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Published by: ana_maria_nichita5708 on Mar 25, 2009
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Wallace Stevens
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Wallace Stevens
August 2, 1955 (aged 75)Hartford, Connecticut, United States
Poet, Insurance Executive
Writing period
Notable work(s)
HarmoniumIdeas of Order The Man With the Blue Guitar The Auroras of Autumn
Holly StevensInfluences
Wallace Stevens
) was a American Modernist  poet. He was born inReading, Pennsylvania, and spent most of his life working for aninsurance company inConnecticut.His best-known poems include "Anecdote of the Jar ," "Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock ", "The Emperor of Ice Cream," "The Idea of Order at Key West," "Sunday Morning," and "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird."
[edit] Life and career
1936 Winged Liberty Head (Mercury) dimeStevens' Hartford residenceStevens attendedHarvard as a non-degree special student, after which he moved to New York Cityand briefly worked as a journalist. He then attended  New York Law School, graduating in 1903. On a trip back to Reading in 1904 Stevens met Elsie Viola Kachel;after a long courtship, he married her in 1909. In 1913, the young couple rented a NewYork City apartment from sculptor  Adolph A. Weinman, who made a bust of Elsie. (Her  striking profile was later used on Weinman's 1916-1945Mercury dime design and  possibly for the head of theWalking Liberty Half Dollar .) A daughter, Holly, was born in1924. She later edited her father's letters and a collection of his poems.
The marriagereputedly became increasingly distant, but the Stevenses never divorced.
After working for several New York law firms from 1904 to 1907, he was hired onJanuary 13, 1908, as alawyer  for the American Bonding Company.
By 1914 he had become the vice-president of the New York office of the Equitable Surety Company of St. Louis, Missouri
 . When this job was abolished as a result of mergers in 1916, he joinedthe home office of Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company
 and left New York Cityto live inHartford, where he would remain the rest of his life. By 1934, he had beennamed vice-president of the company.
After he won thePulitzer Prize in 1955
, he wasoffered a faculty position at Harvard but declined since it would have required him togive up his vice-presidency of The Hartford.In the 1930s and 1940s, he was welcomed as a member of the exclusive set centered onthe artistic and literary devotees Barbara and Henry Church.Stevens was baptized a Catholic in April 1955 by Fr. Arthur Hanley, chaplain of St.Francis Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut, where Stevens spent his last days sufferingfromstomach cancer .
This purported deathbed conversion is disputed, particularly byStevens's daughter, Holly.
 After a brief release from the hospital, Stevens wasreadmitted and died on August 2, 1955, at the age of 75. He is buried in Hartford'sCedar Hill Cemetery.Chuck Colson substantiates Stevens conversion in footnote 17 in his book "The GoodLife", it reads on page 384:17. Despite the peace that Stevens found in the weeks before his death, his conversionmade everyone around him nervous, even the clergy. Stevens asked Father Hanley, Sister Bernetta Quinn, and others who knew about his conversion to keep the matter from hisfamily. He was afraid that his wife would come to the hospital and become hysterical.This reflected class prejudices. Converting to Catholicism for a Hartford patrician waslike becoming "honorary" shanty Irish. That was simply not done. It could get youthrown out of the country club. Father Hanley's bishop also wanted the matter to be keptquiet because he didn't want the Protestant population of Hartford fearing that they would be pestered by priests when they came to St. Francis. The hospital had a non- proselytizing image to maintain.Later, when Stevens's daughter learned of Father Hanley's claim, she flatly denied itcould have happened. While this flew utterly in the face of the facts, attested to not only by Father Hanley but also by others who attended Stevens's baptism, Holly Stevens'sdispleasure with her father's conversion dissuaded many scholars from taking it seriouslyor discussing it at any length. Although Holly sold her father's papers to Pasadena'sHuntington Library in the 1970s, she still controlled their use until her death in 1992. Shegave scholars the impression that they would have limited access to quote from Stevens's papers if they paid too much attention to his conversion. For this reason, it seems, Peter Brazeau, who wrote an oral biography of Stevens and interviewed Father Hanley atlength, used only a small portion of the material he developed on Stevens's conversion.Brazeau's taped interviews with Father Hanley are now part of the Huntington Library

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