FROST, ROBERT (1874-1963, American poet)
Lot 160
£4,000 - 5,000
US$ 6,700 - 8,400
Lot Details
FROST, ROBERT (1874-1963, American poet)
AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT OF HIS MUCH-ADMIRED POEM 'A PECK OF GOLD', SIGNED ('Robert Frost'), twelve lines in three stanzas, inscribed for his fellow-poet Hilda [Conkling], 1 page, octavo, overall even light browning, no evidence of removal from a book, trace of glue on verso from former hinge, half morocco fitted box [1920s]

Dust always blowing about the town
Except when sea fog laid it down
And I was one of the children told
Some of the blowing dust was gold...

Such was life in the Golden Gate
Gold dusted all we drank and ate
And I was one of the children told
We all must eat our peck of gold.

'A Peck of Gold', written in 1924 and published in West-Running Brook, 1927, is about California, particularly San Francisco, where Frost was born. In it he registers some of the atmosphere of that Gold Rush city. He had been told that gold 'was what they would eat, presumably instead of the plebeian dust mentioned to ordinary children in ordinary places' (Parini, quoting Robert Newdick, Newdick's Season of Frost, 1976). In West-Running Brook Frost gave the approximate date of the inspiration of 'Peck of Gold' as 'As of About 1880.'

In the poem Frost appropriated and adapted the New England saying 'We all must eat our peck of dirt'. The first stanza of the poem is inscribed on a monument on Market Street and Drumm, in front of the Hyatt Hotel and at the foot of the California Street cable car.

Hilda, to whom the present manuscript is inscribed, was Hilda Conkling (1910-1986), a poetical child prodigy, whose poems were mostly composed between the ages of four and ten years, her mother Grace Hazard Conkling, a poet in her own right, writing them down for her, never Hilda herself. Three collections were published in Hilda's lifetime: Poems by a Little Girl was published in 1920 and Shoes of the Wind in 1922 and Silverhorn in 1924. Some of her poems have been anthologised with pieces by Frost. Frost knew Grace Conkling well enough by 1921 to telephone her to arrange a meeting with her for Wilfred Davison, Dean of Bread Loaf School of English, and in the same year Frost and Vachel Lindsay met both the mother and Hilda (aged 11 years) at the YMCA at Bennington. In 1925 Grace Conkling, Head of the English Department at Smith, accepted an invitation to a banquet in honour of Frost. There is no record of a manuscript of this poem having appeared at auction.

PROVENANCE: Hilda Conkling according to an early typed card with the item; James Singleton Copley Collection, not included in the Copley auction (sold privately).

REFERENCES: Lawrence Thompson, Robert Frost, The Years of Triumph, 1970; On Frost, edited by Edwin Cady and Louis Budd, 1991; Jay Parini, Robert Frost A Life, 1998.
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