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An old passport photo of Edna St. Vincent Millay

Library of Congress accepts Edna St. Vincent Millay collection

Web posted on: Monday, November 02, 1998 5:18:49 PM EST

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An extensive collection of manuscripts by Pulitzer Prize-winner Edna St. Vincent Millay, whose lyrical poetry was often trademarked with imagery of the Maine coast and countryside, has been given to the Library of Congress.

The gift from the Edna St. Vincent Millay Society totals over 20,000 new items -- unpublished diaries and notebooks, poetry manuscripts, and original, unpublished correspondence from friends and associates -- and adds to the already sizable selection of Millay's work held by the Library.

"I am very pleased that we have been able to expand the Library's Millay holdings through the acquisition of this significant collection of her manuscripts," said James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress. "I have always admired Edna St. Vincent Millay. I spent some time as a youngster with my family on the coast of Maine not far from where she was well known as a legendary figure."

From poverty to Pulitzer

Millay was born in 1892 and raised on the Maine coastline. She showed a creative side at an early age, writing poems, songs and plays and listening to music.

Millay overcame obstacles of her family's poverty and received her first public recognition in 1912 with the publication of her long poem, "Renascence." Soon after, she attracted the attention of Caroline B. Dow, benefactor and head of the YWCA Training School in New York, who helped raise funds for her education at Vassar.

By 1921, after the publication of "Renascence and Other Poems" (1917), "A Few Figs From Thistles" (1920), and three plays ("Two Slatterns and a King," "The Lamp and the Bell," and "Aria da Capo") she became known as the voice of her generation at the dawn of a decade of social rebellion.

She gave theatrical readings of her poems, many of which were published in popular and literary magazines, and she was one of the first poets to recite her poetry and fill a hall, according to her sister Norma Millay Ellis.

In Greenwich Village, Millay was part of an artistic circle that included Edmund Wilson, Floyd Dell, Max Eastman, and Witter Bynner, among others.

In 1923, she became the second person to receive the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

Her major later works include: "The Buck in the Snow" (1928); "Fatal Interview" (1931); and "Wine from These Grapes" (1934).

The collection

In 1923, Millay married Eugen Boissevain, a Dutch importer, and soon after they purchased Steepletop, where she lived for the rest of her life. He died in 1949, followed by Millay in 1950. Millay's published work includes six plays, 11 original volumes of poetry, and fiction under the name of Nancy Boyd.

After the poet's death, her sister Norma began giving Millay manuscripts to the Library of Congress. These 625 items include poetry and play holographs, typescripts and galleys, and unpublished diary-notebooks. The original manuscript of "Renascence," as well as versions of many of her sonnets, are part of this collection.

Among the 20,000 items given by the society, which had obtained the collection through Millay's sister, are Millay family papers, other Millay manuscripts and typescripts, photographs, newspaper clippings and printed reviews, broadsides, original music, recordings and radio scripts, financial records, and first editions of her books.

The new materials will be available for research as soon as they have been processed and prepared for use.

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