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Robinson Jeffers

Essay by   •  October 19, 2010  •  Research Paper  •  1,475 Words (6 Pages)  •  2,427 Views

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On January 10th, 1887, John Robinson Jeffers, most well known as simply Robinson

Jeffers, was born outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His parents were somewhat of an

odd fit. His father, Dr. William Hamilton Jeffers, was an extremely intelligent yet "reserved,

reclusive person" who married a happy upbeat woman who was 23 years younger than

himself (Coffin). Despite their age and personality differences, Dr. Jeffers and Annie

Robinson Tuttle had a secure marriage. Dr. Jeffers's widespread education resulted in a

vast knowledge of Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, and the Old Testament. Dr. Jeffers was

eager to pass on his knowledge to Robinson. So, when Robinson was only five years old,

Dr. Jeffers began to teach him Greek (Academy of American Poets). Also starting at a

young age, Robinson traveled throughout Europe. From age eleven to fifteen, Robinson

attended several different European boarding schools: in Zurich, Leipzig, Geneva, Vevey,

and Lausanne (Coffin). Though Dr. Jeffers was responsible for Robinson's frequent

transfers, his reasoning is unknown. At each school, Jeffers was seen by his peers as

reclusive and pensive--much like his father. In 1903, when Jeffers was 16, he relocated

yet another time with his family to Pasadena, California where he enrolled at Occidental

College as a junior. Here, Jeffers succeeded immediately and immensely in courses

such as biblical literature, Greek, and astronomy. Jeffer's natural ambition to learn and

his knowledge of numerous languages impressed everyone around him. As a result,

Jeffers made life-long friends and took up hiking--a hobby that he would enjoy for the

rest of his life (Brophy 2).

Right after graduating from Occidental College with a BA in literature at age 18,

Jeffers enrolled at the University of South California as a literature major (Brophy 2).

During his first year at USC, Jeffers met his future wife, Una Call Kuster, who was married

to a Los Angeles attorney. In 1906, Jeffers went with his family to live in Europe. At this

time, he attended the University of Zurich where he took courses in philosophy, history,

Old English, and Spanish poetry. When fall came, Jeffers returned to the University of

Southern California as a medical student (Academy of American Poets). Jeffers

remained a medical student for three years, a long time considering Jeffers was enrolled

in 9 different schools or programs in 13 years. In 1910, Jeffers decided to leave USC and

transferred to the University of Washington to study forestry.

Though Jeffers only earned a BA in his many years at different universities, he

benefited from his diverse education in many aspect of his life. Obviously, his literary and

linguistic knowledge improved his poetry. "The influence of his medical training persists

in the physiological imagery and descriptions that permeate his poetry; while his studies

of forestry served him daily . . . as he tended the hundreds of trees that he planted

around his house" (Butterfield 414).

Despite Jeffer's frequent changes in location, school, and study, his love for Una

Call Kuster did not falter. After meeting Una in 1905, "eight years of confusion, emotional

storm and struggle, and parental disapproval followed for them until 1913, when Una was

divorced, quite unacrimoniously" (Butterfield 414). On August 2nd, 1913, Robinson and

Una were married. Like Jeffers, Una was diversely educated and intelligent. She earned a

masters degree in philosophy and was "an expert lecturer on Irish music, architecture,

and art, and was an avid reader and a book reviewer for a small California magazine"

(Brophy Internet).

While living in La Jolla for a few months after getting married, Una and Jeffers

planned on moving to Lyme Regis, England where Jeffers would pursue a career in

writing. But in 1914 they decided against going abroad due to the commencement of

World War I and Una's pregnancy. The beginning of the war caused him great angst

because "he was torn between an idealism that drove him toward enlistment despite

domestic ties and the beginning of a philosophical pacifism" (Brophy 3). Also very

painful for Jeffers was the death of his first daughter, Maeve, one day after she was born

(Zaller xiii).

In September of 1914, Una and Jeffers moved to Carmel, California whose "rocky,

fog-bound coast may have seemed the closest available approximation of England to

Jeffers" (Zaller 3). Unfortunately their new-found happiness was not to last. On

December 20th of 1914, Jeffers's father died. Dr. Jeffers's death was "deeply disquieting"

to Jeffers who expressed his mourning through poems such as "To His Father" and "The

Year of

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