Stevens, Wallace

Stevens, Wallace (1879 - 1955)


Wallace Stevens was born October 2, 1879, in Reading, Pennysylvania, and was educated in classics at Reading Boys' High School and at Harvard as a special student 1897-1900. There he acted as President of the Harvard Advocate and published some verse. After several years as a reporter in New York, Stevens entered New York Law School in 1901 and eventually clerked for W. G. Peckham, a New York attorney. Stevens was admitted to the bar in 1904. In New York he worked for several law firms and then joined an insurance firm, the American Bonding Company of Baltimore, which became the Equitable Surety Company of St. Louis. Stevens and Elsie Viola Kachel married in 1909 and lived in New York until they moved to Hartford, Connecticut, in 1916. Until his retirement, he worked for the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company, moving up to Vice President in 1934. His poem "Pecksniffiana" won the Helen Haire Levinson Prize offered by Poetry in 1920. In his lifetime he brought out the following books of poetry:

  • Harmonium (New York: A. A. Knopf, September 7, 1923) York University Special Collections 734
  • Ideas of Order (Alcestis Press, August 12, 1935; A. A. Knopf, October 19, 1936)
  • Owl's Clover (Alcestis Press, November 5, 1936)
  • The Man with the Blue Guitar (New York: A. A. Knopf, October 4, 1937)
  • Parts of a World (New York: A. A. Knopf, September 8, 1942)
  • Notes toward a Supreme Fiction (Cummington Press, October 13, 1942)
  • Esthétique du Mal (Cummington Press, November 6, 1945)
  • Transport to Summer (New York: A. A. Knopf, March 20, 1947)
  • The Auroras of Autumn (New York: A. A. Knopf, September 11, 1950)
  • Selected Poems (London: Faber and Faber, February 6, 1953)
  • Collected Poems (New York: A. A. Knopf, October 1, 1954)

Only after World War II was Stevens recognized as a major poet. His awards and honours include membership in the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1946), the Bollingen Prize for 1949, the Poetry Society of America Gold Medal (1951), the National Book Award in Poetry (1950, 1954), and the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry (1955). He read and lectured often at universities and published one book of literary criticism, The Necessary Angel: Essays on Reality and the Imagination (A. A. Knopf, November 12, 1951). Stevens died August 2, 1955, of stomach cancer, leaving one daughter, Holly Bright Stevens, who edited his letters afterwards. His wife Elsie Stevens died February 19, 1963. They are buried together at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Hartford. See also

  • Brazeau, Peter. Parts of a World: Wallace Stevens Remembered (New York: Random House, 1983), an excellent anthology of interviews of Stevens' friends and co-workers. PS 3537 T4753 Z616 Robarts Library
  • Edelstein, J. M. Wallace Stevens: A Descriptive Bibliography (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1973).
  • Letters of Wallace Stevens, ed. Holly Stevens (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1966), a well-edited volume. PS 3537 T4753 Z53 Robarts Library
  • Richardson, Joan. Wallace Stevens: The Early Years 1879-1923 (New York: Beech Tree Books, 1986). PS 3537 T4753 Z758 1986 Robarts Library
Given Name
Family Name
Birth Date
October 2, 1879
Death Date
August 2, 1955
  • Reading Boys' High School

  • Harvard University

  • New York Law School

  • Lawyer

Literary Period
Literary Movement
Cause of Death