Tag Archives: World War One

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!

Guest post: The Barbier family and World War One

This guest post comes from Pip Bartlett, undergraduate in French and Italian in the School of Modern Languages at Cardiff University.


In this blog post, I will be sharing some of my discoveries about the Barbier family and their involvement in the First World War. As mentioned in my previous post, the Barbier archive contains several boxes of letters, organised into date order. Five of the grey boxes (1914, 1915, 1916, 1917 and 1918) contain correspondence between the family during the war years. So far, I have catalogued boxes 1914, 1915 and 1918, which have revealed information about the family’s activities, feelings and experiences at the time. I also used two of the booklets created by the previous owner (‘Barbier Voices from the Great War’ Parts 1 & 2) to support any findings I made; they contain very detailed information about each family member’s war experience, as well as including photographs and extracts from diaries.

Edmond, Isabelle, and Paul BarbierAccording to ‘Barbier Voices from the Great War Part 1’, prior to the outbreak of war all four of the Barbier brothers had well-established careers; Paul E A. Barbier had been Professor of French at the University of Leeds since 1903, Edmond was the assistant examiner in oral and written French to the Central Welsh Board, Georges was the manager of coal firm ‘Messrs Instone’ and Jules, a civil engineer in North America. Because of their French Nationality, the brothers had completed military service with the French Army well before the war (Paul completed his in 1889), making them no strangers to a military environment. According to the booklet, in August 1914 all four men, along with their brother-in-law Raoul Vaillant de Guélis (married to their sister Marie) were called up by the French state and sent to France.

Due to their French-English bilingualism, both Paul and Edmond were mobilised as interpreters for the British Expeditionary Forces. I am unsure if they were seconded from the French army – something I would like to ask the previous owner about in our interview.

Jules and Georges BarbierJules and Georges remained ‘poilus’ (ordinary field soldiers for the French army). Much of the archive from the war years is dedicated to correspondence from Paul E. A. Barbier (or Paul Barbier Fils, as in son, as he is known) to his wife Cécile. From what I have grasped after reading his letters, it seems Paul Barbier Fils had a reasonably ‘comfortable’ wartime experience; that is to say, he regularly talks of eating well and playing bridge with his brother Edmond. In numerous letters, he says he is in ‘good health and spirits’ and regularly returns to the UK on leave, which he documents. According to the letters in the archive, Paul Barbier Fils also remained in close contact with his colleagues at the University of Leeds. For example, there are letters from the Vice Chancellor of the university who asks for Paul’s opinion on various university matters. There is even a letter to Paul dated 29th June 1915 from the Vice Chancellor who says he has been in contact with the French Embassy in London attempting to release Paul from the army, unfortunately without success.

I also found letters to Cécile Barbier from wives of other University staff whose husbands were at the front. Cécile served on a committee in Leeds which regularly sent parcels and gifts to University employees in France. Despite his relatively positive account of his wartime experiences in France, some of Paul’s letters to his wife are less cheerful and according to ‘Barbier Voices from the Great War Part 2’, in May 1917 he writes ‘I start writing poetry again […] when I am overcome by sadness’, and in June ‘my intellectual life is a waste land. I long to talk to beings less deadly dull than those around me’. A year later in March 1918 he even says, ‘I am an exile, I am atrociously bored’.  To fight these feelings of boredom, Paul evidently focused on his hobbies and interests. Ever the lexicographer (that is, a person who compiles dictionaries, an occupation that was linked to his academic preoccupations), Paul Barbier Fils became fascinated with the local dialect of the region in which he was stationed. He even compiled a dictionary of the dialect entitled ‘Lexique du Patois d’Erquinghem-Lys’, which was later published posthumously in 1980 by the Musée de Picardie in Amiens, France.

Georges BarbierGeorges Barbier, on the other hand, seemed to have had the most difficult war experience out of the family members who went to the Front. In 1916 he returned to London from the front due to illness to work for the Coal Board. In letters to his brothers and mother, he talks of suffering from night-blindness and having very little food, if any. His wife Nan died a few years later, leaving him a widower with two children. Fortunately, the three other brothers who remained in France survived, and in 1919 were demobilised from the army, returning to their peacetime lives in Cardiff. Their brother-in-law, Raoul Vaillant de Guélis was not so fortunate and died of pneumonia in 1916. His wife Marie never remarried and raised her two children along with those of her brother George after his death in 1921. One of her children, Jacques Vaillant de Guélis became a Special Operations Executive (SOE) agent, an undercover spy who carried out missions in France during the Second World War. I do not know much about his life yet, but I am excited to discover more over the upcoming weeks.

Isabelle BarbierFinally, while the brothers were at the Front, their younger sister, Isabelle Barbier, spent time in France as a nurse during WW1. Unlike her brothers, there is little correspondence from Isabelle during the war years throughout the archive, but ‘Barbier Voices from the Great War Part 1’ gives detailed accounts about her time as an assistant to Dame Maud McCarthy, Matron in Chief to the British Expeditionary Forces. On page 7 of the booklet, there is a lovely picture of Isabelle with her brothers Edmond and Paul, as well as a picture of her in uniform wearing the Royal Red Cross – presumably she was awarded this, but I am unsure when. It is something I would like to find more about when I speak to the previous owner of the archive. All in all, the archive offers insights into the wartime experiences of this remarkable family and it has been particularly fascinating to discover how Paul Barbier Fils continued his interests and worked remotely with the University of Leeds. I hope the former owner is able to answer some of the questions which I have raised, as I feel there are some interesting pointers for future research.

Guest post: The Barbier family: an introduction

This guest post comes from Pip Bartlett, undergraduate in French and Italian in the School of Modern Languages at Cardiff University.


Having just completed my third year abroad at l’Université de Genève, Switzerland, and l’Università degli Studi di Parma, Italy, I was thrilled to be nominated to take part in an 8-week placement with the Cardiff University Research Opportunities Programme (CUROP). My task over the eight weeks is to scope the newly acquired Barbier archive, under the supervision of Professor Hanna Diamond, a 20th century French historian, and Alan Hughes, Head of Special Collections and Archives at Cardiff University.

Pip working on the Barbier archive.

Pip working on the Barbier archive.

The archive was donated to the university by a living relative of the Barbier family. She believed that the archive would be valuable to researchers, as Paul E. E. Barbier was the first lecturer in French appointed to the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire, the institution that later became Cardiff University. After visiting the former owner’s home to see the archive, Hanna and Alan were keen to acquire it. The owner has spent time carefully organising and dating the extensive archive. It comprises several large boxes full of memorabilia relating to the family and the Victorian era, including photographs, newspaper cuttings and old exercise books.

There are also 36 archive boxes, each dated by year from 1860 to 1924, containing hundreds of letters, postcards and other correspondence between members of the Barbier family, as well as their relatives, colleagues and friends. The previous owner has also provided us with a very useful family tree, along with four booklets which she has written detailing the family’s involvement in the First World War. Others outline the lives of Georges Barbier (1819-1892), one of the original members of the family who came to London from the Doubs Valley in France, and Euphémie Barbier (née Bornet), the Swiss-born governess who settled in Cardiff after marrying his son Paul E. E. Barbier.

Selection of letters from the archive.

Selection of letters from the archive.

My responsibility is to go through the archive with a view to uncovering and recording its contents. I am also collating information about the family to enable the University to promote the archive both to future researchers and interested members of the public.

Once settled in Cardiff, the family continued to sustain their French links, often communicating in French with each other, and working closely with various French societies in Britain (the Société Franco-Britannique de Cardiff, for example). The family’s Franco-British identity is very apparent in the archive, as most of the letters from the 36 boxes are in French. I have needed my language skills to read, decipher and translate the letters, which I have then been cataloguing into a spreadsheet so that future researchers have an understanding of what each box contains.

Each box of letters takes a while to go through, particularly as there are so many letters, and the handwriting is sometimes difficult to read! In a few weeks’ time, I will be conducting an oral history interview with the former owner of the archive, who I hope will be able to provide more detail and context to the family’s involvement in the First World War, and the different lives of each family member. In order to share my discoveries and give a taste of what the archive has to offer, I will be sharing updates via further blog posts and social media.

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.

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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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.

Edward Thomas biography wins literary award

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.