Robert Frost Childhood & Early Years
Frost was born on March 26, 1874 in San Francisco, California to journalist William Prescott Frost, Jr., and Isabelle Moodie. His mother belonged to Scottish family, while his father’s ancestry was from Nicholas Frost of Tiverton, Devon, England. His fatherwas a teacher and later became an editor withSan Francisco Evening Bulletin. Frost’s father was also an unsuccessful candidate for city tax collector and died on 5 May, 1885. Post his demise, the family moved to a lot of places around the country like Lawrence, Massachusetts, etc under the advocacy of his grandfather, William Frost, Sr., who worked as an overseer at New England mill. In 1892, Robert Frost graduated from Lawrence High School. His mother joined the Swedenborgian church and had him immersed in it only. But when he grew up, he left the same.
Despite being popular for his rural life poetry, Frost was brought up in the city. The first poem of Frost got published in his high school magazine. He went to Dartmouth College for only two months, which was considered enough to be acquired into the Theta Delta Chi fraternity. He then returned back, taught and worked for numerous jobs such as helping his mother teach her class of unruly boys, delivering newspapers, and working in a factory as a light bulb filament changer. But he never enjoyed performing these odd-jobs. To him, poetry was where his heart was.
Frost sold out his first poem called"My Butterfly: An Elegy" in 1894 for $15. It was published in the New York Independent edition on November 8, 1894. He then went on a journey to the great dismal swamp in Virginia. He also attended studies of liberal arts at Harvard University for two years. Despite being a very good student at Harvard, he left it to support his family. Just before dying, his grandfather bought a farm for Robert and his wife, Elinor in Derry, New Hampshire. Frost worked in the farm for long nine years, simultaneously writing early in the mornings. During this time, Frost had penned down several poems which became popular later on. Eventually, his farming failed, which routed Frost back to the education field from where he had started. From 1906 to 1911, he served as an English teacher at New Hampshire's Pinkerton Academy and afterwards at the New Hampshire Normal School in Plymouth, New Hampshire.
In 1912, Frost with his family shifted to Great Britain, lived initially in Glasgow. Later, he settled in Beaconsfield outside London. His first poetry book titled “A Boy's Will” was published the very next year. In England, Frost became friends with some important people like Edward Thomas, member of the group known as the Dymock Poets, T.E. Hulme, and Ezra Pound. Pound was the first American to write a review on the work of Frost, but later Frost disliked the former’s efforts to mold his American poetry. Being surrounded amongst friends and companions, Frost came out with some tremendous and best work in England. In 1915, after World War I started, he returned back to America and purchased a farm in Franconia, New Hampshire. Here he established a career in writing, teaching and lecturing. This family habitat served as his summer home until 1938. The house is now maintained as the Frost Place, a museum and poetry conference site. During the years 1916-20, 1923-24, and 1927-38, Frost taught English at Amherst College, in Massachusetts. He used to influence and encourage his students to bring sound of the human voice in their writings.
For long 42 years that is from 1921 to 1963, Frost used to spend summers by teaching at the Bread Loaf School of English of Middlebury College, at its mountain campus at Ripton, Vermont. He is credited to encourage and influence upon the school’s development and writing programs, the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. The conference grabbed a lot of attention and applause during the time of Robert Frost. This college is today owned and maintained by Frost’s former Ripton farmstead as a national historic site close to Bread Loaf campus. In 1921, Frost took a teaching fellowship at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He stayed here until 1927 and was rewarded a lifetime appointment at the University as a Fellow in Letters. He then shifted to Amherst in 1927. In 1940, Frost purchased a 5-acre plot in South Miami, Florida, which he visited every winter. He had named it Pencil Pines. According to Harvard’s 1965 alumni directory, Frost received an honorary degree at the college. Though he did not graduate from any college, he yet received more than 40 honorary degrees which include one each from Princeton, Oxford and Cambridge universities. Frost was also the only person who received two honorary degrees from Dartmouth College.
During his lifetime, the Robert Frost Middle School in Fairfax, Virginia, the Robert L. Frost School in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and the main library of Amherst College were some of the educational institutions that were named after Frost. On 20 January, 1961, at the old age of 86, he recited and performed a reading of his poetry at the President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration. His poems are reviewed in the Anthology of Modern American Poetry mentioning that “behind a sometimes charmingly familiar and rural façade, Frost's poetry frequently presents pessimistic and menacing undertones which often are either unrecognized or unanalyzed”. One of the original materials of Frost’s amazing work is discovered in the Special Collections department of the Jones Library in Amherst, Massachusetts with almost twelve thousand items like original manuscript poems and letters, correspondence, and photographs, as well as audio and visual recordings. The Amherst College’s Archives and Special Collections also have a collection of his papers.
Much unlike his professional life, Robert Frost’s personal life was filled with grief and loss. He lost his parents at a young age. As if this were any less, Frost had to admit his younger sister Jeanie to metal hospital. She died there only after nine years. At the age of 20, in 1894, he proposed marriage to Elinor Miriam White, who in turn refused wanting to finish college first. The following year, having graduated, Elinor agreed and the two tied the nuptial knot. They had six children namely son Elliot, daughter Lesley Frost Ballantine, son Carol, daughter Irma, daughter Marjorie and daughter Elinor Bettina (died just three days after her birth in 1907). Elliot died of cholera in 1904, Carol committed suicide, Marjorie died of puerperal fever after childbirth and Elinor Bettina died post three days after her birth. Frost’s wife contracted breast cancer in 1937 and died of heart failure in 1938.
Robert Frost died on January 29, 1963 in Boston as a result of the complications from prostate surgery. Frost was buried at the Old Bennington Cemetery in Bennington, Vermont.