Cover image for Dylan Thomas : a new life
Dylan Thomas : a new life
Lycett, Andrew.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Woodstock, NY : Overlook Press, 2004.

Physical Description:
xiv, 434 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PR6039.H52 Z763 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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When he died in New York in 1953, Thomas was only thirty-nine years old, and the myths soon took hold: he became the Keats and the Byron of his generation--the romantic poet who died too young, his potential unfulfilled. Making masterful use of original ma

Author Notes

Andrew Lycett received a history degree from Oxford University before becoming a journalist at the Sunday Times where he served as a foreign correspondent in Africa and the Middle East. He continues to be a regular contributor to the Times and a wide range of newspapers and magazines. His previous acclaimed biographies include lives of Muammar Qadaffi, Ian Fleming, and Rudyard Kipling. He lives in London.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

British biographer Lycett takes just the right tone in this vital and penetrating portrait of the quintessential bad boy poet, the passionately brilliant and fatally boozy Welshman Thomas, by eschewing reverent mythologizing for respectful accuracy. He also employs an incisive wit in masterful understatements that provide the perfect counterbalance to the baroque melodrama of Thomas' fast-burning life and throw the lushness and musicality of Thomas' innovative and potent poetry into high relief. Lycett deftly analyzes Thomas' difficult family life, especially his wife Caitlin's capacity for violent behavior, and chronicles the divide between Thomas' poetic gifts and inability to earn a living in spite of working in radio and film. By age 26 Thomas had written 80 percent of his published poems. Tragically, he was also an alcoholic by 21 and dead at 39. Poet, revolutionary, and buffoon, Thomas wrote earthy, innovative, soulful, and indelible poems and stories that embody a quest for universal truth and a struggle for hope in the newly delivered atomic age, while in life he authored one deplorable (albeit wickedly entertaining) tale of debauchery after another. Lycett's engrossing biography illuminates the paradoxes of Thomas' life and recognizes the indefinable spark of divinity that drives his vigorous and transcendent writing. --Donna Seaman Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Published in England last year to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Anglo-Welsh poet's death at age 39 in New York, London Times contributor Lycett's new biography has the advantage that Thomas's protective widow, Caitlin, is also recently deceased and his literary estate open. The basic story of the self-styled "Rimbaud of Cwmdonkin Drive," told here with thoroughness and impartiality, still revolves around poetry, penury and pub crawling. Leaving Swansea after grammar school (though returning whenever cash ran short), Thomas spent several aimless years on the periphery of London literary circles before finally making good and eventually becoming a cult figure for American audiences. This public poetic persona ultimately detracted from his poetry more than the assorted side projects in radio, film and lecturing he took on for income. Half a century after Thomas's death, Lycett can be frank about the seamier side of the poet's character, such as his inclination for reading what he called "good fucking books" like Tropic of Cancer, possible drug use and his and Caitlin's extramarital affairs. Thomas's literary reputation, meanwhile, has fluctuated more than his steady popularity, from A Child's Christmas in Wales to "Do not go gentle into that good night." Lycett, who has written biographies of Rudyard Kipling and Ian Fleming among others, says Dylan fills "the gap between modernism and pop... the written and spoken word... individual and performance art..." and he admires Thomas's lyric gift as an English poet with roots in Wales. Despite its subtitle, Lycett's biography is not so much a new life as a more candid revisiting of the familiar one. 45 b&w photos. (June 4) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Dylan Thomas wrote his first book of poetry by the time he was 20, and within a few years he was renowned in the U.K. not only as a well-paid and celebrated writer but also as a drunkard and a scrounger. After gaining fame for his BBC radio play, Under Milk Wood, Thomas was invited on a tour of the United States, where he died of alcohol poisoning at the age of 39. Lycett, biographer of Rudyard Kipling and Ian Fleming, has written a life study of Thomas that incorporates previously unavailable material released after the deaths of the poet's wife and son. Other biographies, such as Constant Fitzgibbons's lasting Life of Dylan Thomas or Paul Ferris's Dylan Thomas: The Biography, have ably recounted the essential details of Thomas's life, but Lycett here provides a wealth of useful detail, bringing the Welsh poet's life story up to date, just in time for and in honor of the 50th anniversary of his death. For all libraries.-Denise Johnson, Bradley Univ. Lib., Peoria, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Family Treep. vi
Illustrationsp. ix
Acknowledgementsp. xi
Introductionp. 1
1 Swansea Aspirationsp. 5
2 A Precocious Childhoodp. 16
3 Virtue and Good Literaturep. 28
4 My Body was my Adventurep. 41
5 Sore Trialp. 53
6 A Tormented Thingp. 65
7 Epistolary Encountersp. 77
8 The Rub of Lovep. 89
9 The Blindest Bitp. 108
10 Caitlin, Emily and Veronicap. 127
11 Marriage Pangsp. 149
12 Skirting the Warp. 173
13 Hack Workp. 193
14 Attempted Murderp. 209
15 Oxford, the BBC and Italyp. 227
16 Longing for Homep. 247
17 View from the Shedp. 267
18 A Voice on Wheelsp. 280
19 In the Direction of his Painp. 303
20 Battle Against American Hospitalityp. 323
21 To Begin at the Beginningp. 348
22 The Gates of Hellp. 362
Notesp. 384
Bibliographyp. 416
Indexp. 422