On this day in 1885, poet and novelist Elinor Wylie was born. Wylie’s writings were popular in the 1920’s and 30’s, and lived in Greenwich Village from 1921 until her death.
Born Elinor Morton Hoyt in Somerville, N.J. to a socially prominent family, Wylie was the eldest of five children. Even in her childhood, Wylie was already described as a “bookish” and striking figure:
As a girl she was already bookish—not in the languid or inactive sense but girded, embraced by books, between whose covers lay the word-perfect world she sought. She grew into a tall, dark beauty in the classic 1920s style. Some who knew her claimed she was the most striking woman they ever met.
Wylie’s career began when she was encouraged by her friends to submit work to Poetry magazine in 1920. In May of that year, four of her poems were published, including “her most widely anthologized poem, ‘Velvet Shoes.'” From then on, her soon to be third husband William Rose Benét began acting as her literary agent. In 1921, she left her second husband, Horace Wylie, and settled in Greenwich Village. Her first commercial book of poetry, Nets to Catch the Wind, was published that year, and many critics still consider it to contain her best poems. It even received praise from Village literary figures such as Edna St. Vincent Millay.
In 1923 she published her next volume of poetry, Black Armor, as well as her first novel, Jennifer Lorn, both to considerable praise. She worked as the poetry editor of Vanity Fair magazine between 1923 and 1925. She was an editor of Literary Guild, and a contributing editor of The New Republic, from 1926 through 1928. In 1926 she wrote another novel, Orphan Angel, and by 1928 her third book of poetry, Trivial Breath, was released. She died while going over a typescript of Angels and Earthly Creatures, a series of 19 sonnets which she published privately, on a Christmas visit to Benet in New York in 1928.