Matthew Hollis, author of Now All Roads Lead to France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas, has won the Costa (formerly Whitbread) prize for best biography. The judges called it “dramatic and engrossing. A brilliant biography that moved us all.”
The biography gives an account of the last five years of Thomas’ life, in particular his friendship with poet Robert Frost, his struggles with depression, the late discovery and rapid blossoming of his talent for poetry, cut short by his decision to voluntarily fight in WWI, which culminated in his death at Arras on Easter Monday, 1917.
It was a surprise win for the debut biographer, as Claire Tomalin’s biography of Dickens had been a strong favourite. Matthew Hollis is now 2-1 favourite to win the overall award, Costa’s Book of the Year, announced on 24 January.
During his research for the biography, Hollis drew heavily on Edward Thomas’ letters, photographs and poetry manuscripts, held at Special Collections and Archives, Cardiff University. We hope this award will raise the profile of Edward Thomas’ poetry, and his substantial archives at Cardiff.
The Edward Thomas collection is fully catalogued and will shortly be available to search online. It contains around 4000 letters to and from friends and family, 2000 reviews, 500 photographs and 300 poetry manuscripts, as well as notebooks, diaries and other personal effects. It is available for consultation on appointment. Please contact the Archivist, Alison Harvey, for more information: HarveyAE@cardiff.ac.uk.