ROBERT FROST by Jeffrey Meyers


A Biography
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 After deferential personal reminiscences and a hostile authorized biography, Frost is finally portrayed here as equally complex in both his poetry and his personality. Although Lawrance Thompson's detail-drenched three-volume authorized biography stripped Frost of his folksy public persona, it not only nakedly displayed, in Meyers's words, ``a pathological hatred'' toward its subject, but also concealed Thompson's affair with Kay Morrison, Frost's secretary, literary executor, and lover. Biographies by Sidney Cox and Elizabeth Sergeant have been more benevolent, and Frost's editor Stanley Burnshaw has attacked Thompson's objectivity. Drawing on all of this work, prolific biographer Meyers (Edmund Wilson, 1995, etc.) depicts Frost as an incompetent farmer and a wayward student, but an innovative teacher and a canny and erudite poet, as adept in versification as in literary rivalry. The most amusing sections deal with Frost's serio-comic relations with other poets, such as Ezra Pound, with whom Frost quarrelled in England before his (Frost's) first success, then helped to bail out of the insane asylum; Carl Sandburg, who was Frost's rival for all-American poetic simplicity; and T.S. Eliot, who started as a Modernist competitor but ended as a fellow grand old man of letters. Frost's personal life receives close but compassionate scrutiny, for if Meyers paints Frost as a demanding husband and domineering paterfamilias, he allows him grief for the series of family tragedies that darkened his famous later years. Frost ends as a model of his hero, Thomas Hardy, revered and still productive, but Meyers underscores the aged Frost's pessimism and desperate need for recognition. That need led him from ``barding about'' on the lecture circuit to the Kennedy inauguration and good-will visits abroad. Notwithstanding a certain critical padding and occasional harshness, Meyers's biography gives a readable, sympathetic portrait of Frost without sacrificing either the dark poet or the affable public New Englander. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: May 8th, 1996
ISBN: 0-395-72809-6
Page count: 406pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1996


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