The real Robert Frost: How the Poet Got into a Row with a Stage Driver

“Edward Thomas thinks I am overfond of a fight” Read on for the letter Frost wrote from Franconia in April, 1916 to Stark Young, an American playwright, novelist, painter, and literary critic. A native of Mississippi, he taught English at Amherst College from 1915 until 1921. In the spring of 1916, Young invited RF to read at Amherst and helped facilitate his subsequent appointment to the faculty there in 1917. ALS. HRC.


My dear Young:

I got home swinked. For a week I lay in a blessed swound before I began to recall even the greatest of my obligations. Then the minute I recovered what Amy Lowell says I never had viz my sense of humor I smiled at the dollar you had piled on top of my honorarium. I said I will write to that Southern (ballad style) and tell him in so many words how it came there. Because I know. It is the fifty cents I may be supposed to have paid for our ride to the station—for some reason multiplied by two. You would never have thought of it if somehow word hadn’t come to you of the row I made over it. I never should have thought of it if the stage driver hadnt demanded it of me in his worst New England manner. I judged from the way he came at me that he would have had me arrested before he would have let me leave town without paying it. I was surprised into a show of temper. I trust I didn’t disgrace you. Edward Thomas thinks I am overfond of a fight. It is not for me to say. (Business of piously lifting the eyes as in adoration-mural.)

You will come soon and see the homely tasks we immerse ourselves in to forget failure. To-day we have been burning brush. We had the mountain on fire like a volcano. To-day five fowl came from Weygandt. They are Dominique, of the oldest strain in America. We shall have to take good care of a gift like that.

We were happy with you. There were forty things I sha’n’t forget.

Our best to you and forgive me. Elinor will write a note to your Aunt.

Always yours

Robert Frost


Frost, R., Sheehy, D., Richardson, M., & Faggen, R. (2014). The letters of Robert Frost. 1886-1920. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

#NationalPoetryMonth #NPM16

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