Newdick's Season of Frost
An Interrupted Biography of Robert Frost
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In 1935 Professor Robert Newdick of Ohio State University wrote to Robert Frost—already America's most famous living poet—in order to suggest certain revisions in the arrangement of the poet's collected poems. The brief letter was to begin a relationship of nearly five years (ending only with Newdick's untimely death in 1939) in which Newdick assiduously gathered materials from a wide variety of sources for a projected (but not "authorized") Frost biography. Although only part (about 100 pages) of the biography was actually written, Newdick left behind him several files of factual data, as well as observations and comments by Frost and by many people who knew him. These materials have not heretofore been published, nor were they used in any subsequent biography.
In the present volume William A. Sutton brings together Newdick's partial biography with his various notes and letters, adding a narrative of the Frost-Newdick relationship which sheds new light on the poet and on the identity of poets. With Newdick, as with subsequent researchers, the fiction-making Frost was often playing a game of hide-and-seek so that he would never be completely "found out" as a mere empirical datum, although there is evidence that his candor with Newdick was at times greater than it would be in later years. Newdick, a perceptive admirer of Frost's poetry, had to struggle with his own realizations of such Frostian characteristics as secretiveness, ambivalence, and capriciousness, and so the book reveals a great poet who could be both generous and arch, a professor relentless in his search for information, a famous man fitfully bothered, then amused by a young academic's earnest efforts on his behalf, and a biographer devoted to, but at times exhausted by, the demands of his biographical subject. Frost appears as one who thought of both biography and biographer as "attractive nuisances. "
The original materials brought together here manifest, therefore, both a kind of biography, and a chronicle of the act of biography, a fresh look at the creative personality, and a running account of how a biographer attempts to bring such a personality into focus.
William A. Sutton taught English at Ball State University. His books include Carl Sandburg Remembered; The Road to Winesburg: A Mosaic of the Imaginative Life of Sherwood Anderson; and Letters to Bab: Sherwood Anderson to Marietta D. Finley, 1916–1933.