Three autograph letters from Edward Thomas to the publisher Martin Secker

Item author: Edward Thomas (1878-1917)
Item date: 1912-1913
Grant Value: £3,500
Item cost: £3,803
Item date acquired: 2020
Item institution: Petersfield Museum [Edward Thomas Study Centre]
Town/City: Petersfield
County: Hampshire

Jeremy Mitchell writes: In addition to the books in the collection donated by the late Tim Wilton-Steer’s family to the Edward Thomas Fellowship, there are a few letters written by Edward Thomas to various friends and business acquaintances. In no way can this element of the collection be regarded as extensive, so the opportunity to add these three letters, being sold on eBay by a New York-based seller, at a negotiated price felt to be affordable, was considered an opportunity not to be missed.

These letters are more interesting than they might appear at first glance, being written in a period when Edward Thomas’s income, from what he termed ‘hack writing’ was going down - in fact by about one third in a couple years.  Whilst a ‘drop’ from £300 per annum to £200 does not seem significant, in today’s ‘money’ that is the equivalent of £10,000 per annum at a time when he was also trying to maintain and school a family with three children.

There is also an interesting aspect in these letters of 'Edward Thomas as a businessman'.  He certainly tried to look after that side of his career and a mass of correspondence exists.

Two of the letters are written from ‘Wick Green, Petersfield’, which was the Thomas’ second home when they lived in and around the village of Steep, on the outskirts of Petersfield. The other address, Dillybrook Farm, is somewhere he stayed at on several occasions, most notably when he was writing ‘In Pursuit of Spring’ (published April 1914). It is also not far from the home of Clifford Bax, with whom he often stayed, and is not far from Bath.  Walter de la Mare stayed there with him on one occasion, and there is a photo of the farm in Richard Emeny’s book ‘Edward Thomas: A Life in Pictures’.  It is largely unchanged today. 

Within the Tim Wilton-Steer books there are first editions (both American and British) of the two publications referred to in the letters – on Swinburne and Walter Pater – and these letters are now held, and occasionally displayed, alongside these books within the Edward Thomas Study Centre.

The opportunity to add these letters, with their local and wider significance, through the generosity of the Friends of the National Libraries, is another significant step forward for the Museum and the Edward Thomas Fellowship as both seek to further establish the Study Centre as an important resource for Thomas scholars and the wider public.

The balance of purchase monies on both transactions came from private donations made to the Edward Thomas Fellowship but without the kind and generous support of the Friends of the National Libraries neither acquisition would have been possible. Both Petersfield Museum and the Edward Thomas Fellowship are extremely grateful for this support and wish to also thank all whose donations to the Friends of the National Libraries make grants such as this possible.

Item Provenance
Bought from David J Holmes Autograph Books