Saturday, September 18, 2021

My hero / Edward Thomas by David Constantine

Edward Thomas, circa 1912. Photograph: EO Hoppe

My hero: 

Edward Thomas by David Constantine

'Thomas has been a kind and implacable friend to me'

Saturday 4 December 2010


began reading Edward Thomas in a cold winter 40 years ago. I found the blue hardback Collected Poems secondhand on Durham market, and by the fire in our strange habitation under the castle mound, nobody else at home, I read him at once, entire, knowing ever more certainly, poem by poem, that I loved him, he would be with me for life, I would learn from him.

Like other Romantics, Thomas got his poems most characteristically by walking. He was a man who walked away solitary into the wind and the rain when anxiety and the black melancholy were upon him; or who might tramp by your side, mile after mile, companionable, and never say a word; or be with you, as he was with Robert Frost, talking, listening, pausing at a gate, a gap, a stile, and so in the rhythm of a long walk and in the attentive to and fro of a conversation you would come nearer and nearer, both of you, to some important understanding.

At the heart of writing, it is always a matter of truth or lies, and anyone in that vocation wants companions, living and dead, who, when you glance their way inquiringly, will warn you by a look if you are edging away from the truth into the many ways of telling lies. Thomas has been one such kind and implacable friend to me. Having his own true tone of voice, he acts like a tuning fork in the ceaseless effort to hit and hold your own.

The dead move and change as the living do. You may think you know them through and through but then, after a lapse of time (in which you have aged), they startle you again. Just the other day, out of context, on a card, not in a book, these lines filled me with a new rush of gratitude: "A house that shall love me as I love it, / Well-hedged, and honoured by a few ash trees / That linnets, greenfinches, and goldfinches / Shall often visit and make love in and flit . . ."


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002 My hero / Harley Granville-Barker by Richard Eyre
003 My hero / Edward Goldsmith by Zac Goldsmith
004 My hero / Fridtjof Nansen by Sara Wheeler 
005 My hero / Mother Mercedes Lawler IBVM by Antonia Fraser

007 My hero / Ernest Shepard by Richard Holmes
008 My hero / JG Ballard by Will Self
009 My hero / Alan Ross by William Boyd
010 My hero / Ben the labrador by John Banville

011 My hero / Vicent van Gogh by Margaret Drabble
012 My hero / Franz Marek by Eric Hobsbawm


017 My hero / Jack Yeats by Colm Tóibín
018 My hero / Francisco Goya by Diana Athill
019 My hero / Max Stafford-Clark by Sebastian Barry
020 My hero / Arthur Holmes by Richard Fortey

036 My hero / Robert Lowell by Jonathan Raban
037 My hero / Beryl Bainbridge by Michael Holroyd
038 My hero / Charles Schulz by Jenny Colgan
039 My hero / Oliver Knussen by Adam Foulds
040 My hero / Annie Proulx by Alan Warner

041 My hero / David Lynch by Paul Murray
042 My hero / Edwin Morgan by Robert Crawford
043 My hero / Anne Lister by Emma Donoghue
044 My hero / Jane Helen Harrinson by Mary Beard
045 My hero / Edmund Burke by David Marquand
046 My hero / Shelagh Deleaney by Jeanette Winterson
047 My hero / Christopher Marlowe by Val McDermid
048 My hero / Gwen John by Anne Enright
049 My hero / Michael Mayne by Susan Hill
050 My hero / Stanley Spencer by Howard Jacobson

051 My hero / William Beveridge by Will Hutton
052 My hero / Jean McConville by Amanda Foreman
053 My hero / Alexander Pushkin by Elaine Feinstein
058 My hero / Cy Twombly by Edmund de Waal

079 My hero / Gene Wolfe by Neil Gaiman
087 My hero / Alberto Moravia by John Burnside
096 My hero / Isaac Babel by AD Miller
097 Lucian Freud by Esi Edugyan
100 Thomas Tranströmer by Robin Robertson
102 My hero / David Hockney by Susan Hill


190 My hero / Iris Murdoch by Charlotte Mendelson
194 My hero / René Descartes by James Kelman
199 My hero / Albert Camus by Geoff Dyer


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