Dylan Thomas smoking, copyright Nora Summers and Dylan's bookstore
Highly educated at Radcliffe, the leading female college of Harvard, Pearl Kazin loved English literature. She had read and admired many of Dylan’s works before she met him during his first lecture tour in the spring of 1950 when she was an executive for Harpers Bazaar Magazine.
The seriousness of their affair seems to be shown by her detour to London in September 1950 whilst on a tour of Europe. Throughout the summer she had, at Dylan’s request, written to him via the Savage Club in London. However, he was less careful about what he did with the letters once he had picked them up, and Caitlin was furious when she found love letters from Pearl sticking out of his jacket pocket. She wrote an angry response to Pearl and confronted Dylan. This did not prevent Dylan from going to London to see her, on the pretext of meeting John Malcolm Brinnin, who was also there. After spending a few days with Brinnin and others in London, Pearl and Dylan escaped to Brighton for a few days.
According to Brinnin’s account – he refers to her as ‘Sarah’ in Dylan Thomas in America (London: Dent, 1956) - Dylan was torn between his love for Pearl and his love for Caitlin, and didn’t know what to do. His decision to remain with Caitlin was hastened by the intervention of one of his patrons, Margaret Taylor. Hearing of his affair, she took the train to Laugharne and told a furious Caitlin all she knew. On his return to Laugharne Dylan tried to limit the damage done to his marriage, but his relationship with Caitlin was never the same.
Dylan stayed in touch with Pearl, writing to her when he was in Iran in early 1951, and sending her a cable. Caitlin again found her replies. When Pearl returned to America, she took up a post as a journalist for the New Yorker and was married very briefly. She attended Dylan’s final reading in his second lecture tour (where he was accompanied by Caitlin) and met him afterwards. They did not see each other again until his third tour, in 1952, when she was in the audience for the first stage performance of Under Milk Wood on 14 May 1952. They spent a little time together over the next few days, but by then Dylan’s relationship with Liz Reitell was becoming closer. Pearl visited Dylan in St Vincent’s Hospital with the poet John Berryman on 8 November, the evening before he died.
She later married the Harvard sociologist Daniel Bell in 1960, with whom she had a son, David. They lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts and she gained a notable reputation for her penetrating literary criticism.