Monday, March 19, 2012

BOISSEVAIN | Edna St. Vincent Millay and Eugen

Edna St. Vincent Millary and Eugen Boissevain, Austerlitz, NY, 1945
Edna St. Vincent Millay and Eugen Boissevain, 1945, at their
700-acre farm, "Steepletop", which Eugen purchased in 1925.
Edna St. Vincent Millay married my great-uncle Eugen Boissevain (uncle of my mother Hilda van Stockum) in 1923. 

He had been a widower since 1916 when his previous wife, Inez Milholland Boissevain, died in Los Angeles after collapsing while on stage, campaigning for the National Woman's Party (now housed in the Sewall-Belmont House in Washington, DC). 

Millay's poetry is clever and often soothing, but faces reality squarely in the eye. She wrote a post-mortem note to Eugen after he died in 1949, saying "The only thing I every did for you was survive you - but that was much." 

From stories of their marriage together, Edna was not far off the mark. He kept her alive much longer than she is likely to have survived on her own. 

His devotion to her was so great that at one point he suggested he join her in her addiction to pain-killers, so that he could fully empathize with her withdrawal difficulties.

Edna was found in 1950 by the Austerlitz, NY postmistress (as she was called). She was lifeless at the bottom of the stairs. Here is a link to 16 of her poems and a tribute to Eugen:


  1. Dear John,

    I'm reading your blog with great interest, as I'm also an admirer of Eugen. I'm the literary executor for Edna St. Vincent Millay and have been on the Board of the Millay Society for 25 years. We are currently restoring Eugen and Vincent's house in Austerlitz. I'd love to be in contact and invite you to see the work we've done there. If you'd like to be in touch, please email

    All the best!

    Holly Peppe

  2. Thanks for your note. Sorry it has taken so long to respond!