PERIOD PIECE: The Life and Times of Ella Wheeler Wilcox by Jenny Ballou
Kirkus Star

PERIOD PIECE: The Life and Times of Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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The biography of a vivid, vulgar personality and a ""sub-literary"" talent, whose writings, which were openly ""heart not art"", had an enormous appeal. She rocketed into notoriety with the publication of Poems of Passion. Always in need of money, blind to her own limitations, rigid in her determination to be ""queen"" of any gathering, Ella Wheeler Wilcox makes entertaining material for an unorthodox biography. The stress is on her writings, with lavish quotations from prose and poetry. She exploited herself, she sought love and adulation, she used personal sentiments as material for her writing. Ballou calls her a ""bad major poet"" whose influence, in the way of half truths, muddled thinking and bad writing was accepted wholeheartedly by her public. She admits that there was a certain dignity behind her work and that now and again she struck a true spark of real feeling. Incredible as a story, the biography is skilfully handled, adroitly embellished. It is the story of a vogue that is outmoded. But its chance for sale is far wider than the limitations of those to whom her name already means something, for the book is grand entertainment. Try for the Passionate Victorian: Fanny Kemble biography market.

Pub Date: Jan. 30th, 1939
Publisher: Houghton, Mifflin