Robert Frost collection, 1866-1996 Rauner Frost Manuscript MS-1178

Biography

Robert Frost (1874-1963). Poet. Born in San Francisco, Robert Frost lived the majority of his life in New England. After his father’s death in 1885, Frost moved with his mother and sister to Lawrence, Massachusetts, where in 1892 he was co-valedictorian of Lawrence High School. Frost shared the title with Elinor Miriam White, whom he married in 1895. They had six children: Eliot (1896-1904, died of cholera), Lesley Frost Ballantine (1899-1983), Carol (1902-1940, committed suicide), Irma (1903-1967, institutionalized for mental illness from 1947), Marjorie (1905-1934, died of complications from childbirth), and Elinor Bettina (1907, died three days after birth). Frost matriculated at Dartmouth as a member of the class of 1896, but left the college before the end of his first term. He attended Harvard University from 1897-1899 but also left without completing his degree. In 1900 Frost moved his family to a farm near Derry, New Hampshire. While living in Derry, Frost taught at Pinkerton Academy and at Plymouth Normal School, a teachers’ college. Frost, discouraged with farming, moved his family to England in 1912. In England, Frost met writers including Ezra Pound and Edward Thomas, who would become Frost’s closest friend until Thomas’ death in 1917 at the Battle of Arras. Frost’s first published poem, “My Butterfly. An Elegy,” appeared in the New York Independent in 1894, but it was not until 1913 that his first book of poetry, A Boy’s Will, was published by David Nutt in London. North of Boston followed in 1914 and was published in the United States by Henry Holt. Returning to the U.S. in 1915 to escape the outbreak of World War I, Frost moved with his family to a farm in Franconia, New Hampshire, and was received in literary circles as a major new poet. New Hampshire, published in 1923, won the first of Frost’s four Pulitzer prizes for poetry. Frost accepted a teaching position at the Amherst College in 1916 and remained a frequent visitor to the campus until his death. He also taught at the University of Michigan from 1921 to 1927. Frost taught at Dartmouth College as a Ticknor Fellow from 1943 to 1949 and regularly appeared as speaker in the college's Great Issues lecture series from 1947 to 1962. Frost traveled extensively, maintaining a busy schedule of speaking engagements at colleges and other institutions across the country. In 1920, Frost bought a farm in South Shaftsbury, Vermont, where he spent many summers while teaching at the Bread Loaf School of English in nearby Middlebury, Vermont. He wintered in South Miami, Florida beginning in 1940 and also maintained an apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts. After his wife Elinor’s death in 1938, Frost asked Kathleen “Kay” Morrison to act as his secretary. Kay remained an employee and a close friend of Frost until his death. Frost traveled to England and Ireland in 1957, as well as to England, Greece, and Israel in 1961. On a state-sponsored visit to Russia in 1962, he met with Nikita Khrushchev. Frost was appointed Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress in 1958 and spoke at the inauguration of president John F. Kennedy in 1961. Robert Frost died on January 29, 1963 at the age of 89.

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