Robert Frost Biography: A Lover’s Quarrel With The World

Robert Frost biography

One of the most popular names in the world of poetry is Robert Frost. We know him for some of his most famous poems like The Road not Taken, The Oven Bird, Mending Wall, and Fire and Ice. Robert Frost and his works in the literature world is widely enjoyed and loved. So we decided to write an article about him. We’ll mention a few things about his family, his struggle during the initial period of his career, his poetry, his style of writing, and of course, some facts about Robert Frost that you may not have heard. Let’s begin with the childhood of this great poet and then we journey through the years of his life and the influence on the style of poetry he wrote. Here is the biography of Robert Frost.

The Childhood.

Robert Lee Frost was born on March 26, 1874, to Scottish immigrants, William Prescott Frost and Isabelle Moodie. His father was a teacher and later an editor in the local newspaper. The Frost family was settled in San Francisco, California, which is also Robert Frost’s birthplace. Since his father was a teacher and was in the field of writing, Frost was already exposed to literature. He was an avid writer and loved writing poetry. This passion for writing can be seen directly in his poetry, the sharp yet soft-touching words, the impactful metaphors, and rhymes that soothe the ears.

But the untimely death of his father in 1885 forced the Frost family to move out of San Francisco and settle in Lawrence, Massachusetts where his grandfather was an overseer at a New England Mill. He had a difficult childhood where he had to manage work and study. While the requirement of money forced him to take odd jobs like working in a factory, delivering the newspaper, helping his mother teach, his love for poetry never subsided. Frost attended Dartmouth College. But his days of struggle weren’t just over yet. There were more to come.

A Tormented Personal Life

It is often said that the harder the life, the sweeter the words you write. Maybe that is why Robert Frost’s style of poetry was so much inclined towards philosophy and metaphors and deeper meanings. Frost has had seen his loved ones die very frequently from an early age. His father died when he was 11 years old, and his mother passed away from cancer when he was 26. Twenty-nine years after his mother’s death, his sister died too. Both Robert and his mother were sufferers of depression, and so was his wife, Elinor Frost.

The deaths did not stop there. Out of six children, only 2 outlived Robert Frost. His first son Elliot died of cholera, the same year Frost’s mother died. Another son, Carol committed suicide at the age of 38. His daughter Marjorie died of puerperal fever after childbirth and another daughter Elinor died just one day after her birth. Even his wife developed breast cancer and died in 1938 (due to heart failure).

The emotional toll on Robert Frost was unbearable. To go through all these, watching loved ones die is something that can drastically change a person. Frost attended Harvard for a brief period of time, but then he left it due to health issues. Frost married Elinor Miriam White in 1895. It was around the same time when Frost’s grandfather, gifted the couples a farm in Derry, New Hampshire. This was the place where Robert Frost created some of his greatest poems. He worked here for nine years but left farming as he wasn’t very successful at it. He took the job of an English teacher at the Pinkerton Academy.

Robert Frost biography
An Aged Robert Forst

A Struggling Poet 

Even though Frost was an exceptional poet and had sold a few of his poems, he still hadn’t published a book and it was quite difficult for a new poet to rise up in the US. His financial condition was worsening and he had turned 40. He needed to get some recognition. That was when he decided to sell the farm he had been gifted by his grandfather. Frost decided to move to England with the money and apply effort to get published there.

England was famous for letting new and budding poets get a chance. Frost sailed with his family to England in the year 1912 with his poems that weren’t published. And this big gamble that was taken just with the hope of English publishers being more receptive to new poets worked. This was where Robert Frost published his book in 1913 called A Boy’s Will. People loved the poems written by him and he soon was approaching the position where he could earn from doing what he loved, poetry.

News of some American poet creating a sensation with his words in England started reaching the US when Robert Frost published his second book, North of Boston. The input of Amy Lowell, the Boston poet who was impressed by Frost’s work also added a major boost to Robert’s success, and hence her name is almost always mentioned in Robert Frost’s biography. Her reviews about the North of Boston propelled Frost into the limelight, all unbeknownst to him.

The Return to America

With the initiation of World War I, Robert Frost and his family had to to move back to the US, where he was a celebrity. His book North of Boston was already a best-seller. Frost returned to US in 1915 and found himself to be the centre of interest. Magazines wanted interviews and asking to publish his poems. This was the first time a poet has reached such a new height in popularity so quickly.

The Rise of the Poet.

Robert Frost and his work were now read everywhere and his success was rocketing to new heights. His return to the US in 1915 forced him to look for work again, as his farming and poetry weren’t yielding enough. So he took the job which suited the best for him. He started giving lectures at Amherst College and Michigan University as a part-time job.

Robert Frost biography
A Stamp with the image of Robert Frost on it.

While doing his part-time job, Frost always focused on his first passion, writing poems. The success of North of Boston was not just a fluke because of the efforts of Lowell and an “American in England.” He proved his poetic genius with the publication of another book named Mountain Interval which released in 1916. It was a huge success, people loved it.

That was not the end of his success-streak. In 1923, his work New Hampshire received the Pulitzer price and that is not the only time you’ll read Frost winning the Pulitzer price in this biography. Frost was awarded the same prize for his other works; Collected Poems, A Further Range, and A Witness Tree. For a period of four years, Frost served as the poet-in-residence for Harvard University, for Dartmouth for the next 6 years, and finally for Amherst University for the next 14 years. He was also the poetry consultant for the Library of Congress. Frost also recited his poem, The Gift Outright at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy in 1961.

Facts About Robert Frost.

To make the biography more interesting, here are some facts about Robert Frost that you may or may not know.

  • The first poem by Robert Frost to be published was My Butterfly. An Elegy. The poem was published in New York Independent and he was paid $15 ($434, inflation-adjusted).
  • His Miami plot which he bought in 1940 was named “Pencil Pines.” Frost named it that because he said “he never made a penny from anything that did not involve the use of a pencil.”
  • The epitaph of Robert Frost says, “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world” which is an excerpt from his poem, “The Lessons For Today.”
  • Robert Frost is the only poet to receive 4 Pulitzer Prize awards.
  • During the inauguration of John F Kennedy, the poem Frost planned to recite was “Dedication.” But due to the bright sunlight, he was unable to read it. So he recited “The Gift Outright” from memory.
  • Robert Frost was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature 31 times.
  • The name of the famous fantasy series by George RR Martin, A Song of Ice and Fire was inspired by Frost’s poem “Fire and Ice.”
  • The famous poem “The Road Not Taken” was written as a lighthearted joke for his friend, Edward Thomas. 
  • The famous form of poetry, Freeverse was not liked by Robert Frost. He compared freeverse poetry as “Playing tennis without the net.”

So this was the biography of the famous poet Robert Frost. His poems and the lessons wrapped inside will always be enjoyable to read. Frost was an eloquent writer, with the vision that penetrated the veils of ignorance. He saw things in ways people would call understanding. Out of the numerous great poems Frost has constructed, here are some of the most famous ones;

  • The Gift Outright 
  • The Road Not Taken 
  • Home Burial 
  • Out, Out
  • Fire and Ice
  • Nothing Gold Can Stay 
  • Mending Wall.

Read these poems if you are looking to start exploring Robert Frost’s works. This was the biography of Robert Frost, the man who was in a lover’s quarrel with the word. You can read a detailed biography of Robert Frost in this comprehensive article in Wikipedia by clicking here.

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