Born Sept. 13, 1934, in Lebanon, N.H., he earned a doctorate in English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1964 and served as an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh and then at Brooklyn College, where he became a full professor. He retired in 1995. Merritt and his partner, John Payne Hawker, bought a home in Provincetown, Mass. around 1970, where he spent most summers and made frequent trips in the winter. He died Dec. 23, 2004.