Monday, December 11, 2006

Edith Wharton and Newport

From the New York Times:

Mr. Fleming, an urban planner based in Cambridge, Mass., who has written six books on historic preservation, has a proselytizing zeal on the subject of America's great mansions, and a consuming obsession with the welfare of his own. Hoping to make it a comfortable gathering place for his children in the wake of his recent divorce, he set about restoring it to its one-time glory. The project took seven years, and was finally completed late last month.

Luckily, he had a guide in this undertaking: "The Decoration of Houses," the influential handbook that Codman published with his client and friend Edith Wharton in 1897. Codman and Wharton, who often bickered, were as one in their disdain for the pompous Newport "cottages" built by Gilded Age robber barons, and for the "dubious eclecticism" of High Victorian style. They advocated a return to "suitability, simplicity and proportion," ideals in keeping with Mr. Fleming's stringent classical tastes, and very much in evidence in Codman's design for Bellevue House.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Edith Wharton Dinner at MLA 2006

The Edith Wharton Society is sponsoring a dinner event at the 2006 MLA Convention in Philadelphia. The dinner will be at 7 p.m. on December 28, 2006, at

Ristorante La Buca
711 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 928-0556

The restaurant is about 8 blocks from the Marriott.

Please send your check in US funds for $35 for members and $45 for non-members per person and the reservation form by

December 10, 2006


Carole Shaffer-Koros
VE 114A
1000 Morris Avenue
Kean University
Union, NJ 07083

If you have mislaid the sign-up form from the recent _Edith Wharton Review_, a printable form suitable for sending with your check is available here:

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Edith Wharton Stories Performed

From Helene Davis:



New York, NY, November 22, 2006 - Symphony Space has released two new CD sets from its award-winning National Public Radio series, Selected Shorts: A Celebration of the Short Story: Falling In Love and Edith Wharton. The series, which presents Broadway and Hollywood actors reading classic and new short stories, is now in its 20th radio season.

EDITH WHARTON (2-CD set: running time, 2 hours)

EDITH WHARTON features five stories which were recorded live at the Mount, the Massachusetts home of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author. Edith Wharton (1862-1937) was best known for her stories and ironic novels about upper class people. Wharton's central subjects were the conflict between social and individual fulfillment, repressed sexuality, and the manners of old families and the 'nouveau riche,' who had made their fortunes in more recent years.
  • Mrs. Manstey’s View, read by Kathleen Chalfant. You are what you view - an Edith Wharton-era real estate story.
  • Roman Fever, read by Maria Tucci.What happened that night in Rome so long ago? The secret revealed.
  • The Reckoning, read by Brenda Wehle. The high price of marital harmony.
  • Xingu, read by Christina Pickles. Wild goings-on at a ladies' book group.

FALLING IN LOVE (3-CD set, running time 3 hours)

This new 3-CD set features the following stories, which were recorded live at Symphony Space in NYC:

  • Fires by Rick Bass, read by Ted Marcoux. In the Rockies a woman sets fire to a parched field to take the plunge into the pool of love.
  • The Winnowing of Mrs. Schuping by Padgett Powell, read by Christina Pickles. An eccentric southern dame cleans up her act and finds love.
  • The Lone Pilgrim by Laurie Colwin, read by Hope Davis. A New York artist longs for love and marital domesticity.
  • Melisande by E. Nesbit, read by Jane Curtin. A delicious fairy tale about a princess with a terrible curse.
  • Violets by Edna O’Brien, read by Fionnula Flanagan. A subtle portrait of a woman caught in an impossible affair.
  • Travis, B. by Maile Meloy, read by William Hurt. A Western love story between a lonesome cowboy and a city gal.

The CD sets are available on the Symphony Space website, at For information on any Symphony Space program or event, call (212) 864-5400.


For nearly 30 years, Symphony Space has been producing and presenting artistically and culturally diverse music, dance, literary, theatre, family, and film programs that bring artists and audiences together in an atmosphere of exploration and intimacy. One of New York’s preeminent and most reasonably priced cultural resources, and a leader in adventurous programming, its signature events include Selected Shorts: A Celebration of the Short Story, hosted by Isaiah Sheffer and nationally broadcast on public radio; Bloomsday on Broadway readings; Upper West Fest, a three-week cultural extravaganza involving more than twenty neighborhood institutions; and Wall to Wall music events and other marathons, which The New York Times called Symphony Space’s “annual gift to New York City.” Symphony Space’s programs reach audiences throughout New York and, via its touring and media program, the nation. Symphony Space also serves thousands of New York City schoolchildren each year via its Curriculum Arts Project, one of the oldest and most respected arts education programs in existence. Symphony Space’s Artistic Director is Isaiah Sheffer; Executive Director, Cynthia Elliott; and Managing Director, Peggy Wreen.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Haunted Mount?

From Capetown, South]- From novelist Edith Wharton's palatial mansion in Lenox, Massachusetts, to a Gold Rush shack in This Old House on Tuesday profiled 15 of the nation's spookiest houses - and offered some tips on how to hire a reliable ghostbuster.
. . .

Wharton, who died in 1937 at the age of 75, is said to still haunt her estate, called The Mount, sending indoor temperatures icy when she appears.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Age of Innocence on TCM, December 20, 2006

The 1934 film version of The Age of Innocence will be shown on Turner Classic Movies on December 20, 2006, at 10:30 a.m. This film is not available on video or DVD, so if you want to see it, this is probably your only chance this year.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Wharton, Theodore Roosevelt, and Lewis Carroll


Thirteen years after "Snark," Carroll published the first part of his novel "Sylvie and Bruno," in which the Professor begins reciting, "Once upon a time there was a Boojum— " and stops. "I forget the rest of the Fable," he admits. "And there was a lesson to be learned from it. I'm afraid I forget that, too." Many people in the real world have also forgotten. In her autobiography, Edith Wharton recounted a story about her friend Theodore Roosevelt, whose enthusiasm for "Snark" led to a farcical scene.

One day, Roosevelt admonished the secretary of the Navy, "Mr. Secretary, what I say three times is true!" And the less literate gentleman replied stiffly, "Mr. President, it would never for a moment have occurred to me to impugn your veracity." How Lewis Carroll would have chuckled over the ironies of posthumous fame.

Wharton and Happiness

New York Observer Review of The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud.

'There are lots of ways to be miserable," Edith Wharton once wrote, "but there's only one way of being comfortable, and that's to stop running around after happiness." In the hundred years since Wharton published these words, Americans, especially the cultural elite, have not learned their lesson.

In New York City, the setting of Wharton's finest fictions -- and where "success" and "happiness" are often used interchangeably -- there's a clock tick-tocking by the bedside of every aspiring young writer or intellectual. If your debut novel hasn't landed by the time you turn 30, you're washed up. If you haven't earned tenure by 40, pack it up. You're through.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

About Wyndclyffe

"History vs. the Bulldozer" from Newsday:

On a wooded river bluff in Rhinecliff, N.Y., a Romanesque castle called Wyndclyffe stands boarded up, its roof partly caved in. Surrounded by comparably modest getaways of recent vintage, its once-ample grounds have shrunk to a two-acre lot. This crumbling castle, built in 1853 for an aunt of Gilded Age chronicler Edith Wharton - the spinster Elizabeth Schermerhorn Jones - it is said to have been the origin of the expression, "keeping up with the Joneses," because, when it was built, the neighbors rushed to gussy up their own millionaire manors.

Wyndclyffe is among the few dozen imperiled monuments profiled in "Hudson Valley Ruins," by Thomas Rinaldi and Robert J. Yasinsac (University Press of New England, 356 pp., $35).

It takes a middle road between the extravagant picture-book of erstwhile luxury estates and the scholarly architectural catalog, giving overviews of endangered sites by region, and telling in detail the life stories of several properties in each area.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A. R. Gurney and Edith Wharton

From Backstage:

"I love the world he creates -- the way he delineates the WASP tribe, whose heroes are bound and defined by their society," says Lamos, who also helmed Gurney's Big Bill at Lincoln Center Theater and, as artistic director of Hartford Stage, produced Gurney's Children and an adaptation of his novel The Snow Ball. Comparing the playwright to Edith Wharton, Lamos says, "I lived in New England and know the world he's talking about. He is evenhanded and the economy of his writing is unequaled. He is a miniaturist. He just tells you enough, yet the depth and psychology are there. The challenge is to find the simplicity and economy in the staging and cast actors who have sensitivity to tonal shifts that take place in the moment."

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Edith Wharton Essay Prize (Deadline: 10/30/06)

The Edith Wharton Essay Prize

The Edith Wharton Essay Prize is awarded annually for the best unpublished essay on Edith Wharton by a beginning scholar. Graduate students, independent scholars, and faculty members who have not held a tenure-track or full-time appointment for more than four years are eligible to submit their work.

The winning essay will be published in The Edith Wharton Review, a peer-reviewed journal, and the writer will receive an award of $250.

All entries will be considered for publication in The Edith Wharton Review as well as for the Edith Wharton Essay Prize. Submissions should be 15-25 pages in length and should follow the new 6 th edition MLA style, using endnotes, not footnotes.

Applicants should not identify themselves on the manuscript but should provide a separate cover page that includes their names, academic status, e-mail address, postal addresses, and the notation “The Edith Wharton Essay Prize.”

To submit an essay for the prize, send three copies by 30 October 2006 to either of the editors of The Edith Wharton Review:

Prof. Carole M. Shaffer-Koros
Dean of the School of Visual and Performing Arts
Kean University
Union, NJ 07083

Prof. Linda Costanzo-Cahir
W 1091
Kean University
Union, NJ 07083

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Academy of Music

From the New York Sun:

When the rich families moved away, Union Square became the fancy shopping district. Such stores as Tiffany's and Brentano's Literary Emporium, and restaurants like Delmonico's and Lüchow's, were there. In Edith Wharton's "The Age of Innocence," which is set in the 1870s, society ritually congregates at the Academy of Music, on the northeast corner of 14th Street and Irving Place. (It was torn down for the Consolidated Edison Building, and shouldn't be confused with the much later movie theater called the Academy of Music on the other side of 14th Street.) Theaters abounded around Union Square in the late 19th century, making it the forerunner to today's Times Square theater district.

Monday, August 28, 2006

An allusion to "False Dawn"

From the New York Daily News: Now you see 'em at museums

'Moonlight' by Ralph Blakelock is one of many American paintings now on view that until recently were consigned to storage.

In an Edith Wharton novella set in the mid-19th century, the scion of an aristocratic New York family - a young man who has studied art history - travels to Europe to buy "pictures" (what we today would call paintings).

Unfortunately, the young man has acquired taste and a serious eye.

Instead of buying the opulent, bright - and huge - canvases his relatives imagined adorning the walls of their mansion, he acquires small, exquisite early Renaissance works. The family is mortified. For the rest of his life he is an outcast. Not until after his death, decades later, does the value, both esthetic and financial, of his collection become apparent.

The story was one of many in which Wharton deplored the materialism and philistinism of the wealthy, dull people among whom she had grown up.

Like wealthy families, museums sometimes acquire things whose value becomes clear only with time.

Monday, August 21, 2006

From 2004 (see also all the NYTimes pieces on Wharton at; registration is required, but some articles are free)

Edith Wharton: A Manhattan Literary Giant Who Didn't Love New York


Published: September 12, 2004

EDITH WHARTON, whose deft portraits of the upper class are taken as definitive accounts of the late 19th century, remains one of the most potent names in the literature of New York. Not that she was a partisan of the city. Her portraits of New York were almost uniformly negative, and she left the city as soon as she could. That's why, in part, the physical traces of the author of "The Age of Innocence" and "The House of Mirth" are few and far between. Edith Newbold Jones, as she was called at birth, was born in 1862 to George Frederic Jones and his wife, the former Lucretia Rhinelander, both from genteel families with roots in 18th century New York. In 1857 they built a brownstone at 14 West 23rd Street. The house as the family knew it is long gone, but an early photograph shows a wide, Anglo-Italianate-style brownstone mansion four stories high, with rusticated stone on the ground floor and simple window moldings on the floors above. The Jones house had a certain repose about it — it might have been designed by a master builder, or perhaps even a real architect. (Go to NYT for more)

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Louis Auchincloss on the Five Best Novellas

The Long and the Short of It
The best novellas.

Saturday, July 8, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT

From the Wall Street Journal

1. "Madame de Treymes" By Edith Wharton (Scribner's, 1907).

A notable form of fiction, the novella is approved more by the reading public of yesterday than of to day. Its length is hard to specify other than to say that it is usually not long enough to justify a separate publication under its own covers, yet it is certainly a useful form for any subject too simple for a novel but too complex to be fitted within the limits of a short story. Edith Wharton's "Madame de Treymes" is a remarkable example of the form. It is the story of the tactical defeat but moral victory of an honest and upstanding American in his struggle to win a wife from a tightly united but feudally minded French aristocratic family. He loses, but they cheat. It is essentially the same tale with the same moral as James's full-length novel "The American." In a masterpiece of brevity, Wharton dramatizes the contrast between the two opposing forces: the simple and proper old brownstone New York, low in style but high in principle, and the achingly beautiful but decadent Saint-Germain district of Paris. The issue is seamlessly joined.

Monday, June 19, 2006

If Edith Wharton had a blog

From literary blogger Maud Newton :

Unless you’re Thomas Pynchon, it’s not enough these days to write a book and publish it. Today’s author is expected to pimp her novels by any means necessary — with interminable readings, book club talks, temporary tattoos, hideous and ill-fitting t-shirts, fanciful diagrams, and of course blogs. This makes perfect sense. After all, most writers choose to sequester themselves with books and papers for weeks on end precisely because they enjoy and excel at interacting with the rest of humanity.

As Katharine Weber’s latest novel, Triangle, appears, she tries to imagine Edith Wharton in today’s publishing environment:

Would she send out ‘tsotsch,’ as one publicist calls it enthusiastically — pencils, say, with House of Mirth stamped in gold and a smiley face pin affixed to the end? Had she written a novel of particular interest to Jewish readers (unlikely, given her appalling references to Simeon Rosedale, but I forgive her), would she have dressed up as a giant dreidel at the Jewish Book Council reception at BEA? Would she go on The View? Would she have an Amazon Blog?
Yes, Weber decides: Wharton’s publisher would require her to have an Amazon Blog. Weber channels the Ethan Frome author below.

Monday, June 05, 2006

From Forbes.Com

New York -

In Edith Wharton's novel The Age of Innocence, there is a character of some quality who has fallen into disrepute and who ends his days in exile in Argentina representing a large insurance company. He dies in "an odor of prosperity."

Just such an odor wafts over insurance companies. It hangs between them and the dark clouds of misfortune and blacker ones of catastrophe, providing the umbrella of capital.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

From The Guardian
The author's curse

David Lodge spent three years writing and researching a biographical novel about Henry James. Then he learned that at least four other writers had been at work on similar projects. Soon he found himself caught up in a web of irony and coincidence worthy of a Jamesian plot

If anyone deserves to win this year's Man Booker Prize, it's Henry James. During 2004, he has been the originator of no fewer than three outstanding novels.

Thus began Peter Kemp's review of my novel, Author, Author, in the Sunday Times of August 29 2004, a few days before its official publication date. The other two novels to which he referred were Colm Tóibín's The Master, published in March of that year, and Alan Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty, published in April. Henry James is the central character of both The Master and Author, Author. The central character of The Line of Beauty, which is set in the 1980s, is a young man who is writing a postgraduate thesis on Henry James, and Hollinghurst's novel was seen by several critics as a stylistic homage to him.

Kemp did not mention another novel about Henry James, which had been published in November 2002 and was reissued as a paperback in the spring of 2004, Emma Tennant's Felony, which spliced together an account of James's relationship with the American novelist Constance Fenimore Woolson and a speculative retelling of the source story of his novella, The Aspern Papers. Nor did Kemp mention - probably he was not aware of its existence - yet another novel about James, by the South African writer Michiel Heyns, which was being offered to London publishers in 2004. Entitled The Typewriter's Tale, and narrated from the point of view of James's secretary, it concerned James's involvement, in the years 1907-10, in a love affair between two of his closest friends, the novelist Edith Wharton and Morton Fullerton, bisexual journalist and man of letters. We know all this about a book that is still unpublished because Michiel Heyns wrote an eloquent and poignant article in Prospect magazine in September 2004 about coming last in the procession of James-inspired novelists. These were its opening words: "My agent forwards to me another polite letter of rejection: 'I am so sorry but timing is all - and there has been a spate of fiction based on the life of Henry James published here. I don't know how such coincidences happen ... something in the atmosphere? So regretfully I must say no.'"

Monday, May 15, 2006

Donors of Wharton Library Revealed (from the Buffalo News)

Anonymous no longer

For about a century, writer Edith Wharton's personal library was overseas. Now, thanks to a pair of Buffalonians, the collection has been bought and returned to The Mount, Wharton's onetime home in Lenox, Mass.

The caretakers of The Mount bought the personal library for $2.6 million from its owner in England, through the help of an anonymous, private donor, according to the Associated Press.

At a recent ceremony celebrating the collection's return, the couple's identity was revealed: Robert and Elisabeth Wilmers.

The chairman of M&T Bank and his wife, who heads Roche and Co., attended the event, whose guest list included a famous former librarian, first lady Laura Bush.

The Wilmers are longtime supporters of The Mount and have a home in the area. Four years ago, Roche and Co. sponsored the restoration and decoration of the mansion's forecourt and entrance hall.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

From the Albany Capital News site:

First Lady Laura Bush visits Lenox
Updated: 4/25/2006 10:41 AM
By: Ryan Peterson

The Mount, the estate that author Edith Wharton designed and built in 1902, is in the midst of a complete restoration. One of the restoration's goals was to purchase Wharton's library and bring it back home. That goal was reached with the help of a $2.6 million donation that First Lady Laura Bush helped celebrate at a ceremony on Monday.

Mrs. Bush said, "Many of these books contain notes and editorial changes that Edith made in her early editions of her own works. Several books have inscriptions from her close friends who were historical figures in their own right, people like President Theodore Roosevelt and Henry James."

The staff at The Mount in Lenox was very excited and honored to have Mrs. Bush pay a visit. Mrs. Bush, who is a former librarian, said on national television in 2001 that Edith Wharton is one of her favorite authors.

"As a librarian and a lover of literature, I believe it's important for Americans to be able to visit the homes of our most renowned and beloved authors," she said.

From the Seattle Times: (Review of House of Mirth play running through May 13, 2006)

Classic story of woman's quest for social status

Seattle Times theater critic

"Everything about her was both vigorous and exquisite," wrote Edith Wharton of her definitive character Lily Bart.

The same can be said of actress Jennifer Lee Taylor, the captivating Lily in Book-It Repertory Theatre's "The House of Mirth."

With her fair, translucent beauty, aristocratic carriage and sleek charm, Taylor is every inch the Gilded Age enchantress Wharton described in her brilliant novel — and the ethical self-doubter, too.

Playing across Taylor's lovely face (she resembles a young Meryl Streep) are the conflicting desires that make her, ultimately, masochistic and noble. Lily attempts to both cultivate her conscience and seek her fortune in the nouveau riche piranha tank of Old New York. Alas, the two impulses turn out to be tragically incompatible.

From the Times Literary Supplement:

Isabelle de Tuyll, the prolific eighteenth-century writer who adopted the nom de guerre of Zélide and whose suitors included James Boswell and Benjamin Constant, was also rescued from oblivion by a biography with “a strong visual sense”. In 1925, following the lead of Lytton Strachey, a young architectural historian called Geoffrey Scott produced a compact, sceptical and elegantly written Portrait of Zélide. Scott underwent what Holmes calls “the classic ‘transfer experience’ of the modern biographer, starting as the detached scholar but gradually being drawn hypnotically into all the domestic details and dramas of Zélide’s world”. Part of the reason Scott was drawn in was that the story reflected his own emotional entanglements with numerous older women, including Mary Berenson, Edith Wharton and Vita Sackville-West, all of whom he shamelessly told were the real and secret dedicatees of his book. Holmes also believes that Scott’s book, although not exactly feminist, “changed forever the way English biographers wrote (or simply failed to write about) women. It recognized that women’s lives had different shapes from men’s, different emotional patterns of achievement and failure”.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Garrison Keillor on Edith Wharton

I have an after-dinner speech about marriage that is 15 minutes long and somewhat funny. ("The rules for marriage are the same as for a lifeboat. No sudden moves, don't crowd the other person, and keep all disastrous thoughts to yourself.") As a thrice-married guy, one feels an obligation to share such insights.

So I found myself in a cab to LaGuardia to catch a plane to Atlanta to give the speech. (I was in New York to speak at the Edith Wharton Society but not about marriage since she had a miserable one.)

[Does anyone know what event this might be? None of the EWS members I've asked know anything about it. Thanks. --Ed. ]
From the Seattle Times:

From page to stage, trying to capture Edith Wharton's Lily

By Misha Berson

Lily Bart, an alluring and eligible woman of 29, is a glittering ornament of the Manhattan "smart set" who catches many a male mogul's wandering eye.

But Lily is no mere "It Girl" of the Gilded Age. She is, in fact, one of the most complicated of American literary protagonists. Ambitious and ambivalent, vain and virtuous, torn and ultimately tragic, she is often a puzzle — to herself, and to others.

Given Lily's beauty and charm, why does happiness escape her? And why, given all her rich admirers, does she end up poor and alone?

Lily's psychological intricacy, in relation to the rigid social strata she inhabits, make Edith Wharton's 1905 book, "The House of Mirth," one of the finest of American novels — and among the hardest to stage or film.

Yet "The House of Mirth" devotees can still dream that Lily's glittering, perilous saga in Old New York will someday translate into satisfying drama.

That hope rises again, with the arrival of a new stage adaptation by British writer Marcus Goodwin. Produced by Book-It Repertory Theatre, and staged by artistic director Jane Jones, it opens Friday at Seattle's Center House Theatre, with gifted actress Jennifer Lee Taylor as Lily.
. . .
Coming up

"The House of Mirth," produced by Book-It Repertory Theatre, previews begin Tuesday, opens Friday and runs through May 13 at Center House Theatre, Seattle Center; $15-$30 (206-216-0833 or
From the Mercury News:

Within a few months, I had all the books in hand and had mapped my strategy. Along with each winning work, I would read at least one other book by the author and his or her biography, study criticism and view any film versions. This was going to be a gourmet reading experience.

Speed bump No. 2: Most of the first 10 Pulitzer Prize winners were abysmal. The jurors had lapsed into good taste only once, when they chose Edith Wharton's ``The Age of Innocence.''

Speed bump No. 3: Life and news intervened. On election night 2000, I sat in a St. Petersburg, Fla., hotel room perusing ``Scarlet Sister Mary'' and faced facts. After months of reading and research, I had made it only as far as 1929. The Bush-Gore drama unfolding on television was a whole lot more interesting. I flew back to online news work in Atlanta and put aside the project for 4 1/2 years.

. . . . .
Some books were impossible to read without the main character's metamorphosing into the actor in the movie role. In my mind's eye, Atticus Finch was indistinguishable from Gregory Peck, Newland Archer conjured up Jeremy Irons and Oprah Winfrey was Sethe. It was a reminder that we bring all our experiences to reading.

[Ed. question: When did Jeremy Irons play Newland Archer?]

Friday, April 14, 2006

Buccaneers Miniseries now on DVD

`The Buccaneers' miniseries gets better with age
By R.D. Heldenfels
Akron Beacon Journal

DVD pick of week: When The Buccaneers aired on Masterpiece Theatre in 1995, I called it "a wonderful story of money and class, romantic love and marriages of convenience, of England and the United States."

More than a decade later, the DVD (BBC Video, five parts on one two-sided disc, $14.98) found me liking it even more.

Based on an unfinished Edith Wharton novel, the miniseries involved young women trying to succeed in London society after failing to make a dent in America's upper crust.
From (San Francisco)

The Wharton One-Acts" — Valley Shakespeare Festival presents the West Coast premiere of two stage adaptations of Edith Wharton's stories "The Mission of Jane" and "The Promise." Closes Sunday,April 16 at Downtown Yoga, 220-B Division St., Pleasanton. 8 p.m. today and Saturday; 4 p.m. Sunday. $20-$25. (925) 606-6468;

When the TV companies wheel in experts to talk in hushed tones about art, I rush down to galleries and slash canvases. Not really. Galleries are always closed by that time of night. My favourite buttock-clencher in last night's The Private Life Of An Easter Masterpiece was "The Last Supper creates who we are." That leaves our mothers and fathers out of the picture then. But, luckily, the American novelist Edith Wharton was remembered as keeping it real by saying: "Ever since I first saw that painting I wanted to bash it in the face."

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Ethan Frome: An American Romance – a new musical based on the classic 1911 novella by Edith Wharton – will receive its first staged reading at The York Theatre on Tuesday, May 9th at 3 PM and 7:30 PM.

. . .

The York Theatre at St Peter’s is located at 54th St. just east of Lexington Ave. For further information, call 212-935-5820 or visit

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The House of Mirth Closes Book-It's Season (Broadway World)
Lily Bart, the lovely, impoverished and stubbornly single heroine of Edith Wharton's 1905 dark bestseller The House of Mirth, is a character destined for disappointment. Trapped in a society where women are "brought up to be ornamental," she's torn between her desire for a carefree gilded existence and her desire for the unthinkable: a marriage based on love. And unfortunately, at age 29, her shelf life is about to expire. Lily's plight is the heart of Wharton's scathing account of high society, The House of Mirth, which runs April 20 -May 13 at Book-It Repertory Theatre's Center House Theatre.

Adapted by Marcus Goodwin and directed by Jane Jones, The House of Mirth is set in the Gilded Age of 1905 New York, a world of great wealth, great poverty, and more than anything else, great greed.

"The culture that Edith Wharton writes about is very nouveau riche," says Jane Jones, director. "They don't have the experience or grace of knowing how to be rich, of how to act, or how to treat people. There's a lot of measuring up, a ton of greed. They basically eat each other alive. People are terrified of what might happen to them, because things are changing so incredibly fast. Everyone is very guarded about their money and yet they flaunt it shamelessly. They're consumers, in all senses of the word."

Lily Bart is only too aware of her own status as a hot commodity. But her vanity is only one of her fatal flaws. Her naiveté also plays a part in her slow spiral down, as does society's penchant for celebrating and then denigrating its "chosen ones".

"Lily Bart is a celebrity because of her great beauty," says Jones."She's put on this pedestal, but the pedestal is actually a gilded cage; she has no freedom. And unfortunately, once you're on that pedestal, there's only one place to go and that's down. For whatever reason, as a society we celebrate that. Just look at the tabloids where you can read about Jennifer Aniston losing her husband or Lindsey Lohan's drug addiction because she didn't know how to deal with fame and money."

Does that mean Lily Bart is essentially the Jennifer Anniston or Lindsey Lohan of her day?

"Lily Bart is no different,' says Jones. "She's gotten herself into debt through her gambling addiction and she's also addicted to the high life. She's naïve and ignorant as to what the cost of fame and celebrity is, of what it costs to stay in that circle. And if you look at the rich now, nothing's changed. Living in that world costs, sometimes it costs your life."

Monday, March 27, 2006

Age of Innocence, 1928 Dramatization of Wharton Novel, Gets NYC Reading March 27

By Kenneth Jones
27 Mar 2006

The Drama Desk and Obie Award-winning Mint Theater Company will continue its season dedicated to neglected plays by American women by presenting a staged reading of Margaret Ayer Barnes' 1928 and seldom-seen dramatization, The Age of Innocence, based on the novel by Edith Wharton.

The March 27 event is a benefit for the not-for-profit Mint company in Manhattan.

Barnes' dramatization played for over 200 Broadway performances in 1928 with Katharine Cornell playing Madame Olenska. Rollo Peters played Newland Archer. Cornell then toured the country in the role.

Stuart Howard will direct a cast of 11 that includes Jennifer Harmon, Darrie Lawrence, Claire Lautier, Michael Littig, Sal Mistretta, Dennis Parlato, Derek Smith, Samantha Soule, Molly Stuart, Jeff Talbott and Gregory Wooddell.
* * * * * *
Attend the reading only or plan to have dinner at Le Madeline before the show with Mint artistic director Jonathan Bank and special guest Linda Costanzo Cahir, co-editor of The Edith Wharton Review, to discuss Wharton and Barnes and to hear some fun backstage gossip from the Broadway production starring Katharine Cornell.
* * * * * *
Tickets for the reading at 7:30 PM are $25; tickets for the reading and dinner at Le Madeline (which begins at 5:30 PM) are $85 and either may be purchased by calling (212) 315-0231 or at

Mint Theater is located on the Third Floor of 311 West 43rd Street. Performances of Soldier's Wife continue to April 2. Tickets for the remaining performances of Soldier's Wife are $45 and are available by calling (212) 315-0231 or online at

Monday, January 09, 2006

From The New York Sun
Us Weekly, c. 1895

January 9, 2006

If you have a taste for celebrity biography but find more allure in the names Astor and Vanderbilt than Hilton and Weinstein, you will enjoy Amanda Mackenzie Stuart's "Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt: The Story of a Daughter and Mother in the Gilded Age" (HarperCollins, 608 pages, $27.95). If, on the other hand, you are looking for a sensitive evocation of this milieu not drawn largely from the social headlines of contemporary newspapers, you would do better to pick up Edith Wharton's unfinished novel "The Buccaneers," itself based on the life of Consuelo Vanderbilt. Indeed, you would do better to pick up any Edith Wharton at all - finished or not

Sunday, January 08, 2006

A Different Affair

Merchant's House Museum to Host Gala 19th-Century Dinner at Historic India House in Lower Manhattan Multi-course Dinner to Feature Haute Cuisine Evoking the Gilded Era of the Astors and the Vanderbilts.

January 5, 2006: The Merchant's House Museum announced today that Kitty Carlisle Hart, Mr. and Mrs. Schuyler Chapin, and Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Hardy are serving as Honorary Co-Chairs of a Gala Benefit for the Museum to be held in New York on Thursday, March 16, 2006.

Inspired by a passage from Edith Wharton's classic novel, The Age of Innocence, the Museum's A Different Affair Gala will feature a sumptuous 19th-century dinner recreating the atmosphere and enchantment of Old New York. As Wharton wrote:

"But a big dinner, with a hired chef and two borrowed footmen, with Roman punch, roses from Henderson's, and menus on gilt-edged cards, was a different affair, and not to be lightly undertaken. As Mrs. Archer remarked, the Roman punch made all the difference, not in itself but by its manifold implications--since 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."

The setting the dinner will be the magnificent 1924 ballroom at historic India House on Hanover Square, with its oval skylight designed by master architects Delano & Aldrich. Eberhard Müller, renowned chef at Bayard's, and former top toque at Lutèce, will create the historically correct and elegant multi-course menu for the occasion complete with Roman punch. Guests will be encouraged to attend the event in 19th-century dress.

Proceeds from A Different Affair will benefit the Merchant House Museum s Restoration, Collections Conservation, and Public Education Programs. Built in 1832, the Merchant s House is New York City s only family home preserved intact, inside and out, from the 19th century, and is the City's prime example of a Greek Revival townhouse.

Home to a prosperous merchant family for almost 100 years -- and complete with its original furniture, decorative arts, and personal memorabilia -- the Merchant s House offers an intimate and authentic glimpse of domestic life of a wealthy family during the period when New York was transforming from a colonial seaport to a thriving metropolis.

The Merchant's House is one of only 2,000 sites designated as a National Historic Landmark and has been given landmark status in New York City for its late-Federal brick exterior as well as for its Greek Revival interiors. The House is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Tickets for this historic event range from $400 to $1,000 and can be reserved by telephoning the Museum at 212-777-1089. A portion of each ticket purchased is tax-deductible.

Merchant's House Museum
29 East Fourth Street
New York, NY 10003-7003

Telephone 212-777-1089
Fax 212-777-1104
Submitted by: Shay Pantano,