Most of Ella Wheeler Wilcox's lines are sounds from the
unconscious rather than reflection's echoes. Spiritism might give the key
to the psychic phenomenon of the poet's girlhood. At that period,
in spite of her incomplete training, or, perhaps thanks to the absence
of many traditional fetters--literary and ethical--a little star suddenly
appeared and radiated its sympathetic light. With no wordly experience,
probably on account of her very innocence, a simple, modest, ingenuous
lass moved numberless readers with hymns of three-fold love:
"The brain's response, the warm blood's rapturous glow,
Material comforts for a mother must be won quickly, and verse
after verse flies into editors' mail. Many go to waste-baskets, some
are returned, others printed uncredited, and a few bring back a little
money to the home that shelters beloved ones. As many as ten poems
a day at times go forth from the Western hamlet to edify the great world
beyond and to add another leaf to the poet's laurel crown.
The soul's sweet language . . . ."
So prolific a pen occasionally grows impatient at mechanical
trifles. It is no wonder that pedantic critics discover flaws in
some of her verses--errors of which they would be incapable because they
cannot write except about other's writings--like gnats that do not create,
nurture, nor admire flowers, yet gnaw at their tender petals.
These censors forget that the mode of expressing an idea
is less important than the idea itself. An imperfect technique would
certainly be undesirable; but a perfect one, with nothing more, is useless
in the race for literary spurs. Rhetorical ability is attainable
by all, save idiots. In fact, our compulsory education has forced
every citizen to write, or to imagine he could write, but it has not added
one atom of genius to our nation. Perfection of expression is valuable
only when the thoughts thus treated are judicious and appropriate.
Not even all this, however, could gain entree into the Court of Letters.
When one has nothing new to say, or cannot make his own bouquet of other
men's roses, he is a pleb, not a prince.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox has evoked harmonies from every string
of the human harp. Out of the mysterious recesses of her spirit,
with a well-garnished mind, excited by the ardor of a blood of Saxon origin,
yet Latin in warmth, she has fascinatingly sung the whole gamut of life's
The Waldorf, New York, July 15, 1897.
Was It Suicide?
An Angel's Whisper
The Old Man's Christmas
"An Ideal Head."
John Smith's Thanksgiving
Return to Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Created by: Richard A. Edwards
Last Updated: 8/23/2000