Tuesday, 11 November 2008


The White Horse Tavern at Hudson Street and 11th Street, built in 1880, has been a home-from-home for New York's literary community since the 50's when the bars most famous patron, the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, was introduced to this longshoreman's haunt. The White Horse holds the dubious distinction of being the place where Thomas drank his last whiskey. In November of 1953, Thomas beat his own personal record by downing 18 shoots of whiskey and soon after stumbled outside and collapsed on the sidewalk. He was taken to the Chelsea Hotel and there fell into a coma; the next morning he was transferred to St. Vincent's Hospital where he died. In addition to the many portraits of Dylan Thomas that adorn the walls, a plaque commemorating his last visit to The White Horse Tavern hangs above the bar.

The bar soon drew more literary figures as patrons including James Baldwin, Norman Mailer, Anais Nin, and James Laughlin, the founder of The New Directions publishing house. In addition it was a gathering place for both the beat writers like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, as well as the New York School poets, such as John Ashbery and Frank O'Hara.

Recorded causes of Thomas's death included pneumonia, a result of a coma, pressure on the brain and emphysemia (possibly due to his smoking habit and intake of morphine). Eventually, "Chronic alcohol poisoning" was ruled the official cause of death.
Oft quoted he observed that "An alcoholic is someone who you don't like who drinks as much as you do." He was also aware of the adverse effect alcohol had on his life when he said, "A horrid alcoholic explosion scatters all my good intentions like bits of limbs and clothes over the doorsteps and into the saloon bars of the tawdriest pubs."

No comments: