Anca PEIU, "After the final no": The world of Wallace Stevens


1879: Wallace Stevens is born on October 2nd, at 323 North Fifth Street, in Reading, Pennsylvania. He is the second son of Margaretha Catharine (Kate) Zeller and Garrett Barcalow Stevens. The families of both parents are of originally Dutch-German early settlers. Both parents worked as teachers before their marriage. The poet's father also studied law in Reading, Pennsylvania, being admitted to practice in Berks County four years before his marriage in 1876. The Stevenses' first born was also a son, Garrett Jr., the poet's senior by two years.

1879: Albert Einstein is born in Ulm, Germany, somewhat earlier during the same year when Wallace Stevens is born. The 1921 Nobel Prize winner in physics, he will die as an American citizen, in 1955 - the same year when Wallace Stevens himself dies. He settles in the United States in 1940, at a time when Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977), from Russia, and Thomas Mann (1875-1955), from Germany, (the Nobel Prize winner for literature in 1929), also become American citizens. Although the latter will return to his native Continent to die, here is - indeed - the spirit of a(n American) generation.

1879: Dostoevsky publishes THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV for the first time. Also published for the first time now: the plays "Nora" by Ibsen and "A Stormy Night" by I. L. Caragiale.

1880: The poet's brother John is born.

1881-91: The mother reads to her children from the Bible every night. On Sunday evenings she plays the piano and sings hymns. Young Wallace goes to his paternal grandparents' farm in Feasterville, Pennsylvania, for the summer. He starts attending kindergarten in1884. He also attends Sunday school at First Presbyterian Church, where his mother performs an active role in the congregation . He will go then to the school of St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church. Two sisters get born: Elizabeth in 1885 and Mary Katherine in 1889.

1881: THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY by Henry James is first published.

1882: R. W. Emerson dies in Concord.

James Joyce is born in Dublin on February 2nd, 1882. He will die in Züerich on January 13th, 1941.

1883: William Carlos Williams is born on September 17th.

Mihai Eminescu publishes his masterpiece - the poem "Hyperion".

1884: Henry James, "The Art of Fiction". I. L. Caragiale, "A Lost Letter".

1885: Ezra Pound is born on October 30th, in Hailey, Idaho.


1886: Emily Dickinson dies in Amherst.

1888: T. S. Eliot, the Nobel Prize winner for literature in 1948, is born on September 26th, in St. Louis, Missouri.

On October 16th, in New York, Eugene O'Neill - the Nobel Prize winner for literature in 1936, the 1st major American playwright of the 20th century - is born.

John Crowe Ransom - an outstanding representative of THE NEW CRITICISM and likewise a distinguished poet - is born on April 30th, in Pulaski, Tennessee.

1890: The volume POEMS BY EMILY DICKINSON, First Series, edited by Mabel Loomis Todd and T. W. Higginson, is published now. THE PRINCIPLES OF PSYCHOLOGY by William James also gets first published. The author is a professor of philosophy at Harvard between 1885 and 1907, when PRAGMATISM is first published.

1891: POEMS OF EMILY DICKINSON, Second Series, by the same editors.

Oscar Wilde first publishes THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY.

Herman Melville dies.

The 10th edition of Walt Whitman's LEAVES OF GRASS is published.

Stephen Crane's novel MAGGIE: A GIRL OF THE STREETS 1st publ.

1892: Wallace Stevens starts attending Reading Boys' School.

1892: Walt Whitman dies in Camden, New Jersey:

"In the far South the sun of autumn is passing

Like Walt Whitman walking along a ruddy shore.

He is singing and chanting the things that are part of him,

The worlds that were and will be, death and day.

Nothing is final, he chants. No man shall see the end.

His beard is of fire and his staff is a leaping flame."

(Wallace Stevens, "Like Decorations in a Nigger Cemetery", 1935; italics mine)

1894: E. E. Cummings is born on October 14th, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

1894-96: Stevens works on the editorial staff of the school newspaper "DOTS AND DASHES" and earns the reputation of a first rank student. In March 1896 he wins an essay contest. In December he wins a prize for an oration entitled "The Greatest Need of the Age".

1894: LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON, ed. by Mabel Loomis Todd.

1895: THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE by Stephen Crane is a success.

1896: POEMS BY EMILY DICKINSON, Third Series, ed. by Mabel Loomis Todd.

1896: John Dos Passos is born in Chicago.

1897-98: Wallace Stevens graduates from Reading Boys' School in June 1897, when he also delivers the oration "The Thessalians". He then enters Harvard University as a special three-year student - just like Robert Frost (born on March 26th 1874) several years before him.

1896: F. Scott Fitzgerald is born on September 24th, in St. Paul, Minnesota.

1897: W. Faulkner is born on September 25th, in New Albany, Mississippi. He is the Nobel Prize winner for literature in 1949.

1899: Ernest Hemingway, the Nobel Prize winner for literature in 1954, is born on July 21st, in Oak Park, Illinois; he will commit suicide on July 2nd, 1961.

Hart Crane is born - just like Hemingway, on July 21st, 1899, but in Garrettsville, Ohio; like Hemingway, he will also choose suicide - though much earlier - on April 27th, 1932.

Allen Tate - like J. C. Ransom, a "New Critic" and distinguished poet - is born on November 19th, in Clark County, Kentucky.

Duke Ellington - the great jazzman - is also born now.

Jorge Luis Borges is born in Buenos Aires.

Vladimir Nabokov is born in Russia.

1898-1900: "Autumn"- a poem by Wallace Stevens - is published in The Red and Black, Reading Boys' School Magazine in January 1898. The young poet studies composition and keeps a journal. He also studies: English literature, French literature and German literature. His journal opens with a quotation from Benjamin Jowett, the classical scholar: "If I live I ought to speak my mind."

He sends poems and short stories to Harvard magazines, in which he sometimes publishes under various pennames. He writes a sonnet sequence for the spring term "long theme" assignment.

Wallace Stevens meets George Santayana, who teaches philosophy at Harvard between 1888 and 1912. "To an Old Philosopher in Rome" is the poem dedicated to Santayana by Wallace Stevens in 1952, when the philosopher dies in Rome.

Invited by Witter Bynner, the poet joins the staff of Harvard Advocate, of which he then becomes the president. After completing his three-year program at Harvard, Stevens leaves for New York in June 1900. Here, as advised by his father, he looks for a job in publishing or journalism. Living in cheap boarding houses, he writes various articles. One of these is about the funeral service of Stephen Crane on June 28th 1900. He works overnight shift at New York-Tribune. In July he can afford to move to a small apartment on West 9th Street. He writes political campaign articles for Tribune. He is an enthusiastic theatergoer: particularly moved by Sarah Bernhardt as Hamlet.

1900: Sigmund Freud publishes DIE TRAUMDEUTUNG (The Interpretation of Dreams).

H. Bergson publishes Le rire.



R. M. Rilke travels to Russia for a second time, meeting Leo Tolstoy.

Friedrich Nietzsche dies.

John Ruskin dies.

1901: Wallace Stevens talks to his father about his plans of resigning from Tribune and devoting himself to writing. His father suggests that he take up law. In February the poet moves to East 24th Street in New York and starts writing plays. In autumn he enters New York Law School. His father has a nervous breakdown.

1901: Thomas Mann publishes BUDDENBROOKS at S. Fischer, Berlin. The novel will be published in the U.S. in 1924, by Alfred A. Knopf, New York, the same prestigious publishing house which will publish the poetry volumes of Wallace Stevens, from his very first - HARMONIUM - in 1923, to COLLECTED POEMS in 1954, and OPUS POSTHUMOUS in 1957/1989.


G. Apollinaire publishes his first poems.

The Nobel Prize is for the first time awarded in Stockholm, to the French poet Sully Prudhomme.

The Sicilian poet Salvatore Quasimodo - the Nobel Prize winner for literature in 1959 -is born now. Ezra Pound starts attending the University of Pennsylvania.

T. S. Eliot attends Smith Academy and Milton Academy.

1902-3: Wallace Stevens works as a clerk at the office of W. G. Peckham in New York. He starts taking trips to the countryside on weekends, and making notes of these in his diary. At the end of the year he resolves to refrain from drinking and "to write something every night - be it no more than a line to sing or a page to read."

In June 1903 he graduates from law school and carries on working as a clerk for the office of Peckham, whom he accompany on a seven-week hunting trip to British Columbia in the summer of 1903.

1902: Rilke's 1st great book of poems:DAS BUCH DER BILDER, published.

Langston Hughes - the foremost representative poet of the Harlem Renaissance - is born on February 1st, in Joplin, Missouri.

1903: Gertrude Stein starts living in Paris: "I have never been called an expatriate and that is the thing I am proud of" - she affirms facing "a lost generation", to which Wallace Stevens - as well as William Faulkner, actually - will never feel any particular inclination to belong.

1904: In June Wallace Stevens gets admitted to New York bar. While spending his summer in Reading, he meets Elsie Viola Kachel Moll (born in 1886), a piano teacher also working as a sheet music seller and playing the piano in a local department store. He returns to New York, starting law practice. This will not work. He visits Reading from time to time for Elsie's sake, to whom he often also writes.

1905-7: In May Stevens moves to East Orange, New Jersey. He works at several law offices here. Travels on business to Midwest and Southwest. In October 1906 he moves to Fordham Heights in the Bronx. He reads extensively and spends some time in Reading when unemployed - from July to November 1907. In December he moves back to Greenwich Village.1905: R. M. Rilke becomes Rodin's secretary.

1906: H. Ibsen dies.

1907: W. H. Auden is born. James Joyce publishes his first volume of poetry, CHAMBER MUSIC, in London.

1908: Stevens starts working for American Bonding Company, establishing insurance business contacts. For her birthday on June 5th, Elsie receives the poet's manuscript of "A Book of Verses". The Stevenses disapprove of her: the clash between father and son is inevitable. Visiting Reading in November, he will not see his family. At Christmas Wallace Stevens proposes to Elsie Moll, offering her a Tiffany diamond engagement ring.

1908: Ezra Pound publishes A LUME SPENTO, his 1st volume of poetry, in Venice.

In London T.E.Hulme inaugurates POETS' CLUB - the cradle of imagism.

In Paris cubism is inaugurated.

1909-10: Stevens writes daily to his fiancée. "The Little June Book" - a second collection of poems - is his gift to her. On September 21st, 1909, at Grace Lutheran Church in Reading, without his family attending the ceremony, Wallace Stevens marries Elsie Moll. She will stay a true partner for the poet's entire lifetime. Their honeymoon is spent in Massachusetts; they settle in New York. Elsie often takes trips back home to see her mother.

1909: On February 20th, in Le Figaro, F.T.Marinetti publishes "The Manifest of Futurism".

While studying pedriatics in Leipzig, William Carlos Williams visits Ezra Pound in London and his brother in Rome; he also publishes his 1st volume of POEMS. His belief in the objectivism of poems renders him surprisingly close to R. M. Rilke's view of a poetry of things (Dichtung der Dinge).

R. M. Rilke publishes REQUIEM - a volume of poetry.

Algernon Charles Swinburne (born in 1837) dies. Maurice Maeterlinck publishes "L'Oiseau bleu" (Nobel Prize in 1911).

MON COEUR MIS À NU - Baudelaire's journal - is published posthumously.

1910: Ezra Pound publishes his volume of poems PERSONAE.

1911-12: On July 14th 1911 Stevens's father dies. The poet - never having had the chance of reconciliation - attends the funeral in Reading. His wife would rather they returned to their native town, but he refuses. "I fully intend to continue along my present line - because it gives me a living and because it seems to offer possibilities. I am far from being a genius - and must rely on hard and faithful work"- is Stevens's answer. Never recovering from her grief, the poet's mother soon dies, too - on July 16th, 1912.

1911: Tennessee Williams is born on March 26th, in Columbus, Mississippi.

1912: Robert Frost moves to England, with his family; he will write poetry and do some farming in Buckinghamshire and Hereforgshire.

1913: Wallace Stevens resumes writing poetry after several years' break. He also learns to play golf. He quits American Bonding Company for Equitable Surety Company, having specialized in fidelity and surety bonds. He buys a baby grand piano.

1913: Robert Frost publishes his first book of poetry, A BOY'S WILL, in London. In 1914 his London publisher will also issue Frost's NORTH OF BOSTON. In 1915 the Frosts return to the United States, settling to a farm in New Hampshire.

1914: James Joyce publishes his book of stories DUBLINERS in London.

1914-15: In February 1914, Stevens is named resident vice-president, the second in charge of Equitable's New York branch. Some of the poems he writes now are: "PETER QUINCE AT THE CLAVIER","DISILLUSIONMENT OF TEN O'CLOCK", "TEA","SUNDAY MORNING","BLANCHE McCARTHY","THE SILVER PLOUGH-BOY","CY EST POURTRAICTE, MADAME Ste URSULE, ET LES UNZE MILLE VIERGES". He has eight poems published - under the title "Carnet de Voyage" - in the September issue of Trend - a magazine edited by Pitts Sanborn, a friend from Harvard. Harriet Monroe, a founding editor of Poetry - the Chicago literary magazine championing imagism and later still promoting all the major American poets of the 20th century -, and Alfred Kreymborg, an editor of Others, encourage Wallace Stevens. He resumes his friendship with Walter Conrad Arensberg, another Harvard friend, also an art collector and poet. While visiting the latter, Stevens makes the acquaintance of some writers, artists, and musicians, such as: William Carlos Williams, Mirna Loy, Carl Van Vechten, Donald Evans, Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia. He starts contributing poems to such literary magazines as: Poetry, Others, Rogue, Soil, The Little Review.

1915: T. S. Eliot publishes "The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock" in Poetry. He works at Lloyd's Bank in London and teaches school; marries Vivienne Haigh-Wood.

Arthur Miller is born on October, 17th, in Manhattan.

1916: When Equitable Company fails, in March, Stevens starts working for HARTFORD ACCIDENT AND INDEMNITY COMPANY, handling surety claims and oversea legal affairs of department expanding. In two years' time a separate fidelity and surety claims department is constituted, which Stevens will manage for his entire life. He now becomes an officer of this subsidiary Hartford Livestock Insurance Company and thus - in May - he and his wife have to move to Hartford, Connecticut. For the best part of this year he will travel on business all over the United States. He never forgets to write home and never gives up writing poetry, either. In May, his verse play "THREE TRAVELERS WATCH A SUNRISE" is awarded a prize from Poetry literary magazine.

1916: Albert Einstein - (1879-1955, i.e. living during the same interval that was meant to be thelife span of Wallace Stevens) - publishes now his successful work, Entwurf einer verallgemeinerten Relativitäts-Theorie der Gravitation (A Sketch of a Generalized Relativity-Theory of Gravitation). He will win the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921. His impact upon the literary developments of the entire 20th century is decisive.

James Joyce publishes his novel A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN - and also POEMS PENYEACH and the play "EXILES" in Zürich.

1917: Stevens writes one more play: "CARLOS AMONG THE CANDLES", which will be performed once in October, at Neighborhood Playhouse in New York. He spends most of this year traveling on business.

1918-19: In March 1918, while on business in Chicago, Stevens visits Harriet Monroe at the offices of Poetry literary magazine. There he meets Carl Sandburg.

A Red Cross volunteer in France, Mary Katherine, the poet's younger sister, dies in May 1919.

1920-21: Wallace Stevens cannot attend the unique performance of "THREE TRAVELERS" at Provincetown Playhouse, New York, in February 1920. He travels on business extensively. In November 1920 he publishes in Poetry a set of poems under the rubric "Pecksniffiana" - which will bring him Helen Haire Levinson Prize ($ 200). In December 1921 he writes a poem called "From the Journal of Crispin" and submits it for a prize judged by Amy Lowell.

1922: Amy Lowell gives the Blindman Prize to some other poet: Stevens will consequently revise his Crispin poem as "THE COMEDIAN AS THE LETTER C". Taking the advice of a friend, Carl Van Vechten, he gathers poems for a volume, whose manuscript is accepted for publication by Alfred A. Knopf. In August he receives a visit from William Carlos Williams.

He makes friends now with Arthur Powell, a business acquaintance from Atlanta. They go fishing together, staying on Biscayne Bay and Long Key. They will spend their winters in Florida from now on, with other friends, too. Stevens visits Havana. 1922: James Joyce publishes his novel ULYSSES in Paris. This is exactly on his birthday, February 2nd, 1922. FINNEGAN'S WAKE will also be published here, in 1939, only two years before the great writer's death.

T. S. Eliot publishes "THE WASTE LAND" in the Dial, in New York. In 1923 the poem is also published by Faber & Faber in London. The great poem bears a dedication "For Ezra Pound il miglior fabbro".

1923: Stevens's initial idea of a title for his first major volume of poetry was "THE GRAND POEM: PRELIMINARY MINUTIAE". It is at Alfred A. Knopf's suggestion that the title HARMONIUM was adopted. The volume got published in September, just before the poet turned forty-four years old. On this happy occasion, the Stevenses took their first holiday since marriage, sailing to Havana, then through Panama Canal, past Tehuantepec to California. Touring California, they also visit New Mexico and come back home overland.

1923: William Butler Yeats, (1865-1939), the great Irish poet, is distinguished with the Nobel Prize for literature.

Rainer Maria Rilke, (1875-1926), publishes his best poetry in the two celebrated volumes: DUINESER ELEGIEN and DIE SONETTE AN ORPHEUS.

Hart Crane writes his first major poem: "For the Marriage of Faustus and Helen" and starts writing "THE BRIDGE, his acknowledged masterpiece.

This was definitely meant to be a most fortunate year for poets.

1924: Wallace Stevens feels encouraged by the review Marianne Moore writes in the January issue of Dial, announcing his first published volume of poetry. He becomes a father: on August 10th Holly Bright Stevens is born, his daughter, who in 1967 will bring together all his outstanding poems (and a play:"BOWL, CAT AND BROOMSTICK") in a selection observing the chronological order of composition, entitled THE PALM AT THE END OF THE MIND - an echo the editor chose from her father's poem, "OF MERE BEING". Harold Bloom - a Sterling Professor of the Humanities at Yale University, a "New Critic" and an authority in Wallace Stevens studies (see the volumes A MAP OF MISREADING, 1975, and THE POEMS OF OUR CLIMATE,1977) - appreciates as "the indispensable presentation of a central American poet, the best and most representative of our time".

1924: On November 24th, DER ZAUBERBERG (THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN) by Thomas Mann is published by S. Fischer in Berlin. The author remembers: "It was in 1924, after endless intermissions and difficulties, that there finally appeared the book which, all in all, had had me in its power not seven but twelve years. Its reception would have needed to be much more unfavorable than it was, to surpass my expectations. …Certain it is that ten years earlier the book would not have found readers - nor could it have been written." (Italics mine.)

W. Faulkner publishes his first volume of poetry, THE MARBLE FAUN.

1925: In October Archibald MacLeish visits Wallace Stevens. In November, when Marianne Moore asks him for a review, he answers: "…there is a baby at home. All lights are out at nine. At present there are no poems, no reviews." The Stevenses spend their Christmas holidays in Florida.

1925: F. Scott Fitzgerald publishes THE GREAT GATSBY, a critical success.

1926: In October Stevens is diagnosed as acromegalic and overweight, with high blood pressure. The doctor's recommendation is that he should reduce, exercise and diminish use of alcohol.

1926: W. Faulkner publishes his first novel, SOLDIER'S PAY.

Ernest Hemingway publishes THE SUN ALSO RISES.

1927-8: In May he visits Florida on business. William Carlos Williams gives him a message from Ezra Pound asking him for poems for publication. Stevens answers (again) that he has no time for either poetry or reading. To Marianne Moore he confesses:" The extreme irregularity of my life makes poetry out of the question, for the present, except for momentary violences." After a diet, by the end of the year the doctor tells him he is anemic and underweight. He will receive no better medical report before October 1928.

1927: W. Faulkner publishes his second novel, MOSQUITOS.

1928: William Carlos Williams publishes his volume A VOYAGE TO PAGANY, dedicated to "the first of all of us, my old dear friend Ezra Pound".

1929-30: Stevens resumes writing poetry. His daughter enters Oxford School, attending it till 1941. In September 1930 they spend their holidays in Atlantic City.

1929: W. Faulkner publishes his novels SARTORIS and THE SOUND AND THE FURY. In 1930 W. Faulkner publishes AS I LAY DYING.

Ernest Hemingway publishes A FAREWELL TO ARMS.

1930: COLLECTED POEMS by Robert Frost.

1931: Alfred A. Knopf publishes the revised edition of Stevens's HARMONIUM. The poet exchanges letters with R. P. Blackmur - one of demanding and intricate "New Critics", an expert in the poetry of Emily Dickinson -, who is also concerned about the poetry of Wallace Stevens. It is now that Stevens starts buying books and paintings from Anatole Vidal - a bookseller from Paris. This is a solid relationship to be continued - after the latter's death in 1944 - by his daughter, Paule Vidal.

1932-33: In August Stevens visits Monroe telling her: "Whatever else I do, I do not write poetry nowadays."

1932: W. Faulkner publishes SANCTUARY, a novel which could not escape the mark of his genius, although it was merely meant

to work as a pot-boiler. Faulkner also publishes now another one of his masterpieces: the novel LIGHT IN AUGUST. 1934: After a prolonged silence, Stevens starts writing poetry again. He also provides an introduction to William Carlos Williams's COLLECTED POEMS, 1921- 1931. It is also now that Wallace Stevens becomes a vice-president of Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company, after eighteen years' work here. He will hold this position until his death in 1955.

1934: William Carlos Williams publishes his COLLECTED POEMS 1921-1931, with a preface by Wallace Stevens.

1935: At Key West Wallace Stevens meets Robert Frost, with whom he finds many things to discuss. Elsie tries to make him give up alcohol altogether - therefore he will only drink tea at home. He starts joining friends for martinis at the Canoe Club in Hartford. In August his new volume of poetry IDEAS OF ORDER gets published in a limited edition by Ronald Lane Latimer's Alcestis Press. It is now that he starts working on his poetic cycle OWL'S CLOVER.

1935: W. Faulkner publishes his novel PYLON.

1936: While at Key West in February, Stevens stars a drunken fight with Ernest Hemingway, breaking his own right hand in two places while hitting the latter's jaw. Hemingway knocks Stevens down. Before leaving home, the two get reconciled. Stevens will tell his wife he fell down a flight of stairs.

In October Alfred A. Knopf publishes IDEAS OF ORDER. Stevens gets acknowledged as a major American poet.

Together with his brother John, the poet starts supporting their other brother, Garret Jr.

In November Alcestis Press will publish Stevens's OWL'S CLOVER.

In December Stevens will read parts of OWL'S CLOVER - together with the lecture `THE IRRATIONAL ELEMENT IN POETRY" - at Harvard University.

The poem "THE MEN THAT ARE FALLING" wins him the annual poetry prize from The Nation. 1936: W. Faulkner publishes his novel ABSALOM, ABSALOM! - crowning his Yoknapatawpha cycle. Random House will thereafter be his permanent publisher.

1937-8: In October Alfred A. Knopf publishes Stevens's volume of poetry THE MAN WITH THE BLUE GUITAR - also including a concise version of OWL'S CLOVER. Stevens will now regularly contribute poems to literary magazines.

Because of the expenses required by his brother Garret's condition, Stevens must give up his family's winter trips to Florida and their exotic summer holidays. His ailing brother dies in November,1938. The poet will still give assistance to his brother's widow.

1938: W. Faulkner publishes his novel THE UNVANQUISHED.

1939: The Stevenses visit the World's Fair and go to theater shows, spending their summer in Maine and New York. When congratulated on his birthday, he replies: "a poet should be 30, not 60. It is incredible to me that I am 60." He makes good friends with Henry Church, a rich arts patron, and his wife, Barbara. As an editor of Mesures, (a French language magazine), Church introduces Stevens to a group of intellectuals including James Johnson Sweeney, the director of Guggenheim Museum, Frederick Morgan, a poet, and Jean Wahl, a philosopher.

1940: In February the Stevenses spend a couple of weeks in Key West, but the poet resents the place being now "too furiously literary". Stevens will often join Robert Frost for dinner. Returning home, he is successful in his writing, finding himself "at one of those stages when it is hard to get away from one's thoughts". Stevens and Church write to each other considering the possibility of the former's accepting a poetry chair at Harvard.

On July 9th, the poet's brother John dies.

Stevens becomes more and more preoccupied by genealogy.

For her 16th birthday, his daughter Holly receives a red convertible.

He confesses to Hi Simons, the critic with whom he entertains an extensive correspondence: "It is a habit of mind with me to be thinking for some substitute for religion…My trouble, and the trouble of a great many people, is the loss of belief in the sort of God in Whom we were all brought up to believe". (Italics mine.)

1941: In May Stevens delivers the lecture "THE NOBLE RIDER AND THE SOUND OF WORDS" at Princeton University. His daughter enters Vassar. The poet is engrossed in reading philosophy and literary criticism, such as: Vico, Hegel, I. A. Richards.

1942: This summer Holly announces she is not interested in her studying at Vassar. Her father does his best to persuade her to continue.

In September, PARTS OF A WORLD is published by Alfred A. Knopf. In October Cummington Press publishes a limited edition of "NOTES TOWARD A SUPREME FICTION".

Stevens is disappointed at his daughter leaving Vassar at the end of the year. He will find her a job as a clerk at Aetna Life Insurance Company.

1943: In February the poet's sister Elizabeth dies.

In August, Stevens will deliver the lecture "THE FIGURE OF THE YOUTH AS VIRILE POET" at Mount Holyoke, at Entretiens de Pontigny conference - a seminar calling together European and American intellectuals. Here he meets Marianne Moore.

He cannot accept his daughter's seeing John Hanchak, a repairman, whom he refuses to let in his house. Holly moves to the boarding house in town.

Stevens refuses two invitations to read poetry: "I am not a troubadour and I think the public reading of poetry is something particularly ghastly."

1944: In April the poet is glad to receive Knopf's invitation to prepare another volume: he will spend his entire summer on it.

Stevens cannot accept his daughter's engagement to Hanchak, whom she will nevertheless marry on August 5th.

He exchanges letters with the Cuban poet Jose Rodriguez Feo. 1945: Stevens turns down the invitation - made by Robert Penn Warren - to record for the Library of Congress archive, saying he were no good reader. In June he delivers "DESCRIPTION WITHOUT PLACE" as a Phi Betta Kappa poem at Harvard. In July a limited edition of "ESTHÉTIQUE DU MAL" is issued by Cummington Press.

Wallace Stevens refuses to participate in a PM newspaper symposium on treason instance against Ezra Pound. In December he becomes a fellow of National Institute of Arts and Letters.

1946: In June Stevens receives Harriet Monroe Poetry Award. By the end of the summer he spends three weeks with his wife in Pennsylvania. They also take a trip to Reading: "we found the place really unbearable and we left almost immediately without seeing a single one of the few relatives of mine who still live there". In December he is examined by a doctor about eye problems.

1947: In February he delivers "THREE ACADEMIC PIECES" at Harvard. In March his volume TRANSPORT TO SUMMER is published, followed by laudatory reviews all through the year.

On April 4th Henry Church dies unexpectedly. The poet attends the funeral and maintains his friendship with Barbara Church, the widow, for the rest of his life.

On April 26th Stevens's grandson Peter Reed Hanchak is born.

In June he receives a honorary doctorate from Wesleyan.

In December Cummington Press publishes Stevens's "THREE ACADEMIC PIECES".

1948: He delivers a lecture at Yale, in March: "EFFECTS OF ANALOGY", and another one at Columbia, in September: "IMAGINATION AS VALUE".

His daughter starts divorce proceedings - completed in 1951.

After visiting a painting exhibition in New York, in December, Stevens becomes interested in the French painter Jean Dubuffet.

By the end of the year he receives a royalty check from Knopf - the greatest amount of his entire career as a poet. 1949: Stevens works on his poem "AN ORDINARY EVENING IN NEW HAVEN" since March till June. In November he reads at Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences. he is deeply moved by a painting by Pierre Tal Coat that he receives from Paris; this makes him write a poem: "ANGEL SURROUNDED BY PAYSANS". He will also write a catalogue introduction for Marcel Gromaire's exhibition.

1950: In March Wallace Stevens receives the Bollingen Prize. He is working on "THE ROCK". In July Marianne Moore pays him a visit at his office in Hartford. They will see each other regularly during the years to come. He would like her to have the choice for the British edition of his SELECTED POEMS, but she cannot accept the offer. In September his volume of poems THE AURORAS OF AUTUMN gets published. Alfred A. Knopf is ready to resume publishing of all the poet's previous volumes.

1951: In January he offers the lecture "THE RELATIONS BETWEEN POETRY AND PAINTING" at the Museum of Modern Art. He gets involved in a challenging program of public lectures. In March he receives the National Book Award for THE AURORAS OF AUTUMN.

In April the poet lectures at Mount Holyoke College.

In June he attends the 50th reunion of his class at Harvard. He is deeply moved by the second honorary doctorate.

Stevens exchanges letters with the Korean writer Peter Lee and makes the acquaintance of the poet Richard Wilbur.

In November his collection of lecture-essays THE NECESSARY ANGEL gets published. During this same month he offers "A COLLECT OF PHILOSOPHY" as a Moody Lecture at the University of Chicago. He feels hurt at philosopher's Paul Weiss's rejection of this essay when it is submitted for publication in The Review of Metaphysics.

In December the poet will be a judge for National Book Awards.

1952: In January Stevens reads at Wellesley. He will also take part in the Bollingen committee, which now awards its prize to Marianne Moore's volume of COLLECTED POEMS. He will also be invited to participate to the activities of this committee in the years to come, i.e. 1953 and 1954.

In May the poet will read at Harvard.

In September he mourns the death of George Santayana in Rome, writing the poem "TO AN OLD PHILOSOPHER IN ROME".

1953: In February the volume SELECTED POEMS by Wallace Stevens is published by Faber & Faber in London. The poet is in correspondence with Renato Poggioli from Harvard, who translates the poems into Italian. He rejects the invitation to hold a speech at the memorial for Dylan Thomas, whom he considers "an utterly improvident person".

1954: Wallace Stevens records a reading of his own poems for Harvard Library. In May he delivers "THE SAIL OF ULYSSES" as a Phi Betta Kappa poem at Columbia University.

In October the volume of COLLECTED POEMS is published, on the very day the poet turns 75 years old. At the celebration at Harmonie Club in New York there are many guests, among whom: Marianne Moore, Delmore Schwartz, Conrad Aiken, Lionell Trilling, Luoise Bogan, Carl Van Vechten, James Merrill.

In November Stevens reads at Vassar and YMHA in New York.

He will not accept Archibald MacLeish's invitation to be Charles Eliot Norton professor of poetry at Harvard for 1955-56.

The poet is delighted to receive an "avalanche of cards" for Christmas.

1955: In January he learns that the University of Yale is about to award him the honorary doctorate in June. Stevens appreciates it as the "greatest prize for a Harvard man".

In January, also, his wife suffers a stroke.

On January 25th Wallace Stevens is awarded the National Book Award for a second time.

In spring before entering the hospital he writes "A MYTHOLOGY REFLECTS ITS REGION" and "OF MERE BEING".

In April advanced stomach cancer is diagnosed. Stevens spends more than three weeks in St. Francis Hospital in Hartford.

In May he is announced he has won the Pulitzer Prize.

He spends some time at home. In summer he returns to St. Francis Hospital.

He never gives up his sense of humour, reciting from Longfellow to the nurses. He tells his daughter - time and again - about his 1903 trip to British Columbia.

Wallace Stevens dies on August 2nd, 1955 - two months before his 76th birthday. He is buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery, Hartford.



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