Thomas, Caitlin (1913–1994)

views updated

Thomas, Caitlin (1913–1994)

British poet. Born Caitlin Macnamara on December 8, 1913, in London, England; died on July 31, 1994, in Catania, Sicily, Italy; daughter of Francis Macnamara (an artist) and Yvonne (Majolier) Macnamara; married Dylan Thomas (the poet), on July 11, 1937 (died 1953); lived with or married Guiseppe Fazio (a film director); children: (with Dylan Thomas) Llewelyn (b. 1939), Aeronwyn (b. 1943), Colm (b. 1949); (with Giuseppe Fazio) Francesco Thomas (b. 1963).

Best known as the wife of poet Dylan Thomas but a poet in her own right, Caitlin Thomas was born in 1913 in London, the youngest child of Yvonne Majolier Macnamara and Irish artist Francis Macnamara. She grew up in Hampshire, England, after her father abandoned the family, although he remained in contact with his children. In her teens, Caitlin became an art model for her neighbor, the painter Augustus John, and the two had a brief affair. She also had a brief career as a dancer.

In 1936, she met the young Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, already a published writer at age 24 and gaining critical recognition. The couple married in 1937 and settled in Laugharne, Wales, where their first child, Llewelyn, was born in 1939. Two more children, daughter Aeronwyn Thomas and son Colm Thomas, followed in 1943 and 1949. The marriage of Caitlin and Dylan Thomas was stormy from the beginning, burdened by financial crises, a growing family, and their joint abuse of alcohol. Both Dylan and Caitlin had numerous extramarital affairs which, combined with other pressures, led to increasingly bitter arguments and periods of separation. Caitlin also wrote poetry, but resented her husband's fame and held him responsible for the fact that she was never recognized for her writing.

Although Dylan Thomas had steady employment with Strand Films during World War II and became more well known with the publication of each new collection of poetry or short stories, the Thomases continued to struggle with poverty and high debts, and the family was forced to move frequently. In the early 1950s, the marriage collapsed entirely, though they did not divorce. Dylan Thomas died unexpectedly (after downing 18 whiskies) while on a lecture tour in New York in November 1953; Caitlin, informed of his collapse, had landed in New York in time to see him before he died but there was no reconciliation, as she reveals in her memoirs.

Friends of the couple established a trust fund to manage the income from Thomas' royalties for the widow and her three minor children. With the rise in sales of Thomas' books after his death, the family was, for the first time, comfortably well off. In 1957, Caitlin moved to Catania, Sicily, where she began an affair with the Sicilian film director Giuseppe Fazio. That same year she published the first of her memoirs, Left Over Life to Kill, recalling her bitter memories of her marriage. A second book, Not Quite Posthumous Letter to My Daughter, was published in 1963; neither book was well received. Her son with Fazio, Francesco, was also born in 1963; Caitlin infuriated her lover by giving the boy the last name Thomas, which she herself had kept. Still battling alcoholism, Caitlin lived out the rest of her years in relative obscurity with Fazio in Sicily. A third book of memoirs, Life With Dylan Thomas, appeared in 1986. She died at age 80 in 1994. As she had wished, she was buried beside the grave of Dylan Thomas in Laugharne, Wales.


Ferris, Paul. Caitlin: The Life of Caitlin Thomas. London: Pimlico, 1995.

FitzGibbon, Constantine. The Life of Dylan Thomas. London: J.M. Dent, 1965.

Laura York , M.A. in History, University of California, Riverside, California