Robert Frost: A Biography

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Robert Frost, one of the greatest American poets, is certainly the most widely read and most loved. After Frost's death in 1963, his authorized biographer wrote a three-volume work which deeply distorted the personality of the poet. Jeffrey Meyers has returned to the sources and survivors and has given us a radically new interpretation of Robert Frost's life. The poet that emerges from this biography is neither the hayseed sage that Frost personified in public nor the monster in human form portrayed by his ...
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Overview

Robert Frost, one of the greatest American poets, is certainly the most widely read and most loved. After Frost's death in 1963, his authorized biographer wrote a three-volume work which deeply distorted the personality of the poet. Jeffrey Meyers has returned to the sources and survivors and has given us a radically new interpretation of Robert Frost's life. The poet that emerges from this biography is neither the hayseed sage that Frost personified in public nor the monster in human form portrayed by his previous biographer. Meyer's new biography reveals numerous things for the first time - but, most notably, the fact that after Elinor Frost's death in 1938, Frost became passionately involved, in his sixties, with his secretary (the wife of a Harvard lecturer), who dominated the last twenty-five years of his life and inspired his most intense love poems. With the cooperation of her daughter, Meyers finally portrays this fascinating woman's involvement with Frost and her influence on his work.

Though Frost was the most popular and influential American poet of his time, he was deeply affected by English poetry, and especially by that of his kindred spirit, Thomas Hardy. Those who thought they knew Frost's life and work will be surprised by the impressive and sympathetic figure they meet in these pages.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Meyers, the author of 12 earlier biographies, gets off to a less-than-persuasive start by asserting that "now" he can reveal that Frost's 1874-1963 love poems after his wife's death can be traced to his passion, beginning at 64, for his married secretary, who was his mistress. The accommodation with her complaisant husband has been acknowledged in print since at least 1990. Furthermore, Meyers contends that his biography will overturn Frost's unpleasant reputation as "a mean old bastard," yet the life as he relates it is a litany of unlikability. While some earlier segments of the narrative seem Meyers's most felicitous biographical prose to date, the pace is clotted with digressions. His editorial "we" is also off-putting, and numerous flash-forwards interrupt the life and result in later repetitions. The promised "new view" of Frost's character fails to materialize, although the "original interpretations of his poems" is in some cases satisfying. His life outside his books, in Meyers's account, is a series of relocations to farmhouses or campuses, followed by public readings that Frost claimed to despise but that fed his purse and his vanity. Photos. May
Library Journal
Frost wrote that poetry is "a way of taking life by the throat." Perhaps the same comment could be made about Meyers's take on the life, private and public, of the great poet. A prolific biographer e.g., Edmund Wilson: A Biography, LJ 2/15/95, Meyers offers a different view of Frost from the one commonly held largely generated by Lawrence Thompson's critical biography, Robert Frost: A Biography, 1982 of a mean-spirited, uncaring husband and father and an enemy of other poets. Meyers writes-not judgmentally-that Frost was touchy and frequently insecure, yet the biographer gives ample evidence that Frost possessed a great wit, conversed brilliantly, and was capable of personal generosity and courage. Meyers believes that Frost lived his life for and through poetry and that poetry prompted many of his responses to events ranging from the seduction of his wife to the death of his children. In light of these and other conclusions, Meyers's interpretation of Frost's poetry offers an invaluable contribution to understanding and accepting the best and the most controversial aspects of Frost the man and poet. For literature collections.-Robert Kelly, Fort Wayne Community Schs., Ind.
School Library Journal
YAFrost's development as a poet is central to this biography. His classical education, life experiences, relationships with others including contemporary writers, and personal statements constantly elucidate his work. Meyers's comparisons to images and language in the Bible, the classics, and poets such as Keats and Hardy further enhanced by an appendix called "Literary Allusions" assist teens in understanding connections among literary works. Frequent explications of Frost's lines/stanzas/poems are seamlessly woven into the narrative of his life. The conversational, almost gossipy tone of this sympathetic view of the poet hastens readers along, and they are provided with enough detail to grasp his importance in American literature. YAs seeking sufficient criticism to complete an assignment may find themselves reading on to learn "what happens next."Barbara Hawkins, Oakton High School, Fairfax, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780395728093
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 5/1/1996
  • Pages: 424
  • Product dimensions: 6.31 (w) x 9.29 (h) x 1.46 (d)

Table of Contents

Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Preface
1 San Francisco, 1874-1885 1
2 North of Boston, 1885-1895 16
3 Marriage, 1895-1900 34
4 A Hampshire Lad, 1900-1906 51
5 Pinkerton and Plymouth, 1906-1912 63
6 England and Ezra Pound, 1912-1914 87
7 Gloucestershire and Edward Thomas, 1914-1915 111
8 The Return of the Native, 1915-1916 128
9 Teaching at Amherst, 1917-1920 151
10 Michigan and the Lecture Circuit, 1921-1926 167
11 Acquainted with the Night, 1927-1934 190
12 Poets and Biographers, 1934-1938 206
13 Death and Chaos, 1938 229
14 Kay Morrison, 1938-1942 241
15 Harvard and Dartmouth, 1940-1949 268
16 An Abundance of Honors, 1950-1957 290
17 Pound and the Terrifying Frost, 1958-1959 309
18 Kennedy and Israel, 1960-1962 321
19 Frost at Midnight, 1962-1963 332
Appendix I. Literary Allusions 357
Appendix II. Academic Positions 369
Notes 370
Bibliography 405
Index 407
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