Benét was born in Brooklyn, New York City, the son of Col. James Walker Benét and his wife Frances Neill (Rose), and grandson of Brigadier General Stephen Vincent Benét. He was educated at the Albany Academy in Albany, New York, and at Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University, graduating with a Ph.D. in 1907.
He began the Saturday Review of Literature in 1924, and continued to edit and write for it until his death.
Benét married four times:
- First, on 3 September 1912, he married Teresa France Thomson, with whom he had three children (James Walker Benét, Frances Rosemary Benét, and Kathleen Anne Benét). Teresa died in 1919.
- Benét's second wife whom he married on 5 October 1923, was poet Elinor Wylie. She died in December, 1928. (His poem "Sagacity" is in memory of Wylie.)
- Benét's third wife, whom he married on 15 March 1932, was Lora Baxter. They divorced in 1937.
- Benét's fourth wife, and widow, was children's writer Marjorie Flack.
He is the author of The Reader's Encyclopedia, the standard American guide to world literature.
His son, James Walker Benét (born 1914) is the author of two suspense novels and a guidebook to the San Francisco Bay Area.
"The most particular poets will contend, I know, that he has not written poetry here. For they are always desperately trying to hedge-in poetry and limit it to some one particular kind; the very particular poets and the very particular critics; and if you get out of bounds with those high-brow boys and girls you can never, never, never amount to anything any more."
Benét was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1942 for his book of autobiographical verse, The Dust Which Is God (1941).
- Merchants from Cathay. New York: Century, 1913.
- The Falconer of God, and other poems. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1914.
- The Great White Wall: A poem. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1916.
- The Burglar of the Zodiac, and other poems. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1918.
- Perpetual Light: A memorial. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1919.
- Moons of Grandeur: A book of poems. New York: Doran, 1920.
- Man Possessed: Selected poems. New York: Doran, 1927.
- Rip Tide: A novel in verse. New York: Duffield & Green, 1932.
- Starry Harness. New York: Duffield & Green, 1933.
- Golden Fleece: A collection of poems and ballads old and new. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1935.
- Mad Blake: A poem. Los Angeles: printed at the Grey Bow Press, 1937.
- With Wings as Eagles: Poems and ballads of the air. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1940.
- The Dust Which Is God: A novel in verse. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1941.
- The Stairway of Surprise. New York: Knopf, 1947.
- The Spirit of the Scene. New York: Knopf, 1951.
- The First Person Singular, 1922
- St. Clair Shores, MI, Scholarly Press, 1971.
- The Flying King of Kurio. New York: George H. Doran Co., 1926.
- Adolphus, or the Adopted Dolphin. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1941.
- All Flesh. Philadelphia: Pickering Press, 1949.
- Pocket University Guide to Daily Reading. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran, 1934.
- The Prose and Poetry of Elinor Wylie. Norton, MA: Wheaton College Press, 1934.
- Wild Goslings: a selection of fugiive pieces (essays). New York: George H. Doran Co., 1927.
- Poems for Youth: An American anthology. New York: Dutton, 1925.
- Elinor Wylie, Collected Poems. New York: Knopf, 1932.
- Fifty Poets: an American auto-anthology. New York: Duffield & Green, 1933.
- The Poetry of Freedom (edited by William Rose Benet & Norman Cousins). New York: Modern Library, 1945.
- The Oxford Anthology of American Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, 1947.
- The Reader's Encyclopedia: An encyclopedia of world literature and the arts. London: George G. Harrap, 1948.
Poems by William Rose BenétEdit
- Bulletin of Yale University, Obituary Record of Graduate of the Undergraduate Schools Deceased During the Year 1949-1950, series 47, number 109, 1 January 1951, page 170-1.
- William Rose Benét in The New Poetry: An anthology: "The Falconer of God," "The Horse Thief"
- William Rose Benét in Poetry: A magazine of verse, 1912-1922: "On a Window Display in a Western City," "Kites," "The Price," "Solid Earth," "Information," "Gray"
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