Last letters show the depth of Dylan's love

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
They were the last passionate letters of a contrary and desperate love.

In words as poetic and moving as anything he ever published, Dylan Thomas's final outpourings to his beloved wife, Caitlin, revealed a love tinged with bitter remorse for his bouts of adultery and heavy drinking.

"I am profoundly in love with you, the only profundity I know," he said in a letter from New York. "Every day's dull torture, every night burning for you ... I LOVE you."

It was financial difficulties that drove Thomas to New York where he was to die of alcoholic poisoning in 1953 while on a poetry-reading tour.

Ironically, yesterday his simple scribblings to Caitlin sold to London dealer Bertram Rota Ltd for pounds 12,650 - compared with a pre-sale estimate of pounds 7,000-pounds 9,000 - at auction at Sotheby's in London.

Four unpublished signed letters were put up for auction by Francesco Fazio, Caitlin's son by the Italian actor Guiseppe Fazio, with whom she lived after Thomas's death.

Francesco was the sole beneficiary of her estate when she died two years ago.

With the letters were the poet's black leather wallet, containing a passport- sized photograph of Caitlin, found in his New York hotel room at his death, and boarding tickets and relevant papers to allow his body to be shipped home.

A Sotheby's spokesman said the letters were among the very few he wrote in the last years of his life and were almost certainly the last to Caitlin.

They tell of the couple's tempestuous love and his remorse at their numerous separations, some prompted by his womanising and alcoholism.

In one letter, dated 7 May 1953, written in his tiny, neat handwriting, he complains of their long separation during his reading tour, announces proudly that he is sending home a cheque for $250 (pounds 160) and informs her that his research shows they could live cheaply in Majorca. He also complains at not hearing from her.

"In all the hotel bedrooms I've been in in this two weeks, I've waited for you all the time," he wrote.

"She can't be long now, I say to my damp miserable self, any minute now she'll be coming into the room: the most beautiful woman on the earth, and she is mine, and I am hers, until the end of the earth, and long long after. Caitlin, I love you. Have you forgotten me?"

In one brief three-line pencil note from the Savage Club in London, he declared: "Darling darling darling Cat, my own dear love, I love you - I deserve to be hung up by my feet, and flogged with bottles."

In a separate lot in yesterday's sale, one of 33 letters from Thomas to his friend and confidant, Desmond Hawkins, makes the first reference to Caitlin to appear in any of Thomas's surviving letters and of his happiness when she became his wife.

"My wife is Irish and French ... has seas of golden hair, two blue eyes, two brown arms, two dancing legs, is untidy and vague and un-reclamatory. I'm lost in love and poverty ..." The lot made pounds 21,275 against a guide price of pounds 12,000-pounds 15,000.

Other items in yesterday's auction included rare books, maps and an Arabic- English dictionary used by TE Law-rence - Lawrence of Arabia.

He referred to it while he was working in the Cairo intelligence department in the period leading up to the Arab revolt against the Turks in 1916, and later used it at the 1919 Versailles peace conference, when he was British liaison officer with the Emir Feisal.

Among the more curious lots was a hand-written account of the effects of alleged witchcraft on a 17th-century Yorkshire family: "A Discourse of Witchcraft as it was acted in the Family of Mr Edward Fairfax of Fuystone in the County of Yorke in the year 1621."

It tells of the behaviour of two of Mr Fairfax's daughters and a village girl after their alleged bewitching by six local women.

'If I am never to wake with you again, I shall die'

On poverty and meeting Caitlin: '... depressed as hell by this chronic, hellish lack of money ... night and day in my little room high above the traffic's boom I think of it, of possessing it in great milky wads to spend on flashy clothes...and a very vague young Irish woman whom I love in a grand, real way ... but will have to lose because of money money money ...'

To Caitlin: 'I am writing this useless letter to you at a table in the Giubbe Rosse where, after I saw you go away in a tram, I went, sadder than anybody on the whole earth, to sit and wait ... I have lost you because I am bad ... I love you Caitlin, I think you are holy. Perhaps that is why I am bad to you.

Now if I am never to wake with you again, I shall die but that does not matter because all that matters is that I love you always, for ever, my own - though you are gone from me - my own true love.'

On the outbreak of war: 'What have we got to fight for or against? To prevent Fascism coming here? It's come? To stop shit by throwing it ... I feel sick.

All this flogged hate again. We must go on with out-of-war life.'