Robert Frost: Biography
Robert Frost's life as a poet was successful, though his personal life was filled with tragedy.
Isabelle Moodie and William Prescott Frost Jr. were blessed with a son March 26, 1874. This son was named after the Confederate general, Robert E. Lee. We know him today as Robert Frost, one of the best-known and loved poets of all time.
Frost began kindergarten in 1879; however, he was struck with nervous stomach pains the very first day and never returned. He remained home with his mother, who was a teacher. She provided his education for roughly the first ten years of his life. Frost did attempt to return to school on a few occasions, but was always struck with the stomach pains, and had to return home. This occurred up until the time his family moved to New Hampshire. Robert’s mother began teaching a fifth grade class in which Robert and his sister, Jeanie, attended. Robert took take a liking to school, and applied for entrance into Lawrence High School. He was accepted and finished the year at the head of his class.
He began to write, and found a profound pleasure in it. Frost published his first poem in Lawrence High School’s Bulletin in April of 1890. Frost published several more times and graduated with valedictory honors and moved on to Dartmouth College. However, he left college that winter and began to teach while maintaining his writing on the side. Robert published several more poems and started a job working as a reporter for the Lawrence Daily American and Sentinel. Soon after, he married Elinor White, a classmate who shared his valedictory honors at graduation. They had their first son, Elliot, in 1896.
Frost gained entrance into Harvard and was awarded the Sewall Scholarship for academic excellence. However, he withdrew from Harvard in 1899 and found himself with another child, Lesley. Robert’s health began to fail, so he saw a doctor. The doctor informed Frost that he must give up his sedentary career. With help from his grandfather, Frost took up the hobby of poultry farming and found that he enjoyed it, though he never completely gave up his teaching and writing careers.
When Elliott, Frost’s son, died of cholera in 1900, and his mother of cancer, he moved to a large 30 acre farm in New Hampshire own by his grandfather. He died a short time later, leaving Frost a $500 annuity, and ownership of the farm. Over the next seven years, Frost was blessed with four more children: three daughters, and a son. However, his youngest daughter, Elinor Bettina died after three days. But, Frost persevered.
In 1912, Frost decided to move to England, and devote himself to writing full time. Within months, his first book, A Boy’s Will, was accepted for publication. The books received good reviews, and in 1914, North of Boston was published. Soon after, he learned his books would be published in the United States. He then returned to America in 1915. He was surprised by the number of good reviews he received in the states because of the poor response to his poetry in the past.
Frost began receiving invitations to read and speak at several colleges and was later asked to teach at Amherst College. He continued at Amherst until 1920, the year he had to commit his daughter Jeanie to a mental hospital. Robert continued to give readings and talks for many more years, and was well paid for them.
Never having lingered in his love for writing, Frost published his next two books in 1923, Selected Poems and New Hampshire. The following year New Hampshire received a Pulitzer Prize. In 1928 West-Running Brook was published, and an expanded edition of Selected Poems was released. Collected Poems was published in 1930, and it also received the Pulitzer Prize. The same year, Frost also received the Russell Loines Poetry Prize.
Frost’s schedule increased and found himself delivering speeches, talks, readings and lectures daily at colleges throughout the United States. However, he was forced to take some time off in 1934 when his daughter Marjorie fell ill with puerperal fever. But, in 1935, Frost was back to his fast paced schedule of lecturing, and he published his next book, A Further Range, in 1936. It, too, received a Pulitzer Prize.
Two years later, Elinor died of heart failure. Frost suffered the loss terribly and experienced a collapse. He was unable to attend the final ceremonies. Instead, he returned to work and surrounded himself with the company of his colleagues and continued writing.
In 1939, he was awarded the Gold Medal from the National Institute of Arts and Letters in New York. Frost began to teach at Harvard, and bought a farm in Vermont. Another edition of Collected Poems was also released the same year. In the fall of the following year, his son Carol killed himself. Frost did his best to remain strong through his string of family tragedies. Frost left Vermont and purchased a home in Cambridge in 1941.
In 1942, A Witness Tree was published and received a Pulitzer Prize in 1943. A Masque of Reason was published in 1945. Collected Poems was published again in 1946. 1947, two more books were published: Steeple Bus and A Masque of Mercy. Complete Poems of Robert Frost 1949 was published in that year. In 1950, Robert Frost received another honor, this time coming from the U.S. Senate, adopting a resolution honoring Frost on his 75th birthday.
As Frost grew older, his eyesight failing, he was forced to give recitations of his poems instead of the lectures and readings. This did little to his career or reputation. Frost continued to receive dinners in his honor and awards in his name. He served as a delegate to the World Congress of Writers in 1954, and in 1955, Frost even had a mountain (Ripton, in Vermont) named in his honor.
In 1957, Frost, and several other well renowned poets began to lobby for the treason charges against Ezra Pound to be dropped. In 1958, Eisenhower appointed Frost to act as a consultant in poetry for the Library of Congress and was awarded the Emerson-Thoreau Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Later, in 1959, Frost was also given a three-year term as an Honorary Consultant in the Humanities at the Library of Congress. Congress awarded Frost a gold medal in 1960 in recognition of his poetry. In 1961, he recited “The Gift Outright” for Kennedy’s inauguration and was named Poet Laureate of Vermont.
Robert Frost published one more book before he died, In the Clearing, in 1962. In December of that year, he was admitted into the hospital. Just one month later, he died on January 29th.
There is much more to be learned about the man, Robert Frost. So much more than what can be told in just a few pages. He received countless awards and honorary degrees. His poetry is like small literary photographs that capture moments of beauty and moments of grief through life. If you haven’t experienced Frost’s work in the past, take some time to explore his works. There is something there that can touch us all.