John Robinson Jeffers’s life, milieu, and work are of one piece. From his early adulthood, one can see him choosing a place of living and a way of life that are strongly reflected in his poetry and in his occasional prose statements about his work.
When Jeffers was born in Pittsburgh in 1887, his father was forty-nine, his mother twenty-seven. His father’s occupation as well as his age set the boy apart; the senior Jeffers had been a Presbyterian minister and was professor of Old Testament literature and exegesis at Western Theological Seminary. Young Robin was an only child for seven years, and he spent much of his time in solitary wandering or reading on the relatively isolated family property. He was later educated in Switzerland for nearly four years, in schools in which the language of instruction was either French or German. His father had introduced him to Greek at the age of five, and he also acquired Latin and some Italian. After his parents moved to Los Angeles, he entered Occidental College, where he continued his classical and literary education and supplemented his childhood religious training with courses in biblical literature and theology.
Although popular with his fellow students, Jeffers already was establishing the pattern of his life through his interest in camping and mountain climbing on one hand, and in reading and writing on the other. Graduating at eighteen, he then pursued medical studies at the University of...
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