The Edward Thomas archive at Cardiff University

Special Collections and Archives, Arts and Social Studies Library

The Edward Thomas archive in Special Collections and Archives at Cardiff University was started in 1940 when Gordon Bottomley, the poet and dramatist, presented the autograph manuscript of Wales[1] and 238 letters and cards which Thomas had written to him between 1902 and April 1917, only a few days before he was killed at Arras. In 1948 Dr R. George Thomas, then a lecturer (later Professor) in the English Department at Cardiff University, agreed to edit the letters for publication after the fiftieth anniversary of Edward Thomas’s death.[2] During the work of editing, R. George Thomas made contact with Helen Thomas, the poet’s widow, and their children and other relatives. The enduring friendships thus made were the means of bringing to Cardiff much of the material that remained in the family’s possession. Principally these were the letters of Edward and Helen to each other, as well as correspondence with family and friends, poem drafts, notebooks, scrapbooks containing Edward Thomas’s articles and reviews cut from the daily and periodical press, a virtually complete set of his published books, and in addition a vast collection of photographs and a few mementoes. Further materials, including the reminiscences of family and friends and typed copies of many letters, came to R. George Thomas from Rowland Watson.

Cardiff University’s Arts and Social Studies Library

While engaged on his variorum edition of Thomas’s poetry, his biography of the poet, and his select edition of the letters,[3] R. George Thomas assembled a large collection of photocopies, transcripts and notes from libraries in places as widely scattered as Vancouver, Austin, Buffalo, New York, Durham and Battersea, as well as the British Library and the Bodleian, and also copies of manuscripts remaining in private hands. These copies of original manuscripts and documents add significantly to the importance of the Edward Thomas archive at Cardiff. Altogether, the collection is the largest accumulation of manuscripts, printed books, press cuttings, photographs, tapes and memorabilia relating to Edward Thomas, his wife Helen and their family. Cardiff University is eager to improve the impact of the archive and is currently investigating options for online digital access.

Participants in the Edward Thomas Centenary conference in April 2017 will be able to enjoy an exhibition of some of the highlights of the collection, held in Special Collections and Archives, Arts and Social Studies Library.

Special Collections and Archives are also organising a creative writing workshop and contemporary poetry event to celebrate the Edward Thomas centenary.


[1] Originally published as Beautiful Wales by A. C. Black in London in 1905.

[2] Letters from Edward Thomas to Gordon Bottomley (London: OUP, 1968).

[3] The Collected Poems of Edward Thomas (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978); Edward Thomas: A Portrait (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985); Selected Letters (Oxford: OUP, 1995).

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