ROBERT FROST: THE EARLY YEARS by Lawrance Thompson
Kirkus Star

ROBERT FROST: THE EARLY YEARS

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Some time ago Lionel Trilling startled everyone by pointing to the darker, nihilistic grain of Frost's poetry. Even as a cautionary evaluation it still seems extreme: you cannot slip so downright a Yankee into the Freudian or existential depths. Nevertheless it is quite relevant to any discussion of Frost's personal drama, and fortunately Professor Thompson's thorough and painstaking biography, the first really distinguished life-assessment of Frost to reach us, does not back away from the odd anguish and recalcitrant spirit of the poet whose public mask of sagacious independence hid so many troubled moments. Professor Thompson, author of the critical study Fire and Ice, editor of the Selected Letters, friend and correspondent, is uniquely fitted to capture Frost's formative years and accurately chart his development, correcting along the way both the fancies of previous commentators and also Frost's ""mythic versions of events in his own experience."" Frost was often given to idealized rearrangements in his various stray reminiscences, and the conflict between self-doubt and sunny affirmation as recorded here seems to hit at the heart of his various struggles, whether they were childhood stress (parental estrangement, abrupt move from San Francisco to New England), romantic difficulties (a suicidal night in the Dismal Swamp in North Carolina), institutional vexations at Dart-mouth and Harvard, dismal money problems, woeful neglect (Frost was past forty before recognition arrived). The portraits of his grandfather, of his marriage, and the important sojourn in England where he met Pound and Edward Thomas, are carefully drawn, illuminating splendidly his emotional ambivalence and persistent creativity, concluding with his return to America in 1915. A definitive contribution.

Pub Date: Oct. 31st, 1966
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston