Biography (Dictionary of World Biography: Twentieth Century)
Article abstract: One of the best-selling poets of the early twentieth century, Teasdale used traditional verse forms to express her own attitudes toward love, beauty, and solitude.
Sara Trevor Teasdale was born on August 8, 1884, in St. Louis, Missouri. At the time of her birth, St. Louis was experiencing a cultural and economic flowering, brought about in part by its mixed population of transplanted Easterners of Puritan ancestry and more recently immigrated Germans who stressed the importance of art and music. In 1884, the city was home to two universities, a museum, an art school, and numerous theaters where the great names in the acting and music worlds of the day sometimes performed.
The Teasdale family was of New England stock, descended from a dissenting Baptist who had emigrated from England in 1792. The poet’s grandfather was a Baptist minister who had moved his family west to St. Louis in 1854. John Warren Teasdale, the poet’s father, was a successful businessman. The ancestors of Sara’s mother, Mary Elizabeth Willard, included the founders of Concord, Massachusetts, two presidents of Harvard, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Throughout her life, Sara would acknowledge the Puritan aspect of her character and its conflict with her more “pagan” poetic self.
Kept at home in early childhood because of her poor health, Sara began her formal education at...
(The entire section is 2267 words.)
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Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: American Poets)
A line of Sara Trevor Teasdale’s poetry aptly describes her early life: “I was the flower amid a toiling world.” Teasdale grew up in a sheltered atmosphere of reading, painting, and music, and literary interests became a large part of her life at an early age. Because of her frail health, she had fewer activities than the average child and was doted on by her middle-aged, wealthy parents. She was the youngest of four children of Mary Elizabeth Willard and John Warren Teasdale.
Teasdale’s family, Puritanical and devout, embraced the ideals of a New England education brought to St. Louis, Missouri, by T. S. Eliot’s grandfather, the Reverend William Greenleaf Eliot, who founded the Mary Institute for girls. Born in St. Louis, Teasdale attended the Mary Institute and later Hosman Hall, from 1898 to 1903, and the intellectual and social influence of these schools was strong. She did translations of Heinrich Heine, her first poetic influence, and she began writing poetry as a schoolgirl. Her contributions to the Wheel, a monthly magazine published by herself and her friends, the “Potters,” 1904-1907, just after high school, revealed her early talent for lyrics, songs, and sonnets.
Teasdale had a gift for friendship. She formed strong and lasting friendships with some of the most interesting writers of her generation, many of them living in St. Louis, which in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was an...
(The entire section is 597 words.)
Sara Teasdale was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in August 1884 and committed suicide in New York City in January 1933. She was the youngest child of a prim middle-class family and grew up believing she was a fragile, helpless girl, vulnerable to a variety of undetermined illnesses, both physical and emotional. Her perceived frailty resulted in lifelong bouts of nervous exhaustion and chronic weakness, and she remained dependent upon her parents until she married at age thirty. After being schooled at home, Teasdale ventured out of the house long enough to become acquainted with a local women’s poetry group and began writing poetry in her early twenties. Her fondness for music was reflected in the lyric poems she wrote, most very rhythmic and many of which ended up set to musical scores. Her work at the time centered primarily on love from a woman’s perspective, and its childlike innocence was widely acclaimed, being published in major poetry journals in Chicago, New York, and Europe.
As well liked as Teasdale’s poetry was, the poet herself became just as admired, and she was welcomed into the circles of America’s most esteemed early-twentieth-century writers. But in spite of the popularity, Teasdale was her own worst enemy. She often lapsed into depression without a definable cause and suffered a consistent lack of self-confidence, believing she would never be independent or able to live on her own. In the early 1910s, she fretted over finding a...
(The entire section is 555 words.)