BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in:  Entertainment
Front Page 
UK Politics 
TV and Radio 
New Media 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Monday, 27 July, 1998, 18:28 GMT 19:28 UK
Dylan Thomas - a talent scuppered by tragedy
Thomas family
Dylan and Caitlin with family, and Dylan's mother
Playwright, journalist, poet, broadcaster - Dylan Thomas was a writer of many disciplines.

But his artistic talents were only ever half the story. Almost half a century after his death, it is Thomas's tragic lifestyle that fascinates, as much as his extensive body of work.

Like Brendan Behan, the Beat Poets of the 1950s and countless other struggling writers, Thomas mixed a passion for prose with an unhealthy love of alcohol.

Dylan and Caitlin
Dylan and Caitlin married in 1937
He died in 1953, aged 39, after a long period of depression and drinking. But Thomas's romantic reputation coupled with his energetic and vivid writing, and his sense of Welshness, left a potent legacy that continues to draw new fans to his work today.

Born in Swansea in 1914, Thomas's literary talents shined from the start. He quickly became well known for his obscure poetry and amusing plays, and had his first book, 18 Poems, published when he was 19.

By then he had already left formal education far behind, starting work as a reporter on the South Wales Evening Post in 1931 before going freelance in 1933.

A prolific writer, he mixed his journalism with creative writing and his poems were first published in the Poets' Corner column of the Sunday Referee.

Caitlin died in 1994, and was buried next to Dylan
Thomas followed his first book with 25 Poems, which was published in 1936. He married Caitlin Macnamara a year later and the couple had two sons and a daughter.

But despite his growing professional reputation, Thomas struggled to make his talent pay and the family lived in poverty.

During the war his writing skill began to diversify. He worked as a documentary and film script writer, wrote and broadcast short stories and plays.

Readings in America

Propelled in some part by the Oscar-winning success of the Welsh film, How Green Was My Valley, Dylan found an appreciative audience in America. In 1949 he began a series of visits to the US, touring colleges to give readings and lectures.

Although he was well received in America, Thomas found his trips away from his home and family an alienating experience. Always a keen drinker, he increasingly turned to alcohol to quell his turbulent emotions.

He died in New York, while on his fourth tour of the US, from alcohol poisoning.

See also:

28 Jul 98 | Entertainment
Why did Dylan Thomas die so young?
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Entertainment stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Entertainment stories