Although Edward Thomas is remembered today as a poet, throughout his working life, he supported himself and his family by writing various sorts of prose. He always considered himself to be a writer, and the lasting tragedy of his life was that he never seemed able, until the outbreak of World War I, to buy enough time to devote himself to the art of writing as he obviously wished to do. Ironically, the war in which he died also provided him with the structured, organized environment and the freedom from financial anxiety that enabled him to produce the work which has secured his reputation.
His entire prose opus runs to nearly forty volumes, most of which were published during his lifetime. The titles cover a variety of subjects. It is also possible to see what a remarkable volume of work he produced in the years 1911 to 1912, a productivity that culminated, after nine published works, in a breakdown in 1912. Although the prose work of Thomas is often dismissed as being unimportant, it is obvious from merely reading the titles where his main interests lay. Themes of nature and of the British countryside predominate, together with literary criticism.
In fact, Thomas was a remarkably perceptive literary critic. He was among the first reviewers to appreciate the work of Robert Frost, and he also recognized Ezra Pound’s achievement in Personae (1909), which he reviewed in its first year of publication. When he began to write, he was heavily influenced by Walter Pater’s code of aesthetics, his love of rhetoric, and his formality. He was later to have to work hard to rid his prose of those features, which he recognized as being alien to his own poetic voice.