The Robert Frost Collection assembled by Clifton Waller Barrett is one of the pre-eminent Frost collections. Mr. Barrett recounts many fascinating experiences of his collecting in an essay, "On Collecting Robert Frost," published in Joan St. C. Crane's Robert Frost: a Descriptive Catalogue of Books and Manuscripts in the Clifton Waller Barrett Library, University of Virginia.
In my own case, a career of some thirty-five years has been devoted to forming a comprehensive assemblage of American literature from the beginnings of the Republic to the present day. In doing so I have engaged in gathering some 1000 single-author collections with the intention to make them as complete as possible. Robert Frost, preeminent poet of our times, stands high in the ranks of these American writers, and accordingly, much time and attention has been devoted to the gathering of as complete a collection of his books and manuscripts as possible. Herein lies one of the most exciting activities of the collector: the location and acquisition of great rarities.
The thrill of the chase grips the collector, and when success crowns his efforts he naturally has a euphoric feeling of accomplishment. The pursuit of the sole surviving copy of Robert Frost's first book, Twilight, occupied ten years from 1950 to 1960, as will be described further on, and it might be said that the acquisition of the unique first book of a world famous poet is the supreme experience of a collector.
INTRODUCTION OF ROBERT FROST AT THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA, 1952
Draft and final copies of Barrett's speech introducing Robert Frost when Frost spoke at the University of Virginia in 1952.
In addition to the books and manuscripts of Frost himself, the Clifton Waller Barrett Library contains the manuscripts and proofs of several biographers, particularly those of Lawrance Thompson, the Princeton University professor selected by Frost as his official biographer in 1939.LAWRANCE THOMPSON SCRAPBOOK OF FROST'S VISIT TO ISRAEL, GREECE AND ENGLAND
ROBERT FROST: THE YEARS OF TRIUMPH, 1915-1938
In 1961 Frost and Thompson made a two week trip to Israel, Greece and England under State Department auspices. Frost had the opportunity to view briefly two cultures from which he had said in "Kitty Hawk" Western civilization had taken its "running start." Thompson kept this scrapbook of photographs, clippings, programs and other souvenirs of the trip.
ROBERT FROST: THE LATER YEARS, 1938-1963
Lawrance Thompson, a Wesleyan student and admirer of Frost's poetry, first met the poet when Frost volunteered to critique student verses. The two gradually developed a friendship based on their mutual love of New Hampshire that was renewed later when Thompson curated a Frost exhibit at Wesleyan and edited two speeches Frost gave at Princeton.
In 1939 Frost invited Thompson to Ripton to discuss the appointment of an official biographer. Thompson suggested Mark Van Doren, Bernard DeVoto and Louis Untermeyer, men who knew Frost well and had established literary reputations. Frost rejected all three and then surprised the young Thompson by naming him, stating that his dissertation on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was "evidence" enough that Thompson was qualified.
In 1971 Lawrance Thompson received a Pulitzer Prize for Volume Two of his critically acclaimed biography of Frost. His research was nearly completed on the final volume when he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. With only months to live Thompson selected R. H. Winnick, one of his Princeton University graduate students, as his assistant. Less than a year later, after completion of the first draft, Thompson died. Using the draft, the insights of Frost's surviving friends and the knowledge of Frost that Thompson had shared with him, Winnick completed the work on Frost's final years as he believed Thompson would have interpreted them.A SWINGER OF BIRCHES: A PORTRAIT OF ROBERT FROST
English professor Sidney Cox and Robert Frost shared a friendship from 1911 to Cox's death in 1952. Cox was an early champion of Frost and published sketches of the poet in 1929 and 1948. The posthumous Swinger of Birches contains an introduction by Frost in which the poet states "I am always happier to hear that I am liked faults and all than that I am disliked."ROBERT FROST: THE TRIAL BY EXISTENCE
ROBERT FROST: POETRY AND PROSE
Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant's biography of Frost was autographed for Monroe Wheeler at the Grolier Club, June 1, 1960, by Frost, Clifton Waller and Cornelia Barrett and other friends.
According to a note by Wheeler, Frost announced, "I'm here to betray a secret -- today is Waller's birthday." This book was purchased by the University of Virginia Library in honor of Joan St. C. Crane, Frost bibliographer, and Associate Curator of Rare Books.
Edward Connery Lathem was a student in a class taught by Frost at Dartmouth. Frost encouraged Lathem's interests in fine printing and historical research in primary sources noting that "Fiction has one kind of thing it has to be true to and history another. I like the two kinds kept as separate as possible."
Lathem later edited books of Frost's poetry, prose and interviews and collaborated with Lawrance Thompson in 1972 on Robert Frost: Poetry and Prose.