Trumbull Stickney was born in Geneva, Switzerland in June of 1874. He was part of an affluent family which was able to provide him with the best schooling, and an impressive genealogical lineage. His father, Austin, was a professor and his mother came from a well establish family. During the early years of his life, Trumbull spent time traveling throughout Europe and America. He studied for a time at the Cutler School in New York, a preparatory school for boys. It was his father though, who was responsible for the bulk of his education.
As a young man, Stickney continued his schooling in America, where attended Harvard University. He was an excellent student and throughout school managed to publish his poetry in a number of different college journals. Stickney’s circle of friends were intensely literary. He grew close to writers, George Cabot Lodge and Willian Vaughn Moody, as well as various others with whom he contributed to the Harvard Monthly. Stickney may have been an impressive student, but he did not feel happy within the walls of university.
Irregardless of his opinion of student life, of studies did not end at Harvard, he continued on to study at Sorbonne, in Paris, France, in 1895. Here he was forced to contend with his divided interests, between his literary passions, as evident in his thesis regarding Ermolao Barbaro, and his love of Greek culture, from which he wrote a second thesis. While working on his studies, Stickney continued to write poetry. He finished the long poem, “Kalypso.” This work was not published until 1901 due to the fact that he did not value that which he had created.
Later Career and Death
In 1903, Stickney graduated from Sorbonne as the first American to win the Doctorat es Letteres. After his education he entered a career as an instructor at Harvard. He did not feel suited fo this life either, and to add to his unhappiness, his poetic work was progressing to his satisfaction. On top of all of this, he was experiencing dramatic, “blind spells” and horrible headaches, all while continuing to teach and write. These headaches would culminated in a brain tumour which cost him his life in October of 1904.
After his death, college friends, William Vaughn Moody and George Cabot Lodge, went on to edit a collection of Stickney’s verse. Today, Stickney is likened to poets such as Conrad Aiken, and W.H. Auden. His work has served as inspiration for T.S. Eliot, and the founder of imagism, Ezra Pound.