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This report is taken from PN Review 172, Volume 33 Number 2, November - December 2006.

Letter from Wales Sam Adams

I thought in my last letter, with its closing critique of our prying cult of celebrity, I had written as much as I would wish to write for a while about R.S. Thomas. But I had not then read the recent biography of the poet by Byron Rogers, The Man who Went Into The West (Aurum, 2006). At a time when literary biographies are typically heavyweight, almost day-by-day accounts of their subjects, this manages to reveal R.S. in all his complexity without wearying the reader with exhaustive detail. There is not an ounce of solemnity in the book and, though I can envisage a reaction in some quarters against what might be perceived as undue levity in the unfolding of the story, I prefer to think of it as lightness of touch that will commend it to the general as much as to serious students of the man and his work. If you have previously seen R.S. as 'the ogre of Wales', you will find here evidence of eccentric asceticism, extraordinary solitariness within marriage (to Elsi, who, as Mildred Elsie Eldridge, had been one of the brightest young artists of the late 1930s), failure to connect with others, including his own son, and antipathy to contemporary life amply to support your opinion. If you were previously an admirer of his subtle intellect and straight-speaking honesty, his granite principle and, above all, his poetry, here too you will find vindication of your views.

He was an unusual ...


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