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Philip Edward Thomas (3 March 1878 – 9 April 1917) was an Anglo-Welsh poet and journalist. He is commonly considered a war poet, although few of his poems deal directly with his war experiences. An accomplished writer, Thomas only turned to poetry under the stress of whether or not to enlist in the army to fight in World War I during the autumn of 1914. Thomas enlisted in the army in 1915, and was killed in action during the Battle of Arras in 1917, soon after he arrived in France. Thomas was born in Lambeth, London. He was educated at Battersea Grammar School, St Paul's School and Lincoln College, Oxford. His family were Welsh. Unusually, he married while still an undergraduate and determined to live his life by the pen. He then worked as a book reviewer, reviewing up to 15 books every week.[1] He was already a seasoned writer before the outbreak of war having worked as literary critic at the Daily Chronicle, in London. It was while with the Daily Chronicle that he became a close frie


nd of Welsh tramp poet W. H. Davies whose career he almost single-handedly developed.[2] From 1905 Thomas lived, with his wife Helen and their family, at Elses Farm near Sevenoaks, Kent. Thomas rented a tiny nearby cottage for Davies and nurtured his writing as best he could. On one occasion Thomas even had to arrange for the manufacture, by a local wheelwright, of a makeshift wooden leg for Davies. Even though Thomas thought that poetry was the highest form of literature and regularly reviewed it, he only became a full time poet under the pressure of choosing whether to enlist or not in World War I.[1] Living at Steep, in East Hampshire, he initially published some poetry under the name Edward Eastaway. He also wrote a novel and some works of non-fiction. By August 1914, the village of Dymock in Gloucestershire had become the residence of a number of literary figures including Lascelles Abercrombie, Wilfrid Gibson and American poet Robert Frost. Edward Thomas was a visitor at this time.[3] The railway station at Adlestrop was immortalised by Thomas when his train made an unscheduled stop there shortly before the First World War.[4] Thomas enlisted in the Artists' Rifles in July 1915, despite being a mature married man who could have avoided enlisting. He was promoted Corporal and in November 1916 was commissioned into the Royal Garrison Artillery. He was killed in action at Arras on 9 April 1917, soon after he arrived in France. Close friend W. H. Davies was devastated by the death and his commemorative poem "Killed In Action (Edward Thomas)" was included in Davies's 1918 collection "Raptures".[2] Thomas is buried in the Military Cemetery at Agny in France (Row C, Grave 43).[5] He is also commemorated in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey, London and by memorial windows in the churches at Steep, and Eastbury, Berkshire. Thomas was survived by his wife, Helen, his son Merfyn and his two daughters Bronwen and Myfanwy. After the war, Helen wrote about her courtship and early married life with Edward in the autobiography, As it Was (1926); later she added a second volume, World Without End (1931). Their daughter, Myfanwy, claims the books were written by her mother as a form of therapy to help lift her out of a deep depression that she succumbed to following the death of Edward. My Memory of W. H. Davies was published in 1973. Under Storm's Wing was published in 1997 and is a collection of writings including the two earlier autobiographies along with various other writings and letters. Thomas's poems are noted for their attention to the English countryside and a certain colloquial style. A short poem of Thomas's serves as an example of how he blends war and countryside throughout his poetry: In Memoriam Edward Thomas's Collected Poems was one of Andrew Motion's ten picks for the poetry section of the "Guardian Essential Library" in October 2002.[6] In his 2002 novel Youth, J.M. Coetzee has his main character, intrigued by the survival of pre-modernist forms in British poetry, ask himself: "What happened to the ambitions of poets here in Britain? Have they not digested the news that Edward Thomas and his world are gone for ever?"[7] In contrast, Irish critic Edna Longley writes that Thomas's Lob, a 150-line poem, "strangely preempts The Waste Land through verses like: "This is tall Tom that bore / The logs in, and with Shakespeare in the hall / Once talked".[8] On 11 November 1985, Thomas was among 16 Great War poets commemorated on a slate stone unveiled in Westminster Abbey's Poet's Corner.[9] The inscription, written by fellow Great War poet Wilfred Owen, reads: "My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity."[10]

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