Edward Philip Thomas was born in London, the eldest of six boys. Both of his parents were Welsh, and Thomas always had an affinity with the principality, spending much time there during his childhood, although the landscapes of his poetry are predominantly those of the south of England. Thomas’s father was a stern, unyielding man who had risen by his own efforts to a social position far above that which might be expected from his poor background. Having succeeded in elevating himself, he was naturally very ambitious for his eldest son, and Thomas received an excellent education, attending St. Paul’s School, Hammersmith (as a contemporary of G. K. Chesterton and E. C. Bentley, among others), and going on from there to Jesus College, Oxford.
Shortly before going to Oxford, Thomas met Helen Noble; it was one of the momentous events in his life. Both he and Noble had very advanced ideas for their time; they were already lovers while Thomas was still an undergraduate. They discussed their future lives together and how they would bring up their children in accordance with Richard Jeffries’s theories of freedom and the open-air life. Noble herself said, “We hated the thought of a legal contract. We felt our love was all the bond there ought to be, and that if that failed it was immoral to be bound together. We wanted our union to be free and spontaneous.” In the spring of 1899, Noble discovered that she was pregnant and was rather appalled to discover...
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