It was in March of 1907, aged 15, that Edna St. Vincent Millay began to keep a diary—an intimate chronicle that would continue throughout her life, with her final entry penned in 1949, a year before her death. By that time, of course, she was a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. Spanning over four decades, Millay’s diaries capture her journey from a small-town girl to a celebrated literary figure, offering a unique perspective on her creative process, relationships, and the challenges she faced as an ambitious woman in a male-dominated field. When she wrote this entry in May of 1933, she was on strict orders from her doctor to abstain from alcohol and cigarettes, making social encounters particularly challenging. On this especially stressful day, she had hosted a dinner party with guests that included Aldous Huxley, the renowned author of Brave New World.
The Diary Entry
May 13 Saturday
Mr. [Eugene Saxton, her editor] and Mrs. Saxton came, bringing Aldous Huxley & his wife. They are very likely charming, the Huxleys, but everything went wrong, & it was a damned dull party. For one thing, we weren’t expecting them until tomorrow & we both looked a sight. For another thing, no sooner had they been introduced to us by the Saxtons than up drove Mr. & Mrs. Renwick, who have never been here before, bringing two elegant old people from Englewood, & for another, I can’t stand people without either a drink or a cigarette & I really need both. Oh, God, it was awful.
Rapture and Melancholy: The Diaries of Edna St. Vincent Millay was published in 2023, edited by Daniel Mark Epstein and with a foreword by Holly Peppe. I recommend it highly, along with the published collection of her letters, which is exquisite.
Edna St. Vincent Millay entry from Rapture and Melancholy: The Diaries of Edna St. Vincent Millay, edited by Daniel Mark Epstein (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2022). Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of the LiteraryExecutor, The Edna St. Vincent Millay Society, millay.org.