Robinson, Edwin Arlington

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Robinson, Edwin Arlington,

1869–1935, American poet, b. Head Tide, Maine, attended Harvard (1891–93). At his death, many critics considered Robinson the greatest poet in the United States. He is now best remembered for his short poems characterizing various residents of "Tilbury Town," which was based on his hometown, Gardiner, Maine. His first volume of verse, The Torrent and the Night Before (1896), was revised and reissued as The Children of the Night (1897). In 1899, Robinson settled in New York City. Although his third volume of verse, Captain Craig (1902), was poorly received by critics, it attracted the attention of President Theodore Roosevelt, who secured Robinson a job in the New York customshouse. He finally achieved critical recognition with The Man against the Sky (1916). Thereafter he concentrated on long psychological narrative poems, such as Avon's Harvest (1921), The Man Who Died Twice (1924; Pulitzer Prize), Dionysus in Doubt (1925), and the Arthurian romances Merlin (1917), Lancelot (1920), and Tristram (1928; Pulitzer Prize). A quiet, introverted man, Robinson never married and became legendary for his reclusiveness. Although his later poetry reveals a deep consciousness of social issues, an experimentation with symbolism, and an increasingly optimistic view of human destiny, his most lasting work is probably his early verse. "Miniver Cheevy" and "Richard Cory" are among the most famous of his brief, dramatic poems. Volumes of his collected poems were published in 1921 (Pulitzer Prize), 1937, and years after his work fell out of popular and critical fashion, in 1999.


See his letters, ed. by R. Torrence (1940, repr. 1980), D. Sutcliffe (1947), and R. Cary (1968); biographies by C. P. Smith (1965) and L. O. Coxe (1969); studies by Y. Winters (1946, repr. 1971) and D. Burton (1986).

Robinson, Edwin Arlington

(1869–1935) poet; born in Head Tide, Maine. He grew up in Gardiner, Maine, studied at Harvard (1891–93), was a free-lance writer (1893–96), and lived in New York City (1896). He was secretary to the president of Harvard (1897), returned to New York, and held various jobs, notably clerk of the Customs House (1904–10). Until President Theodore Roosevelt wrote in praise of his work in 1905, his poetry attracted little attention—he had self-published his early work. He won numerous awards and remains famous for his ironic, psychological profiles such as "Richard Cory" and "Miniver Cheevy"; but in his day he was also acclaimed for his long poems on Arthurian themes, such as Tristram (1927).