THOMAS (DYLAN) Autograph letter signed ("Dylan Thomas"), to Guy Hartcup, A MAGNIFICENT POETIC CREDO BY DYLAN THOMAS, WRITTEN IN PRAISE OF W.H. AUDEN AND THE CRAFT OF POETRY, 1938
Lot 239
THOMAS (DYLAN) Autograph letter signed ("Dylan Thomas"), to Guy Hartcup, A MAGNIFICENT POETIC CREDO BY DYLAN THOMAS, WRITTEN IN PRAISE OF W.H. AUDEN AND THE CRAFT OF POETRY, 1938
Sold for £20,000 (US$ 33,651) inc. premium
Lot Details
THOMAS (DYLAN)
Autograph letter signed ("Dylan Thomas"), to Guy Hartcup, thanking him for his poetry but taking him for task for stating that he closely follows the techniques of Auden and Spender, leading into to a passionately argued defence of Auden's qualities as a poet, so lacking in his imitators, and a damning contrast between Auden and Spender ("...Why should it be necessary to study modern poetry and literary criticism before actually writing modern poetry? And why should the New Era be a 'solution of our problems' when the only problems that should actually concern one, as a poet, are practical ones? I believe the only technique to be followed closely is one's own, which should have sprung naturally out of the body of tradition: to follow the technique of one contemporary or group of contemporaries is imitation..."); regarding Auden he declares that his followers "have, I think, taken to mind only his most insignificant mannerisms and omitted to realise that what, eventually, makes their verse so inferior to his is their lack of his craftsmanship, his wit, irony, & religious imagination" adding for good measure that "Just to take a handful of mechanical terms, some topical references, and a few examples of photographic journalism, to shove them down on paper formlessly and unmethodically, and to add at the end a couple of revolutionary slogans and a vague but pious message of hope, is not, I think, by any means an advisable method of trying to write a poem"; as regards any similarity between Auden and Spender, Thomas declares: "I see none but the very slightest resemblance between the poetical techniques of Auden and Spender. Auden is a splendid craftsman, fluent in all traditional forms, and a literary experimenter on the only possible basis of experimentation: traditional knowledge, conventional verbal ability, and a desire to make a fuller & an easier, not a more difficult or clique-ish, formal method of creative communication. Spender on the other hand has devised his technique from Rupert Brooke, memories of Whitman, & the more diffuse Georgian lyric-writers to whom he reacted, unsuccessfully, when in the process of being expensively miseducated"; devoting a large part of the remainder of the letter to a coruscating attack on the pernicious influence of modern literary criticism which is "little better than the Book Society system" in that "it selects, for you, certain poets by whom it is advisable to be influenced, and its valuation of the work of a contemporary depends, greatly, on how far he has taken their opinions and agreed with their selections, and how competently he has performed a task whose incentive was critical and not imaginative", 3 pages, one or two small ink-smudges and very light dust-staining, small 4to, Blashford, Ringwood, Hampshire, 6 February 1938

Footnotes

  • A MAGNIFICENT POETIC CREDO BY DYLAN THOMAS, WRITTEN IN PRAISE OF W.H. AUDEN AND THE CRAFT OF POETRY, while condemning Stephen Spender and contemporary fads in literary criticism. This is an important addition to the corpus of Thomas's letters. He ends it by apologising to the young poet for "this perhaps too dictatorial letter" and offers to discuss his poems in detail, with the rider that "I should not like to write at any length about them until I knew whether or not you had been offended". Thomas's admiration for Auden was of course to find concrete expression in the famous recordings of 'As I Walked Out One Evening' and other poems; while Auden was to be lead signatory of the Appeal Letter of 1953 describing the younger poet's death as 'an incalculable loss to literature'.

    Guy Hartcup (1919-2012), the recipient of our letter, may well have been discouraged from following a poetic avocation by Thomas's forthright criticism. He became instead a well-known historian of the scientific and technological aspects of the Second World War. Nevertheless he retained to his death a fine collection of books by Auden, Spender and their contemporaries, which he bequeathed to the Poetry Library at the Southbank Centre. Nothing addressed to him is published by Paul Ferris, The Collected Letters of Dylan Thomas, new edition, 2000.
Auction information

This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations

ALL BIDDERS MUST AGREE THAT THEY HAVE READ AND UNDERSTOOD BONHAMS' CONDITIONS OF SALE AND AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THEM, AND AGREE TO PAY THE BUYER'S PREMIUM AND ANY OTHER CHARGES MENTIONED IN THE NOTICE TO BIDDERS. THIS AFFECTS THE BIDDERS LEGAL RIGHTS.

If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories excluding Wine, Coins & Medals and Motor Cars and Motorcycles:

Buyer's Premium Rates
25% on the first £50,000 of the Hammer Price
20% from £50,001 to £1,000,000 the Hammer Price
12% from £1,000,001 of the Hammer Price

VAT at the current rate of 20% will be added to the Buyer's Premium and charges excluding Artists Resale Right.

Payment Notices

Payment in advance: by cash, check with banker's card, credit card, bank draft or traveler's cheque.

Payment at collection: by credit or debit card.

Credit card charges: a surcharge of 2% is applicable when using Mastercard, Visa and overseas debit cards.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licenses please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.

Lot symbols
Exempt from tax

Zero rated for VAT, no VAT will be added to the Hammer Price or the Buyer's Premium.

Contacts
  1. Simon Roberts
    Specialist - Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Historical Photographs
    Bonhams
    Work
    Montpelier Street
    London, United Kingdom SW7 1HH
    Work +44 20 7393 3828
    FaxFax: +44 20 7393 3879
Similar items
Robert Colquhoun Portrait THOMAS DYLAN (1914-1953, Welsh poet) THOMAS, DYLAN, (1914-1953, Welsh poet) THOMAS (DYLAN) Autograph draft of his surreal fantasy 'Prologue to an Adventure',  [c.1935] THOMAS, DYLAN (1914-1953, poet) Ceri Richards (1903-1971) Hommage to Dylan Thomas 37.5 x 55.2 cm. (14 3/4 x 21 3/4 in.)