedy lauded Thwaite's "shrewdness of choice," and another critic, writing in Washington Post Book World, praised both the poetry selection and the prose commentaries, noting that "Thwaite's text never gets in the way of the verse," and does a good job clarifying the course of the development of English poetry.
Six centuries covers a great deal of poetry, so in Poetry Today: A Critical Guide to British Poetry, 1960-1984, Thwaite narrowed his field to more modern poets, those writing within twenty-five years of the publication date in 1985. This volume is a revised and expanded version of an essay, published in 1973 in conjunction with the British Council, titled Poetry Today 1960-1973. Written with a historic perspective, Thwaite attempts to maintain continuity among the poets, both established and emerging, by delineating the period in which they wrote. Claude Rawson, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, called Poetry Today "civilized, literate, and dull," but he also noted that Thwaite "writes with real discrimination" about the "quieter, more decorous styles." British Book News contributor Raymond Tong praised "Poetry Today as a remarkably comprehensive and stimulating survey."
A significant collection of his own work was published in 1988, with Selected Poems, 1956-1996. This book showcases Thwaite's strengths of clarity and openness, as well as his experience of the world and his grasp of history. The poems are "straightfoward and talkative rather than guarded and obscure," observed William Pratt in World Literature Today. "He moves quietly about the world, observing things, meditating on things, putting things into words, with little pretension or deceptiveness…. His manner is characteristically matter-of-fact and witty, his style refreshingly understated and civilized throughout." At his best, Thwaite is very good at compressing his thoughts to convey "a great deal in a handful of lines," stated a writer for Contemporary Poets. "This, one feels, is the essence of poetry, and it is a terrain that Thwaite knows better than most."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Poets, 7th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2001.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 40: Poets of Great Britain and Ireland since 1960, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1985.
Books and Bookmen, May, 1967; August, 1984, p. 31.
British Book News, September, 1984, p. 563; July, 1985, p. 435.
Choice, November, 1974, p. 1333; January, 1978, p. 1501; October, 1982, p. 266.
Library Journal, October 1, 1984, p. 1852.
Listener, September 7, 1967; January 29, 1981, p. 151; June 3, 1982.
London Magazine, August, 1967.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, July 30, 1989, p. 3.
Nation, June 28, 2004, Melanie Rehak, "Ugly Beauty," p. 33.
New Statesman, June 7, 1974, p. 808; September 30, 1977, p. 448; December 5, 1980, p. 22; June 4, 1982, p. 20; June 22, 1984, p. 23; August 21, 1987, p. 22.
New Yorker, July 26, 2004, John Updike, "Twice Collected," p. 084.
New York Times, December 22, 1963.
New York Times Book Review, May 21, 1989, p. 24.
Observer (London, England), June 18, 1967; December 7, 1980; May 30, 1982; April 5, 1987, p. 24.
Poetry, December, 1973.
Spectator, September 21, 1974; August 6, 1977, p. 29; June 12, 1982, p. 22.
Times (London, England), October 22, 1988.
Times Educational Supplement, August 17, 1987, p. 22.
Times Literary Supplement, June 21, 1974, p. 667; July 15, 1977, p. 848; January 23, 1981, p. 81; November 18, 1983; June 22, 1984, p. 705; February 7, 1986, p. 137; November 10, 1989, p. 1245.
Washington Post Book World, September 1, 1985, p. 13; May 7, 1989, p. 1.
World Literature Today, winter, 1982, p. 115.*