June 30, 2014
Dylan Thomas drinking song discovered
by Nick Davies
A previously unpublished poem/drinking song by Welsh writer Dylan Thomas has been discovered and is expected to bring in several thousand pounds when it goes on sale.
Caroline Davies (no relation) writes for the Guardian that the brief ditty was probably an impromptu effort, scribbled on scrap paper in 1951 and discovered just in time for the centenary of Thomas’s birth. The drinking song came to light via Fred Jarvis, a former general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, whose late wife’s family knew Thomas. Among her papers, he found a piece of stationery from the Apollo Society (a poetry and theater society) with the poem/song handwritten in pencil, and the attribution, “This little song was written in Henneky’s Long Bar High Holborn by Dylan Thomas in 1951.”
Professor John Goodby of Swansea University in Wales—an expert on Thomas’s work—said that while “no masterpiece,” the ditty is still an exciting find, not to mention “pretty valuable.” It probably wasn’t intended for publication, just a little something he wrote for his own pleasure, in keeping with the “songs, lyrics and very simple straightforward ballads” that he preferred toward the end of his life, and “in the vein” of his radio drama Under Milk Wood.
Despite the fact that he rates the drinking song as “nothing much by way of a poem,” Goodby is confident that it could bring a five-figure (in pounds) offer in the event that it goes up for sale. A “boring letter,” just two sentences long, by Thomas recently sold for several thousand pounds, so, Goodby says, “You can imagine what something like this would go for. I wouldn’t be the person to consult, but you would be looking at five figures.”
The drinking song will be published by Orion in a new volume of collected Thomas poems this October, which also marks the centenary of his birth.
Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.