"Happiness makes up in height for what it lacks in
length." - Robert Frost
Robert Frost was born in San Francisco, California in 1874. His father, a journalist, died when Frost was about eleven years old. The family moved to Lawrence, Massachusetts to live with Frost's paternal grandfather where his Scottish mother resumed her career as a schoolteacher to support her family.
Frost graduated high school in 1892 and after attending Dartmouth College for a few months spent the next ten years holding various jobs including working in a textile mill and teaching Latin. His first poem was published in The New York Independent in 1894. He married Elinor White, who he had met at school, in 1895 and they went on to have six children. He attended Harvard from 1897 to 1899 but left without getting a degree, after which he moved to New Hampshire where he worked as a cobbler, farmer and teacher but had little success getting more of his poems published.
In 1912, he sold the farm and moved his wife and four children to England where, in 1913, he published his first collection of poems, A Boy's Will. This was followed by North Boston in 1914, which gained an international reputation and contains some of his best-known poems.
Returning to the USA in 1915, he bought a farm near Franconia, New Hampshire and started teaching at Amherst College (where he continued to teach until 1938). In 1916 he was made a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters and published his third collection of verse, Mountain Interval.
In 1920, he purchased a farm in South Shaftsbury, Vermont, where he co-founded the Bread Loaf School and Conference of English. His wife died in 1938, leaving him severely depressed. In total, he lost four out of his six children - two of his daughters suffered mental breakdowns; his son, Carol, committed suicide; and his first-born son died at the age of four. Although he never won the Nobel Prize that he yearned for, he received many honors including tributes from the U.S. Senate (1950) and the American Academy of Poets (1953), the Congressional Gold Medal (1962) and the Edward MacDowell Medal (1962). In 1930 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and in 1958 he was made poetry consultant for the Library of Congress.
At the time of his death on January 29, 1963, Frost was considered by many to be the unofficial poet laureate of the USA. He was a man of many contrasts. In Robert Frost: A Life (1999), Jay Parini describes him as "a loner who liked company; a poet of isolation who sought a mass audience; a rebel who sought to fit in. Although a family man to the core, he frequently felt alienated from his wife and children and withdrew into reveries. While preferring to stay at home, he traveled more than any poet of his generation to give lectures and readings, even though he remained terrified of public speaking to the end...."
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