New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1915. First American edition, second printing. Hardcover. This is the first U.S. edition, second printing of Robert Frost’s second published book, which bolstered his newly minted literary reputation and precipitated his return to the United States from England, where his first two books were published. North of Boston opens with the famous poems “The Pasture” and “Mending Wall” and was swiftly hailed by important reviews when originally published in 1914. Interesting provenance renders this otherwise humble second printing noteworthy.
Written in pencil in eight lines on the front free endpaper recto is the following intriguing inscription: “given to me by | Pauline, Oct. 28th | 1917 – found it on my | table on my return | from calling on Edwin | Markham. | Pauline’s “draw” from | New Book Club.” Inked in three lines in a different hand on the facing front pastedown is “Edwin - | Markham - | Knew!” Affixed to the rear free endpaper verso is a list – possibly in the same hand as the pencil inscription on the front free endpaper – listing nine surnames and corresponding dates (month and day only). This is plausibly a record for the referenced “Book Club” use. The upper left rear pastedown features some discreet, inscrutable notation.
The copyright page erroneously designates this copy as “Third edition, 1915”. It is actually the second printing of the first American edition, with binding and contents the same as those of the first printing of the same year. Condition of this copy is good, sound but unlovely. The blue cloth binding is significantly toned with wear to extremities, but nonetheless square and sound. The contents are age-toned though with no appreciable spotting. A cosmetic split to the rear endpapers does not affect binding integrity.
American poet Edwin Markham (1852-1940) received critical success after his poem “The Man with the Hoe” was published in the San Francisco Examiner in 1899, coincidentally the same newspaper Robert Frost’s father, William Prescott Frost, worked before his death in 1885. Like Frost, Markham was a west-coast transplant living in the north-east. As with Frost, Markham’s poetic success came in middle age. Even the poets' children shared something of an overlap, though more directly. There is an issue of Cambridge University’s Varsity newspaper, which featured works by both their children, Virgil Markham and Leslie Frost, and there was a headline about it in the Columbia Spectator: “Poet’s Progeny | Enrich Varsity | Descendants of Edwin Markham | and Robert Frost Pen Poems | for Initial Issue.”
On the strength of his first book, The Man with the Hoe and Other Poems, Markham received a request to write a commemorative poem for Abraham Lincoln’s birthday in 1900. ‘“Lincoln” did much to further strengthen Markham’s growing reputation. Nonetheless, Markham’s critical significance waned with the rise of modernist poetics – a case study in the volatility of literary legacy. Robert Frost, whose sensibilities are much closer to Markham’s, managed to remain relevant amid the modernist poetic upheaval, despite his stark contrast to their poetics.
Iconic American poet Robert Lee Frost (1874-1963), the quintessential poetic voice of New England, was actually born in San Francisco and first published in England. Ironically, a 1912 move to England with his wife and children – “the place to be poor and to write poems” – catalyzed his recognition as a noteworthy American poet. A Boy’s Will was published in 1913. A convocation of critical recognition, introduction to other writers, and creative energy supported the English publication of Frost’s second book, North of Boston, in 1914, after which “Frost’s reputation as a leading poet had been firmly established in England, and Henry Holt of New York had agreed to publish his books in America.” Of note, North of Boston was actually the first of Frost’s books published in America, preceding Holt’s publication of A Boy’s Will in America by one month and reversing the publication order of the British first editions. Item #006309