Edward Thomas was born in Lambeth in 1878. While still an undergraduate, he married Helen Noble and, with a young family to support, was obliged to make his living by his pen. His gifts were honed – and enslaved – on the Grub Street treadmill. He reviewed by the yard – up to fifteen books a week – and wrote some thirty books of his own: biographies, nature-and-travel writing, literary criticism, establishing himself as one of the foremost critics of his time.
It took Robert Frost – and a summer of walks in Gloucestershire in 1914 – to talk Thomas into writing poems himself. Into the next two years he crammed all his poetry, before, in April 1917, he was killed on the Western Front. His posthumous reputation has never ceased to grow. Speaking at Westminster Abbey in 1985, Ted Hughes called him ‘the father of us all.’