Eavesdropping On Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Diaries

Declan Ryan at Poetry:

On July 19, 1923, before Edna St. Vincent Millay was due to undergo surgery for appendicitis, she told her friend Arthur Ficke, “If I die now, I shall be immortal.” This wasn’t anaesthesia-induced hubris. The 31-year-old Millay was one of the most famous women in the United States; she had mouth-watering sales figures (not even with the gently pitying caveat “for a poet”) and was a huge draw at readings across the country. Her personal life—or at least the persona she projected and played up to—was the stuff of legend. As the editor Tristram Fane Saunders notes in his introduction to a new selected Poems and Satires (Carcanet Press, 2021), Millay inspired ordinarily hard-hearted types to gush and fawn: “She was too beautiful to live among mortals,” Richard Eberhart declared in his introduction to a previous edition of selected poems. Professional tastemakers such as Edmund Wilson and John Reed lined up to woo her, only to be hastily rebuffed. Wilson’s marriage proposal was one of several Millay turned down. As biographer Nancy Milford writes of Millay’s wounded admirers in Savage Beauty (2002), “They wrote to her about their desperate hurt and anger; they waylaid her on the street … they talked about her chagrin, even when it was clearly their own; they talked about her promiscuity and her puzzling magnanimity.”

more here.