As the oldest child of divorced parents who were never home, Millay was forced to act as a surrogate mother for her two younger sisters. It was an heavy burden placed on a young child. One particular passage, written when Millay was nineteen, resonates particularly:
"I'm getting old and ugly. My hands are stiff and rough and stained and blistered. I can feel my face dragging down. I can feel the lines coming underneath my skin. They don't show yet but I can feel a hundred of them underneath. I love beauty more than anything else in the world and I can't take time to be pretty....Crawl into bed at night too tired to brush my hair--my beautiful hair--all autumn-colored like Megunticook."
In this book, Savage Beauty : The life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford, author of critically acclaimed book Zelda, probably fails to deliver the same recognition as Zelda, but it is splendidly researched nevertheless.
Millay, Edna, St. Vincent (22 Feb. 1892-19 Oct. 1950), poet, was born in the small town of Rockland, Maine, the daughter of Henry Tollman Millay, a schoolteacher, and Cora Buzzelle. Later on Cora divorced her husband due to his inability to support the family and soon thereafter moved to Camden, Maine, with Edna and her sisters. Growing up, Millay's mother Cora would write poems to her children while she was away, which was often. Being the oldest in the house, Edna would write use poetry as her escape. She also kept a diary, so writing was part of her life from early on. When she was just ten, Cora wrote to St. Nicholas, a magazine for children, asking for badges of membership for each of her children, which is what started Millay's writing. At fourteen, Millay won the Leqgue's gold medal...