BENNINGTON — A signed copy of Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” written in the poet’s hand has sold for $31,000, more than three times the amount the item had been expected to bring.
The one-page document was offered by New York-based Lion Heart Autographs as one of 178 items in its auction Wednesday of two autograph collections. It was the second highest price realized at the auction, exceeded only by the $99,000 paid for a 1790 letter from Alexander Hamilton to James Madison.
The document, believed to date from the 1940s or ‘50s, came from the collection of the late Mildred “Barry” Barrett-Lennard Friedman, a medical writer and patient advocate who died in 1997.
David Lowenherz, president of Lion Heart Autographs, said the high bid was not an unreasonable price for the work, considering that Frost “did not write that poem out an awful lot of times.”
Lowenherz said the winning bidder is a former member of the Dartmouth College Glee Club, which at the time the collector was a member performed a choral version of ”Stopping by Woods” as part of its repertoire. The manuscript “struck a chord, and he was really keen on getting it,” he said.
Bidding on the manuscript began online several days ago, and had reached more than $12,000 by the time the live auction began Wednesday afternoon. Lowenhertz said that “four or five bidders” were in on the live auction, with the price rising in $1,000 bids from $20,000 to the final hammer price.
Frost wrote the original poem in June of 1922 at his home in Shaftsbury, now the Robert Frost Stone House Museum at Bennington College. One of the poet’s most beloved works, the poem is a first-person account by a wagon driver who pauses in woods that are “lovely, dark and deep” before concluding that he has “miles to go before I sleep.” The poem was published in 1923 as part of the poet’s Pulitzer Prize–winning collection “New Hampshire.”
The document that was auctioned was signed and inscribed “For Miss Parson’s Room.” Lowenherz has said he was unable to learn anything about the addressee, but suspects that Frost might have written the document for a teacher he knew who requested it.
The online catalog described the document as “Very rare — in 50 years, we can recall seeing only two other fair copies of this great poem available for sale.”
“I’m just very pleased that the market is there, it’s active,” Lowenherz said of the sale. He suggested that generally healthy auction results are an outgrowth of the COVID-19 pandemic, in which people have been unable to spend money on travel, dining and shopping, and so indulge their desire to collect.