University of Rochester Library Bulletin: Elizabeth Hollister Frost

Volume XIII ·  Spring 1958 · Number 3
Elizabeth Hollister Frost

With the death of Elizabeth Hollister Frost (Mrs. Walter Dabney Blair), on April 9, the University Library lost one of its best friends. A serious student and writer herself, Mrs. Frost knew the needs of scholars and was anxious to help them. Her sympathy and understanding were shared by her sisters, Mrs. Thomas G. Spencer and Mrs. H. Emerson Tuttle, so these three great-granddaughters of Thurlow Weed placed the very valuable collection of his correspondence in the University Library, first as a deposit and later as a gift. This generous action has provided many scholars with important source material in the fields of American history and government, which is shown by the growing list of publications in which the Thurlow Weed Papers are cited, as well as by the roster of scholars who have used the collection.

The first three books written by Elizabeth Hollister Frost were collections of poems, many of which had previously appeared in Harper's Magazine, The Dial, The London Mercury, The Spectator, and other periodicals. These volumes, The Lost Lyrist (1928), Hovering Shadow (1929), and The Closed Gentian (1931), were dedicated to her first husband, Eliott Frost, Chairman of the Department of Psychology at the University of Rochester, who died in 1926. They expressed not only her sorrow but also her joy in the beautiful scenes and experiences she and her husband had enjoyed in New England and elsewhere. The reviewer in The Boston Transcript said of one of these, "It is good poetry -- good in its technique, in its lyric quality, in its content," and another reviewer, writing in The New York Times, said: "Mrs. Frost is not a minor poet; she is a small edition of a major poet. Her poetry has qualities of endurance."

Mrs. Frost's first novel was published in London in 1939 under the title The Good Pain and in New York the following year as The Wedding Ring. It describes the village of St. Cirq-la-Popie in the old Kingdom of Navarre, where she lived with her second husband, Walter Dabney Blair. In reviewing it for The Saturday Review of Literature, Amy Loveman wrote: "Mrs. Frost has captured the flavor of the peasant dialect, the mood and mind of simple people. . . sturdy and simple in its dia-logue, with cruelty and ugliness cropping up in it, but with a quality of poetic emotion that gives it impact and beauty. It moves with simplicity and dignity."

Mrs. Frost's second novel, This Side of Land, published in 1942, is the story of the early English settlers on the island of Nantucket, its locale being Mrs. Frost's own house, which was built in 1722. Katherine Woods wrote inThe New York Times: "This Side of Land is literature, not merely because it is alive and beautifully written, but because it achieves -- as only writing that is literature can achieve it -- the paradox of touching the universal while remaining itself so individual as to be unique."

Mary and the Spinners, Mrs. Frost's third novel, appeared in 1946. It presents the stories of five of the Virgin Mary's friends and the effect that the birth of Christ had upon them. The novel received highly favorable reviews and was chosen as the January 1947 selection of the Catholic Book Club. Mrs. Frost's unusual ability to express, in poetic prose, her insight into human character at different times and in different places was again demonstrated in this beautifully written book.

At the time of her death, Mrs. Frost was working on a book of quite a different nature, to be entitled Your Rock Garden and Ours, in which she planned to describe the building and designing of the glen garden, Tumbling Waters, at Tarrytown, New York, her heather projects on her Nantucket moorland, and her many other horticultural interests and activities. National recognition of her success in this field came to her in 1955, when the Garden Club of America awarded her the Eloise Payne Luquer Medal for special achievement in the field of botany.

Mrs. Frost will long be gratefully remembered by scholars who use the Thurlow Weed Papers in the University Library, by countless readers to whom her own books have meant beauty, inspiration, and solace, and by students and faculty members who will cherish the memory of her gracious participation in University activities.