Frost : A Literary Life Reconsidered

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In this engaging study, William H. Pritchard sees Frost whole, demonstrating that Frost's life was indeed a literary one and that the essential fact about it was the poetry that came from it. Lawrance Thompson's controversial three-volume biography of Frost, published during the 1960s, lead many readers to believe that Frost was selfish, jealous, petty, and ruthlessly manipulative of others. While it doesn't attempt to revive the image of Frost as a benign, white-haired sage, this book presents him in a strikingly different light. In Pritchard's view, both Frost's life and his work offer an example of a powerful imagination and of human energies extravagant and more

Product details

  • Paperback | 304 pages
  • 134.62 x 203.2 x 15.24mm | 272.15g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • plates
  • 0195037308
  • 9780195037302

Review Text

A sensible reappraisal. Pritchard, a professor of English at Amherst (where Frost taught intermittently for many years), is not vying with the scope or detail of Lawrence Thompson's two-volume biography (1965-70). But Thompson saw Frost as a cold, cunning self-promoter, and Pritchard wants to soften that judgment. While acknowledging Frost's intense competitiveness and occasional ruthlessness, he quotes persuasively from his correspondence to demonstrate Frost's considerable humanity: his affectionate encouragement of his would-be poet son, Carol (who nonetheless committed suicide), his heartbreak over the deaths of his daughter Marjorie and his wife Elinor, his extraordinarily candid friendship with Louis Untermeyer. On the critical side, Pritchard aims at something less than the grand thematic surveys of Frost by Reuben Brower and Richard Poirier. Instead he does a rather straight-forward volume-by-volume explication of the poems, stressing the complexity, playfulness, and ambivalence of a style that "kept back as much as it gave away." Pritchard faults both the popular image of Frost as our "goodest greyest" poet (reading "Birches" as a masterpiece and missing the ironies of "The Road Not Taken") and overwrought academic interpretations, like Randall Jarrell's discovery of Shakespearean depths in "Neither Out Far Nor In Deep," or Lionel Trilling's saluting Frost as a "tragic poet" with a vision of the universe as "terrifying." Against critics who rate all of Frost's work after North of Boston (1914) as a falling-off, Pritchard argues that Mountain Interval (1916), New Hampshire (1923), and A Witness Tree (1942) mark an evolution from a narrative and dramatic mode to a lyrical one, and even occasionally to "light" verse. Pritchard freely admits that much of Frost's later poetry is minor stuff, that Frost was a compulsive seeker of praise and honors, that he was an unreflecting racist - but sees him as a great artist withal. Solid, careful, convincing - building from Pritchard's Frost portrait in Lives of the Modern Poets (1980). (Kirkus Reviews)show more

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13 ratings
3.46 out of 5 stars
5 15% (2)
4 31% (4)
3 38% (5)
2 15% (2)
1 0% (0)
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