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!

-Edna St. Vincent Millay

(February 22, 1892 – October 19, 1950)

She started writing her first novel at the age of 8. By the age of 16 she she had written a collection of poems which she presented to her mother in a brown copybook which bore the title, ”Poetical Works of Vincent Millay.”

Edna St. Vincent Millay is one of the spectacular figures of the Roaring Twenties. With a personal history that reflects so many of the passionate and tragic figures that seem to mirror the atmosphere of their time.

The oldest of 4 girls, abandoned by her father, Millay was raised in poverty in Maine by her mother who traveled from town to town toting a trunk full of literature including Shakespeare and Milton which she read aloud to the girls at night.

By the age of 20 (despite having been exposed to almost nothing of the world) Millay wrote a poem called “Renascence” which her mother submitted to a competition. The poem was widely considered to the the best of the submissions but did not win and this controversy catapulted Millay into the limelight. Readers protested. Newspapers wrote about it. Millay was an instant cause celebre. And when, at a party in Maine, she read the poem to a small and captive audience, a guest was so taken with the young woman’s talent that she offered to finance her education at Vassar.

In the ‘20s, she lived a classic bohemian life in the early days of Greenwich Village and a more glamorous life in Paris, mingling with jazz-age figures like Edmund Wilson, who fell hopelessly in love with her. She was charismatic: small, with pale skin and flaming red hair. Eventually, she grew tired of breaking hearts and spreading havoc and married an accommodating man who took care of her. Her painful love affair with a poet 14 years her junior fueled some of her greatest sonnets.

Her life was an epic train wreck full of ambition, fame, affairs and addiction. In 1932, she became the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in poetry and people flocked to her public reading tours like she was a rock star.

Openly bisexual, unscrupulous, narcissistic and self-destructive, Millay also took radical political positions that were rather noble including campaign on behalf of Sacco and Vanzetti and writing propoganda for the Allieds during the war.

Edna was known to drink Martini’s for breakfast followed by an early Gin Rickey snack before noon. But the drink that is associated with her name is the Between the Sheets, a cousin of the Sidecar.


Between the Sheets

3/4 oz brandy
3/4 oz light rum
3/4 oz triple sec
1/2 oz lemon juice
lemon twist for garnish

Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist.

Edna St. Vincent Milay’s biography Savage Beauty is available from Porter Square Books.

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