Robert Frost was born in San Francisco, California in March of 1874. His father, William Prescott was a journalist and a descendent of an English immigrant who came to America in 1634. His mother, Isabelle Moodie, was from Scotland. In addition to journalism Frost’s father worked as a teacher, and later, as an editor of the San Francisco Evening Bulletin. He died of tuberculosis when Frost was only eleven years old and soon after the family, in a very poor financial state, moved to Lawrence, Massachusetts.
Frost graduated from Lawrence High School in 1892 as the class poet and co-valedictorian with his future wife, Elinor White. It was in the school’s publication that he published his first poem. Over the next two years Frost worked as a teacher, deliverer of newspapers, and within a lamp factory. He also attended Dartmouth College for a short two months during this time period.
He sold his first poem to the New York Independent. It was titled, ‘My Butterfly, An Elegy‘. It was published in November of 1894. In the glee of this accomplishment, he asked White to marry him, she declined, but only until she was out of college. Upon her graduation she did accept his proposal and they were married in Lawrence in December of 1895. Together, Frost and his wife would have six children, only two of whom would outlive their parents. Frost spent the next two years of his young life attending Harvard University but was forced to drop out due to illness.
Frost’s grandfather, who had supported the family after William Prescott’s death, purchased a farm for Frost and his new wife in Derry, New Hampshire. He worked the farm for almost a decade, writing when he could. His mother died of cancer during this interval, and his sister was committed to a mental hospital where she was to die only a few year later.
On top of all of this, he proved to be an unsuccessful farmer and was forced to return to education. He taught at the New Hampshire Pinkerton Academy from 1906 until 1911 and then later at the New Hampshire Normal School in Plymouth. The years on the farm were some of Frost most productive, although they were not published at the time, he wrote a number of poems that were later to become famous.
Ready for a change, Frost and his family moved to Great Britain in 1912. It was here that his first book of poetry was published, A Boy’s Will. He became known to the poetic group, Dymock Poets, as well as Ezra Pound. His second volume, North of Boston, was published two years later. Following these publications Frost returned to America in the midst of World War I. America had only just received its copies of A Boy’s Will and Frost was able to set up a good life for himself and his family in Franconia, New Hampshire. The publication’s popularity solidified his reputation in America.
The home that the family resided in during this period is now known as The Frost Place and is maintained as a historic site. Throughout the 1920s he taught English at Amherst College in Massachusetts, accepted a fellowship at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and was appointed a Fellow of Letters. In 1924, he won his first Pulitzer Prize for his volume, New Hampshire: A Poem with Notes and Grace Notes. He continued to teach, mostly on a rotating basis, at the Bread Loaf School of English in Vermont.
Later Life and Career
During the 1930s he started spending more time in the southern United States, particular Florida. It was there that he bought a plot of land on which he would spend every winter for the rest of his life. The property was named, Pencil Pines. As the decades progressed his reputation only grew and the prestige with which he was considered, increased. He won his second Pulitzer in 1931 for Collected Poems, his third in 1937 for Further Range, and finally, his fourth, in 1943 for A Witness Tree.
He was awarded over forty honorary degrees although he never graduated from a university. In 1960 he was awarded a United States Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his enriching poetry. A year later, at the inauguration of John F. Kennedy he was called upon to read a poem. He wrote, “Dedication” for this particular occasion, but due to the glaring sunlight, was unable to read it. He recited instead, “The Gift Outright.” The following year, 1962, saw Frost accompany the Interior Secretary to the Soviet Union where he helped lobby for peace between the two countries.
Robert Frost died in 1963 due to complication from a prostate surgery and was buried in Old Bennington Cemetery in Vermont.