Thursday, December 22, 2005

Edith Wharton's Library (press release from The Mount)
. . . . . .
In addition to containing 22 copies of her own works, some of the more important first editions in the collection according to independent appraisers include:

* Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1866, first American edition) 1,000 copies printed. Wharton recalled that as a child she knew Alice “by heart.”
* The Golden Bowl by Henry James, signed by the author: “To Edith Wharton – in sympathy – Henry James, November 1904.” There are more than 25 works by James in the library including Terminations, Embarrassments, and Wings of the Dove, chronicling their long and intimate friendship.
* Ulysses by James Joyce. This is one of 750 copies published by Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare and Company in 1922.
* America and the World War by Theodore Roosevelt, 1915. Inscribed: “To Edith Wharton from an American – American! Theodore Roosevelt Feb 6th 1915.”
* The Education of Henry Adams (Privately printed for the author), 1907. Edition of 100 copies.

Sets of books from her father’s library, including his two-volume set of Milton, were joined by the poets she loved, including Arnold, Browning, Coleridge, Donne, Hopkins, Keats, Shelley, Tennyson, Yeats, and three volumes of Walt Whitman, a personal favorite.

Essentially self-educated, she was fluent in French, German, and Italian, and collected classical literature in translation. She revered the works of Goethe and read all his poetry by the age of fifteen. Works by Italian writers including Boccaccio, Machiavelli, Dante, and Leopardi were side by side on her shelves with French masters Racine, Pascal, Balzac, Stendhal, Flaubert, and Proust.
. . . . . .

Thursday, December 15, 2005

From the New York Times(free registration required)

December 15, 2005
After a Century, an American Writer's Library Will Go to America

SETTRINGTON, England, Dec. 12 - In an English house in this small Yorkshire village, a defining moment in American letters unfolded on Monday, rounding a circle begun a century ago when Edith Wharton, the writer, packed up and left the United States to live in France.

With a toast of Champagne and a lunch of roast pheasant (shot by the host himself), George Ramsden, a British bookseller in a pinstripe suit, signed a $2.6 million agreement to sell the 2,600-volume Edith Wharton library to the custodians of the Mount, the writer's estate in Lenox, Mass., which she designed, built and finally left forever in 1911 as her marriage unraveled.

"It is the most important acquisition we could possibly make," Stephanie Copeland, head of the Mount's restoration project, said in an interview just before she signed the deal.

The sale ended a remarkable period of uncertainty, not just for the future of the collection and the keepers of the Mount but also for Mr. Ramsden, who bought the bulk of the library in 1984 for £45,000, then worth around $80,000, and has devoted much of his life to completing and cataloguing it.

The library has rarely been on public view since the writer's death in France in 1937, and its return to the Mount will provide scholars and Wharton aficionados with an opportunity to view the volumes that not only shaped Wharton's development but also reflected the broad sweep of her interests, from classical French theater and German drama to the novels of her peers and the delights of the then new-fangled automobile.

Annotations in the volumes offer a window into her world. There is an inscribed volume from Morton Fullerton, her journalist lover in Paris, said by scholars to have been Wharton's most significant romantic partner. He dedicated a copy of "Problems of Power," a study in international politics, to "Edith Wharton, but for whom this book would never have been written." Theodore Roosevelt inscribed a copy of his 1915 "America and the World War" with the words: "To Edith Wharton from an American-American!" And there are, of course, books signed by Henry James, which throw some oblique light into the deep friendship she maintained with him. ("To Edith Wharton - in sympathy," James wrote in "The Golden Bowl" in 1904).

Hermione Lee, a prominent scholar at Oxford University, who is preparing a new Wharton biography, called the library "a form of writer's autobiography" in the 1998 foreword of a catalog of the collection prepared by Mr. Ramsden.

"Her whole social milieu, her private affairs and her literary career can be discerned from her collection," Ms. Lee wrote. "Wharton's flyleaves show her progression from Edith Jones to Mrs. Edward Wharton to Edith Wharton, as she turns herself from a society girl into the much-admired and somewhat daunting internationally famous author."

The setting for the sale at Mr. Ramsden's home near York - the house, dating to 1716, is called the Old Rectory - was hardly the opulent world of old New York depicted by Wharton in many of her novels. There were no footmen or bejeweled grandes dames (though there was, fittingly, an English lord). There were none of the couches and opulent paneling of the original library at the Mount, which Wharton moved into in 1902.

Indeed, the sale itself was part of a more complex - and strictly modern - financial transaction. The purchase of the library, Ms. Copeland said, was financed by a loan from an anonymous benefactor, whom she would identify only as a businessman.

Once the library is reinstalled at the Mount, in the original library on the first floor, Wharton admirers will be encouraged to "adopt" a book for a set price. The most expensive at $1 million, Ms. Copeland said, will be Wharton's copy of "The Decoration of Houses" - the first work of prose published under her name in 1897, with her co-author, Ogden Codman Jr.

Lesser titles will be available for adoption for as little as $1,000. The aim is to pay back the purchase price and create a $35 million restoration fund for the Mount, Ms. Copeland said.

How Edith Wharton's characters from upper-crust Old New York might have shivered at such public discussion of money!

For many years, the sale had been at an impasse. Mr. Ramsden was ready to sell, but the Mount had no money to buy, Ms. Copeland said. Only a series of apparent coincidences last year and earlier this year undid the deadlock. But that was after the collection had already endured many vicissitudes.

After Wharton's death in 1937, the library was split and part was destroyed in storage in London during the World War II. The rest was inherited by Colin Clark, the son of the British historian Sir Kenneth Clark and Wharton's godson. That part was integrated into Kenneth Clark's own library at Saltwood Castle in Kent, in southern England. The Clark family sold the collection and Mr. Ramsden bought the library from Maggs, a prominent London bookseller, in 1984, but it was incomplete and he spent many years revisiting Saltwood to look for missing volumes and buying other books to complete the library. (Alan Clark, Sir Kenneth's other son, told him his quest for missing books at Saltwood was "admirable but a thundering nuisance," Mr. Ramsden said.)

"The unique thing about this library is that she wrote about it in her autobiography," Mr. Ramsden said. "She really tells you what books really meant to her. Even before she could read, she could be found alone with a book upside down in her hands. The physical presence of books continued to mean a lot to her.

[ . . . ]

Submitted by Frederick Wegener.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

From The New Yorker, February 1936 (Talk of the Town), during the run of Ethan Frome on Broadway:

We caught our cold in the National Theatre, waiting at the top of the coasting hill for Ethan Frome and Mattie Silver to start their long, sad descent. The chill which we took was brought on when we observed the remarkable manner in which these two grief-sprent lovers arranged themselves on the sled. Instead of sitting up, clutching each other (as Mrs. Wharton specified), or lying down belly-whoppers (a conceivable alternative), they startled everybody by reclining side by side on the sled, in the sort of classic semi-recumbent pose which we once saw Raymond Duncan take before a group of ladies. It is clear to us now why the Ethan and Mattie of the play didn't die. They didn't die because they most certainly fell off the sled near the top of the hill and never got within a mile of the old elm at the bottom. Not even Donna Fox could have fetched the elm that way, much less Raymond Massey.
# 22 November. Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will air the 1934 version of The Age of Innocence on December 6 and 20. This version is not available on VHS or DVD.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

From Slate on Maureen Dowd (

One of Dowd's many admirers extravagantly compared her to Edith Wharton. But Wharton was among the first female writers to write about the single woman's ambivalence toward marriage. What is maddening about Dowd's book—and the excerpt in the Times Magazine—is that she does not develop her ideas, that she does not push beneath the surface. One wishes that, instead of devoting herself to zinginess, to ripostes and one-liners, she would use her threatening intelligence to unearth the deeper complexities of her subject. Is there something about the generation of women who came of age in the late 1960s—in male-dominated universities and workplaces—that finds its own power problematic? Why is it that so many women are taking refuge in outdated visions of femininity?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

From "Edith Wharton and the War on Terror" by Garrison Keillor
(Submitted by EWS members)

. . .

There is no fighting these boondoggles and politicians know it. The stuff gets passed and signed into law and taxpayer groups fire off a barrage of press releases and a week later it's old news. The sensible thing is to fight for your own boondoggle.

I belong to an enormous special-interest group that, unlike Alaskans or hobby pilots, has never exercised much clout, and that is the English-major community. For us, the equivalent of the Gravina Island bridge is the public library equipped with leather sofas and an espresso bar and librarians who are trained in pressure-point massage. Greek columns would be nice, and a pair of stone lions, and a rare book collection and a three-story lobby with marble floors so your footsteps echo as if you were in an Edith Wharton novel. And a statue of Minerva.

I imagine that a super-library of that caliber might cost $223 million if you add in the books, the banks of computers with high-speed Internet connections, the movie theater, the Children's Room, the Steam Room, the Nap Room, the Hobnob Room where English majors can gather for a libation, the underground parking garage, and the kindly reference librarian with the bun, the faint moustache on the upper lip, the navy-blue knit dress, the sensible shoes, and the glasses on a chain around her neck. Those ladies have become rare and do not come cheap.

We English majors need a mouthpiece in Congress of the caliber of Rep. Don Young of Alaska. And we need to promote public libraries as a tool in the war against terror.

How many readers of Edith Wharton have engaged in terroristic acts? I challenge you to name one. Therefore, the reading of Edith Wharton is a proven deterrent to terror. Do we need to wait until our cities lie in smoking ruins before we wake up to the fact that a first-class public library is a vital link in national defense?

Which side is your congressman on? If we English majors would make our voices heard and flood Congress with angry sonnets, we would get a major library bill passed. I hope that Minnesota will get the first $223 million library, but if Ketchikan wants one too, fine.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

From Jonathan Bank of the Mint Theater Company:

Monday, October 17th at 7:30
Celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the publication of
Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth

Join us for a reading of the Edith Wharton/Clyde Fitch dramatization of Wharton’s novel, as adapted by Jonathan Bank.

Edith Wharton joined with “the playwright of the hour in America” Clyde Fitch to dramatize her first great success. The result played on Broadway for only two weeks in 1906—but the Mint production in 1998 was a great success. Artistic Director Jonathan Bank revised the original text using material from the novel.

Attend the reading only or plan to have dinner before the show with adapter/director Jonathan Bank and hear the story of how Wharton and Clyde Fitch were brought together in the first place and learn about the fascinating changes Wharton made to her original story and why.

Tickets for the reading only: $25
Tickets for dinner (location TBA), discussion and reading: $85

All proceeds to benefit Mint Theater Company
311 West 43rd St, 3rd floor
NY, NY 10036

Box office: 212-315-0231
Or visit our website:

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Prof (Alan Price) found PSU Hazleton perfect


Prof found PSU Hazleton perfect
By Craig Eisenberger
The Standard-Speaker

While teaching, Price conducted literary research. Two writers stuck out in his mind during his time in college, Theodore Dreiser and Edith Wharton. Researching Wharton led him across the country and the world, looking at manuscripts and other documents.
Looking through Wharton's papers, Price came across photos of children. Now he found this odd since she divorced her husband in 1913 and had no children. "I was wondering where these kids are from," Price said. "I'm nosy and that kind of curiosity is necessary for an academic researcher."
"What I found out was that she ran a refugee organization responsible for saving thousands of people at the same time she was writing novels."
That led him to write The End of the Age of Innocence: Edith Wharton and the First World War. "I wrote about her World War I work, as a novelist but mostly as a humanitarian."
It took 20 years to get everything together and finally write the book. "The New York Times gave it a good review," Price recalled.
While other Americans were fleeing Paris because of the impending German invasion through Belgium, Wharton stayed to help the children. However, she was not alone.
"When you write big projects there is always something left over," Price said.
During his time researching Wharton's efforts to assist refuges, he came across 200 other organizations run by American women in France and Belgium, which were later consolidated by the Red Cross.
"I didn't get to talk about those organizations," he said.
The workers in France faced miserable conditions, Price said. "These were noble efforts and they are gone as if they evaporated." He feels that he may return to this topic one day.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Age of Innocence (1934 version) on Turner Classic Movies.

The 1934 version of The Age of Innocence will run on the TCM (Turner Classic Movies) channel on Thursday, August 18, at noon Eastern Daylight Time (9 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time). This version is not available on VHS or DVD, and it is only rarely shown on television.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Home truths
The Back Half
Stephen Bayley
Monday 15th August 2005
From The New Statesman

The interior-design craze was fuelled by the publication of The Decoration of Houses, by Edith Wharton and Ogden Codman, in 1897. The book was a significant influence on Elsie de Wolfe, the inventor of the modern profession. A social-climbing lesbian, she is the spiritual ancestor of Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen. With her cheerful motto "plenty of optimism and white paint", de Wolfe introduced new American money to old French furniture when, one day in 1913, she unloaded $3m-worth of cabriole-legged stuff on to Henry Clay Frick. For years afterwards, possession of French furniture was a token of status. In her novel The Custom of the Country (1913), Wharton parodied this affected Francophilia and coined the useful term "Looey". As late as 1950 - when, remember, the abstract expressionists were already at work - the decorator Billy Baldwin was still telling students at the Parsons School of Design in New York that all they really needed was a perfect pair of "Looey XVI" console tables and life, hitherto unsatisfactory, would be complete.
A writer's other great passion, restored
Edith Wharton's garden reblooms

By Carol Stocker, Globe Staff | August 11, 2005

LENOX -- The mistress had a corner bedroom so she could look down on her flower garden while writing longhand in bed. This she did each day from about 6 a.m. to noon, often with a dog propped under one arm as she dropped each completed page on the floor to be collected by her maid and typed by her secretary.

This was how Edith Wharton wrote ''The House of Mirth" at The Mount, her vacation home in the Berkshires, 100 summers ago. Her novel about Lily Bart, a sincere and vulnerable young woman destroyed by the hypocrisy of high society, became a record-breaking bestseller and gave Wharton the confidence to pursue a career as a writer.

To celebrate the centennial of Wharton's first literary masterpiece, her beloved flower garden was replanted at The Mount this June through a $500,000 grant from an anonymous Boston foundation.

''You don't often get a chance to plant a 3,000-perennial garden in this day and age. It's very exciting," said Susan Child of Boston, who designed the garden with former associate M. Christopher Alonso.

The magnificent garden looks like it was planted years ago. Hundreds of fragrant lilies, old-fashioned mignonettes, and stately delphiniums recreate the luxurious abundance that hallmarked the Gilded Age. The color scheme is sparkling white, vivid blue, and deep purple with bright splashes of pink from the garden phlox that Wharton especially loved.

Tall filigree thalictrum and filipendula contribute the airy effect that Wharton sought in defiance of her era's convention of compact and regimented plants. Asters and fall-blooming anemones are among the many flowers designed to carry the garden through October, when The Mount closes for the season. The four large rectangular borders enclose a rebuilt fountain. Child describes the scene as ''exuberance within the confines of rigor."

The flower garden is the climax of a $35 million restoration project that has brought The Mount back from the brink of collapse. ''This garden is the crown jewel of the entire restoration project," said project manager David Andersen. ''The flowers cost $150,000. But it cost four times that for the layers upon layers of work in this garden that people never see, such as the archeology, the engineering, and the irrigation."

Wharton often spent her afternoons gardening. Despite 10 live-in gardeners and groundskeepers, she liked to get her hands dirty, said Child, ''something women of her class never did." Though her childless marriage proved unfortunate, Wharton lived a very full life here, entertaining her friends and managing an elegant ''great house" with 35 rooms and a staff of 20.

Friday, August 05, 2005

From the Poughkeepsie Journal

Mansion starred in classic tale
Staatsburgh part of Wharton's 'House of Mirth'
By Angela Batchelor

It is her first novel, however, 1905's "House of Mirth," that has a connection to the Staatsburgh State Historic Site in Staatsburg. The novel, serialized by Scribner's Magazine, became a best-seller and has become a classic.

Many believe the country estate described in Wharton's novel, Bellomont, was based on Staatsburgh, the Dutchess County mansion owned by Ogden and Ruth Livingston Mills.

Special tours

To honor the centennial of the publication of Wharton's book, Staatsburgh State Historic Site is offering special "House of Mirth" tours the first Sunday of every month through October. Tours begin at 3 p.m.

"The 100th anniversary of the novel is important," said Julie Olin-Ammentorp, a member of the Edith Wharton Society. " 'House' has such an important place in American literature. It is an amazingly accomplished novel. Wharton's characters, plot and literary style are all impressive."

Monday, July 11, 2005

Land's End in Newport
From Washington Lifein September 2002. The original article is here and includes a picture of the house as it stands today.

Rumor has it that Edith Wharton purchased the remote property at the southern end of Ledge Road because she wanted to live as far as possible from her mother without leaving Newport. . . .

In 1897 Edith Wharton purchased Land's End from Robert Livingston Beeckman, a former U.S. Open Tennis Championship runner-up who would go on to become Governor of Rhode Island. At that time Wharton described the main house as "incurably ugly." She agreed to pay $80,000 for the property, and spend thousands more to alter the home's facade, decorate the interior, and landscape the grounds. Ultimately, Wharton would allow that she and Ogden Codman, Jr., a revivalist architect who supervised the renovations, had finally helped the home achieve "a certain dignity." The newly constructed gardens were especially impressive having been laid-out in classical design by Beatrix Ferrand, the landscape architect responsible for the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

From The Literary Almanac for June 29, 2005:

It was on this day in 1921, Edith Wharton (books by this author) became the first woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for her novel The Age of Innocence, which opens, "On a January evening of the early seventies, Christine Nilsson was singing in Faust at the Academy of Music in New York."

Submitted by Emily Orlando

Friday, June 17, 2005

Edith Wharton's grave

I live in Paris and have been to Edith Wharton's grave in Versailles.
It was unkempt, unoticeable if it was not for a competent cemetery guardian.
It cannot be identified, the inscription on her grave is unleadgible etc...
Something must be done. I will make myself avaiblable to anyone who is willing to do something!

Sophie Latraverse

Sunday, June 12, 2005

A Drawing-Room of Their Own from The New York Times
(free registration required)
[. . . ] The Causeries du Lundi - the name, which means Monday chatterings, was taken from Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve's weekly literary column in a 19th-century Parisian newspaper - is one of the oldest women's literary societies in the country. It is both a relic of a vanishing New York and a poignant reflection of the lives women have led over the past century and a quarter.

Nearly continuously for 125 years, this extremely private and exclusive group has gathered at a member's home almost always on the first Monday of every month during the New York social season, from November to May, to read aloud essays that members have written on topics that interest them. [. . . ]

The surnames of early Causeries members read like a Baedeker of Edith Wharton's New York: Roosevelt, Delafield, Lefferts, Huntington, Van Cortlandt, Beekman, Van Rensselaer. One story passed down through the years is that many early members were wives of men who had helped found the Metropolitan Museum of Art and wanted something to do for themselves.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Literary Map of New York City

This interactive map of New York by the New York Times includes a quotation from The Age of Innocence.

Friday, June 03, 2005

From L.A. Weekly:
The co-publishers of L.A.’s newest press, Bük, are relying on those unlikely literary venues to revive Paine’s unlikely literary form, the pamphlet. Neither a book nor a magazine, Bük comes in 16- and 32-page formats that showcase exactly one piece of writing: an Edith Wharton short story, a Jonathan Swift essay or a collection of Lynn Davis photographs, for instance.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

From the Berkshire Eagle:
Wharton novel topic of exhibit

LENOX -- "Lily's Downfall," a collaborative exhibit with the Museum of the City of New York, will open to the public at The Mount on Sunday. The exhibit celebrates the centennial of "The House of Mirth," Edith Wharton's first bestseller, by bringing the novel to life in the house where it was created.
Designed by former Yale Repertory Artistic Director Stanley Wojewodski Jr., the exhibit features six tableaux depicting key moments in the tragic downfall of the novel's heroine. The tableaux showcases historic Gilded Age costumes from the Museum of the City of New York's extensive collection.

Visitors can see a range of period clothing and accessories, from delicate lingerie to a rare deep mourning dress. The items are more than 100 years old and were worn by women from Wharton's era.

Friday, May 13, 2005

From the Weekend Standard (China):

The only film of the three that works, on its own and as part of the trilogy's larger thematic aim, is Wong Kar-wai's The Hand, a lush, elegant, quietly erotic parable starring Gong Li and Chang Chen. The sublime Gong plays a courtesan in 1960s Hong Kong who hires a tailor (Chang) to be her personal dressmaker after securing his loyalty with a sexual gesture that manages to be as bold as it is discreet. As the relationship between the two changes with their twisting fortunes, The Hand takes on the tragic grandeur of Edith Wharton at her most politely ruthless.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

May 1st 2005; Sunday NYTimes Book Review, p. 31

"We'll Map Manhattan," by Randy Cohen

Randy Cohen proposes "to create, with the help of the Book Review's readers, a literary map of --not of its authors' haunts but those of their characters..."

Lily Bart's walk up Fifth Avenue toward Lawrence Selden's apartment in the Benedick is prominently featured in this essay, which provides both a map and the following quotation from THE HOUSE OF MIRTH:

"As she reached 50th Street...she decided to walk across to Madison Avenue." She notices "the Georgian flathouse with flowerboxes on its balconies...A few yards ahead was the doorway they had entered together."

Submitted by Deborah Hecht,

Monday, May 02, 2005

From the Berkshire Eagle (includes pictures)

LENOX -- Edith Wharton Restoration Inc. is expected to be honored in a White House ceremony by President Bush for its restoration and preservation of The Mount.

The Mount, author Edith Wharton's Lenox estate. Photos by Ben Garver / Berkshire Eagle Staff

The Mount and three other preservation sites and programs -- the Texas Heritage Trails Program, a statewide initiative; Bolduc Historic Property of Sainte Genevieve, Mo., and the Isaiah Davenport House Museum of Savannah, Ga. -- are expected to receive awards, said Bruce Milhans, spokesman for the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

"[The Mount] is very significant from a cultural perspective and a literary perspective," said Milhans. "It has become a very significant draw not only for heritage tourism, but also as an educational program. It was an absolute save."

Friday, April 08, 2005

The Fatherless Children of France Exhibit (Wharton items at Holy Cross)

Currently on display on the second floor of Dinand Library, The Fatherless Children of France: “Their Book” exhibit is a rare event. Given to the College by Mrs. David Johnson in 1953, the collection was a gift in memory of her husband, who from 1891-1893 attended the Holy Cross Preparatory School, which was affiliated with the College until 1909. The collection contains autographed messages, manuscripts, photographs and artwork from the greatest political and military leaders, writers and artists of the World War I era. The items were originally assembled for a fund-raising auction to benefit the Fatherless Children of France Society, an organization founded in 1915 by American women to help French war orphans.

The auction items range from autographed poems by Robert Frost and Edith Wharton, to a 1918 autographed musical score for “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” by John Phillips Sousa . . .

Sunday, March 27, 2005

From The Age (Australia):

To maintain the rigid status quo of high society New York, sacrifices must be made and rebellion punished. By Avril Moore.

The EROTICISM represented by the perpetually blooming red flowers overlaying the lace and perfect copperplate in the title sequence of The Age of Innocence conveys the film's main theme: old-world values colliding with the new.

And yet if May Welland epitomises the strict adherence of the New York aristocracy to what was socially acceptable for the time, then the irony of the title cannot be lost.

For here, as in the novel by Edith Wharton from which the film is faithfully derived, is a world where the intransigent preservation of wealth and power is paramount, and any whiff of individualism must be sacrificed, if not eradicated.

This tension, or outright hostility, exists beneath a brittle veneer of impeccable manners, taste and morality - a harmony shattered by a whisper and a subterfuge so sophisticated that it warrants decoding by an arch, third-person narrator.

Screenwriter and director Martin Scorsese said the narrator was a "tricky" character. The narrator "presents the story in this way to teach us a lesson".

"I love the idea of the female voice setting us up for a fall. You get to trust her, and then she does you in, just like he (Newland Archer) gets done in," he said. [. . . ]

Saturday, March 12, 2005

The New York Times Magazine
March 13, 2005
Interview with Meireille Guiliano (by Edward Lewine, p. 28-29)

"Best book she read recently:

It is called, "True Pleasures: A Memoir of women in Paris. Actually, it was written by an Australian named Lucinda Holdforth. I connect to it because she talks about great women in Paris like Colette, Edith Wharton, Gertrude Stein, but also because she visits the neighborhood where I live there."
--Submitted by Deborah Hecht

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Wharton Materials in World Renowned Literary Archive Secured For Scotland

The most important literary archive to have become publicly available in the last 100 years is on its way to Scotland thanks to a multi-million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The HLF has agreed to give £17.7 million towards the purchase of the John Murray Archive which will allow the National Library of Scotland (NLS) to complete the sale.

The John Murray Archive contains private letters, manuscripts and other correspondence from Jane Austen, Lord Byron, Sir Walter Scott, Benjamin Disraeli, Herman Melville, Charles Darwin, David Livingstone, Thomas Carlyle, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Edith Wharton, among others. It has been independently valued at £45 million but has been offered for sale to NLS at a reduced price of £31.2 million in order to keep the collection in the United Kingdom.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

From The Scotsman:

The naked truth

FROM HER DESK IN AN OAK-PANELLED room in New York Public Library, Hermione Lee can see the tattered remains of the splendid building on the corner of Fifth Avenue and East 42nd Street where the aristocratic, 17-year-old Edith Wharton had her coming-out party.

This being New York, of course, a new building is currently going up on the site, but Lee, a distinguished critic and award-winning biographer, is relishing living in the middle of the childhood landscape of the American novelist, who is the subject of her next biography - previous subjects include Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Bowen and Willa Cather - which she is writing in the city while on a year’s unpaid leave from Oxford University, where she is a Fellow of New College.

. . . . .
While in New York she has turned down countless requests to lecture at American universities, although she has lectured at Princeton and the university’s press will publish a selection of her Body Parts essays under the title Virginia Woolf’s Nose. Edith Wharton and her body of work are, however, all-consuming. "I’m drawn to women writers who don’t have children and are rather self-concealing. I can’t think why. Although I don’t have children I do have five step-grandchildren and I’m very open about my own life."

Interview over, we repair for drinks to the Century Club on West 43rd Street, one of those imposing New York literary institutions where the members look so venerable that they might have been guests at Wharton’s coming-out ball. Indeed, whispers Lee, her eyes bright with mischief behind her spectacles, you almost expect a rather grand Edith Wharton and Henry James to walk in and begin conversing by the blazing log fire.

We both giggle - ever so quietly - at the thought. "There are times when Edith makes me laugh, so I have to ironise her," Lee says, draining her whisky glass. "She was so bossy sometimes. Although I do admire her tremendously: she was awesome, as they say here. Nevertheless, thank goodness I only write about dead people."

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Ripe Time celebrates the 100th anniversary of Edith Wharton's heartbreaking novel The House of Mirth with a NEW stage adaptation INNOCENTS

New York, New York December 1, 2004‹ Ripe Time presents the World Premiere of Innocents, directed by Rachel Dickstein, adapted from Edith Wharton's novel The House of Mirth by Rachel Dickstein with Emily Morse. Innocents previews on Saturday, January 8 for a limited engagement through Saturday, February 5. Opening Night is Monday, January 10 at 8:00 PM. The performance schedule is Monday, Thursday - Saturday at 8:00 PM; Sunday at 7:00 PM, with an additional performance on Wednesday, February 2 at 8:00 PM. Performances take place at the Ohio Theater (66 Wooster Street, between Spring and Broome Streets, in SoHo). For tickets, which are $20, the general public can call SmartTix at 212-868-4444 or visit For more information on the production, visit

Ripe Time is hosting a Panel Discussion on Sunday, January 23rd at 4:00 PM entitled "Gender, Privilege and Power: Staging the House of Mirth in the Age of Martha Stewart." The panel will be moderated by Prof. Rachel Brownstein of Brooklyn College/CUNY Graduate Center and will also take place at the Ohio Theatre. The Panel is FREE and open to the public. Reservations can be made by calling 718-622-3650.

Innocents is a timely tale of glamour, jealousy, ambition and betrayal set against a background of wealth and social hypocrisy in turn of the century New York. Penniless but well connected, Lily Bart navigates her precarious station among New York's upper class balancing her will for independence, the societal push for marriage and own her financial instability. Her search for wealth and power turns tragic when her one-time friends seek revenge on her success through a web of deception and lies. . . .

Thursday, January 13, 2005

From the New York Times (free registration required)

The Hazards of Fortune in the Age of Innocence

Published: January 13, 2005

Paula McGonagle stars as Lily Bart in "Innocents."

Even before "Innocents," the Ripe Time company's evocative interpretation of Edith Wharton's "House of Mirth," begins, the stage is set for a series of extended tableaux vivants.

Ensemble members in Victorian dress appear in the theater lobby, engaging in spirited banter. The audience files into the Ohio Theater across the stage itself, where a solitary young woman stands in a shaft of light, reading a book. The same tall, narrow door through which the audience has entered reveals the glimpse of a party in full swing, framed against a vivid red backdrop. This painterly pre-show image, held for a number of minutes, instantly establishes Lily Bart (Paula McGonagle) as both the antiheroine and ultimate outsider in Rachel Dickstein's impressionistic rendering of the literary classic. . . .

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

James Morrison at Bookslut, a well-known literary blog, reviews some of Edith Wharton's short stories and novellas:

The first woman to win the Pulitzer prize, Edith Wharton is best known for the string of novels she produced at the height of her powers: House of Mirth, The Reef, The Custom of the Country, and The Age of Innocence. Those who have not read her might imagine, perhaps from the films of her books, or from her close and well-known friendship with Henry James, that her writing would be stately, stale and suffocating. This is completely wrong.

Wharton’s fiction is perceptive, black, funny and sometimes deliciously catty. Her neglected but excellent short stories are populated by adulterers, mistresses on the run, murderers, artists (some genuine and great, some pretentious and hilarious), embezzlers and the occasional ghost. A typical opening to one of these gems is that of "The Day of the Funeral": “His wife had said: ‘If you don’t give her up I’ll throw myself from the roof.’ He had not given her up, and his wife had thrown herself from the roof.”

Among the many short stories are also a number of excellent short novels, only a couple of them as well known as they deserve to be.