Phillip Edward Thomas was an Anglo-Welsh writer of prose and poetry. He is commonly considered a war poet, although few of his poems deal directly with his war experiences. Already an accomplished writer, Thomas turned to poetry only in 1914. He enlisted in the army in 1915, and was killed in action during the Battle of Arras in 1917, soon after he arrived in France.
Thomas was born in Lambeth, London. He was educated at Battersea Grammar School, St Paul's School and Lincoln College, Oxford. His family were mostly Welsh. Unusually, he married while still an undergraduate and determined to live his life by the pen. He then worked as a book reviewer, reviewing up to 15 books every week. He was already a seasoned writer by the outbreak of war, having published widely as a literary critic and biographer, as well as a writer on the countryside. He also wrote a novel, The Happy-Go-Lucky Morgans (1913).
Thomas worked as literary critic for the Daily Chronicle in London and became a close friend of Welsh tramp poet W. H. Davies, whose career he almost single-handedly developed.
From 1905, Thomas lived with his wife Helen and their family at Elses Farm near Sevenoaks, Kent. He rented a tiny cottage nearby for Davies and nurtured his writing as best he could. On one occasion, Thomas even had to arrange for the manufacture, by a local wheelwright, of a makeshift wooden leg for Davies.
Even though Thomas thought that poetry was the highest form of literature and regularly reviewed it, he only became a poet himself at the end of 1914. Living at Steep, in East Hampshire, he initially published some poetry under the name Edward Eastaway.
By August 1914, the village of Dymock in Gloucestershire had become the residence of a number of literary figures, including Lascelles Abercrombie, Wilfrid Gibson and American poet Robert Frost. Edward Thomas was a visitor at this time.
The (now-abandoned) railway station at Adlestrop in the Cotswolds was immortalised in a well-known poem by Thomas after his train made an unscheduled stop there on 24 June 1914, shortly before the outbreak of the First World War.
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