Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Fall of Frost

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Fall of Frost

A Novel

by Brian Hall

Fall of Frost by Brian Hall
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2008, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2009, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Amy Reading

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Little Known Facts About Robert Frost

By the end of his long life, Robert Frost was the éminence grise of American letters, a man whose legend preceded him and who often collaborated in promulgating that legend. Yet Brian Hall depicts a Robert Frost who is distinctly more complex than the one most of us encountered in high school, that "simple rustic," that plain-spoken New Englander who extolled the virtues of rural life. Consider these infrequently mentioned details of the Frost mythos:

  • The bard of rural New England was, in fact, born in San Francisco and raised there until age eleven, when his father died. His father had requested to be buried in his hometown of Lawrence, Massachusetts, and his mother resettled there with Frost and his sister after honoring that last wish.
     
  • Frost was a terrible farmer. He did seem to enjoy raising chickens, but he was afraid of cows and erratic in his work habits, preferring to take rambling walks and come back to sit at the kitchen table and write poetry. He spent his whole life protesting that he only "played" at farming, but nothing he said dented the public image of the poet-farmer.
     
  • Frost lied about his age for much of his life. He claimed to have been born in 1875, when in fact he was born a year earlier. He thought he could get away with the fib because his birth records were destroyed in the San Francisco fire. Why would he subtract a year from his age? According to Hall, Frost believed for many years that his mother had been pregnant with him when she married his father. He lied in order to protect her virtue. Even after he learned that his parents married earlier than he thought, he maintained the lie but enjoyed hinting at it in his poems. Ultimately, his biographer discovered the truth from newly unearthed documents and Frost was forced to come clean.
     
  • The quintessential American poet found his first success in England. After twenty years of failure among American publishers, he finally brought out his first collection, A Boy's Will, in London in 1913, which earned the attention of Ezra Pound, who subsequently became an important champion of Frost's work. Henry Holt released the book in America in 1915 to high acclaim.
     
  • Though he loved his wife Elinor dearly, they were distant as a couple and Frost could never quite overcome the guilt he felt at saddling her with so many children and immersing himself in his poetry. Only six months after she died in 1938, he began an affair with Kathleen Morrison, a married woman who lived near him and acted as his secretary until his death in 1963.

This article was originally published in April 2008, and has been updated for the April 2009 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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