Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Edith Wharton's Grave: Restoration Plans

Dear Wharton Society Members,

Recently, members of the Wharton Society traveling in France have noted the deteriorating state of Wharton’s grave at Versailles.  We have received an estimate from the cemetery, indicating that we can have the gravestone re-engraved and the grounds surrounding it restored for a cost of 915 Euros.  The Wharton Society Board has voted to proceed with this restoration.  We will be using some Wharton Society funds and would like to invite you as Society members to donate funds, if you wish.  The two donation options, check and credit card (via PayPal), are described below.  The deadline for donations is SEPTEMBER 30, 2012.

  1. Donation by check:

    Please send checks to Wharton Society Treasurer, Carole Shaffer-Koros; email Gary Totten for the address.

    Please indicate on the check that this is a donation for the “Wharton Gravesite Restoration.”  
  2. Donation by credit card through PayPal:

If you wish to donate by credit card through PayPal, please use the “Donate” button at the link below.

Please be sure to use the “Donate” button on the right and not the Membership Payment Options on the left.

If you are paying with PayPal, please include a note indicating that this is for the “Wharton Gravesite Restoration.”  There should be an option in PayPal to include a note with your payment.  If you are unable to locate this feature, please send an email to Gary Totten ( letting me know that you have made the online donation through PayPal.

The Society is considering options for ways to create an ongoing fund to supply flowers at Wharton’s grave on the anniversary of her birthday and death.  We will inform the Society membership of these plans as they develop.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Gary Totten (

Thanks and best wishes,

Gary Totten

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Jennie Fields's Age of Desire and Anna Bahlmann's letters

Edith Wharton moved to Paris in the early 1900s. Not long after, in 1913, after her affair with Morton Fullerton had ended, she divorced her husband of more than 20 years.
EnlargeBeinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
Edith Wharton moved to Paris in the early 1900s. Not long after, in 1913, after her affair with Morton Fullerton had ended, she divorced her husband of more than 20 years.
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From NPR
August 10, 2012
Jennie Fields was well into her new novel about Edith Wharton — and her love affair with a young journalist — when she heard that a new cache of Wharton letters had been discovered. They were written to Anna Bahlmann, who was first Wharton's governess and later her literary secretary. Bahlmann had never been considered a major influence on Wharton, but Fields had decided to make her a central character in her book, The Age of Desire, even before she heard about the letters. She says she felt certain that Wharton and Bahlmann had a strong relationship.
"They had been together for a great part of Edith's life and I knew they had to have been close," Fields says. "So I imagined that was true, but when the letters came out and supported it all, it was eerie and thrilling at the same time."
So Fields got in touch with Irene Goldman-Price, the Wharton scholar who was editing the letters for a new collection called My Dear Governess. The two bonded over their love of Wharton. Goldman-Price says she was fascinated by the fictional world Fields was creating.
"Her imagination makes these people come alive in my mind in ways that they had not before," she says.

Those people are, first and foremost, Edith Wharton, who, according to Goldman-Price, was just coming into her own at the age of 45, where the novel begins.
"She has just finally made a success of writing, which is something that she's wanted to do since she was at least 12 years old," Goldman-Price says. "In 1905, The House of Mirthcomes out. It is not her first novel, but it is her first truly successful novel. She's really feeling her oats."
Enter Morton Fullerton, a young journalist Wharton met while living in Paris. Though he traveled in sophisticated circles, Fullerton wasn't particularly remarkable — but he was charming. And, according to Fields, he had a dubious reputation.
"He was very drawn, apparently, to power and success," Fields says. "He had had affairs with other successful people, both men and women. He was something of a sociopath because he would have these affairs and he would just disappear; [that] was his MO."