The third installment of Harvard’s five-volume edition of Robert Frost’s correspondence.
The Letters of Robert Frost, Volume 3: 1929–1936 is the latest installment in Harvard’s five-volume edition of the poet’s correspondence. It presents 601 letters, of which 425 are previously uncollected. The critically acclaimed first volume, a Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year, included nearly 300 previously uncollected letters, and the second volume 350 more.
During the period covered here, Robert Frost was close to the height of his powers. If Volume 2 covered the making of Frost as America’s poet, in Volume 3 he is definitively made. These were also, however, years of personal tribulation. The once-tight Frost family broke up as marriage, illness, and work scattered the children across the country. In the case of Frost’s son Carol, both distance and proximity put strains on an already fractious relationship. But the tragedy and emotional crux of this volume is the death of Frost’s youngest daughter, Marjorie. Frost’s correspondence from those dark days is a powerful testament to the difficulty of honoring the responsibilities of a poet’s eminence while coping with the intensity of a parent’s grief.
Volume 3 also sees Frost responding to the crisis of the Great Depression, the onset of the New Deal, and the emergence of totalitarian regimes in Europe, with wit, canny political intelligence, and no little acerbity. All the while, his star continues to rise: he wins a Pulitzer for Collected Poems in 1931 and will win a second for A Further Range, published in 1936, and he is in constant demand as a public speaker at colleges, writers’ workshops, symposia, and dinners. Frost was not just a poet but a poet-teacher; as such, he was instrumental in defining the public functions of poetry in the twentieth century. In the 1930s, Frost lived a life of paradox, as personal tragedy and the tumults of politics interwove with his unprecedented achievements.
Thoroughly annotated and accompanied by a biographical glossary and detailed chronology, these letters illuminate a triumphant and difficult period in the life of a towering literary figure.
Reading The Letters of Robert Frost is as indispensable as reading the poems, for revealed in these pages are the layers of thinking that buttressed the great poet’s talent. What emerges into view is a fuller individual—at times humane, empathetic, avuncular—whose complexity and art were utterly responsive to the political and aesthetic ferment of his times.
With every volume of his letters that appears, Frost grows more vivid…We are lucky to have this beautifully edited volume of Frost’s letters, the third of five, from a time when everything in his life broke.
Masterfully edited within an inch of its life…No free verser, [Frost] believed that poetry was ‘measured feet’ but ‘more important still it is a measured amount of all we could say an we would.’ All the more striking, then, are moments in the correspondence when his experience was such that it could not be held back for pressure, but issued rather in words and sentences testing the limits of his measuring.
[A] monumental enterprise…[We] have many reasons to be grateful to the editors…who have added greatly to our knowledge of the poet’s life, his family ties, and his various friendships—as well, of course, as his thoughts on his own art…These letters do much to cancel the impression given by Frost’s official biographer, Lawrance Thompson, of the poet as a monstrous egotist who drove his son to suicide by crushing his poetic ambitions.
‘I believe in survival. That is my fundamental doctrine,’ Frost wrote to a friend in 1936. The first two volumes of his letters showed how Frost survived early poverty and obscurity to become a great poet and an American institution. This third volume reveals how his ironic wit and artistic devotion enabled him to survive the personal tragedy of his daughter’s death and the national crisis of the Depression, as well as the more ambiguous perils of fame.
Here Frost’s bracingly wide-ranging letters are illuminated. Through notes that capture even the most elusive of references, the editors have produced a book that is impressively thorough, rigorous, and generous—a pleasure to read page by page, event by event.
Robert Frost emerges as a struggling father and a poet at the height of his career in the intimate latest addition to the five-volume collection of his letters…Frost’s fans and anyone with a deep interest in poetry will find this a treasure trove of emotion and insights.
Meticulously edited…A richly detailed portrait of Frost in his own words.
The man in the letters is very much the man in the poems—flinty, funny, and dark. Despite his classical knowledge and sophistication, he comes across as a rugged individual, unspoiled by niceties of Autocorrect, with a syntax entirely his own. One would never mistake Robert Frost for anyone else.
- 848 pages
- 6-3/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Belknap Press
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