Richard Eberhart Biography


Richard Ghormley Eberhart grew up on his family’s estate, Burr Oaks, in Austin, Minnesota. His early life was almost idyllic. His father, Alpha LaRue Eberhart, the son of a Methodist minister, typified the American Dream, having worked his way up from being a farmhand at the age of fourteen to becoming a business owner at the age of twenty-one. Working for the Hormel company, where he trained as a salesperson, he accumulated a fortune; by the time his son Richard was born, he had been able to buy Burr Oaks, an eighteen-room house on forty acres of land. Here the poet, his brother Dryden (b. 1902), and his sister Elizabeth (b. 1910) enjoyed financial security until the year following the poet’s graduation from high school, when tragedy struck both his mother and his father.

In 1921, a trusted member of the Hormel enterprise was found to have embezzled more than a million dollars from the company. As a result, the poet’s father lost his accumulated wealth. The more serious catastrophe, however, was the poet’s mother’s lung cancer, which caused excruciating pain from the fall of 1921 to her death on June 22, 1922. Eberhart, who was then eighteen, stayed out of college for a year to help take care of her. It was the most profound experience of the poet’s life, and it provided an impetus for his poetry and for his exploration of the meaning of suffering, what is real and unreal, the mystery of creation, and the place of the imagination in art....

(The entire section is 540 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Richard Eberhart (EHB-ur-hahrt) grew up on Burr Oaks, a forty-acre estate near Austin, Minnesota, where his father was an executive in the George A. Hormel Company. He graduated from high school with various distinctions in 1921. The following year his mother died of cancer, and his father was embezzled out of his fortune. Eberhart once said, “The violent changes in my early world subsequently drove me around the world and to Cambridge University in search of truth.” He began his college career with one year’s study at the University of Minnesota. He then attended Dartmouth College, where he received an A.B. in 1926. In 1927, he sailed around the world as a deck boy on tramp steamers; he stayed at St. John’s College, Cambridge, and received his A.B. in 1929. The next year he tutored the son of King Prajadhipok of Siam in Washington, D.C., after which he attended graduate school at Harvard in 1932. He received his M.A. from Cambridge in 1933, and from 1933 to 1941 he taught English at St. Mark’s School in Southborough, Massachusetts. He married Elizabeth Butcher in 1941; they had one son and one daughter.

Eberhart served in the Navy during World War II and was discharged as a lieutenant commander in 1946. Although such poems as “World War,” “At the End of War,” and “Brotherhood of Men” come from his war experiences, the persistence of death in his poetry undoubtedly grew from the personal tragedy of his mother’s long and painful...

(The entire section is 446 words.)