On this day in 1953, the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (27 October 1914 – 9 November 1953) expired in New York at St Vincent’s Hospital.
Both The White Horse Tavern and the Chelsea Hotel in New York lay claim to the fame of being where Dylan Thomas drank himself to death. The White Horse Tavern was his usual watering hole; the Chelsea Hotel was where he lived. There is a plaque commemorating Dylan Thomas at the White Horse Tavern.
In truth, he neither drank himself to death at either place, nor in fact was it probably even alcohol that killed him.
Despite popular belief, he didn’t actually have serious cirrhosis of the liver. No one is saying that his overdrinking did him any good. But he was also a diabetic, and the cause of death was actually recorded as pneumonia, which the morphine injections he got from his doctor would have aggravated by slowing his breathing further.
The myth of his having drunk himself to death came about because just before he fell into a coma, some people said he bragged of having drunk 18 whiskeys (others said in actual fact he’d only managed a meager eight.)
The British tax man realized in 1948 that Thomas had never filed a tax return in his life, and owned them unpaid income tax of £1,902.
For the remaining 5 years of Thomas’s life, they had a lien on half of all the money he made. American tours paid well, and he was therefore forced to undertake those tours to pay off the taxes that were being demanded of him by the tax man back in the UK.
So if anything, it may have been taxes that did him in as much as anything else!