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A lonely childhood


Moving to North Caldwell, New Jersey
Richard Wilbur Poet
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My parents moved when I was three to a gentleman's farm 20 miles out of New York City in North Caldwell, New Jersey. We were not the gentlefolk. The farm belonged to a retired textile manufacturer and millionaire named Joshua Dickinson Armitage. It was a big farm, about 450 acres. It had been largely constructed by Mr Armitage, so as to be a perfect gentleman's farm and a perfect reproof to those in England who had snubbed him for being in trade. He became a country gentleman, a squire. The reason we ended up on his property was that there was an old pre-revolutionary stone house there and when Mr Armitage met my father on some golf course or other and took to him, he had a Maecenas urge and suggested to my father that he move out to North Caldwell, New Jersey and inhabit that house for a very low rental. And so that's where my mother and father went and I with them, and it's where they stayed for 50 years.

Acclaimed US poet Richard Wilbur (1921-2017) published many books and was twice awarded the Pulitzer Prize. He was less well known for creating a musical version of Voltaire's “Candide” with Bernstein and Hellman which is still produced throughout the world today.

Listeners: David Sofield

David Sofield is the Samuel Williston Professor of English at Amherst College, where he has taught the reading and writing of poetry since 1965. He is the co-editor and a contributor to Under Criticism (1998) and the author of a book of poems, Light Disguise (2003).

Tags: New York, New Jersey, England, Joshua Dickinson Armitage

Duration: 1 minute, 45 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008