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.