A Brief Search of Robert Frost

Robert Lee Frost was born on March 26, 1874 in San Francisco, California to William Prescott Frost, Jr. and Isabelle Moodie Frost. His father, the son of a prominent New England family, and his mother, a Scottish immigrant, met as school teachers in Pennsylvania and moved to the West Coast to follow William’s career in journalism and politics. Upon William’s death in 1885, the family returned to Lawrence, Massachusetts, Frost’s native town. Isabelle taught school in Salem, New Hampshire to support Robert and his sister, Jeanie. Robert attended school in Lawrence, where he met his future wife, Elinor Miriam White. Robert began writing poetry seriously during his senior year and published his first poems in the school Bulletin. Robert and Elinor were co-valedictorians of the graduating class of 1892 and were engaged after graduation.

  • Childhood: Frost’s childhood and family life and his early career.
  • Biography: A biography and chronology of Robert Frost, including his birth and early life and education.
  • Early Years: A biography of Robert Frost with sections on his early years, his career, and his legacy.

Although Frost received numerous honorary degrees during his career, he never completed college. Frost entered Dartmouth College in the fall of 1892, but withdrew in December. In 1894 he enrolled in Harvard, but withdrew before completing his second year in order to support his family. Frost worked throughout his teens and twenties as a mill worker, factory worker, teacher, newspaper boy, and news reporter. He published the poem “My Butterfly” in 1894. Frost married Elinor in December of 1895 after she completed her studies as Lawrence University. Their first child, Elliott, was born nearly a year later. The Frosts had five additional children, a son and four daughters.

Robert Frost’s early married life was marked by family tragedy. Elliott died of cholera in 1900, months before his fifth birthday. The same year, Frost’s mother died of cancer. Later, one of his daughters, Elinor Bettina, died only days after her birth. In 1901, his grandfather, William Prescott Frost, Sr., died, leaving Robert a yearly annuity, use of his farm in Derry, New Hampshire for ten years, and eventual ownership of the farm. Frost worked on the Derry farm for ten years, although for the last five he had to supplement his farm income by teaching English at the New Hampshire Pinkerton Academy and later the New Hampshire Normal School in Plymouth. During his time in Derry, Frost wrote poetry early in the morning and late at night. Frost submitted many of his poems for publication, but found little success. Upon receiving ownership of the farm, Frost sold the property in 1911 and moved his family to England the following year in hopes of finding recognition as a poet.

In England, Frost found a home among other poets and published two books of poetry. He met and became friendly with poets such as Ezra Pound, Robert Graves, and Edward Thomas. He also came to know and was influenced by the Georgian poets Lascelles Abercrombie, T.E. Hulme, and Rupert Brooke. In 1913, Frost published A Boy’s Will, in which can be seen influences from the Romantic poets Keats and Shelley. In 1914, Frost published the longer volume North of Boston, in which most critics agree he found his mature poetic voice. Frost’s poetry used traditional metrics and verse forms, preferring blank verse and lyrical verse to free verse. Although his form was traditional, Frost followed modern poets in choosing to write using colloquial, spoken language. Frost also experimented with rhythm and meter and the poetics of everyday language. Frost drew on the New England landscape, and particularly his farms, for inspiration and grounded his meditations on universal human themes such as the needs for freedom and for boundaries in that landscape. Frost attempted to capture his sensory perception of the land in words through his poetry.

  • Influences: A biography on Frost that focuses on his poetic education and influences on his writing.
  • Revelation: A reading of the poem “Revelation” and a biography of Frost’s education and early writing.
  • Writing: Frost’s first jobs and forays into writing; includes full text of poems.
  • Frost’s Sensibility: An introduction to Frost’s poetry and the way his life and worldview influenced his work. Includes full text and audio of many poems.
  • Frost’s Philosophy: An analysis of Frost’s connections with philosophical movements, such as the Transcendentalists.
  • Early Poems: Poems written on Frost’s high school graduation and as a teacher. Also includes manuscript copies of later poems.

After the outbreak of World War I, the Frosts returned to the United States in 1915. Frost returned to the United States as a celebrated poet. He continued to publish critically acclaimed volumes, including Mountain Interval in 1916 and New Hampshire in 1923. Frost traveled as a lecturer and teacher and the family finally settled in Shaftsbury, Vermont, where Frost had a farm in which he grew apples. Frost spent nearly every summer from 1921 to 1963 teaching poetry and writing at the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College in Ripton, Vermont. Frost taught at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor from 1921 to 1927, when he returned to teach at Amherst. Frost continued to lecture and write and moved to Massachusetts to be closer to Amherst after the death of his wife in 1938 and his son Carol in 1940. On January 20, 1961, Frost recited “The Gift Outright” at John F. Kennedy’s presidential inauguration. Frost wrote “Dedication” for the occasion, but was unable to read his typed copy because of severe glare. The original handwritten version hung in the Oval Office and was given to the presidential library in 2006. Robert Frost died in 1963 in Boston. He is buried in Bennington, Vermont, with his wife and son.

Robert Frost remains one of the most popular American poets. During his lifetime, his poetry enjoyed high sales and he became the face of American poetry. Frost’s face graced magazine covers and he was sent on a goodwill mission to Russia. He traveled the country, creating and popularizing the poetry reading circuit and engaging the public with poetry as it never was before. Frost was one of the first poets-in-residence at an American university and brought poets and poetry to a new level of prominence. After his death, some of Frost’s favorable reviewers and biographers denounced both his poetry and his character. Modernist critics derided his conservative themes and poetic form, his narrative poetry and his formal verse. Later critics revised this negative view of Frost and rediscovered the complexity of form and theme in his work. Younger poets began to adopt his formal verse and narrative poetry. Frost’s influence remains strong among poets as he continues to inspire students of poetry.

  • Selection of Poems: “A Boy’s Will”, “North of Boston”, “Mountain Interval”, and miscellaneous poems dating to 1920.
  • Poems and Biography: A brief overview of how Frost’s life affected his poetry; includes full-text of “Birches”, “Fire and Ice”, “The Tuft of Flowers”, and “The Road Not Taken”.
  • Reading “Mending Wall”: An introduction to Frost’s poetry and the poem; includes guiding questions, learning objectives, and activities for learning and reading the poem.
  • Frost’s Poetics: A lecture and handouts on the poetry and life of Robert Frost, how he saw himself as a poet, and how he positioned himself among poets of his day.
  • Blank Verse: An explanation of the poetic verse form used by Frost using “Mending Wall” as an example.
  • “The Gift Outright”: Full text of Frost’s poem, “The Gift Outright”, that he recited at JFK’s inauguration.