Dylan Thomas, despite his many faults and issues, gained a certain level of popularity internationally. Thanks to his BBC recording and programmes, he was somewhat a household celebrity in Britain. But beyond that, Thomas also became popular across the oceans – in America.
Dylan Thomas’ 4 tours in America
Although his literary works and poems were identified as very Welsh in nature, he was able to achieve a high profile in America. In fact, it can be argued that he was more popular there.
Thomas admits that he is a lover of cinema and admires American poetry. He viewed the USA as a dream that he would like to visit to take his literary career to the next level. It was something that he aimed for in order to make a living for his family as a writer.
Unfortunately, he had to wait long before this dream came into pass. But once it did – that was the highlight of his career. He was able to squeeze in 4 American tours between 1950 to 1953.
1st tour – 1950
It all began when John Brinnin invited him to New York for a 3-month tour of campuses and arts centres. The first part of the tour involved an audience that reached a thousand in attendance. There was a total of 40 venues on this tour. Although there were positive reviews about the tours, his drinking behaviour soon became a concern. It was always a stressful occasion for organizers of the event because they fear his drinking might keep Thomas from performing well.
2nd tour – 1952
The second tour was now accompanied by his wife, Caitlin. She discovered that Dylan Thomas had an affair during the first tour and she probably wanted to keep him in check. During this time, they both drank heavily. The tour was the most intensive – with 46 engagements. It did produce a couple of outputs from Thomas, like the recording of his poetry to vinyl. It was during this time when “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” was recorded and became the most popular piece that was ever released by Dylan Thomas.
3rd tour – April 1953
In April of 1953, Thomas returned for various engagements. He performed a version of “Under Milk Wood” in May of the same year at Harvard University. He also performed at the Poetry Centre with a full cast. It was touch and go at that time because Thomas was still editing the script on the afternoon of the performance. In fact, the final lines of the script were only handed to the actors while they were already putting on their makeup.
4th tour – October 1953
Later that year, Dylan Thomas returned to America, on what was to be his final tour. He had a set of tours of poetry reading and various talks. When he arrived, he was already complaining of health issues. However, he failed to seek medical treatment and continued with his unsavory habits and that led to the ultimate failing of his health.
The cost of Dylan Thomas’ American fame
While his career flourished and finances flowed, his personal life, sadly, took a turn for the worse.
His marriage suffered because his wife, Caitlin, did not like the idea of him touring while she was left to take care of the kids and carry the burden of the bills on her own. Not only that, she discovered that he had an affair while on tour.
Not only that, his drinking became worse in America. The various engagements he attended encouraged him to drink beyond his limits. In fact, he broke an arm while on one of his tours because he was so drunk that he fell down the stairs.
Ultimately, it was in America that Dylan Thomas met his end. On his final tour, he complained of an illness but he failed to seek the right attention to treat it. He continued drinking and that compromised his body’s ability to heal.