Maureen Johnston's query about "miserable concoction" caused me to read more closely section 5 of Ch. 11 of SM. I was surprised to find there a reference to Ella Wheeler Wilcox. VN says that as a youth he was subjected to "lots of stuff by Ella Wheeler Wilcox."  This surprised me because, just two days prior, I spent a bit of time trying to figure out if VN ever read or even knew of Ella Wheeler Wilcox. In particular, I'd been reading the last section of Wilcox's memoir The Worlds and I (1918), in which Wheeler talks about her attempts to contact the spirit of her late husband. The view and language seemed similar to old John Shade, or so it seemed to me. that I see that VN did indeed know of her work (her poems, at least), I will venture the possibility that Mrs. Wilcox does indeed make a cameo appearance in Shade's poem. 
Three parallels:
Shade: "For as we know from dreams it is so hard / To speak of our dear dead!" (589-590)
Wilcox: "The effort to obtain communication with our dear dead should begin with prayer and supplication..." (408)
Shade: "I'm reasonably sure that we survive / And that somewhere my darling is alive..." (977-78)
Wilcox: "Somewhere beyond all this I believed my Robert was living..." (347)
Shade: "A medium smuggled in / Pale jellies and a floating mandolin." (639-40)
Wilcox: Here is a picture of Wilcox with her beloved mandolin:,M1
Of these parallels, I think the last is most definitive, unless of course there is another good reason to have a mandolin there. 
Matt Roth

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