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REVIEWS THE PRESENT STATE OF EDWARD THOMAS STUDIESĀ· Although it is difficult to accept William Cooke's description of Edward Thomas as 'one of the most popular of twentieth-century poets: it is certainly true that his poetic reputation has developed considerably since the first publication of his poems, despite all the Buctuations in literary fashion, and may now be regarded as firmly if not broadly established. The recent publication of his letters to his friend and fellow-poet Gordon Bottomley and the wide-ranging critical biography by Dr Cooke provides a basis for the more detailed study of Thomas's work that is clearly desirable. Hitherto, materials have been scanty. Even Robert P. Eckert, whose 1937 biography was, until Dr Cooke's, the best in the field, had to rely for the most part on the two memoirs by Helen Thomas, As II Was and Warld Without End, and Thomas's own essay 'How I Began' in The Last Sheaf (he mayor may not have had access to the other autobiographical essay not published until 1938 as The Childhood of Edward Thomas). John Moore offered a scrappy collection of extracts from his correspondence in The Life and Letters of Edward Thomas (1939), and Eleanor Farjeon published his complete correspondence with her (205 letters) in Edward Thomas: The Last Four Years (1958). The letters to Bottomley would seem to be the largest surviving correspondence to a single recipient, and R. George Thomas (no relation) has printed 182 out of a total of 238 letters and postcards, extending in time from 1902 until a few days before Thomas's death at the Battle of Arras in 1917. For his 'critical biography: Dr Cooke has been able to consult much unpublished material, such as Thomas's letters to Robert Frost, and has not only used these to advantage in his text but has listed the manuscript sources in an extensive and invaluable bibliographical supplement that brings Eckert's work up to date. Both books contain useful scholarly aids. R. George Thomas includes a year-by-year chronology of the poet's life, while Dr Cooke has compiled an appendix entitled 'Dates of the Poems in Order of Composition' and prints some earlier manuscript drafts of the more important poems. It would be pleasant to report that Thomas scholarship had now come of age, and let the matter rest; unfortunately, however, the position is by no means as satisfactory as it may appear. One has only to read Dr Cooke's text alongside R. George Thomas's chronology to find numerous discrepancies in the supposedly established facts. Although many of these involve a disparity of only a month or two, the disagreements are disturbing since they tend to 'fR. George Thomas, ed., Letters from Edward. Thomas to Gordon Bottomley. London: Oxford University Press 1968. Pp. 302. 63.; William Cooke, Edward Thomas: A Critical B;ography. London: Faber 1970. Pp. 292. 50.. Volume XLI, Number 1, Autumn 1971 THE PRESENT STATE OF EDWABD THOMAS STUDIES 75 throw doubt on the reliability of both versions. The present reviewer is not, unfortunately, in a position to check the original sources, but it is fair to state with some conlidence that, where comparison is possible, Dr Cooke is decidedly the more reliable of the two. Letters from Edward Thomas to Gordon Bottomley is in fact seriously marred by sloppy editing. At times, contradictory statements are to be found within the text itself. Thus two publication dates are given for Rest and Unrest Cpp.27 and 19On) and In Pursuit of Spring Cpp.31 and 32); in both cases, the lirst entry is correct. Again, two conJlicting dates are given in the course of the book for Thomas's lirst meeting with Robert Frost Cpp.30, 232n), and both differ from that given by Dr Cooke and most of Frost's biographers. The editor has been deceived by Thomas's handwriting into consistently misĀ· spelling the name of Richard Jefferies' birthplace (,Corte' for 'Coate'), though a glance at the lirst page of Thomas's biography of the Wiltshire writer would have set the matter right. In references to Edward Carpenter's From Adam's Peak to Elephanta, the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 74-77
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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