Dylan Marlais Thomas was born on October 27, 1914, in Swansea, Wales, he was a reporter and prominent writer in the early 20th century. His most famous poem, “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,” was published in 1952, but his reputation was solidified years earlier. Thomas’ prose includes Under Milk Wood (1954) and A Child’s Christmas in Wales (1955). Thomas was in high demand for his animated readings, but debt and heavy drinking took their toll, and he died in New York City while on tour in 1953, at age 39.
1 . One of Thomas’s first published poems was apparently plagiarised:
Thomas took the poem, ‘His Requiem’, from a magazine called the Boy’s Own Paper and, er, republished it in the Western Mail under his own name four years later. This act of literary theft wasn’t discovered for 40 years. It was some 40 years later that the theft came to light when his friend Daniel Jones included the poem in his new edition of Thomas’ Poems [Dent 1971]. The daughter of the true author – Lilian Gard, happened to spot her mother’s work and exposed the theft in the national press and Daniel Jones was forced to remove the poem from subsequent printings.
2 . Dylan’s lost poem:
In 1933 Dylan entered a BBC poetry competition. His poem “The Romantic Isle” was selected for broadcast, and read on air by Ian Sinclair Phail. This was the first time Dylan’s work appeared on the BBC. Sadly no copy of the poem is known to exist.
3 . Dylan the journalist:
Dylan’s first job after leaving Swansea Grammar School in 1931 was a short-lived career as a junior reporter for the South Wales Daily Post. Dylan’s short story Old Garbo takes an affectionate look at his days as a newsman. During his time as a freelance journalist, Mr. Thomas wrote 200 poems (1930 – 1934). Of his 90 published poems, half were from that time. He published many of his works while still in his teens. In 1934, the publication of “Light breaks where no sun shines” granted him literary attention.
4 . Married in Cornwall:
Dylan married Caitlin McNamara at Penzance Register Office, Cornwall, in 1937. He only broke the news to his parents by letter after the event. Their relationship, defined and fuelled by alcoholism, was mutually destructive.
5 . Dylan sells his notebooks:
In 1941 Dylan sold four manuscript poetry notebooks in order to raise funds for his family. Through the London bookseller Bertram Rota they were sold to the University at Buffalo in New York. Dylan is believed to have received less than £35 for the notebooks. In 2014 a newly discovered notebook of Dylan’s was sold for £104,500. Even though he was a popular poet during his life time, Mr. Thomas found it difficult to make a living as a writer and supplemented his income with radio appearances and reading tours.
6 . The War:
Thomas was not able to join the British Army during World War II due to health issues., he fought to be classified as “grade III”, meaning he’ll be of the last ones to be called for service. He did however write scripts for the BBC helping the war effort.
7 . The travelling and the end:
In 1951 Dylan visited Iran after being commissioned by the Anglo Iranian Oil Company to write the script for a promotional film. The film wasn’t made but Dylan used some of his material for a BBC radio broadcast ‘Persian Oil’. In the 1950s, after gaining a certain amount of fame from his readings, Mr. Thomas travelled to the United States. During his time in the US, his behaviour and drinking worsened and Thomas’s death, on 9 November 1953 aged just 39, was a result of years of heavy drinking that was brought to a head when Thomas returned home from the White Horse pub in New York to the Hotel Chelsea and announced, ‘I’ve had 18 straight whiskies. I think that’s the record.’ He then collapsed, and would not get up again.