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