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
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
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,
1883: William Carlos Williams is born on September
Mihai Eminescu publishes his masterpiece - the
1884: Henry James, "The Art of Fiction".
I. L. Caragiale, "A Lost Letter".
1885: Ezra Pound is born on October 30th,
in Hailey, Idaho.
THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
by Mark Twain
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.
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
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
(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
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
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,
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,
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
Jorge Luis Borges is born in Buenos Aires.
Vladimir Nabokov is born in Russia.
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.
G. Santayana publishes INTERPRETATIONS
OF POETRY AND RELIGION.
E. Husserl publishes LOGISCHE UNTERSUCHUNGEN.
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.
S. Freud: ZUR PSYCHOPATHOLOGIE DES ALLTAGSLEBENS.
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
Certain it is that ten years earlier the
book would not have found readers - nor could it have been written."
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
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,
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,
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
1930: COLLECTED POEMS by Robert
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
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
Together with his brother John, the poet starts
supporting their other brother, Garret Jr.
In November Alcestis Press will publish Stevens's
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
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
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
Stevens becomes more and more preoccupied by
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
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
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
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
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
After visiting a painting exhibition in New York,
in December, Stevens becomes interested in the French painter
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
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
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
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
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
In April advanced stomach cancer is diagnosed.
Stevens spends more than three weeks in St. Francis Hospital in
In May he is announced he has won the Pulitzer
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.