Last updated: 06 November 2008
The Dylan Thomas legend is soaked to the skin in drink.
Dylan is believed to have first got a taste for alcohol during his days as a reporter on the South Wales Evening Post. Of course, drinking beer was a popular pastime in the region, and with the fellow male reporters he'd visit the pubs of Swansea, the Gower and Mumbles.
It was a sinful pleasure that would stay with him until the end of his life, and he revelled in the romantic image of the drunken poet. He was also often prone to exaggeration of his drinking prowess, and occasionally told friends he suffered from cirrhosis of the liver - a claim his autopsy eventually disproved.
Although he started drinking during his journalism days in Swansea, alcohol had been present in the Thomas family long before. His father had been a heavy drinker, and there had been a tendency towards indulgence in his mother's family.
And for Dylan it was little different. His work and relationships were clouded by the strong stuff, and it had an impact on his personality: although he could play the charming, bon viveur card to perfection, he could equally be anarchic, upsetting and awkward.
Beer was his tipple of choice, although he developed a taste for spirits towards the latter part of his life. Alcohol was also inextricably linked to his volatile relationship with Caitlin, and to each of their infidelities. Indeed, at their wedding both the bride and groom had been drinking.
Although alcohol was a constant throughout his adult life, the bouts of destructive bingeing were normally infrequent. According to biographer Paul Ferris, he told a friend - albeit while drunk - that he drank to reconcile the disorder outside and the order within himself. He was also often happy to drink in moderation, which called his alleged dependency into question.
What's clear, however, is that while Dylan could be a delight after a tipple, when he crossed into drunkenness he often behaved disgracefully. After his death, Caitlin said he would have lived to an old age were it not for the alcohol, and it was the lifestyle of the drinker appealed to him more than the indulgence itself.
But it would prove to be his downfall. In the final year of his life Dylan's health deteriorated dramatically, with persistent chest pains exacerbated by asthmatic tendencies and a lifetime of heavy smoking. It is also thought he may have suffered from diabetes, though this remained undiagnosed.
On an American tour in 1953, Dylan got drunk and fractured his arm after falling down some stairs on his way to the theatre. There, he was thrown out of a performance of The Crucible for causing a disturbance during the play. During a recording session soon after, fellow performers were alarmed by his bloated appearance and inability to read lines from a script.
On his final trip to New York, he began drinking heavily, and was unable to stop vomiting during a rehearsal of Under Milk Wood. A doctor, Milton Feltenstein, treated him, and he made efforts to cut down his alcohol intake. But ultimately it wasn't to be. On 26 October he called his companion Elizabeth Reitell from a hotel bar. When she arrived, Dylan was drunk on whiskey and raving at the assembled guests. A week of further binges and subsequent remorse was to follow.
On Tuesday 3 November he spent most of the day in bed, drinking beer and whiskey in the company of friends. Later on he went out to keep two drinks appointments, but returned to the Chelsea in the mid-evening where he apparently had a breakdown.
At two o'clock the following morning he left the hotel for an hour and a half, stating he needed a drink. On his return he uttered the words to Reitell which have become part of the Dylan Thomas legend: "I've had 18 straight whiskies. I think that's the record".
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