James Ingram Merrill was born on 3 March 1926 in New York City, the son of Charles Edward Merrill and Hellen Ingram Merrill, his second wife. Merrill had two older half-siblings. He was raised in a privileged household—his father founded the brokerage house that became Merrill Lynch—with residences in Manhattan, Long Island, and Palm Beach. When he was thirteen his beloved parents divorced; the breakdown of their marriage made national news. Although skeptical or overtly hostile readers criticized him throughout his life for writing “genteel” or pseudo-aristocratic poetry, he was also recognized before as well as after his death as one of the most important, innovative, and universally appealing poets of the second half of the twentieth century. He attended the Lawrenceville School and Amherst College, graduating summa cum laude in 1947. Between 1950 and 1952 he traveled in Europe (mostly in Italy) at a time when the first postwar tourists were returning to a continent that had been closed for more than a decade since the outbreak of World War II in 1939. His prose memoir, A Different Person (1993), tells the remarkable story of his coming of age, poetically, psychologically, and sexually, during this crucial period. In 1955, having come to accept his homosexuality, he settled down in Stonington, Connecticut with David Jackson, a talented painter, writer, and musician, whom he had met the previous year. For more than twenty years they divided their time between Connecticut and Athens, until the last decade of Merrill's life, when they replaced the Athens house with a small cottage in Key West, Florida.Less
Access to the complete content on Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription. If you are a student or academic complete our librarian recommendation form to recommend the Oxford Research Encyclopedias to your librarians for an institutional free trial.
If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.