Reader’s Corner: Poetry in Bed

The deadly debonair Welsh actor Richard Burton may have made his living as an actor but his true love was reading, particularly poetry. The range of authors who “corrupted” him ranged from Shakespeare to Proust and Hemingway:

But mostly I was corrupted by Dylan Thomas. Most people see me as a rake, womanizer, boozer and purchaser of large baubles. I’m all those things depending on the prism and the light. But mostly I’m a reader…

In Gabriel Byrne’s lyrical new memoir Walking with Ghosts, he describes drinking with Burton after a grueling day of shooting a big costume drama in Venice. In between ruminations on their craft from a jaded veteran (“I’ve done the most appalling shit for money”), Burton rhapsodizes about his true love:

Poetry, the sound and music of words sooth me, always have. And books. Home is where the books are, he said. What I’ve always rather wanted was to be a writer, perhaps it’s too late now. I’m at an age, he said quietly, when I fear dying in a hotel room on a film.

Byrne notes that Burton’s fear did not come to pass:

He didn’t die in a hotel room but at home in bed, halfway through a volume of the Elizabethan poets.

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