The Personal Heresyrnby Peter J. Stanlisrn”Every great man nowadays has his disciples, and it is always Judasrnwho writes the biography.”rn—Oscar WildernRobert Frost: A Biographyrnhy ]effrey MeyersrnNew York: Houghton Mifflin Company;rn424 pp., $30.00rnIn 1978 I published “Acceptable inrnHeaen’s Sight: Robert Frost at BreadrnLoaf, 1939-1941,” an account of three ofrneight summers of conversations with thernpoet in which—probably for the firstrntime in print—he summarized the manyrnserious flaws in the deliberately warpedrnand repulsive portrait of Frost presentedrnin Lawrance Thompson’s “official”rnthree-volume biography. Six years later,rnWilliam H. Pritchard’s Frost: A LiteraryrnLife Reconsidered corrected some of thernmore grievous faults in Thompson’srnwork, wliile covering only a few selectedrnportions of the poet’s life. In a reviewarticlernof Pritchard’s book, I emphasizedrnthat a new, accurate, complete, andrnbalanced biography of Frost was badlyrnneeded.rnThe specific grounds of Thompson’srnmean-spirited biography were revealedrnin 1986 by Donald G. Sheehy in an excellentrnarticle, “The Poet as Neurotic:rnThe Official Biography of Robert Frost.”rnExamining the approximately 2,000rnpages of Thompson’s “Notes from Conversationsrnwith Robert Frost” in thernManuscripts Department of the Universityrnof Virginia Library, Sheehy discoveredrnthat Thompson had radicallyrnrevised the first two volumes of his biographyrnto fit his psychological portrait intornthe neo-Freudian psychiatric theory ofrnKaren Horney’s book. Neurosis and HumanrnGrowth: The Struggle Toward Self-rnRealization. Sheehy noted that Thompsonrnhad made “a chapter-by-ehapterrnoutline of Horney’s work” and thenrnPeter /. Stanlis is professor emeritus ofrnRockford College in Illinois. His mostrnrecent book is Fdmund Burke: ThernEnlightenment and Revolutionrn(Transaction).rnapplied her theory to Frost, thus “unmasking”rnthe real or nasty private poetrnbehind the deceptive figure of publicrnmyth so admired and loved by his readers.rnSheehv ‘s revelations were confirmedrnand extended by Stanley Burnshaw,rnFrost’s last editor at Holt, Rinehart andrnWinston, in Robert Frost Himself (9%),rnparticulady in the chapter “The Eibricationrnof the ‘Monster’ Myth.”rnTwo years later, John Evangelist Walshrnpublished Into My Own, a favorable biographicalrnview of Frost as a man and poetrnduring his years in England, 1912-rn1915. This study was reinforced by ThernFrost Family’s Adventure in Poetry (1994),rnLesley Lee Francis’s accurate and balancedrnportrait of the poet’s warm andrnclose-knit relationship with his wife andrnchildren in their life together during thernyears on the farm in Derry, New Hampshire,rnand in England. Both of thesernbooks picture Frost as a devoted familyrnman, generous with his time in educatingrnhis children at home, playful in thernspirit of sheer morning gladness at thernbrim in spite of strains brought on byrnpoverty and his lack of recognition as arnpoet. These biographical studies coveredrna limited timespan, however important,rnin Frost’s life, so that a complete biographyrnremained a pressing need.rnJeffrey Meyers’ Robert Frost: A Biography,rndealing as it does with the poet’s entirernlife, needs to be examined not onlyrnin light of the recent state of biographicalrnstudies on Frost, but through an understandingrnof the poet’s own conception ofrnbiography and his philosophy of life, ineludingrnespecially his aesthetic theory,rncreative practice, and view of the naturernof poetry as an art form.rnPerhaps the most important statementrnFrost ever wrote regarding how arnreader, critic, or biographer should (orrnshould not) approach a poet’s work occursrnin a letter to Sidney Cox (April 19,rn1932), replying to the expressed wish ofrnhis Dartmouth College friend to write arnpersonal, Boswellian biographical studyrn’ of him:rnYou are getting out of hand. . . . Irngrow surer I don’t want to searchrnthe poet’s mind too seriously. Irnmight enjoy threatening to for thernfun of it just as I might to frisk hisrnperson. I have written to keep thernover curious out of the secretrnplaces of my mind both in myrnverse and m my letters to such asrnyou. A subject has to be held clearrnoutside of me with struts and as itrnwere set up for an object. A subjectrnmust be an object. . .. M objectionrnto your larger book aboutrnNOVEMBER 1996/33rnrnrn