There is an old view of Robert Frost as a talented simpleton—but his letters reveal the deep intelligence behind his poetryby Clive James / January 23, 2014 / Leave a comment
Frost in Vermont, 1958: “When not actually practising his art, he thought about it so hard that it was a wonder he had time for anything else” © Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
While its subject was still alive, the first two volumes of Lawrance Thompson’s relentlessly hostile biography of Robert Frost had already come out, creating a lasting image of the simple poet as a manipulator without conscience. Journalists of all altitudes loved that image because it made for easy copy: cracker-motto bard envied real poets, etc. After Frost died, a third volume of the biography finished the job. On the basis of the complete trilogy of dud scholarship, published between 1966 and 1977, the opinion formed that the gap between Frost’s achievement and his real life was too glaring to be tolerated. Helen Vendler, justifiably regarded in the US as a guru in matters of poetry, pronounced Frost to be a monster of egotism.