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National Library of Wales
Thomas, Edward and Helen, manuscripts

Reference code(s): GB 0210 MSEDWMAS

Held at: National Library of Wales

Title: Edward and Helen Thomas Manuscripts

Short Title: Thomas, Edward and Helen, manuscripts

Creation date(s): 1895-1978

Level of description: Fonds

Extent: 32 volumes

Name of creator(s): Edward Thomas; Helen Thomas


Administrative/Biographical history: 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 1896. 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 the same year 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 brief 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.


Scope and content/abstract: 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 and Helen Thomas; letters from Helen Thomas to the writer Rex Taylor, [1950x1962], to the poet Basil Dowling, 1948-1964, and to the actor and artist Terence Cooper, 1959-1967; correspondence, 1895-1896, of Edward Thomas and his father-in-law James Ashcroft Noble; letters, 1900-1902, from Edward Thomas to Sir O. M. Edwards; letters, 1962-1965, from Myfanwy Thomas, daughter of Edward and Helen Thomas; 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.


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement: Arranged according to NLW MSS reference numbers: NLW MSS 10617B, 21750D, 21859C, 22900-21, 23077C, 23103D, 23222B, 23299-300, 24030A, 24064C.

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 (viewed February 2012).

Finding aids: Most of the papers are described more fully in the NLW typescript list Edward & Helen Thomas Manuscripts (1993).
The contents of NLW MSS 22900-21, 23077C, 23103D, 23222B, 23299-300 are indexed in greater detail in Handlist of Manuscripts in the National Library of Wales, vol. 9 (Aberystwyth, 2003).

Detailed catalogue


Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information: All records have been retained.

Accruals: Accruals are not expected.

Archival history: NLW MSS 22900-22918 were acquired 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: NLW MS 10617B donated by the Rev. Jesse Berridge, Chelmsford, March 1936.
NLW MS 21750D donated by the Friends of NLW, November 1981 (B1981/17).
NLW MSS 22900-18 purchased from an anonymous seller, per Sotheby's, December 1981 (B1981/19).
NLW MS 21859C purchased from an anonymous seller, per Sotheby's, London, August 1982 (B1982/23).
NLW MS 22919B purchased (with contributions from the Edward Thomas Fellowship) from David J. Holmes, Philadelphia, February 1992 (B1992/5).
NLW MSS 22920-1A donated by Edward Cawston Thomas, grandson of Edward and Helen Thomas, March 1992 (A1992/41).
NLW MS 23103D purchased from Joan Stevens, Yoxford, Suffolk, June 1992 (B1992/31).
NLW MS 23077C donated by David Thomas, Newhaven, nephew of Edward and Helen Thomas, November 1992 (A1992/197).
NLW MS 23222B donated by Dr Owen Edwards, Cardiff, and Ifan Prys Edwards, Aberystwyth, per Hazel Walford Davies, March 1994 (A1994/29).
NLW MSS 23299-300 donated by Terence Cooper, London, December 1994 (A1994/170).
NLW MS 24030i & iiA donated by Mrs Jennifer Thomas, Halesworth, Suffolk, August 2012 (006297149).
NLW MS 24064C purchased at auction (lot 30; with NLW ex 2879 and NLW MS 24044D, ff. 12-14) at Gorringes Auction House, Lewes, 2-3 July 2014 (006765587).


Existence and location of copies: Photocopies of the letters contained in NLW MSS 22914-8 are available in NLW Facs 754-758; and of the letters contained in NLW MS 22919 in NLW Facs 927.

Related material: For other papers of Edward Thomas see also NLW MSS 16098E, f. 400, 21818E, f. 47, 22003E, ff. 83-89 (letters to J. B. Pinker), 23695E (letters to the Rev. Jesse Berridge), 23981E, ff. 60-70, 24044D, ff. 12-14; NLW ex 2879; and NLW, R. George Thomas (Edward Thomas) Research Papers (transcripts and photocopies of Edward Thomas letters held in various repositories and in private hands).
Further papers of Edward Thomas are located at the following repositories: Cardiff University, Archive and Manuscript Collections, Edward Thomas Archive; Austin, University of Texas, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center; Oxford University, Lincoln College Library; Vancouver, University of British Columbia, Library; Oxford University, Bodleian Library, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts; Eton College; University of Durham, Library, Archives and Special Collections, Palace Green Section; Canterbury, King's School; Wandsworth Local History Service Library; and London, British Library, Manuscript Collections.

Publication note: Daniel Huws, 'Edward Thomas's private writing' in The Times Literary Supplement, 20 March 1992.
Hazel Walford Davies, 'Edward Thomas: twelve unpublished letters to O. M. Edwards' in NLW Journal, 28 (1993-94), 335-345 (see NLW MS 23222B).


Note: Title based on contents.

Archivist's note: Description compiled by Bethan Ifan for the retrospective conversion project of NLW MSS. 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.

Rules or conventions: Description follows ANW guidelines based on ISAD(G) 2nd ed., AACR2 and LCSH

Date(s) of descriptions: March 2009

Thomas, Edward, | 1878-1917 | Archives
Thomas, Edward, | 1878-1917 | Correspondence
Thomas, Edward, | 1878-1917 | Diaries
Thomas, Helen, | 1877-1967 | Archives
Thomas, Helen, | 1877-1967 | Correspondence

Personal names
Thomas , Edward , 1878-1917
Thomas , Helen , 1877-1967

Corporate names


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