ELLA W. WILCOX,
POETESS, DIES AT 64
Author of "Poems of Passion"
Passes in Branford Home
After Strain of War Work.
BEGAN WRITING IN YOUTH
Prolific Versifier Was of Strong
Spiritualistic Beliefs--Her Ashes
to Rest with Husbands.
NEW HAVEN, Conn., Oct. 30--Mrs. Ella Wheeler Wilcox, author and poetess, died at her home, The Bungalow, in Brnford today. Mrs. Wilcox had been ill for several months, having had a nervous collapse while engaged in war relief work in Enland. Her death was not unexpected to those who share the seclusion of her home. The exact nature of her final illness is not stated. Mrs. Wilcox had been constantly under medical care for nine months. During her illness overseas messages to friends despaired of her recovery.
She regained a measure of her strength, and in July was brought to Branford in fulfillment of a desire to be in her own home, the place wherein most of her literary work had been done.
After cremation Mrs. Wilcox's ashes will be taken to Short Beach and
the receptable sealed in a niche in the granite ledge on which The Bungalow
stands. This was done with the ashes of Mr. Wilcox.
Althought Ella Wheeler Wilcox never attained the heights of poetry, probably no writer of verse was so prolific in composition and few have equaled her hold upon a large number of readers. Day after day she would produce her verses, and with almost the same regularity she managed to touch a responsive chord in the hearts of those who regarded sentiment as the prime requisite of a poem.
She was born in 1855 a few miles from Madison, Wis. Her father traced his ancestry to Ethan Allen, and she herself claimed descent on her mother's side from Pocahontas. Her family were not well off and at an early age Ella Wheeler tried to improve her condition of life by selling her literary wares. The Frank Leslie Publishing House was the first buyer, giving her $6 for the poem "Life" when she was 15 years old. Before her teens were passed she has published "Drops of Water" dealing with total abstinence, which brought in $50.
Thus launched, she experience no further difficulty in selling either poetry or prose during forty years of industrious writing. Among the magazines to which she frequently contributed were the Atlantic Monthly, Harper's publications, Demorest's Magazine, the Century, Peterson's Magazine, the Galaxy. Of recent years she was a regular writer for The New York Journal and The Chicago American. Her autobiography, "The World and I," appeared in the Cosmopolitan.
The book that gained her the greatest fame, not all of it complimentary in its nature, was the collection of poems published in 1883 under the title "Poems of Passion." The first publisher to whom the work was offered refused it on the ground that it was "obscene." Immediately a rival publisher seized upon this chance for a sensational production and launched the volume. Wide discussion followed, much of the adverse criticism being directed against the book's title. The general effect, however, was to immensely enlarge the circle of her readers and to give her a certain faithful following.
A list of titles of Mrs. Wilcox's books gives a good idea of the type of poems she made so popular. "Sweet Danger," "Men, Women, and Emotions," and "Poems of Pleasure." And here are a few titles of single poems: "Was It Suicide?" "Kingdom of Love," and "An Erring Woman's Love."
Two years before the appearance of "Poems of Passion" Miss Wheeler had married Robert J. Wilcox, a business man from Meriden, Conn. Although they had met only three times before the wedding, following a courtship by letter, their union was a remarkably happy one. The poetess was prostrated for a long time when her husband died, in 1916.
Since then Mrs. Wilcox devoted considerable attention to spiritualism, and after many efforts satisfied herself that she had communicated with her husband. She recounted her experience at length and still further added to her followers by her announced spiritualistic beliefs.
The illness which ended in her death was brought on by exertions during the war. With characteristic energy, she gave her aid to the Red Cross and went from camp to camp in France, lecturing to the soldiers on sex problems.