Elinor Wylie

by Stanley Olson.Dial, $12.95. Regardless of how one rates Wylie’s rime-and-chime poetry, this biography is interesting as a record of changing social standards, as the history of a talented family plagued by mental and physical illness, and as a literary Who’s Who of the 1920s. Elinor began as a proper Edwardian debutante, and Teddy Roosevelt was a guest at her wedding in 1906. Four years later she created a scandal by deserting her mad husband and eloping with Horace Wylie, whom she stole from his indignant wife. The lovers lurked about for years under an assumed name. What else could they do, when they had been dropped from the Social Register? Elinor was in her thirties (and legally, at last, Mrs. Wylie) when she resurfaced as a poet, and she quickly made the most of it, meeting practically the entire New York-London literary establishment. Since many of these people recorded the encounter, Mr. Olson has a fine collection of authorities to quote and makes effective use of their often conflicting testimony. His own style is peculiar. At best, he displays a terse, acid wit. At worst, he casts pronouns adrift and leaves participles dangling in the wind. Illustrations, notes, bibliography, index, genealogy.