File NLW MS 23222B. - Edward Thomas letters to O. M. Edwards

Identity area

Reference code

NLW MS 23222B.

Title

Edward Thomas letters to O. M. Edwards

Date(s)

  • 1900-1902 (Creation)

Level of description

File

Extent and medium

19 ff.

Guarded and filed at NLW.

Context area

Name of creator

Biographical history

Edward Thomas (1878-1917), poet and writer, was born Philip Edward Thomas in Lambeth to Welsh-born parents on 3 March 1878. He was educated at St Paul's School, London and Lincoln College, Oxford. Having left St Paul's, Thomas studied for the civil service examination, a move which expressed parental ambition rather than his own as he had reacted against the wordly views of his father, who worked for the Board of Trade and was prominent in Liberal politics. He was encouraged in his early literary ambitions by the critic James Ashcroft Noble and Thomas's first book, The Woodland Life, inspired by his love of the natural world, appeared as early as 1896. Thomas married Noble's daughter Helen (1877-1967) in 1899 and, having graduated from Lincoln College in 1900, made a precarious living as a literary reviewer for the Daily Chronicle whilst also writing essays, anthologies, guidebooks and folk-tales. He also published further books, including The Heart of England (1906), as well as biographical writings, most notably those on Richard Jefferies (1909), Maurice Maeterlinck (1911), Algernon Charles Swinburne (1912) and Walter Pater (1913). This period also produced his autobiographical works The Happy-Go-Lucky Morgans (1913), The Icknield Way (1913) and In Pursuit of Spring (1914). Possibly from an overwhelming feeling that his creativity was shackled and frustrated, Thomas at this time suffered recurrent physical and psychological breakdowns which once took him to the brink of suicide. It was not until 1914 that he wrote his first 'real' poem, entitled 'Up in the Wind'. The wartime collapse of the literary market at last afforded Thomas more time to write poetry; over a space of two years, he was to write over one hundred and forty poems. In 1915 Thomas joined the Artists' Rifles; he was commissioned second lieutenant the same year and volunteered for service overseas. In April 1917 he was killed during the first hour of the battle of Arras in northern France and buried the following day on the outskirts of the town; he therefore did not live to see the publication of his Poems (1917) (under his pseudonym Edward Eastaway), nor the subsequent Last Poems (1918) and Collected Poems (1920). His wife Helen wrote of their brief time together in As It Was (1926) and World Without End (1931). Thomas numbered amongst his poetical and literary influences Robert Frost, Thomas Hardy, W. B. Yeats, D. H. Lawrence, Walter de la Mare, and W. H. Davies.

Name of creator

Biographical history

Owen Morgan Edwards was a prominent man of letters, author, editor, tutor in history at Oxford University, 1889-1907, and the first Chief Inspector of Schools under the new Welsh Education Department.
O. M. Edwards was born at Coed-y-pry, Llanuwchllyn, Merioneth, on 26 December 1858, the eldest son of Owen and Elizabeth Edwards. With the original intention of entering the nonconformist ministry, he attended Bala College, and subsequently spent the period 1880-1883 at the young University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, where he studied English, history and philosophy. He spent the academic year 1883-1884 at Glasgow studying philosophy, and the years 1884-1887 at Balliol College, Oxford, where he enjoyed a notably distinguished career, winning three major university prizes, and graduating with first class honours in history in 1887. During this formative period of his life he came heavily under the influence of the aestheticism of Ruskin and William Morris, and of the Dafydd ap Gwilym Society which much enhanced his indigenous love of his native Wales. It was primarily within this Society that Edwards formed an enduring bond of friendship with prominent Welshmen such as Edward Anwyl, J. Puleston Jones, John Morris-Jones and D. Lleufer Thomas
O. M. Edwards spent the year 1888-1889 on the continent, and in the latter year was appointed Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford, and tutor in history there and at other colleges. He remained in this position until 1907 and was notable for his dedication to his lecture preparation and tutorial work. His academic publications were few until 1901 when his popular volume entitled Wales - a book on the history of Wales - was published. From 1890 onwards he also became engaged in editing a number of Welsh periodicals that compelled him to spend an inordinate amount of his time in drafting numerous articles and proof correcting. These periodicals included Cymru Fydd (begun in 1890), Cymru (1891), Cymru'r Plant (1892), Wales (1894), Y Llenor (1895) and Heddyw (1897). He also published a number of slim volumes such as Cartrefi Cymru (1896), and set in train a scheme to re-publish considerable numbers of the Welsh classics, primarily in the series Cyfres y Fil. This service was critical in ensuring the survival of a distinctive Welsh culture by providing the Welsh people with a knowledge of their past history and literature, and nurturing a school of young Welsh writers. His contribution in this sphere may be compared with that of Thomas Gee. In 1906 he also established 'Urdd y Delyn', a children's society which was a precursor of 'Urdd Gobaith Cymru' set up by his son Ifan ab Owen Edwards in 1922.
In 1907 Edwards was appointed the first Chief Inspector of Schools under the aegis of the recently established Welsh Education Department. Here, he reformed the Welsh education system by encouraging the teaching of Welsh and improving the atmosphere of Welsh schools. But he did come into conflict with the Central Welsh Board set up in 1896 over his conviction that the new intermediate schools established in the 1890s were severe anglicising influences in Wales.
Following the premature death of Thomas Edward Ellis MP in April 1899, Edwards served for one session as the Liberal MP for his native Merionethshire, but he disliked the reality of political life and decided not to stand for re-election in the general election of 1900. His intense nationalism was primarily cultural rather than political. He was knighted in January 1916 and received the degree of D.Litt honoris causa from the University of Wales in 1918. He died, still in post, at his home Neuadd Wen (an adaptation of Whitehall, the headquarters of the Board of Education in London) Llanuwchllyn, in 1920. His wife, Ellen Davies of Prys Mawr, Llanuwchllyn, had predeceased him the previous year. There were three children of the marriage, but the elder son died in infancy.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Dr Owen Edwards and Ifan Prys Edwards, per Hazel Walford Davies; Cardiff and Aberystwyth; Donation; March 1994; A1994/29.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Twelve letters, 1900-1902, from Edward Thomas to Sir Owen M. Edwards, his erstwhile tutor at Lincoln College, Oxford, written shortly after Thomas had left university, their main purpose being to ask for guidance in seeking employment; they also reflect his attachment to Wales and his interest in the Welsh language.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling

Accruals

System of arrangement

Arranged chronologically at NLW.

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

Usual copyright laws apply. Information regarding the ownership of Edward Thomas and Helen Thomas copyright can be found at http://tyler.hrc.utexas.edu/ (viewed August 2018).

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Language and script notes

English.

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

The description is also available in Handlist of Manuscripts in the National Library of Wales, vol. 9 (Aberystwyth, 2003).

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Digital version available: http://hdl.handle.net/10107/4714859 (viewed March 2017)

Related units of description

See also NLW, Edward and Helen Thomas Manuscripts.

Related descriptions

Publication note

Hazel Walford Davies, 'Edward Thomas: Twelve Unpublished Letters to O. M. Edwards' in NLWJ, 28 (1993-4), 335-45.

Notes area

Note

Title based on contents.

Note

Preferred citation: NLW MS 23222B.

Alternative identifier(s)

Virtua system control number

vtls004630800

Alma system control number

99884258502419

Access points

Subject access points

Place access points

Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru = The National Library of Wales

Rules and/or conventions used

Description follows NLW guidelines based on ISAD(G) 2nd ed.; AACR2; and LCSH

Status

Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

March 2009 and August 2018.

Language(s)

  • English

Script(s)

Sources

Archivist's note

Description compiled by Bethan Ifan, and revised by Rhys M. Jones.

Accession area

Related subjects

Related genres

Related places

Physical storage

  • Text: NLW MS 23222B.