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Biography

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Overview (3)

Date of Birth 26 March 1874San Francisco, California, USA
Date of Death 29 January 1963Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Birth NameRobert Lee Frost

Mini Bio (1)

Robert Lee Frost, arguably the greatest American poet of the 20th century, was born in San Francisco, California, on March 26, 1874. His father, William Prescott Frost Jr., was from a Lawrence, Massachusetts, family of Republicans, and his mother, Isabelle Moodie Frost, was an immigrant from Scotland. His father was a journalist who dabbled in politics, was rebellious and named his son after the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. William Frost was also an alcoholic and tubercular.

William met his wife while teaching school in Pennsylvania. Their marriage was not a happy one due to a dissimilarity of temperament. He succumbed to tuberculosis in 1885, and Isabelle honored her husband's wish he be buried in his native Massachusetts. With Robert and her daughter Jeanie, they relocated to Lawrence, near his father's parents.

Isabelle became a schoolteacher in Salem, New Hampshire, just over the state line, close to Lawrence. Robert and Jeanie became two of her pupils. Robert attended Lawrence High School, where his first poems were published in the school's bulletin. Upon graduation in 1892, he shared valedictorian honors with Elinor White, to whom he became engaged later that year.

Frost entered Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, in September 1892, but left after one semester. This caused a conflict with Elinor, who wanted him to finish college and refused to marry him until he did so. In his late teens and early 20s he worked at various occupations, including mill hand, newspaper reporter and teacher in his mother's school.

His first published poem, "My Butterfly: An Elegy", appeared in the New York magazine "The Independent" in 1894, and he eventually self-published a book of poems. He and Elinor were married on December 19, 1895. Their first child, a son they named Elliott, was born on September 29, 1896. Robert was accepted at Harvard as a special student, but had to drop out due to tuberculosis and the birth of the couple's second child in 1899. He never finished his college education.

As the new century dawned, the Frost family was afflicted with the first of the tragedies that would dog them all of their lives. Elliott contracted cholera and died in July of 1900, at age four, a development that rocked the Frost marriage (Frost later addressed the event in his poem "Home Burial"). Frost's mother died that year from cancer, and his grandfather, William Prescott Frost Sr., passed away in 1901. His grandfather left him an annual annuity of $500 and the use of his Derry, New Hampshire, farm for ten years, after which ownership would pass to Robert.

The Frosts had four more children; their last, a daughter born in 1907, died after three days. Although Frost longed to be a poet since he was a youth, recognition of his talent would prove elusive. To support himself he had to work the farm and supplemented his income by teaching school, often in partnership with his wife. He tried to make a go as a poultry farmer, but he was not successful. Economic necessity forced him to spend the 1910-11 school year teaching at the State Normal School in far-off Plymouth, New Hampshire.

Frost practiced education by poetry with his children, since to him the two were one and the same. Poetry thus became part of the everyday life of the Frost family. His daughters Lesley, Irma, Marjorie and son Carol were home-schooled by their parents. Along with the basic instruction, they were encouraged to develop their powers of observation and cultivate their imaginations. Reading and writing were intended to be both pleasurable and a vehicle of discovery.

Frost shared his stories and poems with his children and they, in turn, were encouraged to write and share their stories and poems with their parents. The Frost children published their own little magazine, "The Bouquet", with their English friends while their family was living in England. The family had moved there in August 1912 because no American publisher was interested in his poems and he was feeling isolated. After coming into possession of the Derry farm in 1911, he sold it to raise the funds to finance the move. The relocation proved fortunate, as he quickly made friends and, for the first time in his life, was a member in good standing of a group of serious poets.

Living on a farm in Buckinghamshire with his family, Frost became a prolific writer as he went about finding his own, distinct poetic voice. Through an acquaintance, he met fellow American exile 'Ezra Pound', the great avant-garde poet who would prove to be a supporter of his.

Just two months after his arrival in England, the small London publisher David Nutt accepted his submission of a collection of poems primarily consisting of the work he had done over the previous nine years. "A Boy's Will" was published in 1913, and received good reviews from the English press despite being a young man's work. Frost then relocated to Gloucestershire, England, to be closer to the group of poets known as The Georgians. The second collection, his seminal "North of Boston", was published in 1914. The volume contained his classic poems "Mending Wall", "The Death of the Hired Man" and "After Apple-Picking", which have been frequently anthologized. Frost, as a poet, had not only arrived, but he had matured as an artist.

After the publication of "North of Boston", Frost moved his family back to the US due to England's involvement in World War One. By the time of his return, publisher Henry Holt had published "North of Boston" to great success. Frost was a shrewd promoter of himself as a poet, and he became celebrated by the literary establishments of Boston and New York. Holt, who would be his publisher throughout his life, brought out his third volume, "Mountain Interval", in 1916. The book, containing poems he had written in England and in his nine-year exile as a farmer-teacher, solidified his reputation. The collection included "The Road Not Taken", "An Old Man's Winter Night", "The Oven Bird" and "Birches".

Once again settling in the New England he would forever be associated with, Frost bought a farm at Franconia, New Hampshire. In 1917 he took a position at Amherst College as professor of literature and poet-in-residence. By the 1920s he was acknowledged as one of America's most important poets. Frost won the Pulitzer Prize in 1924 for his fourth book of verse, "New Hampshire". He published new and collected volumes of poetry at fairly regular intervals, assumed teaching appointments at Dartmouth, Harvard and the University of Michigan, and maintained a busy schedule of lectures and poetry readings. His honors, which included a record four Pulitzer Prizes, were matched by his popularity. He was the only poet ever chosen as a selection of The Book of the Month Club, and his books of poetry were sold in mass-market editions.

Frost has been frequently but erroneously mentioned as a Nobel laureate, but he never won the prize. As he became a leading literary lion in America, he became more influential, and was a favorite of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Frost successfully lobbied Ike to have Ezra Pound, incarcerated in a madhouse since being arrested for his treasonous radio broadcasts from fascist Italy during World War II, released and returned to private life.

One of the most famous moments in American history came at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy, a fellow New Englander, on January 20, 1961, when Frost read a poem. He was the first poet ever to read at an American inauguration, and the event testified to both his greatness as a serious poet and his popular appeal. He represented the United States on official foreign missions during both the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations. The U.S. Congress voted Frost a Congressional Gold Medal in 1962, presented to him by President Kennedy at a public ceremony. Kennedy sent Frost as a cultural emissary to the USSR at the height of the Cold War in 1962, not long before his death.

Towards the end of his life he had achieved a popular acclaim unique for an American poet, though his critical reputation had declined due to a diminution of his powers. "A Witness Tree", his last truly significant book of verse, was published in 1942. His final three collections of poetry were not as praised as his older poetry had been, though certain pieces were acknowledged as among his best.

When Frost died in a Boston hospital on January 29, 1963, two months shy of his 89th birthday, he was the most widely respected man of American letters. Since his death his reputation has not diminished, the mark of a great artist. In 1996 three poets who won the Nobel Prize for literature, Joseph Brodsky, Seamus Heaney and Derek Walcott jointly published an homage to the influence of Frost, whom they feel is one of literature's greatest poets.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jon C. Hopwood & MO

Spouse (1)

Elinor Miriam White (19 December 1895 - 21 March 1938) (her death) (6 children)

Trivia (6)

Received four Pulitzer Prizes for volumes of poetry -- 1924, 1931, 1937, 1943.
Recited his celebrated poem, The Gift Outright, at John F. Kennedy's presidential inauguration in 1961. He had planned to also read a dedicatory preface to the poem but couldn't read the text in that afternoon's bright sunlight.
Pictured on a 10¢ US commemorative postage stamp issued on the 100th anniversary of his birth, March 23, 1974.
Was the 1959 recipient of the prestigious Connor Award given by the brothers of the Phi Alpha Tau fraternity based out of Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. He is also an honorary brother of the fraternity.
Used his influence with the Eisenhower Administration to get the poet Ezra Pound, who had been arrested for treason for making radio broadcasts for Mussolini during World War II, released from the mental ward of St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C. in 1958. Pound was declared mentally unfit to stand trial for treason in 1946, and had been committed to St. Elizabeth's.
Member of the Theta Delta Chi Fraternity. He was initiated at the Dartmouth Charge.

Personal Quotes (12)

[epitaph] "I had a lover's quarrel with the world"
The brain is a wonderful organ; it starts working the moment you get up in the morning and does not stop until you get to the office.
A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.
A diplomat is a man who always remembers a woman's birthday but never remembers her age.
At bottom the world isn't a joke. We only joke about it to avoid an issue with someone, to let someone know that we know he's there with his questions; to disarm him by seeming to have heard and done justice to his side of the the standing argument.
You've got to love what's lovable, and hate what's hateable. It takes brains to see the difference.
Good fences make good neighbors.
Happiness makes up in height for what it lacks in length.
Home-the place where, when you go there, they have to take you in.
The reason worry kills more people than work is that more people worry than work.
Poetry is about the grief. Politics is about the grievance.
Nothing gold can stay.

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