Robert Frost Collection
Robert Frost, the American poet, was born in San Francisco on March 26, 1874. His father, William Prescott Frost, a journalist, died of tuberculosis in 1885. At age eleven he moved to Lawrence, Massachusetts with his mother Isabelle Moody Frost and sister Jeanie. He graduated from Lawrence High School in 1892, sharing honors as class valedictorian with Elinor Miriam White, who later became his wife. Frost enrolled at Dartmouth College and later, in 1897, at Harvard, but never earned a formal academic degree. After dropping out of college, he was a teacher, cobbler, editor and farmer. Frost's first published poem, "My Butterfly: An Elegy," appeared on November 8, 1894, in the New York newspaper The Independent. He and Elinor White were married in 1895. Through the next dozen years six children were born, two of whom died prematurely, leaving a surviving family of one son and three daughters: Carol, Lesley, Irma, and Marjorie.
From 1900 to 1909 Frost raised poultry on a farm in Derry, New Hampshire, and taught at the local school, Pinkerton Academy. In August 1912, he sold the property (newly owned) and moved the family to England, determined to establish himself in poetry in a country he thought was more receptive to his work. In England, he met and was influenced by Ezra Pound, Robert Graves, Rupert Brooke and Edward Thomas. Pound, in particular, was a supporter of Frost's work. In England he published A Boy's Will (1913) and shortly after that North of Boston (1914), both of which then came out in American editions. When he sailed back to the United States with his family in 1915, Frost's literary reputation was established.
A lecture he gave at the College in 1916 marked the beginning of a long relationship with the Amherst. (For a chronology, see "Robert Frost and Amherst College," below.)
By the 1920s Frost had become one of America's most celebrated poets. Each new book of poems (Mountain Interval (1916), New Hampshire (1923), West-Running Brook (1928), A Further Range (1936), A Witness Tree (1942), Steeple Bush (1947), and In the Clearing (1962)) met with unprecedented commercial sales and critical praise, including four Pulitzer Prizes. Frost resided in a succession of farms and houses in New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts (including Amherst). He frequently toured throughout the U.S. and in many foreign countries to do readings and to take up poet-in-residence appointments at a number of colleges and universities. His reading of the poem "The Gift Outright" at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy in 1961 was a memorable occasion.
Robert Frost died in Boston on January 29, 1963.
For a detailed chronology of Robert Frost's life, see Collected Poems, Prose and Plays by Robert Frost (N.Y.: Library of America, 1995).
Robert Frost and Amherst College