- [1925x2013] (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
0.452 cubic metres (49 boxes, varying sizes)
Name of creator
Dylan Thomas (1914-1953), was a renowned poet; he was also an accomplished author of short stories and radio plays, a scriptwriter and broadcaster.
Dylan Marlais Thomas was born on 27 October 1914 at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, Swansea, the son, of David John (Jack) Thomas, schoolmaster, and Florence (Florrie) Hannah Williams. Although both parents were Welsh-speakers, their families originating from rural Carmarthenshire, English was the language of the home in which Dylan and his elder sister, Nancy Marles, were raised. He was educated at Mrs Hole's Dame School and at Swansea Grammar School, where his father was Senior English Master; and during his schooldays he formed lifelong friendships with, among others, Daniel Jones, Charles Fisher and Mervyn Levy. In 1931 he left school to work as a reporter on the South Wales Daily Post, where he remained until late 1932.
He began writing poetry from an early age, his work first printed in the school magazine. Between 1930 and 1934, he copied his poems into notebooks, eventually compiling four volumes containing over 200 poems, some of which would later appear in print. In May 1933 the poem 'And death shall have no dominion', was published in the New English Weekly, followed in the same year by, 'That sanity be kept' in the Sunday Referee, after which he began corresponding with Pamela Hansford Johnson. He moved to London in 1934, where he lived with Alfred Janes and Mervyn Levy. Selections of his work, entitled 18 Poems (1934), and Twenty-five Poems (1936), established his reputation as a poet among literary circles. A collection of poetry and prose, The Map of Love, appeared in August 1939, and the part-autobiographical short stories, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog, followed in 1940. Another volume of poetry, Deaths and Entrances (1946), was published at the end of the war. In addition, two collections of poetry, including some prose, The World I Breathe (1939) and New Poems (1943), were published in America.
Dylan Thomas's first radio broadcast, 'Life and the Modern Poet', was recorded in April 1937. He joined the Strand Film Company as a scriptwriter in 1941 and was increasingly in demand, with his distinctive voice, as a broadcaster, gradually reading more of his own work including the nostalgic programmes 'Reminiscences of Childhood' (1943), 'Quite Early One Morning' (1944), and 'Memories of Christmas' (1945). With the inception of the BBC Third Programme in 1946, he was increasingly called upon.
In 1936 Dylan Thomas met Caitlin Macnamara (1913-1994), whom he married in Penzance on 11 July 1937. They had three children: Llewelyn (1939-2000), Aeronwy (1943-2009) and Colm (1949-2012). With little income, the newly married couple stayed with family in Hampshire and Swansea, and rented various properties, including 'Eros' and 'Sea View' in Laugharne. Dylan Thomas spent much of the war in London, whilst the rest of the family lived at Llangain, Carmarthenshire, and New Quay, Cardiganshire. He returned to Wales in 1944 where he wrote some of his most popular works including 'Poem in October' and 'Fern Hill'. A four-month visit to Italy with his family in 1947, recommended by Edith Sitwell, produced 'In Country Sleep'. After the war the Thomas family resided for a time in Oxford, before finally settling, in 1949, at the Boat House in Laugharne, acquired by his patron Margaret Taylor. The return to Laugharne inspired him to write five further poems during the following five years – including 'Do not go gentle into that good night' – all of which were included in his Collected Poems 1934-1952 (1952), awarded the Foyle's poetry prize.
Thomas embarked on his first tour of America, arranged by John Malcolm Brinnin, in February 1950. On the second US tour in 1952 he was accompanied by Caitlin. In May 1953, during his third reading tour, Under Milk Wood was first performed in New York. He returned to the US in October of the same year, by which time the demands of the reading and performing tours in the US were evidently taking their toll on his health. He collapsed at the Chelsea Hotel on 5 November, and died in St Vincent's Hospital, New York, on 9 November 1953. His body was returned to Wales by ship, accompanied by his widow Caitlin, and buried at Laugharne on 25 November. The Dylan Thomas Trust was established soon after to administer the income from his estate. A memorial plaque was dedicated to him in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey, in 1982.
Name of creator
Jeff Towns is an antiquarian bookseller based in Swansea, specialising in books about Dylan Thomas. He opened Dylans Bookstore in 1970, firstly in the High Street and later in Salubrious Passage, and has since actively collected books, papers and photographs relating to Dylan Thomas. He has acquired a substantial body of knowledge about the poet over the years, arranging exhibitions, among them the 'Word & Image' exhibition at the Dylan Thomas Centre, and contributing to various documentaries and films. Jeff Towns has also assisted a number of writers in their studies of Dylan Thomas, and is the editor of Letter to Loren (Swansea, c. 1993), and author of Dylan Thomas: the pubs (Talybont, 2013).
Details regarding custodial history are noted in the relevant catalogue descriptions.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Mr Jeff Towns; Swansea; Purchase; August 2006, July 2007, March 2008, March 2009, March and April 2010, April 2011, March 2013, and February 2015; 004460489.
Content and structure area
Scope and content
Papers of, and relating to, Dylan Thomas, [1925x2013], collected and collated by Jeff Towns, including scripts, correspondence, programmes and papers relating to the publication of Under Milk Wood, and radio, stage, film and audio productions of the play, 1953-2005; research papers and works relating to Dylan Thomas, 1937-2006; letters by Dylan Thomas, and the letters and papers of his wife Caitlin, their three children and his parents, 1935-2007; autograph prose works, [1925x1953], and personal papers, -1960; poetry, [1928x2010], mostly comprising autograph drafts; unpublished autograph letters by Dylan Thomas, -1995; and a small group of material, 1939-, including four autograph letters, 1939, from the author, relating to The map of love.
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
This collection has been appraised according to the Library's guidelines; details are recorded in Departmental Appraisal Form.
Accruals are possible.
System of arrangement
Arranged at NLW in eight groups, chronologically according to date of acquisition.
Conditions of access and use area
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
Queries regarding Dylan Thomas copyright should be directed to Copyright Permissions, David Higham Associates Ltd, 5-8 Lower John Street, Golden Square, London, W1F 9HA; inquiries in the United States of America should be directed to Craig Tenney at Harold Ober Associates, Inc., 425 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10017-1183 (information from the WATCH file (Writers Artists and Their Copyright Holders), http://norman.hrc.utexas.edu/watch/, January 2012).
Language of material
Script of material
Language and script notes
English, unless otherwise noted.
Physical characteristics and technical requirements
Allied materials area
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related units of description
Title supplied from contents of fonds and provenance. Original file titles, where present, have been retained; some headings supplied by Jeff Towns.
A number of catalogue descriptions are based on those supplied by Jeff Towns.
Virtua system control number
Subject access points
Place access points
Name access points
- Thomas, Dylan, 1914-1953 -- Archives. (Subject)
Genre access points
Description control area
Rules and/or conventions used
Description follows NLW guidelines based on ISAD(G) 2nd ed.; AACR2; and LCSH
Level of detail
Dates of creation revision deletion
March 2014 and March 2015.
The following were among the sources used in the compilation of this description: Andrew Lycett, Dylan Thomas: a new life, (London, 2004); Paul Ferris, Dylan Thomas: the biography (Talybont, 2006); The collected letters, ed. by Paul Ferris (London, 2000); Collected poems, 1934-1953, ed. by Walford Davies and Ralph Maud (London, 2000); Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/36471; Location Register of English Literary Manuscripts and Letters online http://www.reading.ac.uk/library/about-us/projects/lib-location-register.aspx; Jo Furber, Dylan Thomas Centre, and Sean Keir, Swansea Council; The Dylan Thomas guy website http://www.dylans.com/; and papers within the Jeff Towns (Dylan Thomas) Collection itself.
Compiled by Siân Bowyer.