cover image The Collected Letters

The Collected Letters

Dylan Thomas. MacMillan Publishing Company, $43.27 (982pp) ISBN 978-0-02-617630-9

Only some 300 of Thomas's letters have hitherto been published, and here are over 1000 of them, meticulously edited by his prize-winning biographer, a bonanza not simply for students of poetry but for anyone who enjoys good letters. ""I hold a beast, an angel, and a madman in me,'' says Thomas in a letter to a friend, and these letters, extending from his adolescence to his death in Manhattan in 1953, at age 39, carefully composed as though with an eye to posterity, give plentiful evidence of all three, though the madness seems closer to cunning. Here is the bohemian poet ``mad with words,'' self-obsessed, invariably hard up for cash, by turns malicious and disarmingly frank, always bubbling with life. There are letters to Eliot, Spender, Edith Sitwell, Graham Greene and Henry Miller; passionate effusions to his wife Caitlin; and, among the most interesting because of the long discussions of his craft they contain, letters to fellow Welsh poet Vernon Watkins and to Pamela Hansford-Johnson. Nearly all the letters stimulate and, despite Thomas's faults or because of them, entertain. (April 25)