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This review is taken from PN Review 50, Volume 12 Number 6, July - August 1986.

AS IT WAS R. George Thomas, Edward Thomas: A Portrait (OUP) £12.95

The basis of this tactful and balanced biography is the collection of previously unpublished letters made available to the author by Edward Thomas's widow some years before her death; drawing heavily but discerningly on this correspondence, Professor Thomas has provided the fullest account to date of his subject's complex personality and his remarkable but entirely logical development as a writer.

Edward and Helen Thomas agreed early in their relationship on the importance of complete honesty in their dealings with one another, and the letters which passed between them during their protracted courtship and in the first few years of their marriage are particularly revealing. Although, as Professor Thomas points out, the 'periods of morbid melancholy, or brooding, formed a tiny part of the complete man [his friends] recalled', there can be no doubt at all that Edward's melancholic tendencies were actually quite pronounced from a relatively early stage in his life. Various factors were involved but, reading the letters, one senses particularly strongly the inner tension of a man in whom the consciousness of visionary potential operated in unfailingly close conjunction with a chastening awareness of human limitations generally, and of his own inadequacies in particular.

If the obsessive self-analysis of Edward's early letters is less attractive than Helen's ingenuous affirmations of a love founded on 'purity', it was nevertheless, as this biography makes clear, an essential element in his movement towards the subtle but rigorous truths of the poetry. By insisting upon 'the long ...

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