Dylan Thomas in London
At the Wheatsheaf in Rathbone Place, Dylan Thomas met and fell in love at first sight with Caitlin Macnamara in the first week of April 1936.
According to Caitlin, they spent the next five or six days at the nearby Eiffel Tower Hotel, leaving the bill to be picked up by her occasional lover, Augustus John.
Also at The Wheatsheaf he met many of the leading figures of the British Surrealist movement, and was published in the June 1936 issue of Roger Roughton’s Contemporary Poetry and Prose featuring Breton, Bunuel, Char, Dali, Eluard, Jarry, Mesens, Peret, E.E. Cummings and Humphrey Jennings.
At the International Surrealist Exhibition at Burlington Place (also in June), Dylan handed out cups of boiled string, enquiring politely, ‘Weak or strong?’
"When I do come to town, bang go my plans in a horrid alcoholic explosion that scatters all my good intentions like bits of limbs and clothes over the doorsteps and into the saloon bars of the tawdriest pubs in London".
David Archer, who also published David Gascoyne and George Barker, published Dylan’s first collection, Twenty Five Poems, through his Parton Press in July 1936.
Many of the pubs in which Dylan drank and caroused, and which are intimately connected with his life, such as the French House, The Highlander and Pillars of Hercules in Soho, and The George and The Stag’s Head in Portland Place, still exist and a tour of this area should not be missed.
Cornwall was the holiday destination of choice for the London bohemian set in the thirties, and Dylan’s friend, the poet Norman Cameron, ensured he met the writer Wyn Henderson, who invited him to her cottage, Polgigga at Porthcurno, near Penzance, between April and May 1936.
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