Elinor Wylie

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Elinor Morton Wylie (7 September 1885 – 16 December 1928) was an American poet and novelist. She was popular in the 1920s and 1930s. She was also famous for her beauty and personality. She "was called the reigning queen of American poetry" in the 1920s.[1]

Life[change | change source]

Family and childhood[change | change source]

Elinor Wylie was born Elinor Morton Hoyt on 7 September, 1885 in Somerville, New Jersey.[2] She came from a prominent New Jersey family. Her parents were Henry Martyn Hoyt, Jr. and Anne Morton McMichael. Elinor was the oldest of five children.[2]

When Elinor was twelve, the family moved to Washington, D.C..[3] This was when her father was appointed Assistant Attorney General.[3] Elinor went to Miss Baldwin's School near Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. She next went to Mrs. Flint's School, and Holton-Arms School, both in Washington.[2] She graduated in 1904. At the Corcoran gallery she studied drawing.[2] As a girl, she liked reading books.

Adult life[change | change source]

Little more than a year after she finished school, she married Philip Hichborn, Jr.[4] Together they had a son, Philip Hichborn, III.[4] But she left her husband and son in 1910.[5] She went to England with Horace Wylie. He was a Washington lawyer, was married and was 17 years older than Elinor.[5] The scandal was widely publicized.

Horace's wife finally agreed to a divorce, and Hichborn committed suicide. in 1916, Elinor and Wylie returned to America and got married.[6] In 1919, the couple moved to Washington. There she met with famous writers. They said she should publish her poetry.

First she sent poems to Poetry, the leading American poetry magazine. The magazine accepted her poems. In 1921, she produced a book of poems called Nets to Catch the Wind. It was popular with both critics and the public.[5] Now Wylie became a celebrity. People liked her poetry, her charming personality, and her beauty.[7]

Elinor Wylie left her second husband and moved to live in New York.[6] In 1923, she divorced Wylie and married the critic, novelist and poet William Rose Benét.[5] Although they stayed married, she separated from him, too. But she would visit him after the separation.

In 1928, Elinor had a heart attack which left her in poor health.[8] On December 16, 1928, she suddenly died of Bright's disease[8] in New York.[9]

Literary style[change | change source]

According to Evelyn Hively, Elinor Wylie "subscribed fully to the theory that a poet's work, as Wallace Stevens says, lies in trying to wrestle experience into meaning."[1]

She admired poetry from the past. These included the Metaphysical poets and the Romantic poets. Her favorite poet was Percy Bysshe Shelley. He had a strong influence on Elinor's style.[10] Her poetry often followed strict rules and traditions. For example, many of her poems were sonnets.[11] She also used a lot of imagery.

All of Elinor's long works of fiction were allegories. They dealt with the supernatural or the strange and unusual. She called these fantasies "fairytales".[12]

Works[change | change source]

Elinor Wylie was primarily a poet, but she also wrote four successful novels, or fantasies, as well as short stories and essays.

Volumes of poetry[change | change source]

  • Incidental Numbers (1912): Published anonymously by Elinor's mother
  • Nets to Catch the Wind (1921): The work that made her famous
  • Black Armour (1923)
  • Angels and Earthly Creatures: A Sequence of Sonnets (1928): Elinor completed the draft of this collection while visiting her husband. She had her fatal stroke just after she finished it.
  • Trivial Breath (1928)
  • Collected Poems of Elinor Wylie (1932): Published after her death
  • Last Poems of Elinor Wylie (1943): Published after her death

Works of long fiction[change | change source]

  • Jennifer Lorn: A Sedate Extravaganza. New York: Doran, 1923. London: Richards, 1924.
  • The Venetian Glass Nephew. New York: Doran, 1925. Chicago: Academy, 1984.
  • The Orphan Angel. New York: Knopf, 1926. Also published as Mortal Image. London: Heinemann, 1927.
  • Mr. Hodge & Mr. Hazard. New York. Knopf, 1928. London: Heinemann, 1928. Chicago: Academy, 1984.

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Evelyn Helmick Hively, A Private Madness: The Genius of Elinor Wylie (Kent (Ohio); London: the Kent State University Press, 2003), p. xi
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Notable American Women, 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary, Volume 1, eds. Edward T. James; Janet Wilson James; Paul S. Boyer (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971), p. 690
  3. 3.0 3.1 Evelyn Helmick Hively, A Private Madness: The Genius of Elinor Wylie (Kent (Ohio); London: the Kent State University Press, 2003), p. 11
  4. 4.0 4.1 Evelyn Helmick Hively, A Private Madness: The Genius of Elinor Wylie (Kent (Ohio); London: the Kent State University Press, 2003), p. 27
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Susan L. Rattiner, Great Poems by American Women: An Anthology (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1998), p. 192
  6. 6.0 6.1 American Women Writers, 1900-1945: A Bio-bibliographical Critical Sourcebook, eds. Laurie Champion; Emmanuel Sampath Nelson (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000), p. 371
  7. The Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry in English, eds. Jeremy Noel-Tod; Ian Hamilton (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), p. 668
  8. 8.0 8.1 American Women Writers, 1900-1945: A Bio-bibliographical Critical Sourcebook, eds. Laurie Champion; Emmanuel Sampath Nelson (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000), p. 372
  9. EB
  10. Carol Kort, A to Z of American Women Writers (New York: Facts on File, 2007), p. 358
  11. American Women Writers, 1900-1945: A Bio-bibliographical Critical Sourcebook, eds. Laurie Champion; Emmanuel Sampath Nelson (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000), p. 373
  12. Evelyn Helmick Hively, A Private Madness: The Genius of Elinor Wylie (Kent (Ohio); London: the Kent State University Press, 2003), p. vii

Other websites[change | change source]