A Boy's Will, inscribed and dated by Robert Frost in April 1935
New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1934. Second American Edition. Hardcover. This second American edition of the author’s first published book is inscribed by Frost, apparently to his American publisher's secretary in four lines on the front free endpaper recto: "For Helen Lynch | from | Robert Frost | April 8 1935".
This second American edition, published in 1934, was bound in tan linen cloth with a gilt-stamped brown front cover illustration panel (intertwined scythes) and brown spine title panel. The tan dust jacket features an ivy-covered fence post illustration repeated from the title page. The book is in fine condition, the jacket better than very good. The binding is square, clean, and tight with sharp corners and no discernible wear. The contents are bright and clean. The sole previous ownership mark is the signature of the recipient – “Helen D. Lynch” – inked on the upper front pastedown opposite the front free endpaper Frost inscribed to her. We are informed, but unable to definitively substantiate, that Helen Lynch worked at the time for Henry Holt and Company. The unclipped dust jacket is quite presentable, showing only fractional loss at the spine head and corners and light general wear to extremities, including a 1.5 inch (3.8 cm) closed tear at the upper rear face. The dust jacket is protected beneath a clear, removable, archival cover.
Iconic American poet and four-time Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Lee Frost (1874-1963), the quintessential poetic voice of New England, was actually born in San Francisco and first published in England. When Frost was eleven, his newly widowed mother moved east to Salem, New Hampshire, to resume a teaching career. There Frost swiftly found his poetic voice, infused by New England scenes and sensibilities. Promising as both a student and writer, Frost nonetheless dropped out of both Dartmouth and Harvard, supporting himself and a young family by teaching and farming.
Ironically, it was a 1912 move to England with his wife and children – “the place to be poor and to write poems” – that finally catalyzed his recognition as a noteworthy American poet. The manuscript of A Boy’s Will was completed in England and accepted for publication by David Nutt on 1 April 1913. “Yeats pronounced the poetry “the best written in America for some time” and Frost received “two extraordinary tributes in the Nation and the Chicago Dial and a superb review in the Academy.” (ANB) 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.”
Accolades met his return to America at the end of 1914 and by 1917 a move to Amherst “launched him on the twofold career he would lead for the rest of his life: teaching whatever “subjects” he pleased at a congenial college… and “barding around,” his term for “saying” poems in a conversational performance.” (ANB) By 1924 he had won the first of his eventual four Pulitzer Prizes for poetry (1931, 1937, and 1943). Frost spent the final decade and a half of his life as “the most highly esteemed American poet of the twentieth century” with a host of academic and civic honors to his credit. Two years before his death he became the first poet to read in the program of a U.S. Presidential inauguration (Kennedy, January 1961).
When Holt first published Frost’s first two books, Holt reversed the order of British publication, publishing the U.S. first edition of North of Boston in late March 1915, followed swiftly thereafter by this much smaller U.S. first edition of A Boy’s Will in April 1915. Holt did not publish this second U.S. edition of A Boy’s Will until 1934, by which time Frost’s reputation had grown considerably. Fittingly, this second U.S. edition is a considerably larger and more handsomely produced book than the first edition.
Reference: Crane A2.2. Item #006760