Rolfe Humphries, the future poet, editor, anthologist, teacher, and translator, first reached public print at the age of eleven months. His mother, having decided that her already athletic toddler needed suitable clothing in which to romp, designed a play-suit for him, described it in an article for the magazine Babyhood, and for good measure included a photograph of Rolfe wearing the costume. And there he stands on the cover: blond, infinitely sturdy, holding a ball to his chest and leveling his gaze into the eyes of thousands of mothers. The pockets of his knickers gape.

One learns from his mother’s unpublished autobiography that Rolfe’s parents brought him up in an imaginative but most practical manner. Well educated themselves—both held Phi Beta Kappa keys from Cornell—they assumed their children would be bright and obedient, and would want to learn. And because they felt that public-school...


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