THOMAS (DYLAN) Roneoed typescript, with autograph revisions and marked up for reading, of his final broadcast 'A Visit to America' (here untitled),  BBC Swansea, 5 October 1953

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Lot 169
Roneoed typescript, with autograph revisions and marked up for reading, of his final broadcast 'A Visit to America' (here untitled), BBC Swansea, 5 October 1953

Sold for £ 4,750 (US$ 5,766) inc. premium
Roneoed typescript, with autograph revisions and marked up for reading, of his final broadcast 'A Visit to America' (here untitled), the script headed 'Guest Speaker/ Dylan Thomas/ Recording: Monday, October 5th, 1953, 3.30-4.00.p.m./ Rehearsal: Monday, October 5th, 1953, 2.30.p.m./ Studio:- Swansea./ Transmission: [blank]', opening: 'Across the United States of America, from New York to California and back, glazed, again, for many months of the year there streams and sings for its heady supper a dazed and prejudiced procession of European lecturers, scholars, sociologists, economists, writers, authorities on this and that and even, in theory, on the United States of America...', and ending: '...And there goes the other happy poet bedraggedly back to New York which struck him all of a sheepish never-sleeping heap at first but which seems to him now, after the ulcerous rigours of a lecturer's spring, a haven cosy as toast, cool as an icebox, and safe as skyscrapers'; with autograph revisions in some thirty places, plus underlinings and other marks to act as a guide to reading and a doodle at the head, presumably made while standing by in the studio, 8 pages, on paper watermarked 'British/ Broadcasting/ Corporation', secured with the original removable fastener at the top left-hand corner, some dust-staining on first page and fraying on final leaf, folio, BBC Swansea, 5 October 1953


  • 'MYSELF AMONG THEM BOOMING WITH THE WORST' – THE MARKED UP SCRIPT USED BY DYLAN THOMAS FOR HIS LAST BROADCAST, mocking his celebrity tours of America, where he was to die a month later. It was recorded at BBC Cardiff on 5 October 1954, with one other talk, on his hometown of Laugharne, being made the same day (whether before or after we have not been able to ascertain). An extract from the talk on Laugharne went out on the Welsh Home Service on 5 November as part of a programme celebrating the town, and it was while listening to it that Caitlin heard that her husband had gone into a coma in New York. Our talk, 'A Visit to America', was due to go out on the Welsh Home Service on 24 November; but was postponed because this was the day that his funeral took place. It eventually went out on 30 March 1954 and was printed in The Listener on 22 April.

    'A Visit to America' had originally been written for use on his earlier tour of 1953, and was used as an ice-breaker to prepare audiences for the more serious business of poetry-reading. A recording of him reading it was made at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on 11 May. The autograph revisions that have been made to our script by and large bring it into line with the MIT recording and the final published version; so presumably the BBC typed up a pre-MIT version and Thomas then entered in revisions that had already made. There are also some underlinings and bars between words, on the first page especially, that were clearly made to help guide his reading. For the text and discussion, see Dylan Thomas: The Broadcasts, edited by Ralph Maud (1991), pp. 273-8 (where our script is not cited).

    As Maud points out, with the radio broadcast, 'Thomas found his genre in the personal reminiscence; and Under Milk Wood should probably be considered the last in a line which began with 'Reminiscences of Childhood in 1943', with 'A Visit to America' and 'Laugharne' immediately preceding it (op. cit., p. xiv). 'A Visit to America' has been described as 'one of the funniest pieces ever written on the lecturing clan' but also, 'in retrospect, a kind of self-crucifixion before the multitudes, and we hear now what the audience failed to perceive then, the bitterness of a man bewildered and alone among the throngs of his admirers' (sleeve note of the Caedmon MIT recording): 'And there, too, in the sticky thick of lecturers moving across the continent black with clubs, go the foreign poets, catarrhal troubadors, remittance-bards from at home, myself among them booming with the worst. Did we pass one another, en route, all unknowing, I wonder, one of us, spry-eyed, with clean, white lectures and a soul he could call his own, going buoyantly west to his remunerative doom in the great State University factories, another returning dog-eared as his clutch of poems and his carefully-typed impromptu asides? I ache for us both. There one goes, unsullied as yet, in his pullman pride, toying oh boy with a blunderbus bourbon, being smoked by a large cigar, riding out to the wide open spaces of the faces of his waiting audience'.

    Provenance: sold on behalf of the Trustees for the Copyrights of Dylan Thomas.
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