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Edna St. Vincent Millay

Berenice Abbott, 17 Jul 1898 - 9 Dec 1991
Edna St. Vincent Millay, 22 Feb 1892 - 19 Oct 1950
c. 1929
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24.2 x 19 cm (9 1/2 x 7 1/2")
Mat: 45.7 x 35.6 cm (18 x 14")
Sheet: 25.2 × 20.3 cm (9 15/16 × 8")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Restrictions & Rights
© Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd., Inc.
Object number
Exhibition Label
Literarily and temperamentally precocious, Edna St. Vincent Millay exemplified the spirit of the roaring twenties and the emancipation of American women. After a rebellious college career at Vassar, she moved to Greenwich Village, the center of avant-garde culture. Poetically, Millay was a Romantic, inspired by the ecstatic visions of Keats and Wordsworth; her first notable poem, “Renascence” (1912), spoke of a nature that “breathed my soul back into me.” Her famous quatrain “First Fig” (1920) celebrates sexual abandonment: “My candle burns at both ends; / It will not last the night; / But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends— / It gives a lovely light.” Millay’s romanticism was at odds with literary modernism, and her reputation has declined. For a while, however, she perfectly represented the age that she did so much to define. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1923 for The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
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National Portrait Gallery Collection