Open main menu

William Rose Benét (February 2, 1886 – May 4, 1950) was an American poet, writer, and editor. He was the older brother of Stephen Vincent Benét.

William Rose Benét
Born(1886-02-02)February 2, 1886
DiedMay 4, 1950(1950-05-04) (aged 64)
EducationYale University (Ph.B., 1907)
The Albany Academy
OccupationWriter, editor
Known forFounder and editor of the Saturday Review of Literature (1924-1950)
The Dust Which Is God (1941)
The Reader's Encyclopedia (1948)
Teresa France Thomson<>br
(m. 1912; died 1919)

Elinor Wylie
(m. 1923; died 1928)

Lora Baxter
(m. 1932; div. 1937)

Marjorie Flack
(m. 1941)
ChildrenJames Walker Benét
Frances Rosemary Benét
Kathleen Anne Benét
Parent(s)Col. James Walker Benét
Frances Rose
RelativesStephen Vincent Benét (brother)
AwardsPulitzer Prize for Poetry (1941)

Early life and educationEdit

He was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Col. James Walker Benét and his wife, Frances Neill (née Rose), and grandson of Brigadier General Stephen Vincent Benét. He was educated The Albany Academy in Albany, NY and at Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University, graduating with a Ph.B. in 1907. At Yale, he edited[1] and contributed light verse to campus humor magazine The Yale Record.[2] He began the Saturday Review of Literature in 1924 and continued to edit and write for it until his death.


In 1942, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his book of autobiographical verse, The Dust Which Is God (1941). His brother Stephen Vincent Benét was awarded the same prize two years later in 1944.

Benét is also the author of The Reader's Encyclopedia, a standard American guide to world literature.

Today he is perhaps best known as the author of "The Skater of Ghost Lake," a poem frequently assigned in American schools for its use of onomatopoeia and rhythm as well as its tone of dark mystery.[citation needed]

Personal lifeEdit

Benét married four times. First, on September 3, 1912, he married Teresa France Thomson, with whom he had three children (James Walker Benét (1914-2012), Frances Rosemary Benét, and Kathleen Anne Benét). Teresa died in 1919. Benét's second wife, whom he married on October 5, 1923, was poet Elinor Wylie. She died in 1928. Benét's third wife, whom he married on March 15, 1932, was Lora Baxter. They divorced in 1937. Benét's fourth wife, and widow, was children's writer Marjorie Flack. They were married from June 22, 1941, until his death in 1950.

Benét's son, James Walker Benét, fought in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade and was the author of two suspense novels and a guidebook to the San Francisco Bay Area.[3]


  • Merchants of Cathay (1913)
  • The Great White Wall: A Poem (1916)
  • Perpetual Light: A Memorial (1919)
  • Moons of Grandeur: A Book of Poems (1920)
  • Dry Points: Studies in Black and White (1921)
  • The Flying King of Kurio: A Story of Children (1926)
  • Wild Goslings: A Selection of Fugitive Pieces (1927)
  • Starry Harness (1933)
  • Pocket University: Guide to Daily Reading (1934)
  • Golden Fleece: A Collection of Poems and Ballads Old and New (1935)
  • Great Poems of the English Language (1936)
  • Mad Blake: A Poem (1937)
  • Day of Deliverance: A Book of Poems in Wartime (1940)
  • The Dust Which is God: A Novel in Verse (1941)
  • The Stairway of Surprise: Poems (1947)
  • Timothy's Angels, Verse (1947)
  • The Spirit of the Scene (1951)
  • The First Person Singular (1971)
  • The Prose and Poetry of Elinor Wylie (1974)


  1. ^ "William Rose Benét". Obituary Record of Graduates of the Undergraduate Schools Deceased during the Year 1949-1950. New Haven: Yale University. January 1, 1951. p. 170.
  2. ^ Bronson, Francis W., Thomas Caldecott Chubb, and Cyril Hume, eds. (1922) The Yale Record Book of Verse: 1872-1922. New Haven: Yale University Press. pp. 104-106.
  3. ^ James Benet obituary, San Francisco Chronicle (December 22, 2012)
  • Bulletin of Yale University, Obituary Record of Graduate of the Undergraduate Schools Deceased During the Year 1949-1950, series 47, number 109, 1 January 1951, page 170-1.

External linksEdit