Lot 79
  • 79

Thomas, Dylan

8,000 - 10,000 USD
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  • Autograph letter signed ("Dylan") to his wife Caitlin, as he prepares for his penultimate visit to the United States
  • ink,paper
3 pages on United States Lines letterhead (7 7/8 x 4 7/8 in.; 200 x 124 mm), 20 April 1953; horizontal fold.


Dylan Thomas: The Collected Letters, ed. Paul Ferris, 886–88


Condition as described in catalogue entry..
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Catalogue Note

Dylan Thomas writes to Caitlin from "this eternal cocktail-shaker of a ship" the day before disembarking in New York. This was Thomas's third visit to the United States. Although Caitlin accompanied him to the U.S. the year before, he made this voyage alone, much to her consternation. On this visit, the first performance of Under Milk Wood was given in New York and Thomas met with Igor Stravinsky in Boston to discuss collaborating on an opera. 

This letter opens with Thomas assuring Caitlin he loves her and that he did not want to make this voyage alone. "[I]f only I could swim to you now, I want to be with you all the time, there isn't one moment of the endless day or night on this hell-ship when I'm not thinking about you….forgive me for all my nastiness, mad-dog tempers, of the last days & weeks: they were because I didn't want to go, I didn't want to leave you in old dull Laugharne…." 

Thomas summons up his considerable powers as a comic writer to paint a dismal picture of life on board ship: "And here I am, on this huge hot gadget-mad hotel, being tossed and battered; the sea's been brutal all the time, I can hardly write this at all, in the tasteful, oven-ish, no-smoking library-room, for the rattle & lurch; everybody's been sick every day, full of drammamine…. [O]ccasionally now I manage to rock, like a drunk, to the bar where a few pale racked men are trying the same experiment as me, and then after an ice-cold couple, stagger back to my room to pray that I was with you, as I always wish to be, and not on this eternal cocktail-shaker of a ship….I've spoken hardly a word to anyone but one stout barman; the people who share my table—when any of us is well enough to appear—are a thousand times worse than those dumpling…Dutchmen: there's a middle-aged brother & sister, and a little sophisticated German woman; the little German woman's beastly, and told me, when the brother & sister weren't there that she'd thought of asking the purser to move her to another table: 'I don't like', she said, 'having my meals in the company of a woman who reminds me of my cook'—which seems one of the oddest things I have ever heard said….It is nine o'clock in the morning; tomorrow we dock in New York; breakfast has been & gone.…To think that I was angry because you did not want me to go away."

After several declarations of love, Thomas ends the performance with, "Now I am going to the bar for a cold beer, then back to the bloody cabin to lie on the unmade bed & to fall into a timeless dream of you and of all I love—which is only you—and of the sea rocking & the engines screaming and the wind howling and the despair that is in everything except our love."

An exceptional letter of exuberant histrionics.