Write to me when you get this, or before you do, only write and tell me all there is to tell me
A Dylan Thomas Megamix
On this day in 1953, Under Milk Wood was performed on stage in New York for the first time, leading to 14th May becoming an annual celebration of Dylan Thomas’ work known as International Dylan Thomas Day. This seems, to me, the perfect moment to send you a Dylan Thomas megamix: a collection of snippets from his letters that will hopefully inspire you to get your hands on the books from which they come: The Love Letters of Dylan Thomas, and Dylan Thomas: The Collected Letters, both published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. Enjoy.
Don’t expect too much of me (it’s conceit to suppose that you would); I’m an odd little person. Don’t imagine the great jawed writer brooding over his latest masterpiece in the oak study, but a thin, curly little person, smoking too many cigarettes, with a crocked lung, and writing his vague verses in the back of a provincial villa.
Letter to Pamela Johnson
15th October 1933
It’s getting cold, too cold to write. I haven’t got a vest on, and the wind is blowing around the Bristol Channel. I agree with Buddha that the essence of life is evil. Apart from not being born at all, it is best to die young. I agree with Schopenhauer (he, in his philosophic dust, would turn with pleasure at my agreement) that life has no pattern & no purpose, but that a twisted vein of evil, like the poison in a drinker’s glass, coils up from the pit to the top of the hemlocked world. Or at least I might do. But some things there are that are better than others. The tiny, scarlet ants that crawl from the holes in the rock on to my busy hand. The shapes of the rocks, carved in chaos by a tiddly sea. The three broken masts, like three nails in the breast of a wooden Messiah, that stick up in the far distance from a stranded ship. The voice of a snotty-nostrilled child sitting in a pool and putting shellfish in her drawers. The hundreds and hundreds of rabbits I saw last night as I lay, incorrigibly romantic, in a field of buttercups, & wrote of death. The jawbone of a sheep that I wish would fit into my pocket. The tiny lives that go slowly & liquidly on in the cold pools near my hands. The brown worms in beer. All these, like Rupert Brooke, I love because they remind me of you. Yes, even the red ants, the dead jawbone, & the hapless chemical. Even the rabbits, buttercups, & nailing masts.
Letter to Pamela Johnson
I’m here in a nest of schoolmasters and vicars, majors, lawyers, doctors, maiden aunts; and you’re lord knows where, in the country, miles and miles from me, painting barmy ivy. Now I’m sad, I’m sad as hell, and I’ll have to go to a pub by myself & sit in the corner and mope. I’m going to mope about you and then I’m going to have a bath and I’m going to mope about you in the bath. Damn all this anyway; I only want to tell you all the time and over & over again that I love you and that I’m sad because you’ve gone away and that I’m not going to lose you and that I’m going to see you soon and that I want us to get married once we can and that you said yes you wanted to too. And write to me when you get this, or before you do, only write and tell me all there is to tell me. And I’ll write to tell you when I’ll be in London, and then we’ll meet, however much they try to stop us, and then I’ll be happy again and I’ll try to make you happy by not being a half wit.
Letter to Caitlin Macnamara
17th July 1936
YOU PURPOSE PEAPOTS OWE ME A QUID FOR THOSE TWO POEMS. How are you? Try to remember to keep some lunch dates free for me when I come up to town in about a fortnight’s time. I’ve got some new poems and some new jokes and some new diseases, I’m feeling fine. A WHOLE POUND YOU PEAPOTS. IN THE HUMAN INTEREST—MY EYE. MONEY, TINKLY MONEY, FOR GOD’S SAKE.
Letter to Purpose editor Desmond Hawkins
22nd October 1936
I don’t want you for a day (though I’d sell my toes to see you now my dear, only for a minute, to kiss you once, and make a funny face at you): a day is the length of a gnat’s life: I want you for the lifetime of a big, mad animal, like an elephant.
Letter to Caitlin Macnamara
Very much of my poetry is, I know an enquiry and a terror of fearful expectation, a discovery and facing of fear. I hold a beast, an angel, and a madman in me, and my enquiry is as to their working, and my problem is their subjugation and victory, downthrow & upheaval, and my effort is their self-expression.
Letter to Henry Treece
16th May 1938
I had to go to London last week to see about a BBC job, & left at the beginning of the big Saturday raid. The Hyde Park guns were booming. Guns on the top of Selfridges. A ‘plane brought down in Tottenham Court Road. White-faced taxis still trembling through the streets, though, & buses going, & even people being shaved. Are you frightened these nights? When I wake up out of burning birdman dreams—they were frying aviators one night in a huge frying pan: it sounds whimsical now, it was appalling then—and hear the sound of bombs & gunfire only a little way away, I’m so relieved I could laugh or cry. What is so frightening, I think, is the idea of grey-clothed, grey-faced, black-armletted troops marching, one morning, without a sound up a village street. Boots on the cobbles, of course, but no Heil-shouting, grenading, goosestepping. Just silence. That’s what Goebbels has done for me. I get nightmares like invasions, all successful.
Letter to Vernon Watkins