Dylan’s Life – The 1930s
1930 – 1939
April 27: Dylan starts the first of the ‘Notebooks’ into which he copied his early poems. The Notebooks continued until 1934, and the poems in them formed the basis of 18 Poems (1934), Twenty Five Poems (1936) and contributed material to both The Map of Love (1939) and Deaths and Entrances (1946). These early works are collected in The Notebook Poems (edited by Ralph Maud. London: Dent 1989) which is available from the Dylan Thomas Centre.
Caitlin and Vivien John (daughter of the artist Augustus John) go to London and Caitlin begins a two-year dancing course
August 31: Dylan leaves Swansea Grammar School to become a junior reporter on the South Wales Daily Post
Dylan joins Swansea Little Theatre Company. They were based in Mumbles at the time, and his sister Nancy Thomas was already a member. He acted in a number of plays, including Noel Coward’s Hay Fever.
December: Dylan leaves South Wales Daily Post and works full time on his poetry. He wrote around two thirds of his entire poetic output in his late teens.
It was during this time that he developed his friendship with Bert Trick, and with the group of talented young Swansea men who are now commonly referred to as the Kardomah Gang, after their favourite café. This group included Vernon Watkins, Daniel Jones, Alfred Janes, John Prichard, Tom Warner, Charlie Fisher and Mervyn Levy. Artists Ronald Cour and Ceri Richards also became associated with the gang although, in reality, Ceri Richards did not meet Dylan until the 1950s.
“Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not
And death shall have no dominion”
And death shall have no dominion
Caitlin visits Dublin and then Paris with Vera Gribben where she stayed for the next year
May 18: ‘And Death Shall have No Dominion’ published in New English Weekly – Dylan’s first poem to be published outside Wales
August: Dylan first goes to London, staying with his sister Nancy and her husband, Haydn Taylor, and visiting editors of literary magazines
September: ‘That Sanity Be Kept’ published in the ‘Poet’s Corner’ of the Sunday Referee; this is seen by another aspiring young poet, Pamela Hansford Johnson , who writes to Dylan; their correspondence begins.
“Light breaks where no sun shines;
Where no sea runs, the waters of the heart
Push their tides;”
Light breaks where no sun shines
February 23: Dylan’s second visit to London; he stays with Pamela Hansford Johnson and her mother in Battersea. Their relationship continued until 1935
April 22: Dylan wins book prize of the ‘Poet’s Corner’ which included the Sunday Referee’s sponsorship of his first collection of poems. Pamela Hansford Johnson had won this prize previously
November: Dylan takes his first lodgings in London at 5 Redcliffe Street, Earls Court, with his Swansea friends, artists Alfred Janes and Mervyn Levy. He returns frequently to his parents at Cwmdonkin Drive until they move to Bishopston, Gower, in 1937
December 4: Dylan’s first appearance in book form: his poem ‘Light Breaks Where No Sun Shines’ is published in The Year’s Poetry
December 18: Dylan’s first collection, 18 Poems, published jointly by the Sunday Referee and Parton Bookshop
May: Dylan stays for a month with Alan (the historian AJP Taylor) and Margaret Taylor at Higher Disley in the Peak District
February 21: Second impression of 18 Poems published
“From the first print of the unshodden foot, the lifting
Hand, the breaking of the hair,
And to the miracle of the first rounded word”
From love’s first fever
April: Dylan and Caitlin meet at the Wheatsheaf pub, London, and then are said to have spent the next few days together at the Eiffel Tower Hotel, charging the bill to her lover Augustus John.
April / May: Dylan stays in Cornwall with Wyn Henderson, first in her cottage at Porthcurno, and then at her new home in Mousehole
June: Dylan attends the International Surrealist Exhibition at the New Burlington Galleries, London, and carries around a cup of boiled string, asking “weak or strong?” Salvador Dali was among the other delegates
July 15: Dylan and Caitlin meet again at Richard Hughes’ home in Laugharne; Dylan had persuaded Alfred Janes to drive him to Laugharne, knowing that Caitlin was there with Augustus John. When Fred’s car broke down, Dylan and Caitlin ended up sharing the back seat of Augustus John’s car, with John glaring at them as they cuddled.
Dylan and Augustus John eventually fought in Laugharne. John won this fight, but after this episode Dylan and Caitlin’s relationship grew more serious.
September 10: Publication of Twenty-five Poems by J M Dent & Sons Ltd, the fifteenth volume in their New Poetry series
“My images stalk the trees and the slant sap’s tunnel.
No more tread more perilous, the green steps and spire
Mount on man’s footfall”
I, in my intricate image
April 21: Dylan’s first radio broadcast, ‘Life and the Modern Poet’ (BBC Welsh Service), recorded in the BBC’s London studios, as Dylan had left it too late to return to Swansea as planned
June / August: Dylan and Caitlin staying in Cornwall, initially at Lamorna Cove, near Mousehole
July 11: Dylan and Caitlin marry at Penzance Register Office, against the wishes of his parents. Wyn Henderson lent them the £3 needed for the licence, and they stayed at her guest-house, The Lobster Pot in Mousehole, afterwards.
September: Dylan and Caitlin stay with his parents at Bishopston, and this is Caitlin’s first meeting with his family
October / April: They stay with Caitlin’s mother at Blashford near Ringwood in Hampshire
“I stand, for this memorial’s sake, alone
In the snivelling hours with dead, humped Ann
Whose hooded, fountain heart once fell in puddles
Round the parched worlds of Wales and drowned each sun”
After the funeral
April: Dylan and Caitlin stay at Bishopston; then with the novelist Richard Hughes (of A High Wind in Jamaica fame) and his wife Frances at Castle House, Laugharne
May: Move to a small fisherman’s cottage, Eros, in Gosport Street, Laugharne
August: Move to Sea View, Laugharne. Caitlin tells Vernon Watkins that their time at Sea View was the “happiest period of our lives together”.
October 18: Dylan takes part in ‘The Modern Muse’ BBC Home Service radio broadcast with Louis MacNeice, W H Auden, Kathleen Raine and Stephen Spender
November / April: Dylan and Caitlin stay at Blashford awaiting the birth of their first baby:
“A saint about to fall,
The stained flats of heaven hit and razed
To the kissed kite hems of his shawl”
A saint about to fall
January 30: Llewelyn Edouard Thomas born
“This side of the truth
You may not see, my son,
King of your blue eyes
In the blinding country of youth”
This side of the truth
August 24: Publication of The Map of Love, a collection of poetry and prose, by J M Dent & Sons Ltd
December 20: The World I Breathe – a collection of poems and short stories – published in the United States
December / February: Stay at Blashford with Caitlin’s family
This post is also available in: Welsh