Tag Archives: Edward Thomas

Guest post: From rookie researcher to amateur archivist: my year in Special Collections

This guest post is from recent English Literature graduate Anna Sharrard. Anna took part in modules closely aligned with Special Collections throughout her final degree year, and is now volunteering with us over the summer, creating our first Edward Thomas online resource.


My first introduction to working in Cardiff University’s Special Collections and Archives was in the autumn term of my third year studying English Literature.  I studied Dr Julia Thomas’s module, The Illustrated Book, which hosted all of its seminars in Special Collections. Over the course of the module, we were given access to numerous examples of illustrated novels, journals, and newspapers from the archive’s extensive collection, aiding our understanding of the history of the illustrated book from the late eighteenth century to the present. My personal highlights included studying Special Collections’ copy of the Moxon Tennyson (surely every Pre-Raphaelite lover’s dream), handling the unconventional and intriguing artist’s books, and carving our own designs into lino blocks to attempt relief printing for ourselves! (Safe to say, I don’t think we would have made the cut to be professional engravers any time soon…)

Practising linocut with the Illustrated Book class.

Practising linocut with the Illustrated Book class.

I was excited by the prospect of returning to the archive in the spring term while studying Dr Carrie Smith’s module, Poetry in the Making: Modern Literary Manuscripts. In order to give us practical experience of working with literary manuscripts, several weeks of the module were conducted in Special Collections, engaging with the material held in the Edward Thomas (1878-1917) archive. Part of the assessment required us to create a group video presentation exploring an item of interest from the archive. Here’s a clip from one of the student films:

Despite the words ‘group presentation’ usually striking fear into the hearts of most students, the filmed assessment was what had initially attracted me to the module. To have a practical element to an undergraduate English Literature module is unusual, and it stood out as a unique opportunity, allowing students to develop and showcase a different set of skills to future employers.

Edward Thomas (1878-1917)

Edward Thomas (1878-1917)

Special Collections’ Edward Thomas archive is expansive, holding the world’s largest collection of his letters, diaries, notebooks, poems, photographs, and personal belongings. Alison Harvey, archivist at Special Collections, selected a wide array of material from the archive for us to explore, and in our groups we assessed which items would form the focal point of our presentations. Being tasked with working with archival material was certainly a new experience, and it proved very interesting but also challenging. Almost all the texts I had encountered during my three years studying English Literature had been published documents, written in standardised print with titles, page numbers, and footnotes. It was therefore challenging studying the manuscript form of Edward Thomas’ poems, diary entries, and correspondence, because the layout of the text on the page did not always follow a chronological pattern. Amendments and notes could have been added at different stages of the document’s history, and we felt like detectives trying to figure out the chronology of the documents. At the beginning we also struggled with some of the seemingly indecipherable handwriting, but both Carrie and Alison were extremely patient with us, and with practice, it became easier to interpret the handwriting and read the material.

Telegram to Helen, notifying her of Edward's death in combat.

Telegram to Helen, notifying her of Edward’s death in combat.

I think the rest of the group would agree how surprisingly evocative they found the experience, especially handling the telegram sent to Helen Thomas relating the news of her husband’s death, and reading the condolence letters sent to her by Edward’s comrades and friends. I think these documents produced a strong emotional reaction among the group, because holding correspondence of such a personal nature felt intrusive to some extent. It was possible to imagine the moment Helen received the telegram, and the devastation this would have caused her and their three children.

The practical experience of working hands-on with the archive material and filming for the presentation made an invigorating change from the usual essay assessments, and the module was an excellent introduction to working in an archive. It also sparked a personal interest in Edward Thomas, drawing in all the elements of his life as a literary critic, a novelist, a poet, a soldier, and also as a husband and a father. I was able to delve further into his life and works by attending the Edward Thomas Centenary Conference that was held at Cardiff University in April 2017, hearing leading researchers of Edward Thomas speak, and meeting fellow fans of his work. On one of the days of the conference, I participated in a student panel hosted by Dr Carrie Smith, answering questions from the attendees about our experience of using the archive, handling the material, and producing a video presentation as an assessment, which was understandably identified as an unusual feature of an undergraduate module.

Edward Thomas 100 exhibition

Edward Thomas 100 exhibition

Special Collections also launched its Edward Thomas 100 exhibition to coincide with the Centenary Conference, and it was fantastic to see the collection showcased to the public in such a visually appealing and accessible way. Much respect to Alison for engineering such a wonderful display whilst also fending off frequent queries about the Edward Thomas archive from our course group as deadlines loomed! The exhibition is on display in Special Collections until October, for any of those who are inspired to come and have a gander.

After being involved in the conference, I approached Alison to see if I could be of any assistance in volunteering my time to Special Collections over the summer. She proposed a project to digitise sections of the Edward Thomas archive. The plan was to focus on the photographs, poems, and letters held in the collection, which were used so heavily as an educational resource every Spring by Dr Carrie Smith’s Poetry in the Making group. Since July, I have been tasked with digitising, editing, uploading and organising images on a freely available online resource (Flickr), where they can be viewed and navigated through easily. The resource allows images to be downloaded for re-use at a variety of resolutions.

The new Edward Thomas online resource

The new Edward Thomas online resource

Once uploaded to Flickr, I attach the full metadata to each image to assist with citations, add tags (so that images can be found by users searching keywords) and a location pin (if applicable). Finally, I group related images into albums for ease of navigation.

I began by tackling the extensive collection of photographs, beginning with those solely of Edward Thomas, and then moving onto the wider family, including ones taken years after Edward’s death. It was necessary for me wear gloves to handle the photographs, (completing the stereotypical image of an archivist in style I might add), as the oils from the skin can easily damage the surface of the prints.

Edward's children (r-l): Bronwen, Myfanwy and Merfyn.

Edward’s children (r-l): Bronwen, Myfanwy and Merfyn.

It has been pleasing to see the Flickr account fill up with photographs of Edward, his wife Helen, and children Merfyn, Bronwen, and Myfanwy. The images really help to flesh out their lives outside of Edward’s publications and literary career. You get a sense of character through photographs that it can be difficult to find from a sheet of paper, no matter how personal someone’s handwriting can feel. It was also enjoyable to see the progression of Edward and Helen’s three children growing up as the number of photos on the resource accumulated.

Early drafts of Edward Thomas' poems

Early drafts of Edward Thomas’ poems

I encountered one of the more challenging aspects of working with archival material when I moved onto digitising Edward’s poems. The manuscript poems held at Special Collections date between 1914-1917, and the pages are noticeably thinner and more delicate than other material in the archive. This is because paper quality severely declined during wartime, and its high acid content makes surviving material extremely friable. The availability of digital surrogates will help conserve these vulnerable originals.

To get a representative sample of the hundreds of letters stored in the archive, I focused my attention next on Edward’s letters from poet Robert Frost and those sent to writer Gordon Bottomley. The letters which I chose to upload from Gordon Bottomley date from 1902-1905, and reveal evidence of Edward’s continuing struggle with depression. Though mostly containing discussion of literature and Edward’s review-writing, there is often a pervasive tone of despair to Edward’s letters. The letters sent to Edward written by Robert Frost date from 1915-16, and are saturated with the outbreak of the war, revealing insecurities arising from the pressure of enlisting and needing to prove one’s worth. On pages 3-4 of a letter from 6 Nov 1916, Frost writes:

Letter from Robert Frost.

Letter from Robert Frost.

“You rather shut me up by enlisting. Talk is almost too cheap when all your friends are facing bullets. I don’t believe I ought to enlist (since I am American) […] When all the world is facing danger, it’s a shame not to be facing danger for any reason, old age, sickness, or any other. Words won’t make the shame less. There’s no use trying to make out that the shame we suffer makes up for the more heroic things we don’t suffer.”

Edward’s own desire to prove his worth is evident in a letter he wrote to his daughter Myfanwy. Dated 29 Dec 1916, whilst Edward was situated in Lydd, Kent, he confesses:

Letter from Edward to his daughter, Myfanwy, aged 6.

Letter from Edward to his daughter, Myfanwy, aged 6.

“I should not be surprised if we were in France at the end of this month. I do hope peace won’t come just yet. I should not know what to do, especially if it came before I had fully been a soldier. I wonder if you want peace, and if you can remember when there was no war.”

Another extensive sequence of Edward Thomas’s correspondences held in Special Collections is between Edward and Helen Thomas (nee Noble). These letters run from 1897 (before their marriage), until Edward’s death in 1917. Of the hundreds of letters, I selected the last letters Edward wrote to Helen, and worked my way backwards. I thought this would provide a useful contrast to the early Bottomley letters, also identifying that the descriptions of Edward’s experiences in the army, and his subsequent posting to France, would be of great interest to researchers of Edward’s life.

The letters Edward writes to Helen during the years he is studying at Lincoln College, Oxford (1898-1900), whilst Helen is at their family home in Kent, are interesting because they disclose the domestic side to Edward’s life. These letters may consist of comparatively mundane subject matter to researchers, as they consist of everyday conversations, mainly including practical matters and financial arrangements between the couple. However, much of the early correspondence resonated with me. One particular letter (25 May 1900, pp. 5-7) contains Edward’s dejection over getting a bad mark in a university module and worrying about disappointing his parents.

Letter from Edward to Helen, while a student at Oxford.

Letter from Edward to Helen, while a student at Oxford.

“I have been wickedly idle this last year (except in the vacation), and father will be angry when he sees the class list in July: for I shall get a 3rd at most.”

Every student at some point has gone through the angst of being convinced they were going to fail a module. It’s reassuring that this was also the case for the last century’s students too.

Another letter from a month later, (8 Jun 1900), consists of Edward expressing his misery at being apart from Helen, but her not being able to visit him because of financial constraints and having nowhere for her to stay. Despite these letters being over 100 years old, it is remarkable just how relevant they still are to students, and to my own experience of being in a long-distance relationship. In our age of instant communication, we can forget how much further distances just within the UK would have felt when you had to wait on a letter to bring news of your loved ones: “I have no time for a letter but I can’t help expecting to hear good news from you. The absence of it is distracting. My health is getting bad and my eyes almost // failed me today. I don’t see how you can come down. You can’t afford it and I don’t know where you could stay.”

In creating this resource, I have become privy to so many more aspects of Edward Thomas’s life that I didn’t have time to appreciate during the seminar hours of Poetry in the Making. My hope is that this resource will allow future students on the module to spend time going through the collection at their own leisure, unrestrained by the archive’s opening hours or the limited number of seminars held in the archive. Having the images freely available to use on Flickr will reduce the number of times the documents will be handled each time a group needs to take a photograph, helping to conserve the originals. This will free up time during the seminars for the groups to discuss the content and argument of their presentations, and also guarantee high quality photographs for every group. For those rushing things last-minute, (as there inevitably will be), they will be able to check a reference number or a date quickly online, rather than having to pull out and go through all the boxes of material in search of one photograph or a letter they forgot to write down the catalogue number for!

Beyond the University, now that a large chunk of the Edward Thomas archive has been digitised, researchers all over the world are able see images of the documents described by the archive catalogue, and can easily browse through the majority of the collection held here in Cardiff. This will be a major help to many, I hope, and aid them in their research.

I’ve enjoyed my time in Special Collections very much over the final year of my degree here at Cardiff University, and I want to say a big thank you to the entire team at Special Collections for making me feel so welcome during this project. It’s been a pleasure to aid future users of the archive, and if you’re unfamiliar with Special Collections, I hope you will go for a visit after reading this!

Iron gall ink in the Edward Thomas manuscripts and its conservation at Glamorgan Archives

The following post is courtesy of Pamela Murray, an MSc Conservation Practice Student at Cardiff University and conservation volunteer at Glamorgan Archives. She has been working on the Edward Thomas Conservation project as a student conservator thanks to the generous support of the National Manuscript Conservation Trust


Dating back to the 1st century AD and used all the way until the 19th century, iron gall ink was a common writing ink throughout Europe. It is made from iron sulphates, gum,   tannins  extracted from galls (generally oak tree galls), and water. There are different recipes and methods found throughout history to make iron gall ink, and some even include using wine.

Iron Gall Ink recipe ET blog

This is a recipe from the Dutch website dedicated to Iron Gall Ink: https://irongallink.org/igi_index78f9.html

So, one of the problems with this historic ink is that the degradation process of it can be detrimental to the paper or work of art it has been used for.

Excess iron sulphates Fe(II) accelerate the oxidation process in the paper or parchment due to their reaction with atmospheric oxygen. There are three signs of degradation:

  1. Halo-ing: when there is a faint spreading of the ink.
  2. Burnthrough: when the ink becomes increasingly visible on the reverse of the page.
  3. Lacing:  where the inked area is so weak and friable that it causes the paper to cracks and eventually fall out. this is possibly the most detrimental.

Luckily, none of the manuscripts from the Edward Thomas archive had lacing. They did, however, have  a slight haloing. In order to test the paper for iron gall ink, we dipped an indicator paper impregnated with bathophenanthroleine is dipped in deionised water and spot tested on an appropriate area. The bathophenanthroleine reacts with ferrous ions to form a pink complex.

Many of the Edward Thomas notebooks tested positive for iron gall ink, meaning that none of the papers can be treated with water because the ferrous ions could spread, causing further degradation. Luckily for us, in a paper written in 1995, Neeval suggested a calcium phytate aquaeous treatment, where the phytate chellates the iron (II) ions. It  does not break down Iron (III) because it is a stable molecule, so that means the ink doesn’t fade. However, this treatment strategy has been met with some challenges because it is highly interventive, and there have been many international projects looking into the treatment of iron gall ink with calcium phytate. (Kolar et al. 2005, Kolbe 2004, Tse et al., 2005, Zappala and De Stefani 2005, Botti et al. 2005, Hofmann et al. 2004, Jembrih-Simbürger et al. 2004, Reissland and de Groot 1999.)

Testing ET Notebook

Testing one of Edward Thomas’ notebooks. The pink complex indicates ferrous ions present in the ink.

Looking at the altenatives, this is the most effective aqueous method of prolonging iron gall ink’s life time with minimal side effects. So, it was agreed that treating the notebooks in question with a calcium phytate bath was the best step forward to prevent further damage due to iron gall ink.

It is with thanks to the National Manuscript Conservation Trust and the Glamorgan Archives that the Edward Thomas manuscripts housed at Cardiff University’s Special Collections and Archives could be treated and conserved accordingly. In the same breath, it has served as an important learning tool for myself as a conservation student.

Mixing Calcium

Mixing up the calcium carbonate and phytate acid to make calcium phytate.

The BBC has a great clip about iron gall ink: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p033dbrb  in BBC Four’s documentary Oak Tree: Nature’s Greatest Survivor. The full programme can be purchased from the BBC Store.

References:

Neevel, J. (2009). Application Issues of the Bathophenanthroline Test for Iron(II) Ions. Restaurator 30, pp.3–15.

http://www.kennisvoorcollecties.nl/en/projects/collection-risk-management/paper-heritage-metamorfoze/ink-corrosion/

http://www.averybazemore.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Bazemore_Avery_MA_thesis_16092016.pdf

https://irongallink.org/igi_index888e.html

 

Guest post: Observations on Edward Thomas’ manuscript poems

This guest post comes from Rachel Carney, writer and blogger at http://www.createdtoread.com.


What I love about archives is the fact that they provide an opportunity to discover things you’d never see for yourself in the printed copies of a writers’ work. As we celebrate the centenary of the poet Edward Thomas, who lived and fought during the First World War, it is an incredible privilege to be able to see his personal handwritten letters and notebooks – to read the poems written in his own hand, and to see the very pages on which he wrote.

You can see some of these in a new online exhibition, featuring highlights from the world’s largest collection of Edward Thomas papers. Special Collections and Archives will also host an onsite exhibition, launching tomorrow on 19th April, the first day of the Edward Thomas 100 conference.

The following manuscripts of Thomas’ poems were all written in 1916, the last year of his life.

The Trumpet, by Edward Thomas.

The Trumpet, by Edward Thomas. Original manuscript draft in pencil, sent to Eleanor Farjeon.

On first glance, ‘The Trumpet’, written by Thomas in September 1916, seems to be a rousing call to arms, but on closer examination, there is much more to this simple poem than you might think. To begin with, as his biographer Matthew Hollis explains, “he did his best to conceal that it was a poem at all”. It was written whilst Thomas was based at the Royal Artillery Barracks in Trowbridge, and he was afraid, it seems, to let on to his fellow soldiers that he was actually a poet.

We wouldn’t necessarily know this unless we had the original manuscript, which he sent in a letter addressed to his friend Eleanor Farjeon, in which he admitted what he’d done: “You see I have written it with only capitals to mark the lines” because “people are all around me and I don’t want them to know”.

The poem itself is full of ambiguity and irony. Hollis describes it thus: “the form, strident, galloping, heroic… but the content suggesting other tones – the dark stars that failed to illuminate the earth below, the hounding of dreams…” Edward Thomas had always been against the war and the fervent nationalism that it inspired, and it had taken him a long time to make the momentous decision to enlist, and fight for his country. Of all his poems, just a handful refer directly to the war itself, and they are different in style to those of his contemporaries, such as Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves and Rupert Brooke.

Earlier that same month Edward Thomas wrote ‘Gone, gone again’, later titled ‘Blenheim Oranges‘. This is a bleak, depressing verse which focuses on the relentless march of time, as apples continue to “fall grubby from the trees” and the war continues to “turn young men to dung”.

Blenheim Oranges by Edward Thomas. Original manuscript draft in ink.

Blenheim Oranges by Edward Thomas. Original manuscript draft in ink.

 

We also hold the original manuscript of ‘As the team’s head brass’, a poem written earlier in 1916, which refers obliquely to the war. In Hollis’s biography, he describes how the poem was deeply significant for Thomas, mirroring his own decision to seek a commission on the Western Front. It pivots around the central phrase: ‘…Everything / Would have been different. For it would have been / Another world.’ These lines, and the fallen elm tree on which the speaker sits, highlight the fact that war changes everything, however remotely removed one might feel from the situation.

As the teams head brass by Edward Thomas.

As the teams head brass by Edward Thomas. Original manuscript draft in ink, sent to Eleanor Farjeon.

It is fascinating to compare these manuscripts, and see that Thomas’s handwriting varied widely. We can also see his corrections, and observe the editing process in action.

If you visit the exhibition you’ll be able to see some of them for yourself, or come along to our poetry performance event on Friday, where items from the archive will be on display.

 

Edward Thomas 100: Exhibition launch

Edward Thomas (1878-1917)

Edward Thomas (1878-1917)

A frustrated writer, suffocated by family life, and crippled by depression and self-doubt, Edward Thomas (1878-1917) found his personal and literary salvation as a soldier in the First World War.

​In 2017, Cardiff University, holder of the world’s largest archive of Edward Thomas’ letters, diaries, notebooks, poems, photographs, and personal belongings, will host a major centenary conference and exhibition celebrating his life and work.

Our online exhibition is now live. An onsite, public exhibition, based in Special Collections and Archives, will launch on 19th April, the first day of the Edward Thomas 100 conference, and will be in place over the summer.

The exhibition features many highlights from the archives: intimate letters to Helen Thomas and Gordon Bottomley, poetry drafts, nature diaries, family photographs, as well as previously unheard archive recordings of family and friends, interviewed by Cardiff University’s Professor R. George Thomas in 1967. Find out more about both the archive and the exhibition in this Wales Arts Review podcast with Prof. Katie Gramich and archivist Alison Harvey.

Other Edward Thomas events taking place in Cardiff this month include a creative writing workshop and open mic poetry night. This year’s Frome Festival will feature Edward Thomas themed talks, walks, and even a cricket match! BBC Radio 4 will be broadcasting In Pursuit of Edward Thomas, a programme by biographer Mathew Hollis, and a radio adaptation of Nick Dear’s play, The Dark Earth and the Light Sky.

A Century of Poetry: National Poetry Writing Month #NaPoWriMo)

National Poetry Writing Month (aka #NaPoWriMo) begins today! We’ll be providing poetry prompts throughout April, to encourage writers everywhere to write one poem each day in response to the work of Edward Thomas, a poet who fought in the First World War and died exactly 100 years ago, in April 1917, at the Battle of Arras.

We’re incredibly fortunate to hold a collection of material relating to Edward Thomas, including original manuscripts of some of his poems, letters, photos and notebooks. We’ll be launching an exhibition of some of these items later in April, but if you aren’t able to get to Cardiff, you can follow us on Twitter or Facebook to receive the daily prompts and find out more about Thomas’s eventful life.

Anyone can take part in National Poetry Writing Month, and you can keep your poems to yourself or post them online for others to see. It doesn’t matter where you live, and it doesn’t matter whether you’ve ever written a poem before – the point is to be inspired and to write something every day.

Here’s our first prompt: the first two stanzas of ‘Adlestrop’, one of Edward Thomas’s most famous poems, written in 1915:

Yes. I remember Adlestrop—
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop—only the name

Thomas’s poems are full of ‘names’ – of places, birds, trees, people, herbs…

Write a list of names that mean something to you, for example:

  • Names of places you’ve lived
  • Names of people you know

Circle the names that stand out and write a poem using them as a starting point.

If you live nearby, come along to our poetry performance event on 21st April, supported by Literature Wales, which includes an Edward Thomas themed open mic.

There is also an Edward Thomas conference taking place later this month, organised by the School of English Communication and Philosophy.

Edward Thomas 100: celebrating a poetic legacy in April 2017

Photos from the archive.

Photos from the archive.
(c) Edward Thomas Estate

One of our most fascinating collections relates to the life and work of a poet – Edward Thomas, who was killed in action during the First World War, exactly one hundred years ago, in April 1917.

Edward Thomas made a living writing travel books and critical reviews. It was a combination of his friendship with the American poet, Robert Frost, and the outbreak of the First World War, which led to him beginning to write poetry in 1914, until his tragic death just a short time later, on the Western Front.

In 2017, Cardiff University, holder of the world’s largest archive of Edward Thomas’ letters, diaries, notebooks, poems, photographs, and personal belongings, will host a major centenary conference and exhibition celebrating his life and work, as well as a series of poetry events, supported by Literature Wales. A creative writing workshop on 8th April will be followed by a unique poetry performance evening on 21st April. We’ll also be taking part in #NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) by providing daily poetry prompts, to encourage as many people as possible to be inspired by his writing, and to write their own poems in response.

Letters to Edward from Robert Frost.

Letters to Edward from Robert Frost.
(c) Edward Thomas Estate

Edward Thomas 100: A Creative Writing Workshop

Saturday 8th April

3-5pm

Venue: Special Collections and Archives, Arts and Social Studies Library, Colum Road, Cardiff, CF10 3EU.

Free entry, but places are limited so please book by emailing Rachel at CarneyR2@cardiff.ac.uk

Edward Thomas' pocket watch

Edward Thomas’ pocket watch.
(c) Edward Thomas Estate

The Edward Thomas archive is an incredible collection of material and objects relating to his life and work, including original manuscripts of some of his poems, as well as letters, notebooks, articles and objects, such as the watch which he was wearing when he died (it is thought that the force of the blast actually stopped the mechanism at the time of his death).

You will have a unique opportunity to view items from the collection and be inspired to write your own work in response. There will also be a chance to read work produced during the workshop at our performance event on 21st April, and we will publish some of the best pieces written by workshop participants on our blog.

Read more about the workshop tutor:

Bryan Marshall is a Cardiff based poet and fiction writer. He has won first prize and publication in The Word Hut and Darker Times. He’s also had work published in Thief magazine, Postcard Poems, Prose Magazine, and The Ghastling. He regularly performs at spoken word events in Cardiff.

This workshop is free to attend, but places are limited so please book by emailing Rachel at CarneyR2@cardiff.ac.uk


Yes. I Remember Adlestrop: Celebrating the Influence of Edward Thomas on Contemporary Poetry

Friday 21st April

7.30pm (doors open from 7pm)

Venue: Little Man Coffee Company, Ivor House, Bridge Street, Cardiff, CF10 2EE.

Free entry

Edward Thomas has influenced the work of numerous writers, from Robert Frost, Thomas Hardy and W.H. Auden, to Philip Larkin, Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes. This event will celebrate the influence of his work on contemporary poetry.

Edward with his son Merfyn, 1900.

Edward with his son Merfyn, 1900.
(c) Edward Thomas Estate

Lucy Newlyn (from Oxford), Jonathan Edwards (from South Wales) and Glyn Edwards (from North Wales), will read their own poems and talk about the influence of Edward Thomas on their work. Local writers will also share poems written specially for the occasion, and there will be an open mic on the same theme.

The event will also include a pop-up exhibition, featuring highlights from the Edward Thomas archive.

More about the poets:

Professor Lucy Newlyn is both an academic and a poet, having lectured at Oxford University since 1984, where she is now an Emeritus Fellow of St Edmund Hall. Her first poetry collection Ginnel was published by Oxford Poets/Carcanet in 2005, and a second collection, Earth’s Almanac, was published by Enitharmon Press in 2015. She has been literary editor of the Oxford Magazine since 2011. She has a longstanding interest in the work of Edward Thomas, and has co-edited Branch-lines: Edward Thomas and Contemporary Poetry and published other work related to his prose and poetry.

Edward and Helen Thomas.

Edward and Helen Thomas.
(c) Edward Thomas Estate

Jonathan Edwards’ first collection, My Family and Other Superheroes (Seren, 2014) received the Costa Poetry Award and the Wales Book of the Year People’s Choice Award. It was shortlisted for the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize. He works as a teacher and the poems of Edward Thomas, rich in their treatment of people, nature and time, are among his favourite to teach.

Glyn Edwards has been Writer in Residence at a number of literature festivals including the ‘Poem for October’ project at the Dylan Thomas Boathouse.  He has had work published in the Wales Arts Review, The Lonely Crowd, The Lampeter Review and a variety of other publications. His debut poetry collection, ‘Conversations’, will be published in 2018, and will include poems written in response to Edward Thomas and Robert Frost.

Please share our events on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter @CUSpecialColls for regular poetry prompts throughout April.

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Discovering the Edward Thomas archive: a student perspective

This guest post comes from Sarah Murray, a final year English Literature undergraduate. Sarah recently worked on a project in Special Collections as part of the Poetry in the Making module led by Dr Carrie Smith. The students were tasked with exploring the Edward Thomas archive, to find items to inspire short films. These would present arguments about Thomas’ life and work, with reference to primary sources. An extract from one of the films is featured below.

During our first visit to Special Collections, we worked closely with archivist, Alison Harvey, who collected a huge range of material from manuscripts of poems to Thomas’ personal diaries, to flower cuttings, to personal items, such as his clay pipes.

We were able to spend time looking through this material, and quickly realised that the diversity of materials the archive has to offer meant that there was a huge scope for creativity in the upcoming project.

Manuscripts, transcripts, diaries and flower cuttings - a typical scene at our table.

Manuscripts, transcripts, diaries and flower cuttings – a typical scene at our table.

My group was struck by the regular communication between Edward Thomas and fellow poet Robert Frost, and decided to concentrate on the profound impact Frost had on Thomas’ birth as a poet. Armed with more material than it was possible to process, we visited the archive regularly, pouring over the correspondence between Thomas and Frost.

The calming atmosphere of Special Collections made a welcome change from the rest of the Arts and Social Studies Library, and if it was not for the fact that I would be eternally thirsty, I would do all of my writing in the archive! (It’s funny how the moment you know you can’t have something, that’s immediately all you want in the world.)

After much research, constructing our arguments and a lot of video editing, the four groups in our class each created and submitted a ten minute film as part of the module assessment and it was surprising how different each one was. Almost as if we had sat down and allocated different approaches to take.

Uniquely, the work we produced was showcased to the English Literature department. Although slightly embarrassing to watch and listen to ourselves on the big screen (there was a lot of face covering and even a quick exit), the opportunity to share our videos with members of the department who were interested and surprised by the originality of our arguments, made the project seem incredibly worthwhile.

litmodulestudentsFor me, the experience was eye opening as it provided us with the thought processes and concerns that preceded the published versions of Thomas’ eloquent poetry. I hadn’t really considered the apprehension that a poet may experience when writing, perhaps having been consumed by the Romantic idea that inspiration for a complete product is found while sitting peacefully at the top of a hill. The ability to immerse ourselves in the material that led to the publication of Thomas’ poetry enabled us to understand the man and consequently, the poet and his poetry in a deeper sense.

Samantha Palen, third year English Literature and Journalism student, adds: “As an amateur poet myself, I had long ago rejected the Wordsworthian / Romantic idea of writing poetry, if purely for the fact that British weather means that writing anything whilst strolling through the countryside proves nearly impossible. However, I was surprised to learn the range of materials in the archive that fed into the final published poems; classically you imagine that a poem is written, edited through various manuscripts and then published, bish, bash, bosh. What I didn’t take into account was all of the materials that fall outside of this process, the photographs, the diaries, the correspondence with friends and family, which arguably have a greater impact on the creation of a piece of poetry. All of this took some time to get my head around and the sheer amount of information available seemed incredibly daunting, but all of the archive staff were incredibly helpful in making this an incredibly enjoyable experience!”

All in all, this project was definitely more challenging than anything else I have been required to do as part of my degree and was a welcome change to the thousands of words of essay I have written across nearly three years of reading English Literature. I greatly enjoyed the time we spent in Special Collections. Cardiff University is very lucky to have such a rich collection of historical and literary archives and the opportunity to make use of this material enriched my knowledge of a subject I am passionate about. Finally, I am very grateful to Carrie for providing us with this new and exciting academic opportunity and to Alison for her time and commitment to supporting us throughout the project.

Edward Thomas’ In Pursuit of Spring: the lost photographs

The story started here: while undertaking the cataloguing of the Edward Thomas archive – the slow and careful process of examining, describing and categorising one man’s belongings – I came across a small, slightly battered envelope marked ’53 prints, Edward Thomas’.envelope

The photos were of locations Thomas had visited over 100 years ago, taken during a cycle ride from London to Somerset, via the cathedral towns of Winchester, Salisbury and Wells over Easter weekend, 1913. The journey was to provide inspiration for his prose work, In Pursuit of Spring – a celebration of nature, Spring and the English landscape in the months prior to the devastation of the First World War.

It is not yet spring. Spring is being dreamed and the dream is more wonderful and more blessed than ever was spring. What the hour of waking will bring forth is not known, catch at the dreams as they hover.

Mapped: locations photographed along the route

Mapped: locations photographed along the route

Landscape photographer Rob Hudson visited Special Collections and Archives this time last year, with a general interest in finding out more about the contents of Edward Thomas archive. I showed him notebooks, poems drafts, and letters from the poet, which are the usual objects of interest, and as an afterthought, considering his interest in photography, brought out the little packet of photos. Some had locations pencilled on the reverse, and as we peered and puzzled over the names, I could tell Rob had been struck by inspiration. He placed an order for the photos to be digitised, and produced this fantastic blog post. The post was shared widely across his network on Twitter, and the photos were introduced to the world.

Turner's Tower, Hemington, Radstock, Avon.

Turner’s Tower, Hemington, Radstock, Avon.

Later that year, Little Toller, described by The Independent as ‘a small but discerning press’, were trying to make a decision. Edward Thomas’ centenary was approaching: should they publish The Icknield Way or In Pursuit of Spring? Stumbling across Rob’s blog post while researching online, an idea grew. What if In Pursuit of Spring could be reprinted, fully illustrated with the snapshots which had inspired its author? Images of a lost, almost car-less England, full of empty roads and paths, speaking of travel, motion and hope.

Castle Street, Bridgwater

Castle Street, Bridgwater

Following discussions with the Edward Thomas Estate, permission was granted to publish the photos in print for the first time, in a brand new edition of the work. Little Toller’s handsome edition of In Pursuit of Spring went on sale on 3 March, Edward Thomas’ birthday, and sold out in just four weeks. Another print run has just taken place, and it is just as well, given that the work has caught the attention of the national media. The Guardian has run an excellent feature which compares the historic images with photos taken in the same locations in the modern day – readers can use the blue sliders on each image to compare then and now.

In Pursuit of Spring was to be one of Thomas’ last prose works. He is now better remembered for his poetry, such as In Memoriam, written only two years later, at yet another Easter, in 1915:

The flowers left thick at nightfall in the wood
This Eastertide call into mind the men,
Now far from home, who, with their sweethearts, should
Have gathered them and will do never again.

In his post, Rob Hudson writes:

That is the final connection with Easter for this story; the Easter 1913 when he set out, in pursuit of Spring; the Easter Monday 1915 of In Memoriam; and Easter Monday 1917, at Arras where he died. Easter, of course, is when we traditionally celebrate the Resurrection, and it is perhaps fitting that Edward Thomas’ words and now his photographs outlive him.

Special Collections and Archives would like to thank Rob Hudson and Little Toller for their role in enabling these images, and Thomas’ work, to reach and be enjoyed by a new generation of readers. All photographs can be viewed on our Pinterest board.

Rare Books Lecture Series: Prof. Edna Longley on Edward Thomas

ET_1916_2This autumn we welcome Professor Emerita Edna Longley from Queen’s University Belfast, to deliver the first of our Rare Books Lectures for 2015/16. Edna has made many visits to Special Collections and Archives over the years, in order to make use of the extensive family archive of war-poet Edward Thomas, and we look forward to hearing some of the results of this research. Her talk is titled: ‘Finding “something to read”: Edward Thomas’s reviews and early twentieth-century print culture’.

The event will be held in Lecture Theatre 0.31, John Percival Building (Humanities), at 5.30pm on Thursday 22 October, sponsored by the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and Special Collections and Archives, in association with the School of English, Communication and Philosophy. Please contact us at scolar@cardiff.ac.uk to book  a place for the talk.

Edna Longley’s monographs include Louis MacNeice: A Study (Faber, 1989), The Living Stream: Literature and Revisionism in Ireland (Bloodaxe, 1994) and Poetry & Posterity (Bloodaxe, 2000). She has edited Edward Thomas: The Annotated Collected Poems (Bloodaxe, 2008). Her most recent book is Yeats and Modern Poetry (Cambridge University Press, 2013). She is a Member of the Royal Irish Academy and a Fellow of the British Academy.

Edward Thomas (1878-1917), was killed at the front in the First World War. His extensive family archive is held in Special Collections and Archives, and a major series on his prose work will be appearing shortly from Oxford University Press.

 

 

 

Exhibition: Cymru ac Iwerddon / Wales and Ireland 1914-1918

 

Cymru ac Iwerddon 1914-18:  Delweddau o Ddau Ryfel

Wales and Ireland 1914-18:  Images from Two Wars

Arddangosfa gan / An exhibition by Katherine Wilkins

 

Ymreolaeth i Iwerddon / Home Rule for Ireland

Conradh na Ghaeilge oedd y mudiad a sefydlwyd i ymgyrchu dros iaith a diwylliant Iwerddon, o fewn y mudiad ymreolaeth. Roedd gan y mudiad gylchgrawn dwyieithog wythnosol, An Claidheamh Soluis, hynny yw ‘Gleddyf Goleuni’. Golygydd cynnar y papur oedd Padraig Pearse, arweinydd dylanwadol yng ngwrthryfel Iwerddon. Dosbarthwyd pamffledi’n hybu gwaith Conradh na Ghaeilge yn Nulyn, Llundain, ac ar draws Prydain.  Cytunwyd ar fesur ymreolaeth i Iwerddon gan San Steffan yn 1914, ond cafodd ei ohirio pan aeth Prydain i mewn i’r Rhyfel Mawr.

The Gaelic League was the cultural strand of the Irish Home Rule movement focusing on a revival of Irish culture and language. Its journal was An Claidheamh Soluis, or The Sword of Light, a weekly, bilingual newspaper. An early editor and contributor was Patrick Pearse who later became an influential leader of the Irish rebellion. Pamphlets promoting the study and advancement of Irish and the work of the Gaelic League were distributed in London, Dublin, and throughout Great Britain. At the beginning of 1914, the Irish Home Rule Bill appeared to pass through Parliament, but was later suspended as Great Britain entered the First World War.

An Claidheamh Soluis. Samain, 29, 1913

An Claidheamh Soluis. Samain, 29, 1913

Punch. 11 Feb 1914.

An Claidheamh Soluis. Samain, 29, 1913.

Gaelic League. Dhá adhbhar déag: Seo dhá adhbhar déag fá’r cóir do gach Éireannach an Ghaedhilg do bheith fá mhear aige. [Twelve Reasons Why Irishmen Should Know, Prize, and Cherish the Irish Language.] ca. 1900.

Ryan, W. P. The Work of the Gaelic League: Points for Irish People in Great Britain; How to Start and Conduct Branches. 1902.

 

Ymreolaeth i Gymru / Home Rule for Wales

Prif fudiad tu ôl i’r galwadau am ymreolaeth i Gymru oedd Cymru Fydd. Roedd yn fudiad diwylliannol i ddechrau, ond â chysylltiadau â’r Blaid Ryddfrydol, ac ymgyrchodd dros ymreolaeth i Gymru yng nghylchgrawn y mudiad, Young Wales (yn ddiweddarach Wales: a National Magazine). Er yn gefnogol yn y dechrau i Gymry Fydd, yn ddiweddarach symudodd David Lloyd George i ffwrdd o’r mudiad, a diflannodd y corff wedyn. Serch hyn, roedd digon o gefnogaeth yn 1914 i hybu Deddf Ddatgysylltu’r Eglwys, ond gohiriwyd hon ar ôl i Brydain ymuno yn y Rhyfel Mawr ym Mis Awst.

The driving force behind the Wales Home Rule movement was Cymru Fydd, or Young Wales. As a cultural organisation it was linked with the Liberal party in Wales, and campaigned for Welsh home rule via the journal for the organisation, Young Wales (later Wales: a National Magazine). Although an early advocate for Cymru Fydd, David Lloyd George later distanced himself, and the movement collapsed subsequently. Momentum appeared promising for Parliament’s approval of the Welsh Disestablishment Act of 1914, but by August it was suspended as Britain entered in the First World War.

Edwards, J. Hugh. (ed.) Wales: A National Magazine. July 1913

Edwards, J. Hugh. (ed.) Wales: A National Magazine. July 1913

Celt, A. Cymru Fydd Cymru Rydd: Or the National Movement in Wales. 1895.

Griffith, Gwilym O. The New Wales: Some Aspects of National Idealism: With a Plea for Welsh Home Rule. 1913

Fowell, R. W. and Dibdin, L. George. The Welsh Disestablishment Bill, 1909 with Explanation Notes and Compared with the Bill of 1895 and the Irish Disestablishment Act of 1869. 1909.

Downing, S. E. Disestablishment and Disendowment under the Welsh Church Act, 1914. 1915.

John, Edward T. Ymreolaeth Gyfunol: Safle A Hawliau Cymru: Manteision Senedd Gymreig. 1910.

Edwards, J. Hugh. (ed.) Wales: A National Magazine. July 1913.

John, Edward T. National Self-Government: How Wales Stands to Gain By It: Advantages of A Welsh Senate. 1910.

Edwards, J. Hugh. (ed.) Young Wales. March 1901.

 

Dau Ryfel / Two Wars

Gwirfoddolodd nifer yn y fyddin dan anogaeth David Lloyd George, a chonsgriptwyd nifer hefyd, i greu bataliwn ‘Cymreig’ (y 38ain), a alwyd yn fataliwn Lloyd George. Ym Mis Gorffennaf 1916 lladdwyd neu anafwyd tua 4,000 o Gymru ym Mrwydr Goed Mametz ger y Somme. Yn yr un cyfnod yn Iwerddon fe gododd Gwrthryfel y Pasg pan gipiwyd canol Dulyn, dim ond i filwyr Prydeinig eu gorchfygu dyddiau’n ddiweddarach. Cyhoeddwyd ffotograffau o ddigwyddiadau gydol y rhyfel gan y ‘War Illustrated’, yn cynnwys yma rhai o filwyr Cymru ac Iwerddon nid nepell o flaen y gad.

Whether conscripted or spurred by David Lloyd George’s rhetoric, a large number of Welshmen joined the 38th (Welsh) Division, also known as Lloyd George’s Division. In early July 1916 nearly 4,000 Welshmen were killed or wounded at the Battle of Mametz Wood on the Somme. Meanwhile, Ireland was recovering from the repercussions of the Easter Rising, when in April 1916, rebels seized Dublin, only to be quelled by British forces a few days later. The War Illustrated published photographs throughout the war, included here are some Welsh and Irish soldiers on the Western Front.

The War Illustrated: A Pictorial Record of the Conflict of the Nations. 29 July 1916

The War Illustrated: A Pictorial Record of the Conflict of the Nations. 29 July 1916

Muirhead Bone (the official war artist). The Western Front. 1917.

The Great War: The Standard History of the All-Europe Conflict. Vol. 7.

The War Illustrated: A Pictorial Record of the Conflict of the Nations. 29 July 1916.

 

Gwrthwynebwyr Cydwybodol / Conscientious Objectors

Er gwaethaf galwadau gan Kitchener i ddynion godi arfau, a’r ddeddf gonsgriptio hefyd, gwrthododd rhai ymuno â’r fyddin. Yng Nghymru cyhoeddwyd cryn nifer o bamffledi a chylchgronau heddychol, gan y rhai â daliadau crefyddol neu wleidyddol cryf. Gweithiodd Thomas Rees, pennaeth Coleg Bala-Bangor fel golygydd y cylchgrawn heddychol ‘Y Deyrnas’. Cafodd T.E.Nicholas ei garcharu am wrthod ymladd, ar sail heddychol a sosialaidd. Yn Iwerddon doedd fawr o awydd gan lawer i ymladd ar ran Prydain yn ei rhyfel tramor. Beirniadaeth hallt oedd ymateb y wasg Brydeinig i’r ‘shirkers’ honedig hyn.

Despite Kitchener’s call to arms and the newly passed Conscription Bill, some British refused to join the forces. In Wales, spurred by religious and political beliefs, a growing number wrote passionately for pacifism publishing pamphlets, books, and newspapers. Thomas Rees, principal at Bala-Bangor College and an objector on Christian principals, served as editor of Y Deyrnas. T. E. Nicholas, an out-spoken, Socialist pacifist was incarcerated for his objection to fighting. In Ireland, with rebellion surfacing, there was little interest in fighting Britain’s war overseas. The British press offered harsh criticism of so-called “shirkers”.

Punch. 12 June 1918

Punch. 12 June 1918

Nicholas, Thomas Evan. Dros Eich Gwlad. 1920.

Rees, Thomas. (ed.) Y Deyrnas. Chwefror 1917.

Punch. 16 June 1915.

Punch. 12 June 1918.

 

Llenyddiaeth / Literature

Mae Cymru ac Iwerddon ill dau yn dathlu eu traddodiadau llenyddol gan wobrwyo awduron a beirdd yn eu gwyliau diwylliannol cenedlaethol, yr Eisteddfod a’r Oireachtas. Yn yr Eisteddfod yn 1917 cafodd Hedd Wyn ei gadeirio, wythnosau ar ôl ei farwolaeth ar flaen y gad. Awdur poblogaidd ar y pryd oedd Arthur Machen, a nes ymlaen David Jones a oedd yn arlunydd hefyd, ac Edward Thomas o deulu Cymry Llundain (mae Prifysgol Caerdydd yn dal ei archif llenyddol enfawr). Yn Iwerddon adlewyrchiad o hyder cenedlaethol oedd gweithiau Padraig Pearse. Er yn pellhau ei hun oddi wrth Wrthryfel y Pasg, roedd W.B. Yeats yn dal yn wladgarwr wrth reddf; un o weithiau Yeats sydd yma, o gasgliad gweisg preifat Prifysgol Caerdydd, un o’r ddau gasgliad pwysicaf o’i fath ym Mhrydain.

Wales and Ireland both celebrate their individual literary traditions prizing authors and poets at their respective cultural festivals, the Eisteddfod and Oireachtas. At the 1917 Eisteddfod, ‘Hedd Wyn’ (Ellis Humphrey Evans) was awarded the highest honour posthumously, the Bardic Chair, having been killed on the Front only weeks earlier. Other popular Anglo-Welsh wartime authors included Arthur Machen, David Jones who was an equally accomplished artist, and Edward Thomas from a London-Welsh family (Cardiff holds an extensive archive of Edward Thomas materials.) In Ireland, the prolific writings of Patrick Pearse boosted a surge in Irish pride. An Irish Nationalist at heart, William Butler Yeats distanced himself from the events of the Easter Rising in 1916. One of Yeats’ works is shown from the Cardiff Private Presses collection, one of the two largest such collections in Britain.

Bettws-y-Coed, from Edward Thomas, Beautiful Wales. 1905.

Bettws-y-Coed, from Edward Thomas, Beautiful Wales. 1905.

Rhaglen Swyddogol Eisteddfod Frenhinol Genedlaethol Cymru. 1917.

Cofnodion a Chyfansoddiadau Eisteddfod Genedlaethol. 1917.

Wyn, Hedd. Cerddi’r Bugail: Cyfrol Goffa Hedd Wyn. 1918.

Thomas, Edward. Beautiful Wales. 1905.

Oireachtas. 1917.

Hyne, Anthony. David Jones: A Fusilier at the Front. 1995.

Pearse, Desmond Ryan (ed.). Collected Works of Padraic H. Pearse: Plays, Stories, Poems. 1917.

Yeats, William Butler. Responsibilities: Poems and a Play. The Cuala Press, 1914.

Machen, Arthur. Angel of Mons: The Bowman and Other Legends of the War. 1915.

 

Wedi’r Rhyfel / Post-War

Llwybrau gwahanol oedd etifeddiaeth y rhyfel i Gymru ac Iwerddon, er yn cwrdd weithiau, fel yn Fron-goch, lle’r oedd gwersyll i 2,000 o garcharorion Gwyddelig. Yn 1920 gwireddwyd Deddf Ymreolaeth Iwerddon nifer o amcanion y mudiad ymreolaeth, ond heb chwe sir y gogledd, ac felly yn tanio gwreichion yr IRA nes ymlaen. Yng Nghymru gwelodd ffrwyth yr ymgyrch i ddatgysylltu’r Eglwys, eto’n rhan o weledigaeth y mudiad ymreolaeth cynharach. Gwelwyd cefnogaeth eang i sefydlu Cynghrair y Cenhedloedd yng Nghymru. Dangosodd ôl y rhyfel mewn amryw o ffyrdd, dynion yn ceisio dychwelwyd i’w gwaith, a menywod dros 30 yn ennill y bleidlais.

The legacies of Wales and Ireland remained entwined as nearly 2,000 Irish rebels were held prisoner at Fron-Goch in North Wales. However, by 1920, the two nations embarked on separate paths. In 1920, The Government of Ireland Act, following the Home Rule demands, established a self governing Ireland, minus the six counties in the north, fanning the sparks that would ignite the IRA. While in Wales, the Welsh Disestablishment Bill was enacted, motivated in part by the Home Rule demands. Enthusiasm in Wales for organising future peace through the League of Nations increased. Post-war society reflected changing pressures as returning soldiers sought a return to normalcy and women aged 30 and older won the vote.

Ysbysty Tywysog Cymru i Forwyr a Milwyr Cymru a Sir Fynwy Wedi Colli Aelodau yn y Rhyfel. 1918.

Ebenezer, Lyn. Fron-Goch Camp 1916 and the Birth of the IRA. 2012.

O Mahony, Sean. Fron-Goch: University of Revolution. 1987.

The Easter Proclamation of the Irish Republic, 1916. 1960.

Garnett, Maxwell. Organising Peace: Being an Account of the League of Nations. 1928.

Ysbysty Tywysog Cymru i Forwyr a Milwyr Cymru a Sir Fynwy Wedi Colli Aelodau yn y Rhyfel. 1918.

League of Nations. How you Can Join the League of Nations Union and Help Forward the Most Practical Means of Securing World Peace.

Punch. 27 June 1918.