THOMAS (EDWARD) Autograph letter signed ("E Thomas"), to Jack Haines ("My dear Haines"), sending him the verses that he has completed on his bicycle ride home after his visit: "C/o F. Hodson Esq.re/ Bablake School/ Coventry/ Monday", [28 June 1915]

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Lot 291
THOMAS (EDWARD)
Autograph letter signed ("E Thomas"), to Jack Haines ("My dear Haines"), sending him the verses that he has completed on his bicycle ride home after his visit, "C/o F. Hodson Esq.re/ Bablake School/ Coventry/ Monday", [28 June 1915]

Sold for £ 4,000 (US$ 5,037) inc. premium
ROBERT FROST, EDWARD THOMAS AND THE DYMOCK POETS
THOMAS (EDWARD)
Autograph letter signed ("E Thomas"), to Jack Haines ("My dear Haines"), sending him the verses that he has completed on his bicycle ride home after his visit: "I had a very good ride yesterday. The road was good all the way & the country beautiful, & I only met 2 showers. So I got here at 4.30... Here are the verses as they got completed during the ride. For me they will always be a reminder of those 3 pleasant days with you & Mrs Haines. If you like them they will in some way express my gratitude. I will send you some more when I get home on Friday or Saturday"; the rest of the letter fretting about the delivery of his bag; docketed by Haines in pencil at the head "received 29th June 1915" and in the margin alongside the reference to verses "The typed copy of these were in my wife's possession I have a later version", 1 page, on ruled paper, torn at folds, minor foxing, 4to, "C/o F. Hodson Esq.re/ Bablake School/ Coventry/ Monday", [28 June 1915]

Footnotes

  • ʻHERE ARE THE VERSES AS THEY GOT COMPLETED DURING THE RIDE' – EDWARD THOMAS SENDS HAINES HIS POEM ʻWORDS', which had been begun when staying with him at Hucclecote ("Out of us all/ That make rhymes,/ Will you choose/ Sometimes –/ As the winds use/ A crack in a wall/ Or a drain/ Their joy or their pain/ To whistle through –/ Choose me,/ You English words?...").

    The story of how Thomas and his friend walked up May Hill one day in June 1915, and Thomas was inspired to write what is one of his greatest poems, has become well-known. As Haines himself recollected long afterwards: ʻA few days before he enlisted we bicycled out to May Hill... and all the way he mused, and I could note him musing as he asked me questions of the scarce flowers by the way, and whilst I botanised on the hill sloped he sat on the hill... composing the beautiful poem "Words", which he brought down completed for us at breakfast the next morning' (quoted by Linda Hart, Once They Lived in Gloucestershire: A Dymock Poets Anthology, 1995, p.99). Thomas then polished the poem on his bike-ride to Coventry that afternoon (see Robert P. Eckert, Edward Thomas: A Biography and a Bibliography, 1937, p.161, whose account draws on Haines's reminiscences). He then headed the surviving fair copy of the manuscript with the name of Haines's hamlet: "Hucclecote – on the road from Gloster to Coventry 26-28.vi.15" (Oxford, MS Don d.28, f.84).

    The poem finished, Thomas stayed that night with his friend C.F. Hodson, who had been a master at Bedales and was then teaching at Bablake School, Coventry, where Thomas's son Merfyn had been a pupil. Thomas was at this time agonising over his future, one course of action being to take up a teaching post at Hodson's school, another being to emigrate after all and follow Frost to America, a third being to enlist: this was the choice he made a fortnight later, on 14 July: ʻJack Haines got the first letter, written that evening. "I am enlisting. I passed the doctor today and go up on Monday to join the Artists Rifles and get turned (if possible) into an officer"' (Matthew Hollis, Now All Roads Lead to France, 2011, p.239).

    The copy of the poem originally enclosed in the letter does not appear to have survived; from Haines's docket, this appears to have been a typescript. Thomas also sent a copy that same evening to their earlier companion in walks up May Hill, Robert Frost, who was then back in America. The poem was first published in Form: A Quarterly of the Arts, vol.i., no.2 (April 1916), and included in the Poems of 1917. Our letter appears to be unrecorded, and is not included in Edward Thomas: Selected Letters, edited by R. George Thomas, 1995.
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