Robert Frost was born in San Francisco, California on March 26, 1874. His father, William Prescott Frost Jr., was a journalist and his mother, Isabelle Moodie, was a Scottish immigrant. As a child, Frost found inspiration in nature and the New England landscape.
Early Family Life
Frost’s father died of tuberculosis when Frost was 11 years old in 1885, leaving the family with little money. His mother supported the family by working as a schoolteacher. Frost had one sister named Jeanie who was born in 1883.
|Jeanie Frost (sister)
The challenges he faced at a young age shaped his world perspective and would later influence his poetry.
Frost attended both elementary and high school in Lawrence, Massachusetts and was named class poet for his high school class.
After high school, he attended Dartmouth College in 1892 and later Harvard University from 1897-1899, but never earned a formal college degree from either school.
Early Career and Marriage
After leaving college, Frost returned home to Lawrence and took up a variety of jobs, including teacher, cobbler, and editor of the Lawrence Sentinel.
Early Jobs and Career
Some of the early jobs Frost held included:
- Teacher at Methuen’s Center School in Methuen, Massachusetts
- Cobbler in Lawrence, MA
- Editor and owner of the Lawrence Sentinel
During this time, he also sold his first poem, “My Butterfly,” for $15 in 1894. The poem was published in The Independent, a New York newspaper.
Marriage and Family Life
In 1895, Frost married his co-valedictorian from Lawrence High School, Elinor Miriam White. Together they had six children:
- Eliot Frost (1896–1900)
- Lesley Frost (1899–1983)
- Carol Frost (1902–1940)
- Irma Frost (1903–1967)
- Marjorie Frost (1905–1934)
- Elinor Bettina Frost (1907–1907)
The couple faced much sorrow and tragedy in their early years of marriage as they buried four of their first six children.
Frost focused seriously on poetry in 1912 when he and his family moved to England following their New Hampshire farm’s failure. This Europe residence was life-changing for his writing.
Peak Popularity and Notable Works
He published his first two poetry collections, A Boy’s Will (1913) and North of Boston (1914), while living in England. The books were critically acclaimed and brought him recognition in the United States. When he returned to the U.S. and settled on a New Hampshire farm in 1915, he was an established poet.
Over the next decade, he solidified his reputation and legacy with several famous poem collections:
- Mountain Interval (1916)
- New Hampshire (1923)
- West-Running Brook (1928)
Some of Frost’s most renowned poems include:
- “Mending Wall”
- “The Road Not Taken”
- “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”
By the 1920s, his fame had spread worldwide as American’s most popular poet of the era.
Teaching and Public Readings
In addition to writing, Frost also taught English at Amherst College in Massachusetts from 1916 to 1938. He mentored younger poets and brought creativity to the classroom.
Beginning in the 1920s, he started giving poetry readings throughout the country. His audiences grew as his fame spread, warming up to his witty Yankee persona. In 1960, he had the honor of reciting “The Gift Outright” from memory at President Kennedy’s inauguration.
Later Life and Death
Even as he entered his later years, Frost continued writing, teaching, and making public appearances. He lived his final years in Boston anticipating the arrival of a new poetic age.
Accomplishments and Accolades
The many accolades Frost earned over his long career include:
- 4 Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry in 1924, 1931, 1937 and 1943
- Congressional Gold Medal in 1960
- Poet Laureate of Vermont in 1961
- Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1958-1959
He recited his poem “The Gift Outright” at President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration on January 20, 1961.
|First Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
|Fourth Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
|Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry
|Congressional Gold Medal
At age 86, he completed his last collection of poems, In the Clearing, which was published in 1962.
Death and Legacy
On January 29, 1963, Frost died due to complications from prostate surgery. He left behind an immense legacy as America’s most popular poet of his time. He brought an appreciation for nature, New England rural life, and the poetry of ordinary spoken language to the masses.
He was honored with a commemorative stamp in 1974. The Robert Frost Farm in Derry, New Hampshire where he summered is now a national historic landmark open to the public. Lots of locations around New England have memorials and sites dedicated to Frost, emblematic of the imprint he left on the region.
In conclusion, Robert Frost left an indelible legacy on American poetry over his 88 years of life. He became one of the most renowned American poets of all time, showing mastery of rhyme, meter, and vivid imagery steeped in rural New England life.
Though Frost faced many early life challenges – his father’s death, lack of formal education, early marriage and child loss, career uncertainty – he persevered to become a defining voice of American identity and ideals. His iconic depictions of the New England landscape and soul have earned him a place in the canon as one of America’s most quintessential poets. Four Pulitzer Prizes and an unforgettable inauguration reading cement his legacy.
Frost’s unique writing style, resonant work, memorable reading presence, and contribution as an educator have certainly standing the test of time. Countless school children and poetry fans have been introduced to his works like “The Road Not Taken,” “Mending Wall” and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” More than 50 years after his passing, the distinctive words and witticisms of “the Robert Frost” still manage to delight, inspire and endure.
Frequently Asked Questions About Robert Frost
Here are answers to some common questions about Robert Frost’s life and literary works:
How old was Robert Frost when died?
Frost died on January 29, 1963 at the age of 88. He had been hospitalized for prostate surgery and treatment of advanced cancer.
Where did Robert Frost live most of his life?
Though he was born in California, Frost lived and worked mainly on farms in the New England area, including New Hampshire and Vermont. He spent his early childhood in San Francisco and later moved to Lawrence, Massachusetts with his family. As an adult he owned farms and houses across New England.
What was Robert Frost’s first published poem?
Frost’s first published poem was “My Butterfly. An Elegy” in 1894. He sold it to The Independent newspaper for $15 when he was only 20 years old.
How much education did Robert Frost receive?
Though incredibly famous as a poet, Frost did not receive much formal education. He attended Dartmouth for a few months but did not graduate. He later went to Harvard but also did not earn a degree there either. He took on a variety of jobs before focusing more on poetry in his 30s.
What hardship did Frost face in his early years of marriage?
Frost and his wife Elinor faced substantial hardship and loss in the early years of their marriage as several of their six children died tragically young. Only two daughters survived past adulthood. The sorrow no doubt shaped some of Frost’s later poems.