Having written amongst the likes of Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, it is easy to categorise Edward Thomas as a War Poet. However, fuelled by his abiding love for the British countryside, Thomas’ late outburst of poetry was primarily focused on the sheer endurance and beauty of rural England, the subject closest to his heart. His most successful ‘war poetry’ appears in mere glances using bitter metaphors to portray the effect of the First World War on the countryside he has so beautifully described in such books as the Icknield Way and The South Country. His poems were not published until some months after his death, in France 1917, but they have never since been out of print.
Apart from a most illuminating understanding of his poetry, Jean Moorcroft Wilson shows, in Edward Thomas: From Adlestrop to Arras, how Thomas’ life alone makes for absorbing reading: his early marriage, his dependence on laudanum, his friendships with Joseph Conrad, Rupert Brooke and most notably Robert Frost, with whom he spent long hours walking, talking and botanising in the Gloucestershire countryside.
Do we need another Life of Thomas? My answer is yes. Dr Wilson’s new depiction of Thomas is, like her previous work on Sassoon and Rosenberg, meticulously researched. Moorcroft Wilson is one of the leading academics in the field of Twentieth century literature, giving the evening the promise of an enlightening insight into the the troubled life of a poetic genius.