Saturday, December 27, 2008

Edith Wharton's birthplace

From the New York Times

LIKE several of its neighbors on West 23rd Street, the five-story structure at No. 14 began life as a brownstone but later was converted for commercial use. For many years the ground-floor tenant was Scott’s Flowers, which had three permanent residents: two enormous stuffed bears and a midsize gray-and-white cat named Scottie.

Picture History, 1880

Edith Wharton’s birthplace as it once appeared.

Each morning the bears were hauled out to sun themselves on a bench in front of the shop, and Scottie emerged to plop himself down on the sidewalk and invite passers-by to scratch his back.

In 2007, Scott’s Flowers, along with Scottie, decamped to a new location. The new tenant is a Starbucks. And Starbucks, in the process of reconfiguring a flower shop into a coffee bar, has accidentally recreated a lost vista from the childhood of an earlier resident of No. 14, a little girl known as Pussy Jones, who grew up to be Edith Wharton.

No plaque proclaims the connection. But somewhere behind No. 14’s cast-iron facade stands the shell of the brownstone where Wharton was born on Jan. 24, 1862. In Wharton’s novella “New Year’s Day,” the narrator recalls a visit to his grandmother’s house on 23rd Street, clearly modeled on Wharton’s childhood home.

The house, Wharton writes, had been built by the narrator’s grandfather “in his pioneering youth, in days when people shuddered at the perils of living north of Union Square — days that Grandmamma and my parents looked back to with a joking incredulity as the years passed and the new houses advanced steadily Park-ward, outstripping the Thirtieth Streets, taking the Reservoir at a bound, and leaving us in what, in my school days, was already a dullish back-water between Aristocracy to the south and Money to the north.”

Directly across the street from No. 14 is the south entrance of 200 Fifth Avenue, an office building erected in 1909 on the site of the recently demolished Fifth Avenue Hotel. The office building was constructed according to the hotel’s plan, so its south entrance is located in the same place as the hotel’s, which was directly across the street from the parlor of Wharton’s home.

“She was bad ... always. They used to meet at the Fifth Avenue Hotel.” Thus begins “New Year’s Day,” as the narrator’s waspish mother reiterates her disapproval of the notorious Lizzie Hazeldean, whose affair with Henry Prest had scandalized New York society. The reference to the famous old hotel reminds the narrator that when he was a boy, he had witnessed Lizzie’s downfall himself. It happened on a New Year’s Day in the 1870s, when his family had gathered at the house on 23rd Street, and their luncheon was interrupted by shouts that the Fifth Avenue Hotel was on fire.

“The hotel, for all its sober state, was no longer fashionable,” he tells us. “No one, in my memory, had ever known any one who went there; it was frequented by ‘politicians’ and ‘Westerners,’ two classes of citizens whom my mother’s intonation always seemed to deprive of their vote by ranking them with illiterates and criminals.”

IN real life, the power brokers who frequented the Fifth Avenue Hotel were the people who ran the country during the Gilded Age. But Wharton did not label this the Age of Innocence for no reason. Oblivious to their own irrelevance, the aristocrats of “New Year’s Day” look down their noses at the overdressed and underbred revelers who converge on the Fifth Avenue to celebrate the holiday.

When the fire starts, the family rushes into the parlor to chortle at the hotel guests spilling out onto the sidewalk in their vulgar finery: “Oh, my dear, look — here they all come! The New Year ladies! Low neck and short sleeves in broad daylight, every one of them! Oh, and the fat one with the paper roses in her hair ... they are paper, my dear ... off the frosted cake, probably! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!” Then someone recognizes Lizzie and Henry among those smoked out by the blaze, and the novella’s plot kicks into gear.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Jane Smiley, Edith Wharton, Jose Saramago
In her book about writing fiction (still a good guide, I think), Edith Wharton says a novelist's main job is to think about his or her subject thoroughly. If she had said unexpectedly, charmingly, profoundly, imaginatively and simply, too, she would have been describing José Saramago in Death With Interruptions.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Katy Lederer on Galbraith and Wharton

"Ballad of the Bubble" in The New Yorker:
Then, in 2004, she spent a month at Yaddo. For reading, she took along study materials for the Series 7 stockbroker’s exam, as well as books by Thorstein Veblen and John Kenneth Galbraith. “Veblen talks about poetry as being similar to Latin, useless and a waste of time,” she said. “It’s a form of conspicuous consumption.” Still, Lederer said, she was struck by the metaphors he and Galbraith used. “The language is gorgeous,” she said. “Like Edith Wharton and Dorothy Parker, Galbraith is witty and sarcastic.” She started to crib phrases like “dead-level,” “squirrel wheel,” and “immiseration of the masses” for her verse.

Julian Fellowes on Edith Wharton

From One Minute with Julian Fellowes:

Choose a favourite author, and say why you like her/him

Anthony Trollope and Edith Wharton. I like that they're so merciful. No character is completely indefensible, or completely good. Motives are always drawn in shades of grey.

Louis Auchincloss and Wharton

Last of the Old Guard

Louis Auchincloss’s 65th novel finds relevance in Wall Street attorneys of a bygone era.
By Heller McAlpin | December 15, 2008 edition

Last of the Old Guard By Louis Auchincloss Houghton Mifflin 212 pp., $25

Some people make the rest of us look like idlers. Case in point: Louis Auchincloss, who has written, on average, a book a year for six decades – even while practicing trust and estate law full-time for more than 40 of those years.

At 91, he’s produced his 65th book overall and 47th volume of fiction, Last of the Old Guard. The title refers to Ernest Saunders, a chilly New York attorney whose greatest passion is the law firm he founded with a Harvard classmate in 1883.

But Auchincloss, who was honored as a Living Landmark by the New York Landmarks Conservancy back in 2000, may well feel like the last of the old guard himself.

There’s something oddly comforting about reading this patrician novelist of manners, successor to Edith Wharton. You know, to a certain degree, what you’ll be served – rather like eating at an exclusive social club.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hauntings at The Mount

Hauntings at The Mount
Updated: 10/31/2008 04:58 PM
By: Ryan Burgess

LENOX, Mass. -- "I've been alone in the building, very late at night, dark and it is extremely creepy," said The Mount tour guide Laurie Foote.

Slamming doors and creaky floors, they're the spooky sounds of a haunted jaunt with ghosts who want to scare you. This is a real-life mansion in Lenox that some say has been haunted for years. It's the storied home of novelist Edith Wharton, called The Mount, a place where workers who lived on the fourth floor never wanted to be alone.

"They lived up in these rooms and downstairs and they were all absolutely convinced that there were ghosts here because they would hear huge creeks and slamming doors and people walking down the hallway," said Foote. [read more at the link above]

Glimpses of the Moon Musical

From Photo Flash:

GLIMPSES OF THE MOON, a Jazz Age musical with book & lyrics by Tajlei Levis and music by John Mercurio, choreographed by Denis Jones, and directed by Marc Bruni, premiered with a sold-out run in the Oak Room last winter. GLIMPSES OF THE MOON is back by popular demand for an ongoing run at Off-Broadway's Oak Room in the Algonquin Hotel (59 West 44th Street, between 5th and 6th Ave.). Performances began Sunday, October 26.

GLIMPSES OF THE MOON is based on one of Edith Wharton's rare comedies. Set in 1922, an age of anything but innocence, GLIMPSES OF THE MOON follows the jazzy whirl of Manhattan society. With plenty of friends, but little money, Susy Branch and her friend Nick Lansing devise a clever scheme to live beyond their means. They'll marry and live off the wedding gifts, while they help one another trade up to suitable millionaires. The plan works perfectly - until they fall in love.

GLIMPSES OF THE MOON stars Autumn Hurlbert (Legally Blonde) as Susy, and Chris Peluso (Mamma Mia and Lestat) as Nick, also starring is Jane Blass (Hairspray Nat'l Tour) as Ellie, Laura Jordan (Cry Baby and In My Life) as Coral, Daren Kelly (Crazy for You, Woman of the Year, Deathtrap, South Pacific) as Nelson and Glenn Peters as Streffy. The understudies are Russell Arden Koplin (Les Miserables and James Joyce's The Dead) and Matt Lutz.

GLIMPSES OF THE MOON plays every Monday at 8 pm. Doors open at 6:00 PM and seating is general admission. Final seating for dinner service is at 6:30 PM. Doors close at 7:30 PM and there is no late seating permitted.

Edith Wharton and Ogden Codman design nurseries

From The Wall Street Journal:

This impulse isn't new or entirely bad. In "The Decoration of Houses" (1897), Edith Wharton and Ogden Codman devote a chapter to the design of the nursery and schoolroom. In a bossy but effective tone, Wharton laments the "superfluous gimcrack" and floods of "bric-a-brac" that dominated children's rooms in her day. "The daily intercourse with poor pictures, trashy 'ornaments,' and badly designed furniture may, indeed, be fittingly compared with a mental diet of silly and ungrammatical story books." She singles out for special opprobrium the "bead-work cushions" and "mildewed Landseer prints of foaming, dying animals" that dotted the nation's nurseries. Wharton refuses to pander to childish tastes: She suggests Bronzino's portraits of the Medici babies and a few reproductions of Italian frescoes for a child's walls, for example, all meant to surround children with objects of quality.

As Wharton well understood, the home is where children are socialized and where their taste is first cultivated -- or corrupted.

Glimpses of the Moon

From Huffington Post:

One of the more rueful lines in Glimpses of the Moon, a Jazz Age musical, is the carefree exchange between two women. The young, romance-seeking blonde asks: "Don't you believe in love?" Her more jaded friend snaps back: "I believe in Lehman Bros." In 1922, when Edith Wharton wrote those lines, everyone laughed. Today, they are met with a knowing sigh. Apparently, love is a safer bet.

At least, if you follow the Twenties romp now playing at the Algonquin's Oak Room.

Though the sight lines are a bit compromised, the musical was written specifically for the intimate room, long a cabaret favorite. Playing every Monday at 8 p.m. at the famed hotel, Glimpses of the Moon is a frothy concoction with a tart twist. The show is based on a Wharton book, an author known more for cutting social commentary than comedy. But there are lots of witty lines here, and the production nicely captures an era when the rich lived in a madcap whirl of money, affairs, endless champagne and a casual disregard for anything except their own fun.

Dance play of House of Mirth
Waltham: Choreographer Susan Dibble transforms a great work of literature into a dance play in her adaptation of Edith Wharton's 1905 novel "The House of Mirth." Titled "Tea and Flowers, Purity and Grace," the piece features 24 dances with a narrator (played by professional actor Nigel Gore). Shows Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., Saturday and next Sunday at 2 p.m. in Brandeis University's Spingold Theater, 415 South St. $18-$20. 781-736-3400.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Saving The Mount

Saving The Mount
By Clarence Fanto, Special to The Eagle
Article Launched: 11/09/2008 01:00:00 AM EST

Sunday, November 09

She may turn out to be the savior of The Mount, the former home of novelist Edith Wharton that has been threatened with foreclosure since last winter over $9 million in debts.

Susan Wissler is seeking a solid financial footing by expanding the mission of Edith Wharton Restoration Inc., which owns the estate built in 1902. Wharton lived there until 1911.

That includes creating a new "Wharton Center for the Written Word," that will offer literary conferences, workshops and movies to the public, opening a terrace "cafe" to the public evenings in summer, and keeping the house open for tours on weekends through December.

Wissler was named interim executive director on March 29, after longtime chief Stephanie Copeland declined a Board of Trustees offer of a lesser position. In August, "interim" was removed from Wissler's title.

Although a six-month lifeline floated by The Mount's creditors, led by Berkshire Bank, expired on Oct. 31, "the threat of foreclosure has been forestalled as a result of the steady progress we've made this summer," Wissler said this past week. "Our banks and creditors have concluded that it makes the most sense to give us additional time to work out long-term restructuring plans.

Read the rest of the article at the Berkshire Eagle

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Glimpses of the Moon Musical

Back by Popular Demand… Glimpses of the Moon: A Jazz Age Musical
We invite members of the Edith Wharton Society and friends to attend performances of the new musical adaptation of Edith Wharton's 1922 novel, GLIMPSES OF THE MOON. This sparkling Jazz Age musical will be presented at the famed Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan on Monday evenings at 8 pm, starting on October 27th, 2008.

Set in 1922, an age of anything but innocence, GLIMPSES OF THE MOON follows the jazzy whirl of New York society. With plenty of friends but little money, Susy Branch and her friend Nick Lansing devise a clever scheme to live beyond their means. They'll marry and live off the wedding gifts while they help each other trade up to millionaires. The plan works perfectly – until they fall in love.

The musical is directed by Marc Bruni (Associate Director of Legally Blonde and Grease on Broadway) and choreographed by Denis Jones. The cast of six includes Autumn Hurlbert (Legally Blonde) and Chris Peluso (Mamma Mia) as well as special guest appearances by popular cabaret artists. The adaptation and lyrics are by Tajlei Levis with music by composer John Mercurio. The show is produced by Sharon Carr Associates.

For tickets, contact or call 866.468.7619. Mention code EWMOON for a special discount for friends of the Edith Wharton society. Group discounts are available – please contact for further information and group sales.

Thanks to an enthusiastic response from critics and audiences, the show sold out its entire run last winter. The show is now returning to the Oak Room with performances every Monday night at 8pm, starting October 27th. The Algonquin Hotel is located at 59 West 44th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenue, in Manhattan.

The critics rave...

"One of the best new musicals I've seen in ages" --Duncan Pflaster,

"Glimpses of the Moon has already bested most of the current crop of musicals for civilized entertainment" --Michael Dale, Showtime!

"A one of a kind New York experience... Don't miss getting a glimpse of this moon!" --Bixby Elliot, Yahoo Broadway.

We hope you will join us for a wonderful evening in the Oak Room.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Hope for historic home

From the Berkshire Eagle:

Though The Mount's leaders won't reach the $3 million fundraising target by Oct. 31 required by Berkshire Bank, $1.3 million has been raised through the "Save the Mount" campaign launched last winter, and more is anticipated in coming weeks, said the Mount's acting president, Susan Wissler. She said the chances are good that a donor will agree to step forth as well to match what funds are raised by Oct. 31.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Landmark trying to avoid foreclosure

From the Albany Capital News 9 site:

Landmark trying to avoid foreclosure
Updated: 09/10/2008 06:57 AM
By: Ryan Burgess

LENOX, MA - Wendy Gash has been a tour guide at this National Historic Landmark in Lenox called The Mount for years. She said a lot has stayed the same on the tours she gives, except for how she says goodbye to the guests.

"I have a little ending to my tour. I tell them, if you've enjoyed yourself, bring all your rich friends who have an extra $1 million or so and we accept checks," said Gash.

They take cash, check, or credit because the former home of famed novelist Edith Wharton is just a month and a half away from the auction block.

Landmark trying to avoid foreclosure
Time is running out for a national historic landmark in Lenox that's facing foreclosure. Our Ryan Burgess went to The Mount on Tuesday to find out if it can raise enough money to stay off the auction block.

"We are still up against a deadline of October 31 to raise $3 million," said The Mount Executive Director Susan Wissler.

If that money is not raised, The Mount faces foreclosure. So far, only about $1.2 million has been raised, but they are hoping to negotiate an extension with their bank. In spite of the looming deadline, officials here say donations keep coming.

"Fundraising is actually continuing at a steady pace. We got a $50,000 gift actually within the last couple of weeks and I just got news of another $25,000 donation thats coming within the next ten days or so," said Wissler.

One ticket booth worker said that the first question people ask when they pull up is, how's the fundraising going? But even with all that interest, The Mount says it still has a long way to go before it can reach its fundraising goals.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008



Portland, Maine’s Victoria Mansion is pleased to announce that it has received a $7,500 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to host The Big Read in the Greater Portland Area and that it is the only Maine organization hosting The Big Read. Victoria Mansion is one of 208 libraries, municipalities, and arts, culture, higher education, and science organizations to receive a grant to host The Big Read from September 2008-June 2009. The Big Read gives communities the opportunity to come together to read, discuss, and celebrate one of 23 selections from American and world literature. The Big Read in Portland will focus on The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. Activities will take place beginning March 2009.

The latest Big Read grantees represent 46 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. To date, the NEA has given more than 500 grants to support local Big Read projects.

Victoria Mansion’s Director Robert Wolterstorff said of the grant, “I am thrilled to be taking part in The Big Read. We’ve received major federal grants for restoration projects before, but this is the first one to support programming, and it’s a great honor to receive this grant in the year we celebrate our 150th Anniversary.”
“Everything the NEA does we do in partnership. I am delighted to announce our 208 new partners in The Big Read. Some are new to the program, some are returning, but all of them have answered the call to action to get our country reading again,” said NEA Chairman Dana Gioia. “I am very pleased that Victoria Mansion, Inc. has been awarded this grant. Reading and discussing the same book will be a great way for diverse members of the Greater Portland community to share thoughts about this American classic and its relevance to today’s society.” (Tom Allen, US Representative)

The selected organizations will receive Big Read grants ranging from $2,500 to $20,000 to promote and carry out community-based reading programs featuring activities such as read-a-thons, book discussions, lectures, movie screenings, and performing arts events. Participating communities also receive high-quality, free-of-charge educational materials to supplement each title, including Reader’s, Teacher’s, and Audio Guides. Victoria Mansion is also thrilled to announce that they have received The Major Grant of $4,000 from the Maine Humanities Council to support The Big Read programming.

“With this latest round of grants, I am proud to say that The Big Read has supported more than 500 public library partnerships,” said Anne-Imelda M. Radice, Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the NEA’s lead federal partner for The Big Read. “Through this program, public libraries continue to demonstrate their value in communities as centers of engagement, literacy, and lifelong learning. I am particularly delighted by the innovative public programming born out of library and museum collaborations.”

To encourage community-wide participation in The Big Read, Victoria Mansion has partnered with Portland Public Library, Maine Humanities Council, and Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. In addition, the American and New England Studies Program, the Education Department, and the School of Music at the University of Southern Maine; Livermore Falls High School; Skyline Farm; and a host of community, library, social, and local book groups will be involved with The Big Read. To participate in Victoria Mansion’s Big Read programs or for more information on events related to The Big Read, please contact Tracy Quimby at

The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. The NEA presents The Big Read in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest. Support for The Big Read is provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Transportation for The Big Read is provided by Ford. For more information about The Big Read please visit

Victoria Mansion, a National Historic Landmark, is located in Portland, Maine. Our mission is to conserve,
maintain, and restore the Victoria Mansion property and collections to the highest standards, and to interpret them in their social, historical, and art-historical context to a broad local, state, and national audience. The Mansion is open for its regular season of tours May – October, Monday through Saturday, 10-4, Sunday 1-5. All tours are guided and reservations are not necessary for groups under 10. The Carriage House Gift Shop, featuring beautiful Victorian inspired gifts, decorations, jewelry and books is open the same hours as the museum and may be visited without paying admission. Please visit

The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts—both new and established—bringing the arts to all Americans, and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Arts Endowment is the nation’s largest annual funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases. For more information, please visit

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute’s mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. For more information, please visit

Arts Midwest connects people throughout the Midwest and the world to meaningful arts opportunities, sharing creativity, knowledge, and understanding across boundaries. Arts Midwest connects the arts to audiences throughout the nine-state region of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. One of six non-profit regional arts organizations in the United States, Arts Midwest’s history spans more than 25 years. For more information, please visit

Monday, July 21, 2008

EW in Maine, 1907

On Isleboro, Maine:

Edith Wharton was a visitor in 1907, and ex-President Theodore Roosevelt stopped in to see his daughter in 1917. Famous yachtsmen such as J.P. Morgan and George W. Vanderbilt wouldn’t dream of passing by without a stopover on their way to Bar Harbor.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Mount: foreclosure deadline extended to October 31

From the Berkshire Eagle

October climax set for The Mount
By Benning W. De La Mater, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Article Last Updated: 05/14/2008 09:44:51 AM EDT

Wednesday, May 14
LENOX — An agreement between The Mount and its creditors has staved off foreclosure and a May 31 deadline that would have forced Edith Wharton Restoration Inc. to raise $3 million by the end of the month.

Instead, the historic home of the Gilded Age writer will be open to the public all summer without a threat of foreclosure by Berkshire Bank. The new fundraising deadline has been set for Oct. 31.

Susan Wissler, The Mount's acting CEO and president, said the spirits of the staff were high after they received word of the reprieve Monday. And if opening weekend was any barometer (The Mount opened on Friday), then Wharton's fans are pulling for the home to make it through the financial crisis: Wissler said attendance was up 50 percent from average opening weekends and nearly $8,000 in revenue was generated during the first three days.

"We hope that was a strong harbinger of what's to come," Wissler said. "A lot of the customers were talking about our situation. We had a couple fly in from Seattle just to see The Mount."

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Young Indy

From a review of The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones, Volume Three - The Years of Change at Blogcritics:
The First World War is essentially over and continues for only the first two episodes. The intrigue of that war and what destruction it wrought on a whole generation still make it the most interesting backdrop for these Indiana Jones stories. The first one, "Tales Of Innocence" is a simple tale and maybe my favorite in this collection. The two stories - Indy and Ernest Hemingway falling in love with the same woman and Indy and Edith Wharton developing a forbidden attraction to each other while Indy searches for a traitor - are light on the surface but that belies a hidden depth. These unrequited loves hint at what will become the post-war "Lost Generation." After what Indy has seen in the War, what meaning will there be in life? And how does he truly give his heart when he's seen so much death and destruction?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bank gives The Mount a reprieve

From the Berkshire Eagle:

Bank gives The Mount a reprieve
Ellen G. Lahr, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Article Last Updated: 04/24/2008 09:12:12 AM EDT

Thursday, April 24
LENOX — Berkshire Bank has extended until May 31 a $3 million fundraising deadline for Edith Wharton Restoration Inc., and The Mount will open May 9 for the season while the nonprofit seeks to restructure its debt with key creditors, according to an announcement last night.

Berkshire Bank, which is now owed nearly $4.4 million in mortgage and line-of-credit debt, had given The Mount until today, to meet its goal, with the threat of foreclosure looming for the nonprofit historic house site.

This is the second extension granted by the bank.

Susan Wissler, The Mount's acting CEO and president, said last night that May will be a month of heavy negotiations to restructure long-term debt with key creditors, including Berkshire Bank. The Mount owes a total of nearly $9 million to creditors, with secured and unsecured loans to the organization.

"Opening sends a strong message to the public that we do not intend to go down without a fight," Wissler said. "It also generates much needed additional revenues to help stave off our creditors. With all of the recent publicity, we are anticipating a very robust season."

Wissler said the extension is exciting
news, along with the donation tally showing that, in the past 30 days, the "Save the Mount" campaign has raised $240,000, reflecting 600 contributions from around the country. A total of 1,300 individuals have pledged since February, when the nonprofit announced that it was out of cash and missed a $300,000 payment to the bank.

The recent gifts include more than $100,000 from donors whose funds are immediately available to permit The Mount to ready itself for the 2008 season. Among the donors: former Walt Disney Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael Eisner and his wife, Jane, who gave $25,000, according to Wissler.

The Eisners gave after learning of the financial crisis by a recent New York Times opinion piece urging New Yorkers to help save The Mount, as Edith Wharton was a New Yorker herself.

"Mr. Eisner is passionate about Wharton's writings, and we are delighted that the Eisners have lent their support to our cause," said Wissler, who said she was contacted by the Eisner Foundation earlier this month.

Wharton's House Wins a Reprieve

From the New York Times

Wharton's House Wins a Reprieve

Published: April 24, 2008

The Mount, Edith Wharton’s house in Lenox, Mass., which has been in financial trouble for months, has been given another reprieve. In February a local bank that had been lending money to the Edith Wharton Restoration, the organization that owns and maintains the house, to cover operating expenses, threatened to begin foreclosure unless the Mount raised $3 million by March 24. The deadline was later extended to April 24, and Hannah Burns, one of the trustees, said on Wednesday that it had been pushed back yet another month, to May 24, which means that the house will now be able to open for visitors as scheduled on May 9. So far more than $800,000 of the needed sum has been raised.

Edith Wharton's Reputation

From The Wall Street Journal:

As Mr. Zaid observes, the posthumous stature of an author's work can lurch wildly. In the 1930s, Edmund Wilson deflated Edith Wharton's over-large reputation; then it grew beyond what it was before; and now the critic Andrew Delbanco has brought it back down again to human scale. But the status of a businessman's claim to fame is subject to much the same kind of variance: "from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations," as patriarch Sam Bronfman used to say worriedly about his distillery business, despite its seemingly unassailable success.

Editor's note: Is the piece referred to here Edmund Wilson's "Justice to Edith Wharton," and, if so, does anyone know why it is considered here as an essay that deflated her reputation?

From Andrew Delbanco's review of Hermione Lee's biography:

This book is a powerful rebuttal to that view. It builds on the work of previous scholars -- on Lewis's biography, on Blake Nevius's study of Wharton's methods of revision, on Cynthia Griffin Wolff's psychological insights, and many more. And it comes at an interesting moment in the history of Wharton's reputation, which was highest in the 1920s, when she was selling well and winning prizes. By the 1930s, her stock was falling, as the claims of modernism took hold and the Depression made her characters and themes seem precious and indulgent. In 1939, not long after her death, Clifton Fadiman, then the books editor at the New Yorker, could write that those who continued to read her did so for reasons of "class fidelity." In the postwar years, Wharton held her own as a literary worthy -- though often paired with James as a lesser disciple -- but it was really not until the 1970s, with the surge of interest in women's studies, that she became a major writer again. This time she came back as an unexpected "Do Me" feminist. The affair with Fullerton and the discovery of "Beatrice Palmato," a fragment of erotic writing with an incest theme (probably written around 1919), intensified interest in her as a writer about women abused by inattention or exploitation, who are sexual furnaces waiting to be stoked. By the 1990s, helped by Martin Scorsese's fine film of The Age of Innocence -- which, as Scorsese discovered, is about high-society people as merciless as any gangster -- Wharton had become a popular writer of lush period pieces.

With all these versions of Wharton now behind us, the question is whether interest in her work will now be renewed again, and if so, for what reasons. She is a writer who flatters the self-satisfied rich even as she anatomizes them, by granting them their materialist premise: that the acquisition, the display, and the transmission of money are the primary activities of life. Only rarely does an alternative way of living come into view in her work. In our age of twentysomething i-bankers, when fortunes are quickly made and quickly lost, Wharton may well find a new audience -- but will it be more interested in her views of the interior life or of interior decoration? Is she finally a writer who points beyond getting and spending, or a writer nostalgic for the first Gilded Age who shows us, in luscious detail, how it once was done? Hermione Lee has presented the best possible case for the former. The jury in our own gilded age is still out.

Monday, April 21, 2008

From Slate on The Mount (includes many pictures of the interior)

Save the Mount!Why Edith Wharton's house is an architectural treasure.
By Kate Bolick

Posted Monday, April 21, 2008, at 7:22 AM ET

Outside design circles, not many people know that Edith Wharton's first publication was a decorating manual. It's a perplexing fact. Our own American grande dame, author of more than 40 books, friend of Henry James and Theodore Roosevelt … bothered herself with wallpaper and sconces? (Actually, she loathed wallpaper.) But after the initial shock, perhaps you'll remember reading The Age of Innocence or seeing Martin Scorsese's film adaptation of it and realize that Wharton is fused in your mind with masterfully described interiors—at which point, your confusion will click into a satisfied "Huh!" If so, you might be moved, as I was, to rent a car and go visit the Mount, the only one of Wharton's many residences remaining. But act fast: If the Mount doesn't somehow acquire $3 million by April 24, the bank is going to shut it down. The interiors you're about to see may be lost to the public forever.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Hermione Lee to speak on Wharton in New York on April 14

From Brandon Judell, Coordinator
The Simon H. Rifkind Center
City College

Guest Speaker: Hermione Lee
Date: April 14, Monday
Time: 6:30
Locale: City College
160 Convent Avenue
NYC, NY 10031

To get there: Take the number one train to 135th Street. And then one block east on 138th Street.

The building is Shepard Hall, Room 250.

The Mount: Trustees hopeful financial help coming

From the Berkshire Eagle (read the rest by clicking on this link):

The Mount: Trustees hopeful financial help coming
By Ellen G. Lahr, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Article Last Updated: 04/07/2008 09:43:48 AM EDT

Monday, April 07
LENOX — The coffers of Edith Wharton Restoration Inc. grew by $30,000 this week, after the trustees held a public meeting to air the organization's fiscal status and to appeal for financial help to prevent a foreclosure at The Mount.

Total donations topped $600,000 on Friday, said Gordon Travers, a trustee of The Mount, who appeared to answer questions on Monday with others.

He said he hopes that this week's donations signal growing awareness of The Mount's predicament.

Employees at The Mount, the historic home of novelist and playwright Edith Wharton, are making tentative plans to open the museum house for the season, but Berkshire Bank will decide whether to allow more time.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Change of Venue for Edith Wharton and History Conference

The following message will be sent to participants in the Edith Wharton and History Conference, but it should also be read by those intending to attend the conference who have not yet registered. See also the conference site for any updates.

--Donna Campbell

Dear Participants:

We are writing to inform you that we had to make some changes to the location of the Edith Wharton Conference. The conference was fully planned out, when we suddenly learnt that the Seven Hills Inn was being sold and could or would not accommodate us. Even though our contract with them has a stipulation that the contract would hold even in the case of a sale, the Inn refused to honor that contract since the inn will undergo transitional repairs during the time of our planned stay there. We had no choice but to relocate the conference. It will now be held at The Crowne Plaza at One West St., Pittsfield, MA, 01201. The Crowne Plaza is a modern conference center/hotel , which is 8.7 miles from The Mount. The website is The phone is (413) 499-2000. Crowne Plaza is a Priority Club member, and we look forward to enjoying the vastly upgraded hospitality that they offer. Please see the bottom of this letter for a new menu choice for the banquet.

We also, unfortunately, cannot be certain that The Mount will be open, since it is threatened by foreclosure. We are keeping an eye on that situation every week. However, if it is open, members of the Edith Wharton Society have volunteered to drive those who need transportation to The Mount. All this said, the conference itself is no different than it was planned ; it is still a juried conference, the location is still in the beautiful Berkshire area, and the cost for accommodations will be somewhat lower: Thurs. night is $119 and Fri. night is $139. Seven Hills is now in the process of refunding room deposits to the credit cards on which those deposits were charged. We are looking for a vibrant exchange of ideas on Edith Wharton. We therefore hope that you will still come to the conference, but we would like you to let us know as soon as possible if these changes will affect your plans so that we can plan out the conference to its final shape. We will be accepting Conference registrations until April 30. If you have any additional questions, please contact Margaret Murray at .

With many thanks, and looking forward to seeing you in June,

All best regards,

Hildegard Hoeller, P resident, Edith Wharton Society

Margaret Murray, Vice-president, Conference Director

If you have already registered, please send your new dinner selection to:

Dr. Carole Shaffer-Koros
Kean University
School of Visual and Performing Arts
1000 Morris Ave.
Union , NJ 07083

___Prime Rib ___Grilled Salmon with citrus sauce ___Chef’s Choice Vegetarian Entrée

Registration Form for Edith Wharton and History Conference

June 26-28, 2008
Crowne Plaza

One West Street

Pittsfield , MA 01201

(413) 499-2000

Registration fee of $125 includes 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 2 coffee breaks, cocktail party and banquet dinner.

Graduate Student rate: $100; undergraduates may register by the day, to include breakfast, lunch and coffee break, for $15 each day, with student i.d.

Reservation for rooms should be made at Crowne Plaza ; ask for the Edith Wharton Society rate, which is $119 for June 26, and $139 for June 27.

Questions about the Conference should be directed to Margaret Murray at

Conference Registration (include check for $125; students should include copy of student ID), mail to:

Dr. Carole Shaffer-Koros
Kean University
School of Visual and Performing Arts
1000 Morris Ave.
Union , NJ 07083



MAILING ADDRESS______________________________________________



AMOUNT ENCLOSED: _________$125 _________$100 __________$15

BANQUET ENTRÉE (pick one):

___Prime Rib ___Grilled Salmon with citrus sauce ___Chef’s Choice Vegetarian Entrée

Monday, March 31, 2008

President of Wharton Estate Resigns

From the Associated Press

President of Wharton Estate Resigns

By MARK PRATT – 23 hours ago

BOSTON (AP) — The president and chief executive of the financially troubled estate of author Edith Wharton has stepped down rather than assume a different position in a restructured management hierarchy, trustees announced Sunday.

The five-member board of trustees at The Mount in Lenox said in a statement that they have accepted the resignation of Stephanie Copeland "with regret."

The organization that owns the estate, Edith Wharton Restoration, has borrowed $4.3 million for operating costs, but in January missed a $30,000 payment, prompting a bank to start foreclosure proceedings.

The estate made the payment with a $30,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, but it still trying to raise $3 million. So far about $570,000 has been raised, trustee Gordon Travers said Sunday.

An anonymous donor has promised another $3 million over five years if the fundraising goal is reached.

"Right now, we're month to month," he said.

The board determined that the future of The Mount lay in restructuring management.

"We concluded that if we made it through this fundraising campaign, if we had a future, we needed to separate finance and administration from the creative side," Travers said.

Copeland had essentially been fulfilling both tasks, but under the restructuring was offered the position of creative leader, which she rejected, the trustees said in a statement.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Open Meeting at The Mount, 3/31/08

From the Berkshire Eagle:

Mount's debt to be open book
By Ellen G. Lahr, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Article Last Updated: 03/17/2008 10:00:38 AM EDT

Monday, March 17
You have questions? The Mount — hopefully — has answers.

Town officials and the local business community are teaming up to host a public meeting about The Mount at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 31, at Town Hall.

The Selectmen and the Lenox Chamber of Commerce are hosting the event, which The Mount's CEO and president, Stephanie Copeland, said is intended to answer as many questions as possible.

The Mount is in debt to its creditors by more than $8.7 million, and Berkshire Bank is threatening to foreclose on the historic home of Edith Wharton. The Mount has until April 24 — a deadline that was recently extended a month — to raise $3 million toward its bank debt of $4.3 million.

"So many people have questions, and it would be good to bring everyone in," Copeland said.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Mount has until April 24 to raise the $3 million

From the Berkshire Eagle:

Mount granted a month for debt
Berkshire Bank agrees to extend the deadline for Edith Wharton's estate to pay $3 million
By Ellen G. Lahr, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Article Last Updated: 03/15/2008 05:21:21 AM EDT

Saturday, March 15
LENOX — Berkshire Bank, which is warning of foreclosure proceedings against The Mount, has extended a deadline to raise $3 million following a $30,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Berkshire said it had extended the deadline by 30 days. The Mount, the historic house and gardens of 19th century novelist Edith Wharton, now has until April 24 to come up with $3 million required by the bank, to clear up a large chunk of the $4.3 million owed on its mortgage and line of credit, which are in default.

The bank's total debt is more than $8.7 million, and its payments to all other major creditors are in default.

Stephanie Copeland, president and CEO of the Edith Wharton Restoration, said Berkshire Bank has "very graciously" agreed to the extension in light of new funds, which will cover operations for another 30 days.

Since Feb. 24, The Mount has raised more than $520,000 with an all-out fundraising blitz that seizes on the bank's foreclosure threat. The new, $30,000 grant will boost the numbers further.

"We have some very good friends in very high places who made this possible," Copeland said. "The National Endowment is extremely
concerned about The Mount, and saving it."

"We are all over this," said board trustee Gordon Travers, who said he and the trustees are on the phone almost daily with each other and with Copeland.

Meanwhile, however, The Mount's prized collection of Edith Wharton's private library collection, purchased in 2005 for $2.5 million, could be in jeopardy.

British bookseller George Ramsden is owed $900,000 in connection with the book sale and did not receive his second scheduled payment last year. He holds a secured lien on the books and has sent a letter indicating he will reclaim them if The Mount cannot make good on its payments.

Copeland said she understood the letter was as "a pro forma" communication to secure Ramsden's rights, and was not immediately concerned. (Read the rest)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Mireille Giuliano on The House of Mirth


In my early 20s, I "met" author Edith Wharton in a literature class while I was living in Paris and attending the Sorbonne. Right away, I felt I had a friend.

. . . .

I have read The House of Mirth half a dozen times, and I am always saddened to see Lily alone, without parents or friends she can trust. I am angered that she does not see the good friend and mate her friend Selden could be, just because he lacks a grand income. Why is this charming woman so bad at making decisions that are in her self-interest?

Lily wants happiness like all young adults starting out in life; she also wants a lot of money. So, she rejects some viable options, takes advice from the wrong people, and does not listen to her heart.

Part of Wharton's achievement is that she makes us care for Lily, who is trapped in her times but in herself as well. I respect Lily's integrity, drive, honesty and character, but I am angered and saddened by her materialism, her social game-playing and acquiescence to being an accessory or an ornament.

I want to reach out and advise and help her. I'd want Lily to learn about what one can control in life and what one cannot (like wanting it all and wanting it now). I'd like to change her values so that simplicity and quality over quantity rule her desires and needs.

I'd want Lily Bart to work on the magical "know thyself" so that she could truly learn from her mistakes and understand the meaning of inner versus outer beauty. I'd like her to understand the value of cultivating true friendship and love, and to find a joie de vivre where balance and happiness are the main ingredients to satisfy body and mind.

Discovering The House of Mirth helped me understand what I wanted from life. Most of all, the novel is a timeless guidebook to discovering the kind of values I've embraced. Rereading it now gives me added pleasures. Merci, Edith Wharton.

Friday, February 29, 2008

The Mount: Time Running Short for the Homestead of Edith Wharton

The Mount: Time Running Short for the Homestead of Edith Wharton
By Alice Leccese Powers — February 28, 2008
Every time I venture near the Berkshires I intend to visit Edith Wharton’s home, The Mount, in Lenox, Massachusetts.

[The Mount from the flower garden in Lenox, Mass.]
(Photo: David Dashiell/Wikimedia)

It was there that Wharton wrote her first book, The Decoration of Houses, about interior design and where she finished her novel, The House of Mirth.

Wharton designed The Mount, built in 1902, and put into practice many of the principles she espoused in The Decoration of Houses, including an enormous first floor gallery and a bedroom suite that accommodated her writing. As a Wharton fan, I’ve longed to see The Mount, especially as it has been substantially restored to Wharton’s original plans.

Now it may be too late.

Last week the Edith Wharton Restoration, The Mount’s administrative body, announced that the estate is in danger of foreclosure. It owes the bank $4.3 million and has defaulted on its $30,000 monthly payments. The foundation has to raise $3 million by March 24 or the estate will revert to the bank.

Ironically, the 35-room mansion has won awards for its preservation and attracts more than 30,000 visitors a year. What seems to have challenged its finances is the acquisition of Wharton’s 2,600-volume library from a British book collector. That coup cost $2.5 million and was supposed to be paid off in installments. However, the Edith Wharton Restoration has also defaulted on that debt.
(click here to read the rest)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

From the Boston Globe about The Mount

Wharton's house of worth

February 27, 2008

WEALTH and social position were major themes of Edith Wharton's famous novel "The House of Mirth." So it's a cruel irony that the Mount, the gracious home in Lenox where Wharton wrote the book, faces foreclosure.
more stories like this

Wharton, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of over 40 books, designed the home and had it built in 1902. She called it her "first real home" and lived there for nearly a decade.

Now a museum, the Mount is facing a dire deadline. Unless the Edith Wharton Restoration, the nonprofit that owns the Mount, can raise $3 million by March 24, the bank will step in. These sad circumstances echo those of Lily Bart, the genteel heroine of "The House of Mirth," who also faced financial disaster as she struggled but failed to find her footing in the well-heeled heights of New York.

But life need not imitate art completely. The Edith Wharton Restoration is seeking donors to save the Mount. Small gifts can help show diverse support for the institution, and large gifts will provide badly needed stability. An anonymous donor is prepared to match the $3 million, creating a pool of $6 million. With this money, the organization could restructure its $4.3 million bank debt.

In part, the Mount is a victim of worthy ambitions. Restoring the home and the garden improved the site, but also drove up insurance and maintenance costs, according to the nonprofit's president, Stephanie Copeland. And using a private loan made by an individual, the organization spent £1.5 million (about $2.6 million at the time) to purchase Wharton's library from a British book dealer. It's an invaluable acquisition, but it added to the debt load - especially now that a sinking dollar has pushed up its annual payment. The organization has been able to start paying back this loan. Like other struggling homeowners, the Mount is also a victim of the economy. It has a mortgage with a fixed interest rate, but there's an adjustable interest rate on its $3 million line of credit. [Read the rest at the link.]

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Message from Molly McFall at The Mount

I write on behalf of Edith Wharton Restoration to thank you for posting this information. The situation is grave, but we are hopeful that we can still raise the funds necessary to prevent foreclosure. If anyone is able to help please visit for details on how to contribute to the "Save The Mount" campaign. Thank you for your support, Molly McFall, Librarian, The Mount

The Mount in danger of foreclosure

From the New York Times
Landmark Massachusetts Building Where Wharton Wrote Faces Foreclosure

Since 2002, Ms. Copeland explained by phone this week, the Mount, which is open to the public — much of it has been restored in recent years to match the period when Wharton lived there — has been covering its operating expenses by borrowing from the Berkshire Bank in nearby Pittsfield. It now owes the bank some $4.3 million, and in mid-February, when it failed to meet a scheduled monthly payment of $30,000, the bank sent a notice that it intended to start foreclosing unless the default was remedied promptly, Ms. Copeland said.

To stay open, she added, the Mount needs to raise $3 million by March 24. “The bank has really been very patient,” she explained. “They’re eager to help us work this out.”

If the Mount succeeds in raising that sum, Ms. Copeland said, an anonymous donor is waiting in the wings who has pledged to match it. The money could be used to help restructure the bank loan and to settle another outstanding debt, roughly $2.5 million, that the Mount incurred from a private lender in 2005 to buy Wharton’s 2,600-volume library from George Ramsden, a British book collector. The Mount also owes Mr. Ramsden roughly $885,000, to be paid off in nine yearly installments, and recently it defaulted on a scheduled payment to him, too.

“The situation is quite serious,” Sandra Boss, interim chairwoman of the Mount’s board, said in a telephone interview from London, where she works. “On the one hand, the Mount is winning awards for preservation and is internationally renowned as an institution. And it’s well run from an efficiency perspective. We’ve made great progress by cutting costs and raising revenues. On the other hand, our current debt levels are unserviceable and unsustainable. We’re not in control of our own destiny unless we can mount a restructuring of our debt.”

Friday, February 22, 2008

Edith Wharton's home at the Mount

From the New York Times:

Inspiration Lives on Where Writers Dwelled
Photograph courtesy of the Edith Wharton Library

The library of Edith Wharton’s mansion in Lenox, Mass. Wharton was an expert on home décor.

Published: February 22, 2008

. . . . . . . . .

Stowe wasn’t the only novelist with a sideline in shelter books: Edith Wharton, mistress of the fabulous mansion the Mount in Lenox, Mass., was an author of “The Decoration of Houses” as well as the author of “The House of Mirth.” Writers are often house-obsessed, maybe because bookish children who spend lots of time at home alone are most apt to become writers, which naturally keeps them home alone tweaking not only their sentences but also their paint colors. And because novel writing demands a sensitivity to setting and atmosphere, the person who spins out great characters and plots is also often capable of creating great rooms.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Roman Punch

From the Wall Street Journal

An Icy Treat for Adults Only
February 16, 2008; Page W9

William Maxwell Evarts was one of the most powerful lawyer-politicians of the 19th century. Lead counsel for Andrew Johnson, Evarts fought off the president's impeachment and soon found himself attorney general. Years later, in the disputed election of 1876, he lawyered Rutherford B. Hayes into the White House and was promptly named secretary of state. Yet Evarts wasn't powerful enough to get a drink at a state dinner. First Lady, and temperance advocate, "Lemonade" Lucy Hayes declared the White House would be dry. One night, leaving a presidential dinner, Evarts ran into a friend who asked him how the evening had gone: "Excellently," he said. "The water flowed like champagne."

(Serves eight)
1 quart lemon ice
4-6 oz rum
4-6 oz brandy
1 oz orange curaçao or maraschino liqueur
8 oz champagne
• Blend all but champagne and freeze overnight. Just before serving, gently mix champagne into the spiked sherbet and serve in hollowed-out orange skins.

Journalist Benjamin Perley Poore recounted in his "Reminiscences of Sixty Years in the National Metropolis" that before the Hayeses came to town, "punch abounded everywhere, and the bibulous found Washington a rosy place." The bibulous were not to be denied, even by Lemonade Lucy, and came up with a way to hide the alcohol -- a spiked sherbet called Roman Punch. At White House functions, Poore recalled, the stewards served oranges that proved to be strangely popular with the guests. "Waiters were kept busy replenishing salvers upon which the tropical fruit lay . . . concealed within the oranges was a delicious frozen punch, a large ingredient of which was strong old Santa Croix rum."

. . . .
Among the requirements for a big, formal dinner in "Age of Innocence" New York were a hired chef and gilt-edged menu cards. But "the Roman punch made all the difference," Edith Wharton wrote in her great novel of high society. It wasn't that the punch was in and of itself so grand, but that it had "manifold implications" that extended well beyond the bill of fare -- "it signified either canvas-backs or terrapin, two soups, a hot and a cold sweet, full décolletage with short sleeves, and guests of a proportionate importance."

To be unfamiliar with the icy treat was the mark of a bumpkin. Elizabeth Fries Ellet, in her 1869 book about Washington society, "The Court Circles of the Republic," tells of a "rustic pair invited by some accident" to a big bash during the administration of Andrew Jackson: "A tall, strapping Kentuckian had taken a saucer of frozen Roman punch, which he had never tasted before." He turned to his date and exclaimed, "I swar, Miss Jane, this beats julep all to nothing; who ever thought of chawing rum!"

Roman Punch was still going strong at one extravagant dinner given at a hotel in New York in the early years of the 20th century. According to the 1907 "Steward's Handbook," "Roman punch was served in oranges hanging on the natural trees, the pulp of the fruit having been deftly removed so that the favored guests could pick their own." But come the Jazz Age, the slushy drink was dismissed as an affectation of those trying just a bit too hard. "A dinner interlarded with a row of extra entrées, Roman punch, and hot dessert," Emily Post wrote in her original 1922 etiquette manual, "is unknown except at a public dinner, or in the dining-room of a parvenu."

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Glimpses of the Moon Musical: Reviews

From Variety:

Glimpses of the Moon
(Oak Room, Algonquin Hotel; 81 seats; $50 top)

'Glimpses of the Moon'
Stephen Plunkett and Patti Murin both want to marry millionaires in 'Glimpses of the Moon,' a Jazz Age tuner at the Algonquin Hotel's Oak Room.
A Lemon Tree Prods. presentation of a musical in two acts with music by John Mercurio, book and lyrics by Tajlei Levis, based on the novel by Edith Wharton. Directed by Marc Bruni. Musical direction, John Mercurio. Choreography, Denis Jones.

Ellie Vanderlyn - Beth Glover
Nelson Vanderlyn - Daren Kelly
Ursula Gillow, Coral
Hicks - Laura Jordan
Winthrop Strefford - Glenn Peters
Susy Branch - Patti Murin
Nick Lansing - Stephen Plunkett
Guest Star - KT Sullivan

The Oak Room at the Algonquin has come up with a novel way to fill winter Monday nights; not a one-shot by an upcoming or faded cabaret singer, but a fully realized mini-musical comedy. "Glimpses of the Moon," from Edith Wharton's 1922 novel (which immediately followed her Pulitzer-winner, "The Age of Innocence"), fits reasonably well in the hallowed room and makes a pleasant evening's diversion.

Wharton's Jazz Age tale tells of a likable dancer-girl and novelist-boy, members of the underfed upper class who subsist from house-party to house-party. Their plan: to marry solely for the purpose of accumulating lavish wedding gifts from their gilt-edged friends, which they figure will bring enough at the pawn shop to get them through a year. They mutually agree to step aside as soon as one or the other finds a bona fide millionaire of their own, but you can pretty much guess what happens.

From Broadway World

It is always a pleasure to see a well-crafted, witty musical comedy. Glimpses of the Moon, an original musical based on an Edith Wharton novel and created specifically for the intimate wood-paneled Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel, delivers in spades. Produced by Lemon Tree Productions and written by Tajlei Levis (book and lyrics) and John Mercurio (Music), it is a sparkling valentine to the jazz age.

It is 1922, and Susy Branch (Patti Murin) is a Bright Young Thing, who is popular but penniless, living off rich friends and being delightful, hoping to marry a rich man. At a party hosted by Ellie Vanderlyn (Beth Glover) and her husband Nelson (Daren Kelly), Susy meets the handsome Nick Lansing (Stephen Plunkett), a student of Greek pottery who is equally charming and impecunious. The two hatch a plot to marry each other and then sell off the wedding gifts over the course of a year, for once able to support themselves in the style to which they desperately want to become accustomed. After their honeymoon in a fishing camp owned by their well-connected but also basically poor friend Streffy (Glenn Peters), the two are invited to Ellie's mansion in Newport for the Summer, but when they arrive they find that Ellie is not there. She's off having an affair, and she's tasked Susy with mailing four letters to her husband over the course of the Summer to make him think she's still at home. This was brilliantly dramatized by the hilarious "Letters To Nelson", sung by Ellie getting more and more dishabille with each succeeding missive. Nick takes the time to write an archeological adventure novel (a precursor to Indiana Jones?).

Friday, January 11, 2008

CFP: Edith Wharton Panels at MLA 2008

The Edith Wharton Society will sponsor two sessions at the MLA conference in San Francisco on December 27-30, 2008.

1. WWWD? What Would Wharton Do? Edith Wharton and Politics

What do we know about Edith Wharton’s politics? Her political persuasions? Her views on personal and institutional political responsibility in the modern world? What political concerns did she have? Was her writing ever meant to put forth any political thought, position, or agenda that she might feel important? What were her views on war? On the social problems facing the American public in the 1920s and 1930s? How applicable are her views to the current American scene? Please send abstracts (about 500 words) and short CV's by March 15th to Linda Costanzo Cahir ( or Kean University, 1000 Morris Ave. Willis 103B, Union, NJ 07083).

2. Edith Wharton and the ‘Other Half’

This panel seeks to explore all aspects of Edith Wharton’s relationship to urban poverty. All approaches are welcome, as are papers connecting Wharton to other figures. Please send abstracts of 250-300 words and 1 page cvs to Hildegard Hoeller at by March 10th. This panel is organized by the Edith Wharton Society.

Edith Wharton Walk

New York Times:

ADVENTURE ON A SHOESTRING Saturday at 2 p.m., “The World of Edith Wharton,” features a walk in Gramercy Park, meeting on the southwest corner of Lexington Avenue and 23rd Street. (212) 265-2663. $10.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Wharton's copyrights in "life plus 70 years" copyright countries

From John Mark Ockerbloom of the Online Books page:

Much of the world gets to celebrate today as Public Domain Day as well, the day when a whole year’s worth of copyrights enter the public domain for anyone to copy or reuse as they like.

In countries that use the “life plus 50 years” minimum standard of the Berne Convention, works by authors who died in 1957 enter the public domain today. That includes writers, artists, and composers like Nikos Kazantzakis, Diego Rivera, Dorothy L. Sayers, Jean Sibelius, and Laura Ingalls Wilder.

In countries that use the “life plus 70 years” term, works by authors who died in 1937 enter the public domain, including works by J. M. Barrie, Jean de Brunhoff, H. P. Lovecraft, Maurice Ravel, and Edith Wharton. Since many countries with this term recently extended it due to trade agreements, they’re often seeing these works re-enter the public domain after being removed from it, but their return to the public is still appreciated.