Saturday, February 08, 2014

Robert Frost Clothed in New Habilitations?

Frosty Family?
Or thawed out?
New York Times

Ever since I had to memorize "Fire and Ice" in the eighth grade under Mrs. DeShazo, I've loved the poetry of Robert Frost, but I learned how little I know about the man when I read that his memory had recently been rehabilitated.

Rehabilitated? Yep. Through his own, previously unknown, correspondence!

Talk about sartor resartus! I hadn't even known he'd been in the scholarly doghouse and needed redressing in habiliments proper for readmittance to the house of honorable artists! But apparently:
[H]is handpicked chronicler, Lawrance Thompson, . . . emerged from decades of assiduous note-taking with a portrait of the poet as a cruel, jealous megalomaniac -- "a monster of egotism" who left behind "a wake of destroyed human lives," as the critic Helen Vendler memorably put it on the cover of The New York Times Book Review in 1970. (Jennifer Schuessler, "The Road Back: Frost's Letters Could Soften a Battered Image," NYT, February 4, 2014)
One tends to trust a "handpicked chronicler," but new evidence of "more than 3,000 letters" offers a very different view, a sentiment seconded by "Jay Parini, a Frost biographer," who says that "The idea of Frost as a jealous, mean-spirited, misogynist career-builder . . . is nothing short of nuts."

That's good to know. His "handpicked chronicler" -- soon to be 'chronically henpecked' -- was WRONG!

The truth is likely somewhere in between -- most of us are a mixed bag of  saint and sinner, angel and demon, hero and wretch . . . and I know I tend more toward the latter of those, so even Frost, however better he may be, will still be found to have feet of clay . . .

But he was no monster.

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At 11:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have an elderly man in our church who moved here about ten years ago with wife from Vermont.

He knew Robert Frost and had occasions to talk to him.

He considers Frost to have been an eccentric but kind and personable individual, and never thought him to be the kind of person his biographer portrayed him.


At 2:47 AM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

Could be the language used to describe the "defamed Frost" is hyperbolic in order to stir interest in the new book?

At 7:54 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Uncle Cran, for the confirmation.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:56 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

No doubt the point is being used, but the first biographer did do a hatchet job on Frost.

Jeffery Hodges

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