Frost Verbatim


by Reginald L. Cook



Photo: Frost and Cook walking the Bread Loaf woods,
1955, by Lawrence Willard
Reginald Cook was introduced to Frost in June, 1924 at his commencement from Middlebury College. Frost was there to receive an honorary degree. They became friendly the following year when Cook attended Bread Loaf School of English for his MA and Frost was there lecturing. Subsequently, Cook spent 2 years at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. Soon after his return, he joined the faculty at Middlebury. Within a few years Cook became head of the American Literature department and Director of Bread Loaf School of English. Over the years Frost and Cook met numerous times and developed a close friendship. After every visit Cook typed notes of the meeting. Frost Verbatim consists of notes on 174 meetings with Frost from 1925 - 1963. Visits take place in Middlebury, Ripton, Amherst, Shaftsbury, Cambridge, Tucson, Dartmouth, Washington, NYC, and Boston. The typed manuscript is 900 pages.
At first I thought Frost Verbatim was the foundation of the Cook books: The Dimensions of Robert Frost (1958) and Robert Frost: A Living Voice (1974) and it is, but it is much more. For some reason Cook abandoned the manuscript. Perhaps he just ran out of time. It is clear that he meant it to be read and both he and his wife Anita, who typed the manuscript three times, spent enormous amounts of time in its preparation. In Frost Verbatim, Cook makes no pretense of style; the writing is very informal and there is both substance and trivia.
At first, I simply wanted to read it, but reading it in the library was out of the question. So I offered to scan it into digital format, which was a service to the library. In February, 2010 I spent 4 days scanning all the pages into picture format, which the library then converted to PDF (as images, not text). I was allowed to take home a disk containing the entire MS. To support my own study of the work, I have transcribed the MS into a Word document that can be word searched. I created several indexes and they are presented here. Hopefully a researcher can peruse the indexes and then contact the library for photocopies or make arrangements to see the manuscript.
Cook writes in his introduction:
Frost Verbatim is part of Cook's papers that came to Middlebury Special Collections following his death in 1984 - 17 boxes in all. The uncataloged collection is stored as "C-4". In the interest of scholarship the comprehensive box list of the collection is available on our website. Click here.
Middlebury was given literary right to the works of Dr. Cook. Middlebury put 5 meetings on their website, so it has gone partially public. The selections were chosen for their charm and are not representative of the real substance in the manuscript. I think Frost Verbatim is important. It should be examined by Frost scholars. There are key subjects that come up over and over: education, religion, writing, politics, criticism of literature and other writers and Frost's biography and personality.
I have finished the transcription of the manuscript and the indexes. I am now working on Extracts of those key subjects so that I can pull together material substance for museum exhibits, talks and essays that will be produced over the coming years. Frost Verbatim is the richest source of information on Frost that I have ever seen. Robert Frost was truly Doc Cook's life work and I hope his manuscript will be recognized. Of course, as Frost said to Doc, “I don’t try to convince anyone. I let them perish in their own sin.” (Frost Verbatim p. 300) You can look it up.
Carole Thompson, Director, Curator
Robert Frost Stone House Museum
Frost Verbatim Indexes
Index of Proper Names
Index of Frost Works
Index of other Literary Works,
as he was always referring to them
Index of Frost key words and ideas