The death of eighty-one-year-old Caitlin Thomas this past summer dredged up, from forgotten depths of my memory, a good many images of the wild and drunken life of her husband, Dylan, whose rollicking verse and booming recitation so much enchanted my cloistered youth. They were an immensely flamboyant couple who lived with wild abandon, and their lunatic shenanigans mesmerized a great many aspiring poets and ambitious literary youth in those years. Hardly a week went by, it seemed, without a new account in Time of that couple’s gaudy and gross public naughtiness.

Less beguiling, though, was the melancholy public spectacle that Thomas began to make of himself in the early 1950s, during his several reading tours in America. Thomas on tour was all too often drunk on the platform, openly lewd at social events, and rude beyond belief to his disillusioned admirers. A number of the recent obituaries that undertook to account...


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