Her fragile poems were titled such as “Beauty,” “Address to my soul,” and “Trivial Breath.” Along with Edna St. Vincent Millay, Lola Ridge, Dorothy Parker and others, Elinor Wyle (1885-1928) cultivated the looks, behavior, metaphysical attitudes and the discontent of the new woman of the Twenties. The first twenty-five years of her life were spent in the High Society of Washington D. C. and the history of her romantic life was tumultuous and sometimes embarrassingly public (flights and divorces from her first two wealthy husbands were fodder for the daily newspapers and for gossip columnists). Often aloof, self obsessed and narcissistic she developed an aura of glamour around herself, buying silver slippers, mirrors and Balenciaga gowns. Yet she was as obsessed with poetry and with other literary concerns during her short writing life of less than ten years.
Many of the literary tastemakers of the times were in thrall to her and her delicate poems. Anthologist Louis Untermeyer devoted almost as many pages to her as to Eliot in his Modern American Poetry anthology of 1930. He characterized Angels and Earthly Creatures, the volume she readied for publication in the last months of her life:
“Here are the cunningly poised and polished syllables, here are the
old concerns with freezing silver, frail china and pearly monotones,
but here is a quality that lifts them high above themselves. . . . the poet
transcends her influences and develops a highly personal mysticism.”
Carl Van Doren, Professor of English at Columbia University and editor of the Nation and Century magazines not only printed her poems, and reviewed her books, but developed a close personal friendship with her. “She respected the passions, she respected the mind and manners,” he said. Edmund Wilson, whom she once called “Bunnius Agustus” published many of her poems and was devoted to her and her work. She was classed by Horace Gregory, with English poets Thomas Love Peacock, Walter Savage Landor, Lionel Johnson. She was in fact obsessed with the poet Shelley, writing a novel about him and in what she felt was his style. Wylie carried on a complicated friendship with Edna St. Vincent Millay whose devotion to Wylie was admirable. Millay learned of her friends death just before she was to read in public and began her reading reciting by heart her friends poems. For poetry as well as love, she married her third husband, poet William Rose Benet in 1923. He once noted that “Her spiritual home lay west of the moon” and was a careful protector of Wylie during her lifetime and of her literary reputation after.