The Ella Wheeler Wilcox Society Newsletter

Richard A. Edwards, Editor

History Poems Prose Search
Summer 2001
Volume 2, Number 3
   First I must apologize for the delay of this issue of the Newsletter. The personal changes in my life the past three months have been overwhelming and I have been unable to function well as editor. While this is likely to continue for some time, nonetheless I wished to publish at least one issue as time allows. I hope everyone enjoys it and the summer!

   A quick search of our Ella website reveals 131 poems written by Ella that mention Summer. Compare that to Spring (80), Winter (67),  and Autumn (50) and you'll see that Summer was a great inspiration to her, both in terms of joy and as a way of contrasting darker times. I have tried to select a few poems that show her different uses of the season.

   Since the last newsletter, one new web edition of a book, The Song of the Sandwich, has been added to our website. It is a very humorous book with wonderful illustrations. It has also been added to one of the internationally known indexes of digital books at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Recently one of our EWW Society members has published a novel based on the life of Ella! 
   About the book, "Ella Moon," the author, Ed Ifkovic, has written "Ella Wheeler Wilcox was one of the Victorian world's most popular poets. Born on an impoverished Wisconsin farm, she hungered for fame and fortune. As a young farm girl, she caught the attention of East Coast editors. Her life became a tapsestry of color and melodrama, an epic of American rags to riches.  She scandalized her generation with verse that seemed too risque' for a puritanical nation, but her own married life was the model of Christian propriety.
   "This fictionalized account chronicles her controversial life, not only the glittering heights of international celebrity, but also the nagging fears that tempered her vast and cherished success."
   The first 40 pages are available for downloading as a preview from the Badger Books web site at
   To quote Steve Fortney, a reviewer, the book is "a fictionalized biography of the poet and journalist Ella Wheeler Wilcox, is to be transported in to a world of uplift, sentiment, joy, and hope that is almost foreign to a cynical and despairing age such as ours. Yet this remarkable novel is peculiarly uplifting, in spite of having been written in a time so much darker than the universe of meaning this prolific poet created in her own time."
   Badger Books also lists Ella Moon for sale in their Spring Catalog ( and it may be order via their 1-800 number. The book is available in both hardcover and softcover. Also, the novel can be order online or at from Borders, Barnes and Noble, and 

   I would like to thank all those who sent me material for our website, especially Bonnie Char who typed "An Erring Woman's Love," Lyn Smith of Hertfordshire, UK, and Ingrid Horn who both sent several digital images of more book covers for the bibliography.

  This month in Ella's life:
June 14, 1762
Amos Wheeler, Ella's grandfather, was born. He married Eunice Hosford on August 20, 1788 (1789?)  in Thetford, Vermont and died February 4, 1836, in Thetford, Vermont. Unconfirmed research suggests that he may be the Amos Wheeler born June 19, 1762 in Holden, Worcester, MA to Abijah Wheeler and Sarah.
July 14, 1808
Marcus Hartwell Wheeler, Ella's father, was born July 14, 1808 in Thetford, Vermont. He married to Sarah Pratt on May 22, 1836 in Thetford, Vermont and died January 24, 1899 in Westport, Wisconsin. He claimed he was "a descendant from Ethan Allen."

June 1849
Ella Wheeler's parents, Marcus and Sarah Pratt Wheeler, came from Thetford, Vermont, in June, 1849, with their three children. Ella was not born until over a year later. The Wheelers rented a house on the present County A at Scharine Corner east of Janesville. Then it was the busy Mineral Point-Milwaukee Road. 

June 1860
Ella's year of birth has been given as 1850, 1853 or 1855 over the years.  The best proof comes from the U.S. Federal Census for Rock County, Wisconsin, taken in June 1860. The federal census listing of the Wheeler family in June 1860 (courtesy of State Hist. Soc. of Wis.) lists her age as nine. She was born November 5, 1850 and would be ten later that year.
June 1895
Publication of "The World's Need" in The Century 50(2):185.


So many gods, so many creeds-- 
   So many paths that wind and wind, 
   While just the art of being kind 
Is all the sad world needs. 

June 1904
Robert Wilcox retires. "Mr. Wilcox was engaged in the Manufacture of sterling silver works of art, and his business house, from which he retired June, 1904, still retains his name 'The Wilcox and Wagoner Co.,' at 41 Union Square, New York."

There's a gaping rent in the curtain 
    That longs for a needle and thread, 
 There's a garment that ought to be finished, 
    And a book that wants to be read. 
 There's a letter that needs to be answered, 
    There are clothes to fold away, 
 And I know these tasks are waiting, 
    And ought to be done to-day. 

 But how can I mend the curtain, 
    While watching this silvery cloud, 
 And how can I finish th' garment, 
    When the robin calls so loud. 
 And the whispering trees are telling 
    Such stories above my head, 
 That I can but lie and listen, 
    And the book is all unread. 

 If I try to write the letter, 
    I am sure one half the words 
 Will be in the curious language 
    Of my chattering friends, the birds. 
 The lilacs bloom in the sunshine, 
    The roses nod and smile, 
 And the clothes that ought to be folded 
    And ironed, must wait awhile. 

 I lie in the locust shadows, 
    And gaze at the summer sky, 
 Bidding the cares and toubles 
    And trials of life pass by. 
 The beautiful locust blossoms 
    Are falling about my feet, 
 And the dreamy air is laden 
    With their odors rare and sweet. 

 The honey-bees hum in the clover, 
    The grasses rise and fall, 
 The robin stops and listens, 
    As he hears the brown thrush call. 
 The humming-bird sings to me softly, 
    The butterfly flits away-- 
 Oh what could be sweeter than living, 
    This beautiful summer day! 


Shells by Ella Wheeler Wilcox 
Milwaukee: Hauser & Storey, 1873.



   Sailing away on a summer sea, 
      Out of the bleak March weather; 
   Drifting away for a loaf and play, 
      Just you and I together; 
   And it's good-bye worry and good-bye hurry 
   And never a care have we; 
   With the sea below and the sun above 
   And nothing to do but dream and love, 
      Sailing away together. 

   Sailing away from the grim old town 
      And tasks the town calls duty; 
   Sailing away from walls of grey 
      To a land of bloom and beauty, 
   And it's good-bye to letters from our lessers and our betters, 
   To the cold world's smile or its frown. 
   We sail away on a sunny track 
   To find the summer and bring it back 
      And love is our only duty. 


   Afloat on a sea of passion 
      Without a compass or chart, 
   But the glow of your eye shows the sun is high, 
      By the sextant of my heart. 
   I know we are nearing the tropics 
      By the languor that round us lies, 
   And the smile on your mouth says the course is south 
      And the port is Paradise. 

   We have left grey skies behind us, 
      We sail under skies of blue; 
   You are off with me on lovers' sea, 
      And I am away with you. 
   We have not a single sorrow, 
      And I have but one fear-- 
   That my lips may miss one offered kiss 
      From the mouth that is smiling near. 

   There is no land of winter; 
      There is no world of care; 
   There is bloom and mirth all over the earth, 
      And love, love everywhere. 
   Our boat is the barque of Pleasure, 
      And whatever port we sight 
   The touch of your hand will make the land 
      The Harbor of Pure Delight. 

Poems of Progress and New Thought Pastels by Ella Wheeler Wilcox. 
London: Gay & Hancock, 1911. 


   When you go away, my friend, 
      When you say your last good-bye, 
   Then the summer time will end, 
      And the winter will be nigh. 

   Though the green grass decks the heather, 
      And the birds sing all the day, 
   There will be no summer weather 
      After you have gone away. 

   When I look into your eyes, 
      I shall thrill with deepest pain, 
   Thinking that beneath the skies 
      I may never look again. 

   You will feel a moment's sorrow, 
      I shall feel a lasting grief; 
   You forgetting on the morrow, 
      I to mourn with no relief. 

   When we say the last sad word, 
      And you are no longer near, 
   And the winds and all the birds 
      Cannot keep the summer here, 

   Life will lose its full completeness--- 
      Lose it not for you, but me; 
   All the beauty and the sweetness 
      Each can hold, I shall not see. 

Poetical works of Ella Wheeler Wilcox
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox 
Edinburgh : W. P. Nimmo, Hay, & Mitchell,


She's the jauntiest of creatures, she's the daintiest of misses, 
   With her pretty patent leathers or her alligator ties, 
With her eyes inviting glances and her lips inviting kisses, 
   As she wanders by the ocean or strolls under country skies. 

She's a captivating dresser, and her parasols are stunning, 
   Her fads will-take your breath away, her hats are dreams of style; 
She is not so very bookish, but with repartee and punning 
   She can set the savants laughing and make even dudelets smile. 

She has no attacks of talent, she is not a stage-struck maiden; 
   She is wholly free from hobbies, and she dreams of no "career;" 
She is mostly gay and happy, never sad or care-beladen, 
   Though she sometimes sighs a little if a gentleman is near. 

She's a sturdy little walker and she braves all kinds of weather, 
   And when the rain or fog or mist drive rival crimps a-wreck, 
Her fluffy hair goes curling like a kinked-up ostrich feather 
   Around her ears and forehead and the white nape of her neck. 

She is like a fish in water; she can handle reins and racket; 
   From head to toe and finger-tips she's thoroughly alive; 
When she goes promenading in a most distracting jacket, 
   The rustle round her feet suggests how laundresses may thrive. 

She can dare the wind and sunshine in the most bravado manner, 
   And after hours of sailing she has merely cheeks of rose; 
Old Sol himself seems smitten and at most will only tan her, 
   Though to everybody else he gives a danger-signal nose. 

She's a trifle sentimental, and she's fond of admiration, 
   And she sometimes flirts a little in the season's giddy whirl; 
But win her if you can, sir, she may prove your life's salvation, 
   For an angel masquerading oft is she, the summer girl. 

Kingdom of love and How Salvator won by Ella Wheeler Wilcox. 
Chicago, W.B. Conkey company [1902]. 

Three Women. Part VII.
                                                     One late summer day 
   He awoke with a headache, which will not surprise, 
   When you know that his bedtime had been at sunrise, 
   And that gay Narraganset, the world renowned "Pier," 
   Was the scene. Through the lace curtained window the clear 
   Yellow rays of the hot August sun touched his bed 
   And proclaimed it was mid-day. He rose, and his head 
   Seemed as large and as light as an air filled balloon 
   While his limbs were like lead. 
                                     In the glare of the noon, 
   The follies of night show their makeup, and seem 
   Like hideous monsters evoked by some dream. 

   The sea called to Roger: "Come, lie on my breast 
   And forget the dull world. My unrest shall give rest 
   To your turbulent feelings; the dregs of the wine 
   On your lips shall be lost in the salt touch of mine. 
   Come away, come away. Ah! the jubilant mirth 
   Of the sea is not known by the stupid old earth." 

   The beach swarmed with bathers--to be more exact, 
   Swarmed with people in costumes of bathers. In fact, 
   Many beautiful women bathed but in the light 
   Of men's eyes; and their costumes were made for the sight, 
   Not the sea. From the sea's lusty outreaching arms 
   They escaped with shrill shrieks, while the men viewed their charms 
   And made mental notes of them. Yet, at this hour, 
   The waves, too, were swelling sea meadows, a-flower 
   With faces of swimmers. All dressed for his bath, 
   Roger paused in confusion, because in his path 
   Surged a crowd of the curious; all eyes were bent 
   On the form of a woman who leisurely went 
   From her bathing house down to the beach. "There she goes," 
   Roger heard a dame cry, as she stepped on his toes 
   With her whole ample weight. "What, the one with red hair? 
   Why, she isn't as pretty as Maude, I declare." 
   A man passing by with his comrade, cried: "Ned, 
   Look! there is La Travers, the one with the red 
   Braid of hair to her knees. She's a mystery here, 
   And at present the topic of talk at the Pier." 
   Roger followed their glances in time to behold 
   For a second a head crowned with braids of bright gold, 
   And a form like a Venus, all costumed in white. 
   Then she plunged through a billow and vanished from sight. 

   It was half an hour afterward, possibly more, 
   As Roger swam farther and farther from shore, 
   With new life in his limbs and new force in his brain, 
   That he heard, just behind him, a sharp cry of pain. 
   Ten strokes in the rear on the crest of a wave 
   Shone a woman's white face. "Keep your courage; be brave; 
   I am coming," he shouted. "Turn over and float." 
   His strong shoulder plunged like the prow of a boat 
   Through the billows. Six overhand strokes brought him close 
   To the woman, who lay like a wilted white rose 
   On the waves. "Now, be careful," he cried; "lay your hand 
   Well up on my shoulder; my arms, understand, 
   Must be free; do not touch them--please follow my wishes, 
   Unless you are anxious to fatten the fishes." 
   The woman obeyed him. "You need not fear me," 
   She replied, "I am wholly at home in the sea. 

   I knew all the arts of the swimmer, I thought, 
   But confess I was frightened when suddenly caught 
   With a cramp in my knee at this distance from shore." 
   With slow even breast strokes the strong swimmer bore 
   His fair burden landward. She lay on the billows 
   As lightly as if she were resting on pillows 
   Of down. She relinquished herself to the sea 
   And the man, and was saved; though God knows both can be 
   False and fickle enough; yet resistance or strife, 
   On occasions like this, means the forfeit of life. 
   The throng of the bathers had scattered before 
   Roger carried his burden safe into the shore 
   And saw her emerge from the water, a place 
   Where most women lose every vestige of grace 
   Or of charm. But this mermaid seemed fairer than when 
   She had challenged the glances of women and men 
   As she went to her bath. Now her clinging silk suit 
   Revealed every line, from the throat to the foot, 
   Of her beautiful form. Her arms, in their splendor, 
   Gleamed white like wet marble. The round waist was slender, 
   And yet not too small. From the twin perfect crests 
   And the virginlike grace of her beautiful breasts 
   To the exquisite limbs and the curve of her thigh, 
   And the arch of her proud little instep, the eye 
   Drank in beauty. Her face was not beautiful; yet 
   The gaze lingered on it, for Eros had set 
   His seal on her features. The mouth full and weak, 
   The blue shadow drooping from eyelid to cheek 
   Like a stain of crushed grapes, and the pale, ardent skin, 
   All spoke of volcanic emotions within. 
   By her tip tilted nose and low brow, it was plain 
   To read how her impulses ruled o'er her brain. 
   She had given the chief role of life to her heart, 
   And her intellect played but a small minor part. 
   Her eyes were the color the sunlight reveals 
   When it pierces the soft, furry coat of young seals. 
   The thickly fringed lids seemed unwilling to rise, 
   But drooped, half concealing them; wonderful eyes, 
   Full of secrets and bodings of sorrow. As coarse 
   And as thick as the mane of a finely groomed horse 
   Was her bright mass of hair. The sea, with rough hands, 
   Had made free with the braids, and unloosened the strands 
   Till they hung in great clusters of curls to her knees. 
   Her voice, when she spoke, held the breadth and the breeze 
   Of the West in its tones; and the use of the R 
   Made the listener certain her home had been far 
   From New England. Long after she vanished from view 
   The eye and the ear seemed to sense her anew. 
   There was that in her voice and her presence which hung 
   In the air like a strain of a song which is sung 
   By a singer, and then sings itself the whole day, 
   And will not be silenced. 
                                     As birds flock away 
   From meadow to tree branch, now there and now here, 
   So, from beach to Casino, each day at the Pier 
   Flock the gay pleasure seekers. The balconies glow 
   With beauty and color. The belle and the beau 
   Promenade in the sunlight, or sit tete-a-tete, 
   While the chaperons gossip together. Bands play, 
   Glasses clink; and 'neath sheltering lace parasols 
   There are plans made for meeting at drives or at balls. 

Three Women. By Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Chicago ; New York : W.B. Conkey Company, 1897.

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  Copyright 2001 Richard A. Edwards, all rights reserved. This document may be distributed freely. Please forward the complete message including this copyright notice.