The first thing that may occur to one, upon learning of the imminent appearance of a nearly thousand-page edition of the complete available letters of Dylan Thomas, is that there is hardly an aching need for such a compilation. Who, after all, in this world full of good books that most of us will never get around to reading, is really clamoring for an exhaustive account of the life and times of this archetypal postwar “celebrity” poet? Hasn’t the story of his bibulous Anglo-American misadventures already become too stale and ubiquitous a legend? Isn’t it about time that his verse stopped taking a back seat to his turbulent personality? Shouldn’t we be beginning, at last, to attempt to make a sensible judgment as to the real value of his contribution to poetry in our time?

Well, yes. But to commence reading The Collected Letters of Dylan Thomas is, nonetheless, to...


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