Winfield Townley Scott was born April 30, 1910, in Haverhill, Massachusetts, to Douglas Scott and Essie Wilbar Scott. He spent the first ten years of his life in Newport, Rhode Island, where his father was a clerk in his family’s hardware store, before moving back to Haverhill, where his father found employment in a shoe factory. In school and at home, Scott was shy, withdrawn, and eager to please. Scott Donaldson writes, “The boyhood habit of withdrawing from physical conflict, of avoiding the showdown, was encouraged and applauded by the women—his mother, Essie, and Grammie Wilbar, and his schoolteachers—who dominated his existence.” According to Scott, this feminine influence caused him to “call his maleness into question”; this concern is reflected in his poetry.
At fourteen, Scott had a school experience that shaped his life. His reading of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798) left him transfixed, and he knew then that he would be a poet. From that time on, he regularly wrote poetry and sought out the company of established poets. As the editor of his high school paper, he shared his enthusiasm for the works of Robert Frost and Edwin Arlington Robinson, which remained the most significant influences on his poetry, with his classmates, who considered him a bit of an “odd stick,” as one said. Scott attended Brown University from 1927 to 1931. There, he joined the Liberal Club, which reflected his political leanings; he was a lifelong Democrat. He also...
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