Collection of Robert Frost Letters Acquired by Plymouth State University

April 4th, 2011 by Adam

PLYMOUTH, N.H.-
Plymouth State University has acquired a collection of correspondence from famed American poet Robert Frost. Frost lived and taught at the University, then Plymouth Normal School, for a year before moving to England in 1912. The six letters, written by Frost to Normal School President Ernest Silver from 1913-36, were acquired by the University through generous donations from private donors. Portions of the letters were read and discussed March 31 at PSU’s Silver Center, in the latest installment of the Eagle Pond Authors’ Series honoring New Hampshire’s poets laureate. PSU English Professor Elizabeth Ahl said Frost’s first published book had gained him some reputation in England in 1913, and he was befriended by other literary greats of the period.

Alice Staples with Frost letters
Plymouth State University Archives and Special Collections Librarian Alice Staples displays letters written by famed American poet Robert Frost. PSU recently acquired the letters through generous donations and several are on display in the Silver Center for the Arts along with audio of Frost reading his poetry, a video, photos and memorabilia highlighting his time in the North Country.

“These letters give us brief glimpses into important literary history, with their references to poets that Frost was encountering — specifically Yeats, whom he ‘enjoyed most’ of the many ‘interesting people I have met,’ and Ezra Pound, whom Frost describes as a ‘dazzling youth’ who ‘lives in Bohemia from hand to mouth but he goes simply everywhere in great society’,” Ahl noted. “It was fascinating to see the younger, not-yet-famous Frost worry about making ends meet, worry about whether he has enough of a reputation to get a decent faculty appointment somewhere.”

Donald Hall, a longtime New Hampshire resident and former U.S. Poet Laureate who has just been honored with the 2010 National Medal of Arts, began the evening by reading some of Frost’s works and discussing his meetings with Frost, whom as a young man Hall had known. Hall said while the letters reveal Frost’s apprehension about money, they also show he was sure of his abilities as a poet.

“The letters show a strength, a confidence within him, and I think that’s remarkable.… I don’t think he ever wanted to do anything else,” said Hall. “I think he was an example of endurance and persistence.”

PSU President Sara Jayne Steen said the collection provides a fascinating glimpse into Frost’s association with the institution.

“Frost writes of having read Yeats to the Class of 1913 in the parlor,” Steen said. He cared about students and about Plymouth. In one letter from England, he writes ‘I shall be glad if you will invite us to stay a few days in Plymouth. In fact I can see that I shant feel as if I had come home unless you do.’ “

Robin F. Hudnut, Frost’s granddaughter, helped secure the letters for PSU’s collection and is thrilled that the institution is commemorating the 100th anniversary of her grandfather’s time at the school.

“What a wonderful celebration…to honor this achievement and also to commemorate the centennial year of grandfather’s teaching at Plymouth,” Hudnut said.

A statue of Frost also commemorating his time on campus sits adjacent to Rounds Hall. The house where he lived is about a block away on the corner of School Street and Highland Avenue. Additionally, the Spinelli Archives at Lamson Library and Learning Commons is home to the George H. Browne Frost Collection. Books, letters, manuscripts and other Frostiana collected by Browne compose the core of the collection.

A current display in the Silver Center for the Arts lobby includes audio of Frost reading his poetry, a video, photos and memorabilia highlighting his time in the North Country.

For more information about this release, contact Bruce Lyndes, PSU Media Relations Mgr., (603) 535-2775 or blyndes@plymouth.edu

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