Lilla Carbot Perry - Edwin Arlington Robinson

Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869-1935), by Lilla Carbot Perry (1848-1933), 1916. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Edwin Arlington Robinson
Occupation Poet and playwright
Nationality United States American
Spouse(s) none

Edwin Arlington Robinson (December 22, 1869 - April 6, 1935) was an American poet who won the Pulitzer Prize 3 times.

Life Edit


Robinson was born in Head Tide, Lincoln County, Maine, but his family moved to Gardiner, Maine, in 1870. He described his childhood in Maine as "stark and unhappy":[1] his parents, having wanted a girl, did not name him until he was 6 months old, when they visited a holiday resort; other vacationers decided that he should have a name, and selected a man from Arlington, Massachusetts, to draw a name out of a hat.[2]

His brother, Dr. Dean Robinson, died of a drug overdose. Robinson's poem "Richard Cory" may relate to his other brother, Herman Robinson. His early difficulties led many of his poems to have a dark pessimism and his stories to deal with "an American dream gone awry".[3]

Edwin Arlington Robinson 1888

Robinson in 1888. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.


In late 1891, at the age of 21, Edwin entered Harvard University as a special student. He took classes on English, French, and Shakespeare, as well as one on Anglo-Saxon that he later dropped. His mission was not to get all A's, as he wrote his friend Harry Smith, "B, and in that vicinity, is a very comfortable and safe place to hang".

His real desire was to get published in one of the Harvard literary journals. Within the first fortnight of being there, The Harvard Advocate published Robinson's "Ballade of a Ship". He was even invited to meet with the editors, but when he returned he complained to his friend Mowry Saben, "I sat there among them, unable to say a word". Robinson's literary career had false-started.

After Edwin's freshman year at Harvard the family endured what they knew was coming. His father, Edward, had died; he was buried at the top of the street in Oak Grove Cemetery in a plot purchased for the family.

In the fall Edwin returned to Harvard, but it was to be his last year as a student there.

Though short, his stay in Cambridge included some of his most cherished experiences, and there he made his most lasting friendships. He wrote his friend Harry Smith on June 21, 1893:

I suppose this is the last letter I shall ever write you from Harvard. The thought seems a little queer, but it cannot be otherwise. Sometimes I try to imagine the state my mind would be in had I never come here, but I cannot. I feel that I have got comparatively little from my two years, but still, more than I could get in Gardiner if I lived a century.

Writing careerEdit

Robinson had returned to Gardiner by mid-1893. He had plans to start writing seriously. In October he wrote his friend Gledhill:

Writing has been my dream ever since I was old enough to lay a plan for an air castle. Now for the first time I seem to have something like a favorable opportunity and this winter I shall make a beginning.

With his father gone, Edwin became the man of the household. He tried farming and developed a close relationship with his brother's wife Emma Robinson, who after her husband Herman's death moved back to Gardiner with her children. She rejected marriage proposals from Edwin twice, after which Edwin Robinson permanently left Gardiner. He moved to New York, where he led a precarious existence as an impoverished poet while cultivating friendships with other writers, artists, and would-be intellectuals. In 1896 he self-published his first book, The Torrent and the Night Before, paying 100 dollars for 500 copies. Robinson meant it as a surprise for his mother. Days before the copies arrived, Mary Palmer Robinson died of diphtheria.

His next volume, The Children of the Night, had a somewhat wider circulation. Its readers included President Theodore Roosevelt's son Kermit, who recommended it to his father. Impressed by the poems and aware of Robinson's straits, Roosevelt in 1905 secured the writer a job at the New York Customs Office. Robinson remained in the job until Roosevelt left office.

Gradually his literary successes began to mount. During the last 20 years of his life he became a regular summer resident at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire, where several women made him the object of their devoted attention; but he maintained a solitary life and never married.[4]


Robinson has been described as "more artful than Hardy and more coy than Frost and a brilliant sonneteer". [5]


Robinson won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry 3 times: in 1922 for his first Collected Poems, in 1925 for The Man Who Died Twice, and in 1928 for Tristram.[6]

Publications Edit


  • The Torrent and the Night Before. privately published; printed by Riverside Press, 1896.[7]
  • The Children of the Night. Boston: R.G. Badger, 1897.
  • Captain Craig: A book of poems, 1902; New York: Macmillan, 1915.
  • The Town Down the River: A book of poems. New York: Scribner, 1910.
  • The Man Against the Sky: A book of poems. New York: Macmillan, 1916.
  • Merlin: A poem. New York: Macmillan, 1917.
  • The Three Taverns: A book of poems. New York: Macmillan, 1920.
  • Lancelot: A poem. New York: T. Seltzer, 1920.
  • Avon's Harvest. New York: Macmillan, 1921.
  • Collected Poems. New York: Macmillan, 1921.
  • Roman Bartholow. New York: Macmillan, 1923.
  • The Man Who Died Twice. New York: Macmillan, 1924.
  • Dionysus in Doubt. New York: Macmillan, 1925.
  • Tristram. New York: Macmillan, 1927.
  • Fortunatus. Reno, NV: Slide Mountain Press, 1928.
  • Sonnets, 1889-1927. New York: Macmillan, 1928.
  • Cavender's House. New York: Macmillan, 1929.
  • Modred: A fragment. New York: Edmund Byrne Hackett, 1929.
  • The Valley of the Shadow. San Francisco, CA: Yerba Buena Press, 1930.
  • The Glory of the Nightingales. New York: Macmillan, 1930.
  • Matthias at the Door. New York: Macmillan, 1931.
  • Selected Poems (selected, with a preface, by Bliss Parry). New York: Macmillan, 1931.
  • Nicodemus: A book of poems. New York: Macmillan, 1932.
  • Talifer. New York: Macmillan, 1933.
  • Amaranth. New York: Macmillan, 1934.
  • King Jasper (introduction by Robert Frost). New York: Macmillan, 1935.
  • Collected Poems. New York & London: Collier-Macmillan, 1937.
  • Tilbury Town: Selected poems of Edwin Arnold Robinson (introduction & notes by Lawrance Thompson). New York: Macmillan, 1953.
  • Selected Poems (edited by Morton Dauwen Zabel). New York: Macmillan, 1965.
  • Selected Poems. New York: Penguin, 1997.
  • Modernities. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 1997.
  • The Poetry of E.A. Robinson (edited by Robert Mezey). New York: Modern Library, 1999.
  • Edward Arlington Robinson: Poems. New York: Knopf, 2007.


Collected editionsEdit

  • Selected Early Poems and Letters. New York: Holt, Rinehart, 1960.
  • The Essential Robinson (edited by Donald Hall). Hopewell, NJ: Ecco Press, 1974.
  • Uncollected Poems and Prose of Edwin Arlington Robinson. Waterville, ME: Colby College Press, 1975.


  • Selected Letters (edited by Ridgely Torrence). New York: Macmillan, 1940.
  • Letters of Edwin Arlington Robinson to Howard George Schmitt. Waterville, ME: Colby College Press, 1943.
  • Untriangulated Stars: Letters of Edwin Arlington Robinson to Harry de Forest Smith 1890-1905. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1947.
  • Edwin Arlington Robinson's Letters to Edith Brower. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1968.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[8]

Poems by Edwin Arlington RobinsonEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. Edwin Arlington Robinson,, Academy of American Poets. Web, Nov. 24, 2014.
  2. American Poets: From the Puritans to the Present, by Hyatt H. Waggoner (1968); excerpted at
  3. PBS - I Hear America Singing
  4. East Tennessee State University
  5. Schmidt , Michael, Lives of the Poets Weidenfeld & Nicolson 1998 ISBN 9780753807459
  6. "Search: arlington, edwin, robinson," The Pulitzer Prizes,, Web, Apr. 22, 2011.
  7. The Torrent and the Night Before (1896), Internet Archive. Web, July 17, 2013.
  8. Search results = au:Edwin Arlington Robinson, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, July 17, 2013.

External linksEdit

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