Elinor Wylie

Elinor Wylie bigraphy, stories - American poet

Elinor Wylie : biography

September 7, 1885 – December 16, 1928

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."


Family and childhood

Elinor Wylie was born Elinor Morton Hoyt in Somerville, New Jersey, into a socially prominent family. Her grandfather, Henry M. Hoyt, was a governor of Pennsylvania. Her aunt was Helen Hoyt, a minor poet. Her parents were Henry Martyn Hoyt, Jr., who would be United States Solicitor General from 1903 to 1909; and Anne Morton McMichael (born July 31, 1861 in Pa.). Their other children were:

  • Henry Martyn Hoyt (May 8, 1887, in Pa. – 1920 in New York City) who married Alice Gordon Parker (1885–1951)
  • Constance A. Hoyt (May 20, 1889, in Pa. – 1923 in Bavaria, Germany) who married Ferdinand von Stumm-Halberg on March 30, 1910, in Washington, D.C.
  • Morton McMichael Hoyt (born April 4, 1899, in Washington, D.C.), three times married and divorced Eugenia Bankhead, known as "Sister" and sister of Tallulah Bankhead
  • Nancy McMichael Hoyt (born October 1, 1902, in Washington, D.C.) romance novelist who wrote Elinor Wylie: The Portrait of an Unknown Woman (1935). She married Edward Davison Curtis; they divorced in 1932.

Elinor was educated at Miss Baldwin’s School (1893–97), Mrs. Flint’s School (1897–1901), and finally Holton-Arms School (1901–04)."," Representative Poetry Online, UToronto.ca, Web, Apr. 7, 2011. She was "trained for the life of a debutante and a society wife".

"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.""," MagicLink.com, Web, Apr. 7, 2011."

Marriages and scandal

The future Elinor Wylie became notorious, during her lifetime, for her multiple affairs and marriages. On the rebound from an earlier romance she met her first husband, Harvard graduate Philip Simmons Hichborn (1882–1912), the son of a rear-admiral. She eloped with him and they were married on December 13, 1906. She had a son by him, Philip Simmons Hichborn, Jr., born September 22, 1907 in Washington, D.C. However, "Hichborn, a would-be poet, was emotionally unstable", and Elinor found herself in an unhappy marriage.

She also found herself being stalked by Horace Wylie, "a Washington lawyer with a wife and three children", who "was 17 years older than Elinor. He stalked her for years, appearing wherever she was.", AllPoetry.com, March 15, 2011.

Following the death in November 1910 of Elinor’s father, she left her husband and son, and began living with Wylie. "After being ostracized by their families and friends and mistreated in the press, the couple moved to England""," eNotes.com, Web, Apr. 7, 2011 where they lived "under the assumed name of Waring; this event caused a scandal in the Washington, D.C., social circles Elinor Wylie had frequented". Philip Simmons Hitchborn Sr. committed suicide in 1912.

With Horace Wylie’s encouragement, in 1912 Elinor anonymously published Incidental Number, a small book of poems she had written in the previous decade."," Poetry Foundation, Web, Apr. 7, 2011.

Between 1914 and 1916, Elinor tried to have a second child, but "suffered several miscarriages … as well as a stillbirth and … a premature child who died after one week."

After Wylie’s wife agreed to a divorce, the couple returned to the United States. Elinor and Horace Wylie married in 1916; "By that time, however, the couple were drawing apart."

Elinor began spending time in literary circles in New York City—"her friends there numbered John Peale Bishop, Edmund Wilson, John Dos Passos, Sinclair Lewis, Carl Van Vechten, and … William Rose Benét."