Born into wealth, James Merrill enjoyed the genteel upbringing of an East Coast blue blood, except for the glitch caused by the divorce of his parents when he was twelve. His father was the cofounder of the Merrill/Lynch stockbroking firm. There is every evidence that his poetic talents were encouraged early on as his father himself collected some of the boy’s poetry and had it published under the title Jim’s Book. Merrill interrupted college studies to serve in World War II, returned to Amherst College, from which he graduated in 1947, and published First Poems in 1951. A bout with writer’s block ensued, and Merrill sought psychiatric help in Rome. By 1959 he had published his first novel, The Seraglio, and another volume of poems, The Country of a Thousand Years of Peace.