Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton

Infobox Writer
name = Edith Wharton

birthdate = birth date|1862|1|24|mf=y
birthplace = New York City, New York
deathdate = death date and age|1937|8|11|1862|1|24|mf=y
deathplace = Saint-Brice-sous-Forêt, France
occupation = Novelist, short story writer, designer

Edith Wharton (January 24 1862 – August 11 1937) was an American novelist, short story writer and designer.

Early life

Edith Newbold Jones was born January 24, 1862. "Keeping up with the Joneses" is said to reffer to her father, George Frederic, family [Benstock, Shari, No Gifts from Chance: A Biography of Edith Wharton (New York: Scribner's, 1994), 26.] She combined her insider's view of America's privileged classes with a brilliant, natural wit to write humorous and incisive novels and short stories. As such, she was well-acquainted with many of her era's literary and public figures, including Henry James and Theodore Roosevelt. Her parents were George Frederic Jones and Lucretia Stevens Rhinelander. She had two brothers, Frederic Rhinelander and Henry Edward.

In 1885, at twenty-three years of age, she married Edward (Teddy) Robbins Wharton, who was twelve years her senior. From a well-established Boston family, he was a sportsman and a gentleman of Miss Wharton's social class and shared her love of travel, although they had little in common intellectually. He began spending money on younger women and this began to take a toll on Wharton's mental health. They divorced in 1913, after he suffered a nervous breakdown and was confined to a hospital. Edith and Edward were married for twenty-eight years. Besides her writing, Wharton was a highly regarded landscape architect, interior designer, and taste-maker of her time. She wrote several influential books, including her first published work,"The Decoration of Houses", co-authored by Ogden Codman, and "Italian Villas and Their Gardens". [cite book
title=The Decoration of Houses
author=Edith Wharton, Ogden Codman, Pforzheimer Bruce Rogers Collection (Library of Congress)
publisher=Charles Scribner's Sons

Literary success

In 1901 she built The Mount, her estate in Lenox, Massachusetts, which survives today as the supreme example of her design principles. The house and its gardens have been extensively restored and are open to the public from May through October although, as of the end of March, 2008, the house museum is threatened with foreclosure. [New York Times, February 23, 2008. Retrieved on 2/26/08, "Landmark Massachusetts Building Where Wharton Wrote Faces Foreclosure".] There, Edith Wharton wrote several of her novels, including "The House of Mirth" (1905), the first of many chronicles of the true nature of old New York, and entertained the cream of American literary society, including her close friend, the novelist Henry James.

Although she spent many months traveling in Europe nearly every year, The Mount was her primary residence until 1911. When she was there, as well as traveling abroad, Wharton was usually driven to her appointments by her longtime chauffeur and friend Charles Cook, a native of nearby South Lee, Massachusetts. [ [http://books.google.com/books?id=xy_qpH4UuNgC&pg=PA268&lpg=PA268&dq=%22edith+wharton%22+%22charles+cook%22&source=web&ots=mm6zMTGh0G&sig=8fU1dU_xJbH2ty5u4PJBGSU0s_8&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result#PPA143,M1 No Gifts from Chance: A Biography of Edith Wharton, Shari Benstock, University of Texas Press, 2004] ] [ [http://books.google.com/books?id=JYKs6vJG678C&pg=PA238&lpg=PA238&dq=%22edith+wharton%22+%22charles+cook%22&source=web&ots=HZoDtJnV0A&sig=Wi8VWM-WT1XY8ddNMsMWypgm_g0&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=7&ct=result Photograph of Edith Wharton, Teddy Wharton, Henry James and Chauffeur Charles Cook, A Historical Guide to Edith Wharton, Carol J. Singley, Oxford University Press, 2003] ] When her marriage deteriorated, however, she decided to move permanently to France, living initially at 58 Rue de Varenne, Paris, in an apartment that belonged to George Washington Vanderbilt II. Helped by her influential connections to the French government, primarily her lover Walter Berry (then president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Paris), she was of the few foreigners in France who was allowed travel to the front lines. Wharton described those trips in the series of articles "".

Throughout the war she worked tirelessly in charitable efforts for refugees, and, in 1916, was named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in recognition of her commitment to the displaced. The scope of her relief work included setting up work rooms for unemployed Frenchwomen, organizing concerts to provide work for musicians, opening tuberculosis hospitals, and founding the American Hostels for Belgian refugees. In 1916, Wharton edited "The Book of the Homeless," comprised of writings, art, and musical scores by almost every major contemporary European artist. When World War I ended in 1918 she abandoned the fashionable urban address for the delights of the country at the Pavillon Colombe in nearby Saint-Brice-sous-Forêt.

Wharton was a commited supporter of French imperialism, describing herself as a "rabid imperialist". [Wegener, Fredrick "Rabid Imperialist"': Edith Wharton and the Obligations of Empire in Modern American Fiction, American Literature 72: 4] After World War I, she travelled to Morocco as the guest of the Resident General, General Hubert Lyautey, and wrote a book "In Morocco", about her experiences. Wharton's writing on her Moroccan travels is full of praise for the French administration and for Lyautey and his wife in particular.

After the war she divided her time between Paris and Hyères, in Provence, where she finished The Age of Innocence in 1920.

In 1927 She purchased a villa, Castel Sainte-Claire, on the site of an 17th century convent, in the hills above the city of Hyères in Provence, where she lived during the winters and springs. She called the villa "Sainte-Claire du Chateau" and filled the garden with cactus and subtropical plants. She returned to the U.S. only once after the war, to receive an honorary doctorate degree from Yale University in 1923.

Later life

"The Age of Innocence" (1920) won the 1921 Pulitzer Prize for literature, [Nelson, Randy F. "The Almanac of American Letters". Los Altos, California: William Kaufmann, Inc., 1981: 9. ISBN 086576008X] making her the first woman to win the award. She spoke flawless French as well as several other languages and many of her books were published in both French and English.

Wharton was friend and confidante to many gifted intellectuals of her time: Henry James, Sinclair Lewis, Jean Cocteau, and André Gide were all guests of hers at one time or another. Bernard Berenson and Kenneth Clark were valued friends as well, and she was the godmother of Clark's second son, Colin (1932–2002), who wrote the book "The Prince, the Showgirl and Me" about his work as third assistant director of the film "The Prince and the Showgirl". Her meeting with F. Scott Fitzgerald is described by the editors of her letters as "one of the better-known failed encounters in the American literary annals". She was also good friends with Theodore Roosevelt.

In 1934 Wharton's autobiography "A Backward Glance" was published. In the view of Judith E. Funston, in the entry she wrote for "American National Biography" about Wharton, "What is most notable about "A Backward Glance", however, is what it does not tell: her criticism of Lucretia Jones [her mother] , her difficulties with Teddy, and her affair with Morton Fullerton, which did not come to light until her papers, deposited in Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book Room and Manuscript Library, were opened in 1968." [Entry for Edith Wharton written by Judith E. Funston in "American National Biography", New York, Oxford University Press, 1999, Vol 23, pp. 111–112. ISBN 0-19-512802-8.]

Wharton continued writing until her death, lying in bed and dropping each finished page to the floor to be collected when she finished. On August 11 1937, in Saint-Brice-sous-Forêt, France, she suffered a stroke and died at the age of 75. She is buried in the American Cemetery in Versailles, France.

Wharton's last novel, "The Buccaneers", was unfinished at the time of her death. Marion Mainwaring finished the story after carefully studying the notes and synopsis Wharton had previously written. The novel was published in 1938 (unfinished version) and 1993 (Mainwaring's completion).


She died in 1937 at the "domaine" "Le Pavillon Colombe", her Eighteenth century house on Rue de Montmorency in Saint-Brice-sous-Forêt, Val d'Oise (95). The street is today called Rue Edith Warthon.cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Edith Wharton, 75, Is Dead in France |url=http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/0124.html |quote=Edith Wharton, American novelist, died yesterday afternoon at her villa, Pavilion Colombes [sic] , near Saint Brice, Seine-et-Oise. |publisher=New York Times |date=August 13, 1937 |accessdate=2007-07-21 ] [ [http://www.patrimoine-de-france.org/oeuvres/richesses-50-14636-105627-M157434-258679.html Domaine du Pavillon Colombe à Saint-Brice-sous-Forêt (95) ] ]

Writing style

Many of Wharton's novels are characterized by a subtle use of dramatic irony. Having grown up in upper-class pre-World War I society, Wharton became one of its most astute critics. In such works as "The House of Mirth" and "The Age of Innocence" she employed both humor and profound empathy to describe the lives of New York's upper-class and the vanishing of their world in the early years of the 20th century. In contrast, she used a more harsh tone in her novel "Ethan Frome" to convey the atmosphere of lower-class rural Vermont.

In popular culture

In "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles", Edith Wharton (Clare Higgins) travels across North Africa with Indiana Jones in Chapter 16, "Tales of Innocence".

Edith Wharton is mentioned in the HBO television series "Entourage" in the third season's thirteenth episode: Vince is handed a screenplay for Wharton's "The Glimpses of the Moon" by Amanda, his new agent, for a film to be directed by Sam Mendes. In the same episode, period films of Wharton's work are lampooned by agent Ari Gold, who says that all her stories are "about a guy who likes a girl, but he can't have sex with her for five years, because those were the times!" Carla Gugino, who plays Annabelle, was the protagonist of the BBC-PBS adaptation of The Buccaneers (1995), one of her early jobs.

A musical version of "The Glimpses of the Moon" was presented in New York City in the Algonquin Hotel's Oak Room in early 2008.

Suzanne Vega's seventh studio release "Beauty & Crime" contains a song named "Edith Wharton's Figurines."

Edith Wharton's Journey is a radio adaptation for NPR by the Radio Tales series of the short story "A Journey" from Edith Wharton's short story collection "The Greater Inclination (1899)".


* "Verses", 1878 (novel)
* "Only a Child", 1879 (poem)
* "The Decoration of Houses", 1897
* "The Greater Inclination", 1899
* "The Touchstone", 1900
* "The Line of Least Resistance", 1900
* "The Rembrandt", 1900
* "April Showers", 1900
* "Crucial Instances", 1901
* "The Moving Finger", 1901
* "The Recovery, 1901
* "Margaret of Cortona", 1901 (poem)
* "The Valley of Decision", 1902
* "The Quicksand", 1902
* "The Reckoning", 1902
* "The Mission of Jane", 1902
* "The Dilettante", 1903
* "The Vice of Reading", 1903
* "Italian Villas and Their Gardens", 1904
* "The Last Asset", 1904
* "The Letter", 1904
* "The Other Two", 1904
* "The Pot-Boiler", 1904
* "The Best Man", 1905
* "The House of Mirth", 1905
* "Italian Backgrounds", 1905
* "In Trust", 1906
* "The Introducers", 1906
* "The Fruit of the Tree", 1907
* "Madame de Treymes", 1907
* "A Motor-Flight Through France", 1908
* "The Bolted Door", 1908
* "Expiation", 1908
* "Artemis to Actaeon and Other Verses", 1909
* "A Grave", 1909 (poem)
* "Ogrin the Hermit", 1909
* "The Comrade", 1910
* "The Letters", 1910
* "Other Times, Other Manners", 1911
* "Ethan Frome", 1912
* "The Reef (novel)", 1912
* "The Long Run", 1912
* "The Custom of the Country", 1913
* "Coming Home", 1915
* "Fighting France, from Dunkerque to Belfort", 1915
* "The Great Blue Tent", 1915 (poem)
* "The Book of the Homeless", 1916
* "Xingu and Other Stories", 1916
* "The Bunner Sisters", 1916
* "Summer", 1917
* "The Marne", 1918
* "The Refugees", 1919
* "French Ways and Their Meaning", 1919
* "The Seed of the Faith", 1919
* "Writing a War Story", 1919
* "The Age of Innocence", 1920
* "In Morocco", 1921
* "In Provence and Lyrical Epigrams", 1920 (poem)
* "The Glimpses of the Moon", 1922
* "A Son at the Front", 1923
* "Old New York", 1924 (novel)
* "The Mother's Recompense", 1925
* "The Writing of Fiction", 1925
* "Here and Beyond", 1926
* "Twelve Poems", 1926
* "Twilight Sleep", 1927
* "The Children", 1928
* "Hudson River Bracketed", 1929
* "The Gods Arrive", 1932
* "Roman Fever", 1934
* "A Backward Glance", 1934
* "The Buccaneers", 1938

Additional Publications

* "Novels" (R.W.B. Lewis, ed.) ( [http://www.loa.org The Library of America] , 1986) ISBN 978-0-94045031-8. Includes "The House of Mirth", "The Reef", "The Custom of the Country", and "The Age of Innocence".
* "The Letters of Edith Wharton" (R.W.B. Lewis and Nancy Lewis, eds.) ISBN 0-02-034400-7, particularly the editorial introductions to the chronological sections, especially for 1902–07, 1911–14, 1919–27, and 1928–37, and the editorial footnotes to the letter to F.S. Fitzgerald (June 8, 1925)
* "Novellas and Other Writings" (Cynthia Griffin Wolff, ed.) ( [http://www.loa.org The Library of America] , 1990) ISBN 978-0-94045053-0, which contains her autobiography, "A Backward Glance".
* "Collected Stories 1891-1910" (Maureen Howard, ed.) ( [http://www.loa.org The Library of America] , 2001) ISBN 978-1-88301193-2
* "Collected Stories 1911-1937" (Maureen Howard, ed.) ( [http://www.loa.org The Library of America] , 2001) ISBN 978-1-88301194-9
* "Selected Poems" (Louis Auchincloss, ed.) ( [http://www.americanpoetsproject.org The Library of America] , 2005) ISBN 978-1-93108286-0
* "Twilight Sleep" (R.F.Godfrey, ed.) ISBN 0-684-83964-4

Further reading

* Hermione Lee (2007) "Edith Wharton", Chatto & Windus, ISBN-10 0701166657 (UK)/Knopf (USA forthcoming)

* R.W.B. Lewis (1975) "Edith Wharton: A Biography," Harper & Row.

* Cynthia Griffin Wolff (1977) "A Feast of Words"

* Shari Benstock (1994) "No Gifts From Chance: A Biography of Edith Wharton"


External links

* [http://www.glimpsesofthemoon.com "Glimpses of the Moon -- A Jazz Age Musical]
* [http://www.edithwharton.org/ "The Mount" - Estate and gardens designed by Edith Wharton]
* [http://www.indiana.edu/~liblilly/lilly/mss/html/wharton.html#xtocid2477739 The Edith Wharton Papers] at the Lilly Library, Indiana University
* [http://www.tls.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,25336-2588653,00.html "Edith Wharton's passionate realism"] . A review of Hermione Lee's "Edith Wharton" in the [http://www.the-tls.co.uk TLS] , February 9th, 2007.
* [http://www.edithwhartonsociety.org Edith Wharton Society] includes links to all Wharton's works legally available on the web, links to resources, searchable texts, bibliographies, queries and replies, and other materials.

*gutenberg author|id=Edith_Wharton|name=Edith Wharton
* [http://www.pushkinpress.com/wharton-glimpses.html Pushkin Press - Edith Wharton - Glimpses of the Moon ]
*ibdb name|id=5227|name=Edith Wharton
*imdb name|id=0923585|name=Edith Wharton
* [http://www.ebooktakeaway.com/edith_wharton_1862_1937 Free book downloads in HTML, PDF, text formats] at ebooktakeaway.com

NAME= Wharton, Edith
ALTERNATIVE NAMES= Jones, Edith Newbold
SHORT DESCRIPTION= American novelist, short story writer, designer
DATE OF BIRTH= January 24 1862
DATE OF DEATH= August 11 1937

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