The American Academy of Arts & Sciences presented its first award for literary achievement to Robert Frost in 1958. The Emerson-Thoreau Medal – named for members Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau – has subsequently been awarded 17 times, including to T.S. Eliot, Hannah Arendt, Saul Bellow, and Toni Morrison. It will be presented to Margaret Atwood in 2020.
The Academy’s recording of the evening at which the Medal was presented in 1958 has recently been transcribed and is now available online.
At Frost’s request, the evening was informal; the remarks afford the reader a wonderful sense of the honoree’s wit and warmth. Hearing Robert Frost read his own poem, “The Road Not Taken”, from memory, is a highlight:
The Academy is grateful to a donor (who chooses to remain anonymous) whose support for the preservation and sharing of historical materials helped the Academy Archives secure technological assistance from the Northeast Document Conservation Center for the digitization of the original Robert Frost event recording.