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By William Christie (auth.)

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27 For James Davies, Thomas’s ignorance became almost ludicrously apparent Truant Years 23 when the poet and his family were treated to a working holiday in Italy by the Society of Authors: The strangely philistine man, whose only education was early reading and who exerted himself intellectually only when writing, paid dearly for his lack of schooling. 29 Thomas developed a paranoia around educated (including self-educated) people, and the extreme narrowness of his personal choices, which had arguably helped to liberate the adolescent poet – as his friend Daniel Jones observed, ‘the early stand against the academic was very valuable to Dylan’30 – would ultimately hold him back.

It would be simplistic to attribute this anxiety exclusively to the intellectual inertia that first gripped him at Swansea Grammar School and never really left him, but it could not have helped when he desperately needed something to fall back on. Truant Years 25 Child prodigy Thomas’s anxiety about drying up would not come until later in life, however. 38 A volume of insubstantial but formally perfect juvenile lyrics can be assembled from the loose-leaf and notebook collections in the Harry Ransom Center and at the Poetry Center of the State University of New York, Buffalo, where the bulk of Thomas’s early poetry can be found in manuscript form: Little dreams A crowd of little wingèd dreams, When early stars were peeping, Came sliding down their silver beams To find the children sleeping.

Certainly towards the end of his life, when his drinking became heavier and the compulsion to socialize stronger, it would be wrong to describe the many, many acquaintances he shared his time with as friends. 55 As with every aspect of Thomas’s character, however, there is alternative evidence that can be brought to bear. 57 His cruel neglect of the long-suffering Vernon Watkins is a special case, and needs to be understood in the light of Watkins’s idolization (and idealization) of Thomas, who could express and enact an utter dependence but shied away from the emotional dependence of others.

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