Jeremy Mitchell, Chair of the Edward Thomas Fellowship and a Trustee of Petersfield Museum, writes: Since 2017 an extensive and important collection (gifted by the family of the late Tim Wilton-Steer) of over 2,000 books and other items, including some letters, by and about the early 20th-century literary reviewer, writer and poet Edward Thomas, has been held at Petersfield Museum in Hampshire. These are on loan from the Edward Thomas Fellowship and formed the basis of the first Edward Thomas Study Centre in England, which was opened in 2021.
Edward Thomas (1878-1917), was a renowned book and poetry reviewer, essayist and writer before the First World War. This was the reason behind the visit of a young American poet, Robert Frost, to London in 1913 when he was seeking a review of his first book of poetry, ‘North of Boston’.
Thomas, who was known for his honesty when reviewing poetry, wrote not only one but three favourable reviews of Frost’s poetry and on the two men meeting they struck up a friendship that lasted long beyond Thomas’ death in action at the First Battle of Arras in 1917.
From their first encounter in 1913, there are many recorded instances of Frost and Thomas meeting both in London and, in the summer of 1914, in Gloucester where Frost and his family were renting a property near Dymock, a village that at the time had attracted a small gathering of poets – who became known as the Dymock Poets. It was the meetings with Robert Frost, and the latter’s encouragement, that are considered the ‘triggers’ that led to Thomas finally writing poetry from December 1914 until his death in 1917.
Lesley Lee Francis, now in her 89th year, is the granddaughter of Robert Frost and has been active in America perpetuating his memory as well as being actively involved in running the Robert Frost Symposium for 26 years – which had its final session in September 2019. Lesley has also written several books about Frost including “You Come Too: My Journey with Robert Frost”, which was published in 2016. In the book, she combines priceless personal memories and rigorous research to create a portrait of Frost and the women, including herself, whose lives he touched.
Lesley’s invaluable insights into Frost’s poetry and her inclusion of previously unpublished family writings and photographs make this book essential not only to Frost scholarship but also it will appeal to anyone interested in this great poet’s life and work.
Lesley has also included a small selection of unpublished Christmas Poems which Robert Frost produced annually for Family and Friends, which add to the uniqueness of the collection. This small, intimate collection will be an important addition to the existing books by and about Robert Frost in the Study Centre and help to establish broader connections for the new Study Centre within both the UK and the US. All books will be available for public access for reading and research within the Study Centre.