Herzberg, Max J. (ed.)
The Reader's encyclopedia of American literature.
New York: Crowell, 1962.
p. 1229 and 314
Wilcox, Ella Wheeler (b. Johnstown Center, Wis., Nov. 5, 1850--d.
Oct. 30, 1919), poet, novelist. Mrs. Wilcox, whose work is rife with platitudes
and sentimentality, was in her day an extremely "marketable" poetess. Lloyd
Morris gave the most effective description of her in Postscript
to Yesterday (1947): "A stately figure, Mrs. Wilcox was softly
enveloped by plumes, chiffons, and Oriental metaphysics. Her life was blameless,
but her imagination simmered. Over the land millions of women throbbed
to her verses." She wrote a sentimental novel when she was ten, her first
essay was published when she was fourteen, and her first poem not long
after. She tried college for a while, but didn't like it and turned to
newspaper work. When her
Poems of Passion (1876) appeared, the work
became famous overnight, because of its "daring" quality, and her reputation
was made. Mrs. Wilcox published more than forty volumes from Drops of
Water (1872) to
The Worlds and I (1918). Most of these were
verse, some were fiction, two were autobiographical. The most famous of
her poems is Solitude, which begins: "Laugh and the world laughs
with you,/ Weep and you weep alone." See THE EROTIC SCHOOL.
Erotic School, The. A name given to a group of writers c.
1888 by newspapers critics, who decried the extremes to which these writers,
among them, Amelie Rives (see PRINCESS TROUBETZKOY),
SALTUS, GERTRUDE ATHERTON, and ELLA
WHEELER WILCOX, went in rebelling against the stricter rules of
Mrs. Grundy. These writers anticipated to a certain extent the revolt that
came after World War I. They acted chiefly under the influence of the art-for-art's-sake
movement in England.