Elinor Morton Wylie (Hoyt) (1885 - 1928) MP

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Nicknames: "Elinor Morton Hoyt", "Elinor Morton (Hoyt) Hichborn"
Birthdate:
Birthplace: Somerville, Somerset, New Jersey, United States
Death: Died in New York, New York, New York, United States
Cause of death: Stroke
Occupation: Poet, novelist
Managed by: Erica Howton, (c)
Last Updated:
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About Elinor Morton Wylie (Hoyt)

  • WHEN the world turns completely upside down
  • You say we'll emigrate to the Eastern Shore
  • Aboard a river-boat from Baltimore;
  • We'll live among wild peach trees, miles from town,
  • You'll wear a coonskin cap, and I a gown
  • Homespun, dyed butternut's dark gold colour.
  • Lost, like your lotus-eating ancestor,
  • We'll swim in milk and honey till we drown.

- from Wild Peaches

Elinor Morton Wylie (September 7, 1885 – December 16, 1928) was an American poet and novelist popular in the 1920s and 1930s. "She was famous during her life almost as much for her ethereal beauty and personality as for her melodious, sensuous poetry."

The Dictionary of Literary Biography (DLB) says: "She captivated the literary world with her slender, tawny-haired beauty, personal elegance, acid wit, and technical virtuosity.". Some who knew her claimed "she was the most striking woman they ever met."

Her childhood was unhappy, according to Edward Kelly in the Dictionary of Literary Biography; her father had a mistress, her mother was a chronic hypochondriac, and at least one of her siblings, a brother, committed suicide. Another brother was rescued after jumping off a ship, and a sister died under equivocal circumstances. Wylie herself, although known for her beauty, suffered from dangerously high blood pressure all her adult life; it caused unbearable migraines, and would kill her by means of a stroke at the age of forty-three. 

Wylie's first marriage, to Philip Hichborn in 1905, occurred "on the rebound" from another romance, according to Karen F. Stein in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Hichborn, a would-be poet, was emotionally unstable, and it was during this period that Wylie's headaches began. In 1910, she left her husband and their son to escape to England with a married lawyer, Horace Wylie, under the assumed name of Waring; this event caused a scandal in the Washington, D.C., social circles Elinor Wylie had frequented. Encouraged by Horace Wylie, Elinor published privately, and anonymously, a small book of poems she had written since 1902, Incidental Numbers (1912). The couple returned to the United States at the outbreak of World War I, and lived in Boston, Augusta, Georgia, and Washington, D.C., under the stress of social ostracism and Elinor's illness. Wishing for a second child, she suffered several miscarriages between 1914 and 1916, as well as a stillbirth and the live birth of a premature child who died after one week. 

The Wylies did not officially marry until 1916, after Elinor's first husband had committed suicide and Horace's first wife had divorced him. By that time, however, the couple were drawing apart. Elinor Wylie began to move in literary circles in New York; her friends there numbered John Peale Bishop, Edmund Wilson, John Dos Passos, Sinclair Lewis, Carl Van Vechten, and her future third husband, William Rose Benet. Encouraged by her friends, she submitted poems to Poetry magazine despite her own self-doubts; four were published by Harriet Monroe in the May, 1920, edition, including her most widely anthologized poem, "Velvet Shoes." 

It was while going over a typescript of Angels and Earthly Creatures, on a Christmas visit to Benet in New York in 1928, that Wylie died. Picking up a volume of John Donne's poems, she asked Benet for a glass of water; when he returned with it, as Stein recounted in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, "she walked toward him, murmured, 'Is that all it is?,' and fell to the floor, dead of a stroke." 

 Sources

  • Hively, Evelyn Helmick. A Private Madness: The Genius of Elinor Wylie. Kent: Kent State University Press, 2002.

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Elinor Wylie's Timeline

1885
September 7, 1885
Somerville, Somerset, New Jersey, United States
1906
December 12, 1906
Age 21
Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, United States
1907
September 22, 1907
Age 22
Washington, Washington , D.C., United States
1910
1910
Age 24
Washington, Washington , D.C., United States

Name: Philip S Hiehborn
[Philip S Hichborn] 
Age in 1910: 27
Birth Year: abt 1883
Birthplace: Pennsylvania
Home in 1910: Precinct 3, Washington, District of Columbia
Race: White
Gender: Male
Relation to Head of House: Head
Marital Status: Married
Spouse's Name: Elinor M Hiehborn
Father's Birthplace: Massachusetts
Mother's Birthplace: Vermont
Neighbors:
Household Members:
Name Age
Philip S Hiehborn
27
Elinor M Hiehborn
24
Philip Hiehborn Jr
2
Mary A Mcpeake
29
Winifred Logan
26
Sarah Bentley
66
[60] 

1912
1912
Age 26
1916
1916
Age 30
1923
October 5, 1923
Age 38
1928
December 16, 1928
Age 43
New York, New York, New York, United States
1928
Age 42
Forty Fort, Luzerne, Pennsylvania, United States