Robert Frost, one of the greatest American poets, is certainly the most widely read and most loved. After Frost's death in 1963, his authorized biographer wrote a three-volume work which deeply distorted the personality of the poet. Jeffrey Meyers has returned to the sources and survivors and has given us a radically new interpretation of Robert Frost's life. The poet that emerges from this biography is neither the hayseed sage that Frost personified in public nor the monster in human form portrayed by his previous biographer. Meyer's new biography reveals numerous things for the first time - but, most notably, the fact that after Elinor Frost's death in 1938, Frost became passionately involved, in his sixties, with his secretary (the wife of a Harvard lecturer), who dominated the last twenty-five years of his life and inspired his most intense love poems.
"Frost (1874^-1963), perhaps our last great "public" poet, was incorrigibly private. This biography explores his psychic Yankee crawl space and surveys the contents frankly yet fairly. Though Meyers may first seize a reader's interest with a rightly touted account of Frost's previously unchronicled quarter-century romance with his secretary, Kay Morrison, after his wife's death, the book's main strengths throughout are actually more striking: balance, clarity, and concision. Too many writers of auspicious lives plod through excessive facts in prose that no one would brave but for the halo of the illustrious figure. Instead, Meyers shapes a long life into a vivacious character study based on the conflicts that seemed to drive Frost as well as do him damage. Poverty, illness, death, and ruin were apparently abiding themes in his parents' rough-and-tumble marriage; in his sister's eventual insanity (and that of his daughter Irma); in his uneasy noncareer as a New England farmer before achieving literary recognition relatively late; in the more or less miserable lot of his children; and in the demanding magnetism of his husbandly loyalty. Frost's legacy includes his notorious malice and scampish hot temper. Without insisting, Meyers portrays the cantankerousness as a product of hard-won wit that sometimes went wild yet must amuse. His discussions of Frost's pent-up relations with past biographers and with poets Eliot and Pound are fascinating for their quality of consanguinity spiked with contempt. This biography does what all of them should, characterizing the subject fully and compelling your return to the immortalizing work. --Molly McQuade"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"Meyers, the author of 12 earlier biographies, gets off to a less-than-persuasive start by asserting that "now" he can reveal that Frost's (1874-1963) love poems after his wife's death can be traced to his passion, beginning at 64, for his married secretary, who was his mistress. The accommodation with her complaisant husband has been acknowledged in print since at least 1990. Furthermore, Meyers contends that his biography will overturn Frost's unpleasant reputation as "a mean old bastard," yet the life as he relates it is a litany of unlikability. While some earlier segments of the narrative seem Meyers's most felicitous biographical prose to date, the pace is clotted with digressions. His editorial "we" is also off-putting, and numerous flash-forwards interrupt the life and result in later repetitions. The promised "new view" of Frost's character fails to materialize, although the "original interpretations of his poems" is in some cases satisfying. His life outside his books, in Meyers's account, is a series of relocations to farmhouses or campuses, followed by public readings that Frost claimed to despise but that fed his purse and his vanity. Photos. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
-- 20th century
|| Boston :Houghton Mifflin,1996
"A Peter Davison book."
xvi, 424 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages -406) and index.