Peter Stanlis sometimes seemed stiff and formal; and he was, because he practiced his whole life the arts of a gentleman. This required a certain reserve, but one that never covered heavily the kindness of his Christian nature. Part of being a true gentleman is to understate one’s sense of humor, at least partially, but I remember the light in Peter’s eyes as he read this to Hillsdale students: “Frost remarked that he had once read a long passage of Whitman to some students who said they admired his poetry and asked whether they thought that was good poetry. After they said they thought it was, he told them he had read every other line.”
There was a wickedness in his delivery that was particularly satisfying. Peter borrowed from Frost and repeated it several times to different audiences, not always to their delight.
Although for most of his career he was known as a scholar of Edmund Burke, it was as a passionate and devoted student of Robert Frost that others of us knew him best. Peter worked for over 60 years on Robert Frost: The Poet as Philosopher (ISI Books, 2007), and the world can be forever thankful that he was given the wits and the stamina to complete it. I have spent my entire adult life in the company of scholars, but I have never known one more devoted to his subject than Peter was to Frost.
I met Peter first at meetings of the Philadelphia Society in the...