She was educated in King Edward's Grammar School and Midland Institute, and began at 21 to appear in musical comedy, later joining Ben Greet's company, playing leading parts in The Three Musketeers and Money. She specialized in Shakespeare and classic drama almost from the start of her career. She was acting in the same play, The Merchant of Venice, with the legendary actor Sir Henry Irving the night he died. Irving nearly died in Matthison's arms. She appeared in Greek and mystery plays, old English comedies, and modern plays. In the United States in 1904 she appeared in Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer.
Matthison married the playwright Charles Rann Kennedy in 1898, acted in many of his plays, and advised him during their development. A happy couple who enjoyed a long marriage of 50 years, they had no children. They both taught at Bennett Junior College in Millbrook, New York. At one time her niece Gladys Edith Wynne was married to the stage and silent film star Milton Sills. Matthison died of a stroke in Los Angeles on September 23, 1955.
Main house at Steepletop, where Millay spent the last years of her life
Edna St. Vincent Millay was a lyrical poet and playwright. She received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923, the third woman to win the award for poetry, and was known for her feminist activism and her many love affairs. While playing the lead in her own The Princess Marries the Page at Vassar, she was approached by the British actress Edith Wynne Matthison, who, excited by the performance, came backstage to kiss Millay and invite her to her summer home. Millay felt great passion in the kiss and the two exchanged love letters.
Edna St. Vincent Millay (February 22, 1892 – October 19, 1950) was an American lyrical poet and playwright. She received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923, the third woman to win the award for poetry, and was also known for her feminist activism and her many love affairs. She used the pseudonym Nancy Boyd for her prose work. The poet Richard Wilbur asserted, "She wrote some of the best sonnets of the century." (P: Edna St. Vincent Millay in Mamaroneck, NY, 1914, by Arnold Genthe)
Millay was born in Rockland, Maine, to Cora Lounella Buzelle, a nurse, and Henry Tollman Millay, a schoolteacher who would later become a superintendent of schools. Her middle name derives from St. Vincent's Hospital in New York, where her uncle's life had been saved just before her birth. The family's house was "between the mountains and the sea where baskets of apples and drying herbs on the porch mingled their scents with those of the neighboring pine woods." In 1904, Cora officially divorced Millay's father for financial irresponsibility, but they had already been separated for some years. Cora and her three daughters, Edna (who called herself "Vincent"), Norma Lounella (born 1893), and Kathleen Kalloch (born 1896), moved from town to town, living in poverty. Cora travelled with a trunk full of classic literature, including Shakespeare and Milton, which she read to her children. The family settled in a small house on the property of Cora's aunt in Camden, Maine, where Millay would write the first of the poems that would bring her literary fame.
Edna St. Vincent Millay home 1923–24 at 75½ Bedford St Greenwich Village
The three sisters were independent and spoke their minds, which did not always sit well with the authority figures in their lives. Millay's grade school principal, offended by her frank attitudes, refused to call her Vincent. Instead, he called her by any woman's name that started with a V. At Camden High School, Millay began developing her literary talents, starting at the school's literary magazine, The Megunticook. At 14 she won the St. Nicholas Gold Badge for poetry, and by 15, she had published her poetry in the popular children's magazine St. Nicholas, the Camden Herald, and the high-profile anthology Current Literature. While at school, she had several relationships with women, including Edith Wynne Matthison, who would go on to become an actress in silent films.
Millay entered Vassar College in 1913 when she was 21 years old, later than usual. She had relationships with several fellow students during her time there.
After her graduation from Vassar in 1917, Millay moved to New York City. She lived in a number of places in Greenwich Village, including a house owned by the Cherry Lane Theatre and 75½ Bedford St, renowned for being the smallest in New York City. The critic Floyd Dell wrote that the red-haired and beautiful Millay was "a frivolous young woman, with a brand-new pair of dancing slippers and a mouth like a valentine." Millay described her life in New York as "very, very poor and very, very merry." While establishing her career as a poet, Millay initially worked with the Provincetown Players on Macdougal Street and the Theatre Guild. In 1924 Millay and others founded the Cherry Lane Theater "to continue the staging of experimental drama." Magazine articles under a pseudonym also helped support her early days in the village.
Millay was openly bisexual. Counted among her close friends were the writers Witter Bynner, Arthur Davison Ficke, and Susan Glaspell, as well as Floyd Dell and the critic Edmund Wilson, both of whom proposed marriage to her and were refused.
Millay died at her home on October 19, 1950. She had fallen down stairs and was found approximately eight hours after her death. Her physician reported that she had suffered a heart attack following a coronary occlusion. She was 58 years old.
Millay's sister Norma and her husband, the painter and actor Charles Frederick Ellis, moved to Steepletop after Millay's death. In 1973, they established Millay Colony for the Arts on the seven acres around the house and barn. After the death of her husband in 1976, Norma continued to run the program until her death in 1986. At 17, the poet Mary Oliver visited Steepletop and became a close friend of Norma. Oliver eventually lived there for seven years and helped to organize Millay's papers. Mary Oliver herself went on to become a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, greatly inspired by Millay's work. In 2006, the state of New York paid $1.69 million to acquire 230 acres (0.93 km2) of Steepletop, with the intention to add the land to a nearby state forest preserve. The proceeds of the sale were to be used by the Edna St. Vincent Millay Society to restore the farmhouse and grounds and turn it into a museum. The museum has been open to the public since summer 2010, and guided tours of Steepletop and Millay's gardens are available from the end of May through the middle of October. Parts of the grounds of Steepletop, including the Millay Poetry Trail that leads to her grave, are now open to the public year-round.
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
CreateSpace Store: https://www.createspace.com/4910282
Amazon (Paperback): http://www.amazon.com/dp/1500563323/?tag=e
Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MZG0VHY/?tag=e
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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