Edna St. Vincent Millay Collection, 1900-1992

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Volume: 1 linear foot
Organization/Arrangement: Organized as a single series.

Biographical Note: Edna St. Vincent Millay was born in Rockland, Maine, on February 22, 1892, the daughter of Henry T. and Cora (Buzzelle) Millay. The first publication of her writing, in 1906 at age 14, was a piece in St. Nicholas magazine, which earned her a Gold Badge. Edna graduated from Camden Hills High School in 1909. “Renascence,” a verse, was published in Lyric Year in 1912. She graduated from Vassar College in 1917, and having written many lyric pieces during her time there, upon graduation she published her first poetry collection, Renascence and Other Poems. She then moved to Greenwich Village, sharing an apartment with her sisters and acting with the Provincetown Players on MacDougal Street.

In 1919, Millay’s anti-war play Aria da Capo was published, followed in 1920 by A Few Figs from Thistles, which was controversial due to its overtly sexual and feminist themes. Second April was published in 1921, as well as the plays Two Slatterns and a King and The Lamp and the Bell, a poem written for Vassar College about love between women. Millay was known for having many love affairs with both men and women. The following year Millay won a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for “The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver,” the third woman to ever do so.

On July 18, 1923, she married Eugen J. Boissevain, and after traveling around the world together in 1925, they settled at Steepletop in Austerlitz, New York. They later bought Ragged Island in Maine as a summer retreat. In 1927, Millay joined the demonstrations against the conviction and death sentencing of Ferdinando Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti in that high-profile trial of two anarchist Italian immigrants accused of murder and armed robbery in Massachusetts. After pleading with the governor in person, she wrote in an appeal to him: "I cry to you with a million voices: answer our doubt...There is need in Massachusetts of a great man tonight."

She wrote The King's Henchman, a lyric opera, in 1927 and Fatal Interview and Wine from These Grapes along with many other poems in the 1930s. Due to reverses in her husband’s foreign import business, the Millays experienced serious financial losses during World War II. As a longtime pacifist and activist, Edna St. Vincent Millay used her poetry to protest the Allied actions during the war, for which she received criticism by her readers. Millay suffered a nervous breakdown in 1944, as well as a recurrence after the loss her husband in 1949. Millay died on October 19, 1950, the result of a fall at Steepletop. She was 58.

Description: The collection consists of photocopies of the poet's early work, copies of biographic sketches, including one by Ramona Barth, and correspondence with her mother and sisters. Also included are a few photographs of a school-aged Millay, an example of her signature, and two volumes of Tamarack, a journal edited by her sister, Norma Millay, in the 1980s. Samples of commemorative ephemera in celebration of her Maine birthright and longtime ownership and residency of Ragged Island in Maine's Casco Bay are also present in addition to a silk nightgown owned by Millay.

Access Restrictions: None

Please cite as: Edna St. Vincent Millay Collection, Maine Women Writers Collection, University of New England, Portland, Maine.

Container List:

001.  "Fear" in Outlook, 11/27/1927
002.  Reflections on the Sacco-Vanzetti Tragedy - includes "Fear" reprint
003.  "Fear" folio reprint, 1927 (2 copies)
004.  "The President with a Candidate's Face" clipping, undated
005.  Poetry "Eight Poems", October 1938
006.  Copies of published poems and articles
007.  Harper & Brother's advertising folio includes "Fatal Interview", 1931
008.  ESVM signatures
009.  The Forge : A Midwestern Review presents Edna St. Vincent Millay in a Reading of her own poems, November 27 [1920s]
010.  "Song of a Second April" reprint
011.  "Thanksgiving 1950" Camden Herald, November 24 1966
012.  Toby Shafter correspondence
013.  ALS George W. Perry to Mrs. George Jackson
014.  Dust jackets
015.  Articles, reviews - 1930s
016.  Articles, reviews - 1940s
017.  Articles, reviews - 1950s
018.  Articles, reviews - 1960s
019.  Articles, reviews - 1970s
020.  Articles, reviews - 1980s
021.  Tamarack: Journal of the Edna St. Vincent Millay Society II(1) 1982-83; III(1) 1985-86
022.  Articles, reviews, 1990 -
023.  Commemorative stamps and envelope, 1981
024.  Photos, ephemera
025.  "Mayflowers" by Norma Millay, together with "Who Will Go A-Maying?" by ESVM, broadside, 1969
026.  Centennial celebration - Camden, 1992
027.  Millay celebrations - 1981, 1992
028.  Crayon drawing by Noriko Sakanishi - located in OVS Box 1
029.  Millay nightgown - located in 0232 Box 2 (OVS)
030.  "I thought I would write to you..." Letter from Millay to her mother [photocopy], November 7, 1900
031.  "Am remailing a letter and card from Aunt Clem." Letter from Millay to her mother [photocopy], August 21, 1912
032.  "We are so glad you like it there." Letter from Millay to her mother [photocopy], January 4, 1913
033.  "I kept my letter open thinking that perhaps the girls would write." Letter from Millay to her mother [photocopy], January 6, 1913
034.  "There's nothing much to write about today." Letter from Millay to her mother [photocopy], January 10, 1913
035.  "Letter from Miss Dow just came." Letter from Millay to her mother [photocopy], January 11, 1913
036.  "This is the first chance I've had to write..." Letter from Millay to her mother and girls [photocopy], February 5, 1913
037.  "I have so very much to tell you..." Letter from Millay to her family [photocopy], February 12, 1913
038.  1923 Pulitzer Prize letters [photocopy], April 30, 1928
039.  "I have just seen Margaret Schulyer..." Letter to Millay from Berenice Abott [photocopy], February 11, 1929
040.  Bill from Berenice Abbott [photocopy], February 6, 1940
041.  "Renascence" poem ms [photocopy], undated
042.  "God, let there be no whispered word" poem ms [photocopy], undated
043.  Library of Congress ESVM Papers Registry, 2003