A long-time literary figure at Dartmouth has died.
Edward Connery Lathem, librarian, editor, and for nearly sixty years an administrative officer, died unexpectedly on Friday, May 15, 2009 , while still at his desk at Dartmouth College, where he had worked in various capacities since 1952. Born in Littleton, New Hampshire on December 15, 1926. He was 82 years of age. As anybody who knew him realized, this was a remarkable man.
Ed was a close friend of Robert Frost. Indeed, when Ed married in 1957, Frost served as his best man.
He met the poet while an undergraduate at Dartmouth, and Frost quickly adopted him as one of his so-called “boys” – that was the term Frost used for the young men who became his protégées.
But Ed Lathem was more than this, over time. Indeed, he published a formidable edition of the complete poems of Robert Frost in 1969 – a book that’s familiar to a generation or more of grateful readers.
In all, Ed Lathem published some thirty books, and he wrote many articles, including several about his closest friend and college roommate, Theodore Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss.
And yet this only begins to explain Ed Lathem.
One hears this said about various people, but it was true of Ed Lathem: he was a gentleman of the old school. He wore a suit every day, with a white shirt and – always – a white tie. That tie was a kind of signature. He had a soft voice and quiet laugh, and his eyes sparkled as brightly as his conversation. He was full of good stories.
In 1952, he was England with Frost. The poet was to receive honorary degrees from both Oxford and Cambridge, and a special dinner was held for him in London. It was hosted by T.S. Eliot, about whom Frost had rarely had anything good to say. Ed had perfect recall for such anecdotes, and he told me how Frost had squirmed in his seat at Eliot heaped praise on him, calling him the most important American poet of his era. From that day on, Frost cooled it when talking about Eliot. No more derogation.
He was a figure who inspired many with his integrity and sense of life, his high spirits, his innate generosity.
Like many, Ed Lathem will be missed. His death marks the passing of an era. He was a fine man, a brilliant editor, a clear-eyed companion, and the last of a rare breed.
Thank you Vermont Public Radio, and Peter Gilbert, of the Vermont Humanties Council.