Auctions | October 16, 2014

Dylan Thomas Archive Given to Pub Landlord for Sale at Bonhams

An archive of Dylan Thomas material is to be sold at Bonhams next Fine Books, Atlases, Manuscripts and Photographs Sale on 12 November in London. It features two bounced cheques  made out by Thomas to Phil Richards, the landlord of The Cross House Inn, the poet’s local pub at Laugharne where he lived for many years. Further material in the sale includes signed photographs, a signed and dedicated first edition of The Collected Poems and other memorabilia.  Offered in three lots the archive has a combined upper estimate of over £3,000.

Dylan Thomas, who was born on 27 October 100 years ago, is one of the most popular 20th century English language poets but, like so many creative people, his private life was chaotic.  A heavy drinker from adolescence he was also frequently short of money and the bounced cheques to a pub landlord (estimate £600-800) neatly sum up these twin—and often linked—aspects of his life.

Phil Richard’s pub, The Cross House Inn, was one of Thomas’s regular haunts in Laugharne. With  Brown’s Hotel, another favourite drinking venue, it contributed to the fictional setting for the radio play, Under Milk Wood, Thomas’s semi affectionate portrait of a small Welsh town.  The bounced cheques—both for £3—are dated 29 August 1952 and 30 August 1953, the latter written a few weeks before Thomas left on the tour of America during which he died on 9 November.  They are drawn on a branch of Barclays Bank in London where the poet also lived and worked and where much of Under Milk Wood was written.    

On the more positive side are the poems themselves. An Author’s Presentation Copy of the first edition of Thomas’s Collected Poems dedicated ‘to the Richardses’ and dated November 1952, the month of its publication, is estimated at £1,000-1,500. No other inscribed copies of the first edition have appeared at auction. A third and final lot (estimated at £600-800) is made up of photographs, signed books and other memorabilia which show the closeness between the poet and the Richards family.