The Poetry of Elinor Wylie

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By Elinor Wylie

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Elinor Morton Hoyt was born on 7th September, 1885 in Somerville, New Jersey and from age 12 grew up in Washington D C where her father served as assistant attorney general and later solicitor general. Her early education together with her renowned beauty suggests she was being trained for life as a debutante but her life quickly found another route as she became absorbed in the world of books.

An early marriage following her graduation ended when, after being pursued by Horace Wylie, 17 years her senior and a married Washington lawyer with three children, she eloped to England with him. His wife would not divorce him and the subsequent scandal was widely publicised further fueled by the suicide in 1912 of her abandoned husband.

With Wylie's encouragement she published in 1912, 'Incidental Number', assembled from poems of the previous decade.

Despite a child from her first marriage Elinor subsequently endured miscarriages, a stillbirth and a premature child who lived for only one week. When Wylie's deserted wife agreed to a divorce, the couple returned to the United States and married but they were already drawing apart.

In 1921, Elinor's 'Nets to Catch the Wind', was published. It was an immediate success and a prize-winner. In New York's literary circles she found her next husband who acted as her agent – the poer William Rose Benét, brother of the famed Stephen. They married in 1923 and that same year 'Black Armor', was published. The New York Times said "There is not a misplaced word or cadence in it." She also published her first of four novels, 'Jennifer Lom', to excellent reviews.

She worked for a time as the poetry editor of Vanity Fair, an editor of Literary Guild, and a contributing editor of The New Republic. Her third book of poetry, 'Trivial Breath' arrived in 1928 as did the failure of her marriage with Benét.

She moved again to England and fell in love with a friend's husband, to whom she wrote, and later published a series of 19 sonnets; 'Angels and Earthly Creatures'.

Elinor Wylie suffered high blood pressure all her adult life and this eventually led to her death at Benet's New York apartment on 16th December, 1928 where she suffered a stroke. She was 43.

The Poetry of Elinor Wylie