A classic Welsh writer, Dylan Thomas is one of the greatest poets of the 20th century. He once wrote of himself: "I hold a beast, an angel, and a madman in me, and my inquiry is as to their working, and my problem is their subjugation and victory, downthrow and upheaval, and my effort is their self expression."
A self-described "scrubby Welshman," Thomas lived life to the fullest, expressing his passion through his poetry, letters and other works. This volume of love letters shows something of the personal life of Dylan Thomas: his loves, hates, and insecurities.
The First Love... and Afterward
The first letters in this book are written to Pamela Hansford Johnson, who's described as "Dylan's first love, and a major female figure in his life." His letters offer a look into his frustration with writing, as he says, "The old fertile days are gone, and now a poem is the hardest and most thankless act of creation." He feels pain and muscle contractions as he attempts to drag "some connected words that will explain how the starry night of the dead is seen..."
Struggling to bring his work to life, he writes, "I'm a freak user of words, not a poet." He wishes his words held more intensity, that they meant what he wants them to represent. He fears: "I shall never be understood" and he writes that he will write "stories alone." He wrote that line to Pamela in 1939; fortunately, he never gave up writing poetry...
Thomas's relationship with Pamela ended when he wrote her about an affair he'd had with another woman, saying, "I've wasted some of my tremendous love for you on a lank redmouthed girl with a reputation like hell." It's probably not surprising that she ended the relationship. And, not long afterward, he met Caitlin.
Love of His Life
When Thomas met Caitlin, it was apparently love at first sight. He later wrote to her, saying: "I love you more than anybody in the world... I love you for millions and millions of things, clocks and vampires and dirty nails and squiggly paintings and lovely hair and being dizzy and falling dreams."
Caitlin would become his wife, staying with him for the rest of his short life... through affairs, drinking, fights, and all the rest. In his letters to her, he writes of domestic matters, of money (or the lack thereof), but mostly of passion, and his need for her. He writes, "There's an intolerable emptiness in me, that can be made whole only by your soul and body. I will come back alive and as deep in love with you as a cormorant dives, as an anemone grows, as Neptune breathes, as the sea is deep."
Without her, he's depressed and lonely, writing that "It's the nights I fear the most, when the despair breaks down, is dumb and blind no longer, and I am only myself in the dark. I am only alone in a strange town in a benighted country, without any pretences and crying like a fool."
These letters eloquently show the humanity and passion of Dylan Thomas. He was not perfect, and his life (such as it was) ended so soon. His art is carried on through the passion of his words: the sadness, romance, and humor.