William Rose Benét was born into a family of logophiles whose ancestors had come from Minorca to America, settling in Florida during the eighteenth century. His grandfather was General Stephen Vincent Benét (1825-1895), a West Point graduate, writer of military treatises, and Civil War veteran who became chief of U.S. Army Ordnance. William’s father, Colonel James Walker Benét, was likewise a career Army officer, also in ordnance; his mother was Frances Neill Rose Benét. William was the middle of three children. William, his younger brother Stephen Vincent, and his elder sister Laura would all earn reputations as writers and editors, influenced and inspired by their father’s love of quality literature, particularly poetry; the brothers would both receive Pulitzer Prizes for their verse. The Benét family moved several times as the children were growing, following Colonel Benét to postings at government arsenals in Pennsylvania, Georgia, New York, and California.
William Rose Benét originally intended to follow his father into the military, and toward that end, he attended Albany Academy in New York, where he began to write. At the age of fifteen, he won a silver medal for “The Harvest,” a poem published in St. Nicholas Magazine for Boys and Girls. Eschewing a military career for the literary life, Benét attended Yale University, where he became editor of the Yale Record, the institution’s longtime humor magazine....
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