Call me narcissistic, but it occurred to me recently that it might be fun—my name being Rachael Thomas—to think about how us Thomases have featured in literary history.
Now, I am not referring to my direct lineage, because if this were the case it would be an extremely short post. But as a quick ode to my surname, I wanted to list a few of the big names that deserve recognition in their own right, as well as providing me with a bit of a kick regarding our namely similarities.
The true beauty of the surname Thomas is that it features as a common first name as well. It turns out that this gives me a remarkable amount of freedom to sift through some truly inspirational literary figures.
So let’s start with those who I feel reign supreme in the Thomas Royal Family:
- Poet and novelist, bon in Dorset, England, in 1840.
- Considered a Victorian realist, he was greatly influenced by his observations of social inequality.
- Author of several famous classics, of which Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891). This is the novel I am most familiar with; I haven’t read it yet, however, because from what I gather, you need to ready yourself emotionally in order to battle your way through the series of alarmingly ill-fated events that befall his unfortunate heroine.
- Upon his death, Thomas Hardy was such a phenomenon that his executor wanted him buried in the famous ‘Poets’ Corner’ of Westminster Abbey. Hardy, however, had explicitly stated that he wished to be buried with his first wife. The compromise was to bury his heart with his wife and to cremate the rest of the body so it could be scattered in Poets’ Corner. I imagine he was shaking his fists from above.
- Poet and professional drunkard, born in 1914 in Swansea, Wales (the same year, incidentally, that Thomas Hardy remarried to a woman 39 years his junior).
- Favourite drink: Whiskey
- He wrote poetry in English, not Welsh, but is still a huge national figure. Best known for the works: Do not go gentle into that good night, and And death shall have no dominion.
- He disliked being considered a provincial poet, but still returned to Wales when he had writer’s block.
- Alcoholism played a key role in his self-destruction. When his wife (also an alcoholic) flew into the US upon his hospitalisation in 1953, her first comment was allegedly, “Is the bloody man dead yet?”
- Dylan Thomas ranked 10th in a 2009 BBC poll to establish Britain’s favourite poet.
Then, of course, we must pay homage to…
- Not an author, but invented the light-bulb, thanks to which we can now read Thomas Hardy and Dylan Thomas well into the night.
Other well known Thomases:
- Thomas Mann: Won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1929. Best known novel: Death in Venice, a verse-based drama about a writer suffering writer’s block who visits Venice.
- T.S.Eliot: Native American turned-British essayist, publisher, playwright, literary and social critic. Awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1948 for his poetry.
- Thomas Paine: Dubbed as being the ‘Father of the American Revolution’ for the influence of his pamphlets and general writings in encouraging independence from Britain.
Interestingly if you Google ‘famous [insert surname]’ a long list of people, well-known for a great variety of things, is provided by Wikipedia. I had a quick look to see if there were any Rachael Thomases listed and there were two. The first was a Welsh actress (at least half of the list is Welsh) and the second was an Indian skydiver. I can’t decide which I admire more.
I would recommend a similar exploration. The more we feel connected to those with great achievements to their name, the less unapproachable such achievements seem. Are there any inspirational celebrities whose name you share??