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This review is taken from PN Review 49, Volume 12 Number 5, May - June 1986.

ROBERT FROST: A REASSESSMENT William H. Pritchard, Frost: A Literary Life Reconsidered (Oxford University Press) £14.95

'Frost may have become a more interesting man and a richer poet not in spite of but because of his unresolved inner conflicts.' Such a judgement, proffered at the outset of this worthwhile biographico-literary study, is of a kind rare enough today. Accordingly, we are spared the familiar claim that the hero's problems were due chiefly to the dangerous tensions which, had they been eliminated, would have enhanced his literary eminence. Indeed, Professor Pritchard's approach, which resembles that of his excellent book on Wyndham Lewis, is both reasonable and understanding. The fact that, on being sent to school, Frost developed acute stomach pains; that several changes of school served to augment these symptoms; that discomfort in wrists and chest occurred later in life after a single bad review; that most of his education was in fact supervised by his mother; that the mother had second sight and the boy 'heard voices'; and that there was much marital discord: none of this is made the foundation for recondite or alarmist diagnoses. Frost, despite much personal affliction, was in the habit of pouring scorn on the idea that poetry - and his poetry in particular - was necessarily the product of suffering. He believed rather that exhilaration - 'sheer morning gladness at the brim' - was the source of poetic inspiration. In that respect, two poets near to him in spirit were Theodore Roethke and Andrew Young.

It is difficult, on the basis of this book or indeed on ...


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