Saturday, November 03, 2012

Julian Fellowes visits The Mount

Fellowes, who lives just outside of London, will receive the 2012 Edith Wharton Lifetime Achievement Award in Boston today, but he extended his first trip to Massachusetts by one day to have time to visit The Mount for the first time
"You come to get more of a handle on someone," Fellowes told The Eagle. "Just reading their work doesn't give you that sort of modesty."
During a tour of The Mount guided by Executive Director Susan Wissler, Fellowes admired the extra space in the house, the minute details in the architecture, and even took extra notice of the servant quarters. Servants are featured prominently in "Downton Abbey."
Several times during the tour, Fellowes
said "The essence of luxury is wasted space," according to Rebecka McDougall, The Mount's marketing and communications director.
"He was so charming and knowledgeable," Wissler said. "It's another star in the sky that celebrates Wharton's 250th birthday."
The estate is a "survivor," according to Fellowes, because it's managed to stick around even though it's weathered previous generations that weren't as keen on historical preservation.
Fellowes kept Wharton's library, full of reporters, photographers, and estate officials laughing with the same cheeky wit often found in some of his other popular screenplays like "Gosford Park," "Vanity Fair," "The Young Victoria" and "The Tourist."
While sitting in the library among books annotated by Wharton herself, Fellowes referenced "The House of Mirth" and "The Custom of the Country" several times. He became acquainted with her work on his own, and wasn't taught it in school, he said.
"She had the ability to judge the society from which she came from, but not condemn it," Fellowes said. "It's simply an examination of the strengths and weaknesses of society."

Monday, October 08, 2012


BBC Films and Ruby Films are producing the adaptation of what was Edith Wharton's last novel, unfinished at the time of her death.
Simon Curtis, who most recently directedMy Week With Marilyn, is in talks to helmThe Buccaneers, an adaptation of Edith Wharton’s high-society novel being produced by BBC Films and Ruby Films.
Buccaneers was Wharton’s last novel and unfinished when she died in 1937. Wharton scholar Marion Mainwaring completed the book in 1993. In the mid-'90s, BBC produced a miniseries adaptation and had the screenwriter come up with yet another ending.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Edith Wharton in Vogue

On a slope overlooking the dark waters and densely wooded shores of Laurel Lake we built a spacious and dignified house,” Edith Wharton wrote about The Mount, the estate which she created in the early years of the twentieth century in Lenox, Massachusetts. Among those in her inner circle who came to stay—President Theodore Roosevelt, diplomat Walter Berry, and sculptor Daniel Chester French, whose studio, Chesterwood, was nearby—was her spacious and dignified friend Henry James, who, writing to a mutual friend, described it as “a delicate French chateau mirrored in a Massachusetts pond.”
Read our behind-the-scenes interviews with the actors, artists, and writers who brought to life Edith Wharton's world in Vogue.

Wharton planned each detail of the interior and the gardens with meticulous care, bossing architects (including Ogden Codman, Jr., to whom she became close), designers, and gardeners with her customary firmness. She had strong opinions on the subject: In 1897, she’d written, with Codman, Jr., the classic text The Decoration of Houses; and her 1904 book,Italian Villas and Their Gardens, illustrated by her friend, the painter Maxfield Parrish, would become an influential treatise on garden design. All the rooms on the main floor opened onto a long gallery with a vaulted ceiling and Italian furniture. The servants’ wing had a hydraulic elevator. While the house was filled with European influences inspired by her travels in France, Italy, and England, Wharton also integrated features of the American colonial style, including green shutters on all the windows and a striped awning over the center of the terrace. 

Occupying more than 100 acres, the property included a drive lined with sugar maple trees, an English-style meadow, an American suburban lawn, gravel walks, an elaborate rock garden, fountains, and terraces with views over the lake. There was also a kitchen garden (designed by Wharton’s niece, Beatrix Farrand) and a working farm. Wharton lived in the house in the summer and fall between 1903 and 1908, all the time overseeing improvements and fresh plantings. “Really,” she wrote, “it looks, for a fleeting moment, like a garden in some civilized climate.” At The Mount, she could also indulge her passion for dogs, among them Toto, Miza, and Jules, all eventually buried in a graveyard on the grounds. 

Since her marriage to Teddy Wharton was deteriorating, she arranged for herself and her husband to have separate but adjoining bedrooms, and since her priority was privacy and work, she created a suite of rooms for herself alone, including a space where she could write in peace, even when she had guests. The money was hers, which gave her freedom in her marriage. Most of it was inherited, but she also earned from her books, and made a great deal more once she could sell film rights. During all of the years except one when she lived at The Mount, patiently assisted by her German tutor turned literary secretary, Anna Bahlmann, she published at least one new book a year—a novel, a collection of stories, or travel sketches.

NY Times Review of Jennie Fields's THE AGE OF DESIRE

Edith Wharton’s Awakening

‘The Age of Desire,’ by Jennie Fields

It is impossible to libel the dead; legal protection of reputation stops at the grave. But is it possible to embarrass the dead?
Stern Collection/Bettmann-Corbis
Edith Wharton, circa 1877.


By Jennie Fields
352 pp. Pamela Dorman Books/Viking. $27.95.
Modern writers keep trying. If anyone would have been humiliated by having his sexuality, or lack of it, explored in serious literature, it would have been Henry James. Fears of posthumous invasions of his privacy led him to a frenzy of letter burning, but the reams that he missed were enough to inspire such speculation by the critic Leon Edel and the novelist Colm Toibin, among many others.
There is no need to speculate about the personal life of Henry James’s friend Edith Wharton, the subject of Jennie Fields’s novel “The Age of Desire.” Wharton’s wild affair, in middle age, with the American expatiate journalist Morton Fullerton — wild on her part, that is, but routine on his — is well documented in the passionate and pathetic letters she wrote to him. Despite her pleas to return them, as a gentleman was obliged to do when a love affair ended, Fullerton, well known as a serial cad to assorted besotted ladies and gentlemen, kept and eventually sold letters from both Edith Wharton and Henry James.
There could hardly be a more apt theme for a novel of manners than the struggle of a prominent and respectable lady to disguise her inflamed feelings in order to meet the conventions of society. It is not only her frantic yearning for her lover that is portrayed here, but the fallout expressed in her irritation with her husband and her editorial assistant for unknowingly getting in the way.
A secondary novel-of-manners theme, developed from the author’s research, concerns the relationship between Wharton and Anna Bahlmann, her childhood governess, who became her editorial assistant. With no clear social definition covering such a development, the women vacillate between behaving as friends and colleagues or as mistress and servant.
Authentic letters are quoted to bolster the pitiful way in which Wharton was reduced to writing like a lovesick teenager, snapping “Don’t write me again!” in her anger that Fullerton had, in fact, not written, and a week later pleading that he should have known she didn’t mean it. Bahlmann’s letters pointedly ignore the slights she suffered, as if acknowledging she was in no position to complain. There are credible scenes dramatizing the resulting volatile behavior.
The flaw in this otherwise interesting novel is that its title, mimicking Edith Wharton’s own title, “The Age of Innocence,” presupposes an understanding not just of these personal lives but of the times in which they were lived. Wharton’s novels, including those set in later periods like “The Children” and “The Mother’s Recompense,” are rich with examples of conventions in flux as they symbolize evolving social attitudes. Fields’s novel is rife with examples that are anachronistic and therefore misleading. By the time Edith Wharton’s posthumous love letters were published in the 1980s, it would not be terminally embarrassing for a lady in a dissolving marriage to have a lover. But it’s safe to say that this particular lady would have been embarrassed to see herself and the Parisian society she enjoyed inadvertently portrayed as ignorant and provincial.
The novel’s opening scene takes place in 1907 at an intellectual French salon where, in what passes for arch conversation, the poet Anna de Noailles demands, “Why do they never give the Nobel Prize to a woman?” Someone counters that one had been awarded the peace prize (that would be Bertha von Suttner in 1905). It’s left to the frustrated reader to shout “Marie Curie!” at this supposed hotbed of Parisian sophistication, where no one seems to know that a female 1903 physics winner is toiling in a nearby suburb, on her way to winning her second Nobel Prize, this time for chemistry.
Read the rest at

Wall Street Journal: "A Tuscan Garden Tutorial"

IN HER 1904 BOOK "Italian Villas and Their Gardens," Edith Wharton wrote that the reader should not "content himself with a vague enjoyment of old Italian gardens, but…extract from them principles which may be applied to home." Wise counsel. Many of the villa gardens of Italy appear grand and out of reach but they offer lessons that can be useful and scalable. The Italian-style walled garden at the Mount, Wharton's home in Lenox, Mass., is a prime example of one of these translations.
An avid motorist, Wharton put her Mercedes through some rigorous road tests while touring in France and Italy with Henry James and others. "Italian Villas" details the architecture and ornament of the gardens she encountered and how they flowed into the landscape. While I read the book years ago, it remains a steady reference for me and was once again pulled out in planning my Tuscany trip this summer.
Italian gardens are characterized by a dominance of manicured green, statuary and water features that often involve stone cascades and ciottolato (mosaic stonework). Villa gardens have a balance of cultivated greenery and natural forest, known as boscoor boschetto, depending on the scale of the villa itself. Architects responsible for hallmarks of the Italian landscape, from the Renaissance through the 20th century, include Cecil Pinsent, Luigi de Cambray Digny, Gaetano Baccani and Niccolò Tribolo.
Villa garden designs were modified to accommodate changing needs over time. Medieval gardens were strictly business, as they had to feed the household. It was not until the Renaissance that embellishments like benches and statues were judiciously added. Rosemary, bay, myrtle and other herbs and medicinal plants were introduced as the garden evolved into a place of pleasure and contemplation. Many gardens contain topiary of yew, cypress, box and ilex, bringing green architecture into the mix.
The role of the garden today in our technology-driven lifestyles may be even more important, and "the principles" of old gardens, as Wharton called them—"to escape, to enjoy, to behold our own patch of beauty and pleasure"—can be applied to your own backyard, rooftop and window box. (Note: Follow in Wharton's footsteps with an Italian tour led by the Mount later this month; visit for more information.)

NY Times on The Mount

Appreciating Edith Wharton’s Other Career

John Arthur
The library at the Mount, in western Massachusetts.
In 1911, her marriage in tatters, Edith Wharton sailed to Europe, where she remained for the rest of her life. Ahead were many productive years of novel writing and a Pulitzer Prize. Behind was the Mount, her country estate in western Massachusetts, to which she applied her formidable design skills.
Wharton was no dilettante. In 1897, she and the architect Ogden Codman, who had worked on her homes in New York and Newport, R.I., published “The Decoration of Houses,” a book that railed against the decorative excesses of the Gilded Age and called for a return to classical principles like symmetry. Wharton was championing nothing less than an American Renaissance, said Richard Guy Wilson, an architectural historian at the University of Virginia and the author of “Edith Wharton at Home: Life at the Mount,” out next week from Monacelli Press ($45). The book, which is illustrated with archival and recent photos of the estate (it currently serves as a cultural center, attracting 30,000 visitors a year), marks the 150th anniversary of Wharton’s birth and the 100th anniversary of the year the Mount officially left her hands.

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."

Monday, July 16, 2012

SAMLA Panel on Edith Wharton

Proposed Panel for the 2012 SAMLA Conference

Affiliated Society Session: Edith Wharton Society
Panel Title:  The Transatlantic Writer: Edith Wharton, Text, and Travel

Equipment Needs:             computer, overhead projector/screen, Internet access, PowerPoint software

Submitted by:            Mary Carney
Associate Professor of English, Honors Program Director, and Director of the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Leadership
Gainesville State College
3820 Mundy Mill Road, Oakwood, GA 30566
Cell: (706) 224-3218; Work: (678) 717-3629

Chair and Secretary:  Mary Carney, Gainesville State College

The Decoration of Houses to The Book of Homelessness: Edith Wharton and Expatriation”
Heath Sledge, Teaching Fellow, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

 “(Con)textualizing Total War: Conflict, Exile, and Material Culture in Wharton’s Essays”
Mary Carney, Associate Professor of English, Gainesville State College

“Traveling from Despair: Edith Wharton’s Heroines, No Accidental Tourists”
Justin Askins, Professor of English, Radford University

“Ethan Frome’s Travel Choices” 
Richard Law, Associate Professor of English and Communication, Alvernia University
no email; 610-769-8205

Panel Title: “The Transatlantic Writer: Edith Wharton, Text, and Travel”

Panel Description:
The Edith Wharton Society panel addresses this year’s SAMLA conference theme: "Text as Memoir: Tales of Travel, Immigration, and Exile," examining a wide sections of fiction and non-fiction works.  Edith Wharton is a transatlantic figure whose writings focus on the sometimes fraught interplay between home and exile. In “The Decoration of Houses to The Book of Homelessness: Edith Wharton and Expatriation,” Heath Sledge argues that two pairs of books by Wharton, which bookend the beginning and the end of her career, treat the question of home. The House of Mirth (1905) and the much later Age of Innocence (1920) show Wharton’s progressively broadening notion of what “home” is. 

The second pair -- The Decoration of Houses (1897) and The Book of the Homeless (1916) -- reveals that Wharton’s sense of home was a deeply material one, linked to her identity as a writer and a woman.  As a result, Wharton attempts to materialize her missing home textually in the rich descriptive detail of The Age of Innocence in a way that she had seemed not to need to do in The House of Mirth. The second panelist Mary Carney will present “(Con)textualizing Total War: Conflict, Exile, and Material Culture in Wharton’s Essays.” She will examine how the essays in Fighting France, from Dunkerque to Belfort parallel travel texts, creating vivid portraits of the emergence of “total war” in France during World War I. As a transatlantic writer, she illuminates for her primarily American audience the material culture of war and the peculiar world of expatriates in France during the conflict. In the third presentation, Justin Askins will explore the leitmotiv of travel as escape in “Traveling from Despair: Edith Wharton’s Heroines, No Accidental Tourists.” While rarely compared with Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, Wharton’s major works share with these novels the important leitmotiv of travel as escape. Examining major novels and novellas, Askins will illuminate Wharton’s narrative trajectories of the American pursuit of transformative exile. Finally, in “Ethan Frome’s Travel Choices,” Richard Law examines the character development that reveals the courage and misapprehensions of Ethan’s travel dreams. Law shows how the trail of (mis)judgments leads to the catastrophic escape attempt, reflecting Wharton’s portrait of a grotesque reality emerging from the search for exile.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

STREETSCAPES/MARY MASON JONES A Woman With an Architectural Appetite

New York Times

Office for Metropolitan History

Marble Row on Fifth Avenue, looking south from 58th Street, with Mary Mason Jones’s house at the far right, at the 57th Street corner, about 1899.

In society in the 19th century, Jones was a grand name of the first order. The daughter of the president of Chemical Bank, Mrs. Jones was considered remarkable in her day: she was an early traveler on the Erie Canal, voyaged through Europe on a sketching tour, and in 1818, after her marriage to Isaac Jones, had the first bathtub in New York installed in her house on Chambers Street. She and two sisters had a triple house on Broadway near Waverly Place; the houses could be thrown together for entertaining.
In 1868, Mrs. Jones began work on another unusual house, at the northeast corner of Fifth and 57th, a part of the city then still on the drawing board, with streets laid out and little more.
The New York Times noted that the two-story mansard roof was carried to “a fabulous height.” That was not the only distinctive aspect: Mrs. Jones also built a neighborhood, an entire row of houses taking up the rest of the block on Fifth Avenue. She had her architect, Robert Mook, clad them in brilliant white marble.
Numbered 741-753 Fifth, they were quite a spectacle in brownstone New York. The marble set off the green grass in the front gardens, the gray slate of the mansard and the green copper trim.
In 1871, a writer for The New York Evening Telegram found the year-old row reminiscent of a church, with Mrs. Jones’s grand house as the front, facing 57th Street, and the rest of the row, stretching back along Fifth, like a nave. Four years later, The Real Estate Record and Guide, while admiring the whole, was able to find fault, saying, “The poverty of the deck cornice spoils the whole when you look more closely.” Apparently this referred to the simplicity of the projection where the main wall meets the mansard.
Mrs. Jones rented out the row, and the 1870 census indicates that her tenants were her equals, at least financially. One was Cyrus Clark, later to be important in developing the Upper West Side, and another was Henry Havemeyer, the sugar merchant, who went on to build a grand house at Fifth and 66th.
Read the rest at 

Riding the E-Book Wave

Riding the E-Book Wave

Lev Raphael
Posted: 07/02/2012 1:42 pm

Back in the spring, I gave a workshop on e-book publishing at a writers' conference in Michigan and someone asked me if I'd done any "shorts" for Amazon. I hadn't.
Afterwards, it hit me that I had some good, juicy material I'd filed away not so long ago while doing research in the Gilded Age for a historical novel riffing off of Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth.
The material I'd set aside was mainly a bordello sex scene I really liked, but hadn't figured out how to use. When I got home from the conference, I immediately took out the folder, studied the notes, and realized that I had the makings of a novella.
I love the novella form but hadn't worked in it for many years, so it felt brand new to me. Once I started writing Rosedale the Vampyre, the writing was swift and sure because the subject possessed me.
The book is a dark story of powerlessness and grief that takes a very unexpected turn when its hero crosses over into a different reality and discovers life is entirely more satisfying for him as one of the undead. Set in 1907 New York, it's filled with period detail and sexual obsession. It's my first Gilded Age vampyre story, but it won't be my last.
From writing through production, I was done in two months. That included having the book professionally edited and copy-edited, getting a cover designed, my own proofreading, and seeing the novella formatted and loaded for Kindle and the Nook. Before the e-book revolution, I would've had to amass enough new short stories to add to the novella to make a collection. Then I would've needed to try that collection with an agent, or look for an independent publisher. It could have taken years to reach readers.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Rosedale in Love

Rosedale in Love, by Lev Raphael (2011)In honor of Edith Wharton’s 150th birthday yesterday, Kimberly Denny-Ryder has generously shared her review of this new novel inspired by Wharton’sThe House of Mirth.
The Gilded Age of America is one of my favorite time periods to read about.  This is probably due to the fact that I grew up near NYC and also made frequent trips to the mansions in Newport, RI owned by the billionaires of that era.  The amount of wealth that was thrown around in those days is truly astounding.  To see the ostentatious nature of some of the landmarks of that era are mesmerizing: houses with elaborate ballrooms, private tea gardens, marble EVERYTHING, etc. etc. – you get the idea.  When Lev Raphael approached me about reviewing Rosedale in Love, a historical fiction novel taking place in the Gilded Age, you can imagine my immediate acceptance!
The time is 1905, and America is booming.  Considered the first real decade of consumerism and materialism, Americans were spending their hard-earned money in droves.  At the center of this madness in New York City is Simon Rosedale, a Jewish financial wizard who has big plans to break into the elite upper-class society that controls everything there is to control in the city.  However, not having any beneficial family ties, and feeling slightly outcast due to his faith, Rosedale sets his aim on marriage as his way in to this exclusive club.  Enter Lily Bart, a down-on-her-luck member of this aristocratic society who has recently been fodder for the tabloids.  Rosedale sees a way in via Ms. Bart.  She’s hurt enough socially that she just might take the plunge with Rosedale.  But would she really marry someone like Rosedale?  Would this make the gossip go away, or would it intensify even further?  Add into this mix Florence , Simon’s cousin who is secretly head over heels in love with Simon and you have one hell of a love triangle.
The biggest compliment I can give this novel is that Raphael’s writing style makes you feel as though you’re reading a classic literature novel.  Raphael’s cast of characters are crisply written with exquisite vocabulary that made me enthralled with the world and people he had created.  Not all of his characters are original creations though!  If the name Lily Bart sounds familiar to you, it’s because she is the main character from Edith Wharton’s novel The House of Mirth.  Rosedale in Love is a fantastic companion piece to The House of Mirth both in style and story.

Gilded Age by Clair McMillan


Re-imagined as Ellie Hart in modern day Cleveland, Edith Wharton's Lily Bart (fromThe House of Mirth) comes alive in Claire McMillan's Gilded Age.
Inspired in part by Irina Reyn’s (whom Claire McMillan thanks in the afterword) What Happened to Anna K, which transported Anna Karenina to modern day Brooklyn,Gilded Age transports Edith Wharton’s Lily Bart from The House of Mirth to modern day Cleveland. Why Cleveland? McMillan is a resident of the city (as am I!) and with descendants of iron and steel magnates walking the streets, it makes for the perfect setting.
McMillan’s tragic heroine, Ellie Hart (play on Lily Bart), returns to Cleveland from New York City after her much publicized marriage turns sour. Her filthy rich ex-husband dabbled in illegal substances and Ellie dabbled in other - often married - men, and a bitter divorce ensued. Ellie sees Cleveland as her second chance at love, respect and power, preferably with a wealthy husband by her side.
Ellie shifts her attention from one man to another, quickly finding another alternative if the first one does not pan out. She briefly flirts with P.G. Gryce, a boring naturalist with money oozing out of his pockets, before moving on to Randall Leforte, a flashy ambulance-chasing attorney. Leforte seems intent on matrimony, but Ellie loses interest and fancies herself in love with William Selden, whom she’s known since childhood.
Selden, as everyone calls him, is a college professor, an intellectual, and his own amorous pursuits parallel Ellie’s behavior. However, as a man, his antics are acceptable, while Ellie’s are gossiped about and deemed scandalous. Selden suffers no repercussions, while Ellie falls more and more on the social ladder, and more and more into alcohol, drugs and inappropriate relationships.

My Dear Governess The Letters Of Edith Wharton To Anna Bahlmann
My Dear Governess is a surprising literary discovery that charts a life through letters. In 2009, the letters of Anna Bahlmann came up for auction: Bahlmann was an orphaned daughter of German immigrants who served first as governess and, then, companion to Edith Wharton for more than 40 years. One hundred and thirty five letters from Wharton turned out to be in Bahlmann's possession and they flesh out our vision of Wharton's life as a debutante, disappointed wife and determined... more

'The Innocents' author on the lasting influence of Edith Wharton

'The Innocents' author on the lasting influence of Edith Wharton

You know who’s hot right now? Edith Wharton. Even though she died 75 years ago, and she mostly wrote about turn-of-the-century American society, she’s still one of the most influential writers today. Earlier this month, Vintage Books released fetching re-issues of her four most famous novels. At the same time, two separate debut novels — The Innocents by Francesca Segal and The Gilded Age by Claire McMillan, both re-imaginings of Wharton novels — hit shelves within a week of each other. Segal’snew novel sets The Age of Innocence in a Jewish community in present-day London. She spoke to EW about Wharton’s unflagging relevance.
What inspired you to set an Edith Wharton novel in contemporary times?
I went through a phase of reading a lot of [Henry] James and Wharton a few years ago, and when I reached The Age of Innocence — probably the fourth or fifth Wharton novel I read in very quick succession — it just spoke to me. I read the opening scene, in the Academy of Music, and I saw it instantly as a contemporary synagogue.
Did you find that in some ways, Wharton’s work is so modern that you didn’t really have to switch it up much to make it contemporary?
Yes. It’s extraordinary. The Age of Innocence even contained a financial subplot that could have been written in the 21st century. I was reading it almost immediately after the Madoff scandal had unfolded, and she was eerily prescient.
What salient themes from Wharton’s work are especially resonant today?
I think, sadly, that a lot of her examinations of the roles of women have resonance now, despite the huge shifts in the role of women since she was writing. The frustrations of the domestic sphere — even very comfortable domestic sphere — was something she wrote about a lot. And then there was The Bunner Sisters, which was an incredibly dark, angry little tale about women in dire domestic circumstances.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Production of Summer

Summer has opened at the Jack Studio Theatre in Brockley, London SE4 and closes on 26th of May. We are offering ‘Summer 2 for 1’ tickets to select contacts, this week only.
Summer by Julia Stubbs Hughes is the story of a young woman's first love affair. Based on the novella by Edith Wharton, Summer is presented by 20 South Street who bring this startling new play to life with the heat and vibrancy the tale deserves. A stark exploration into female sexual liberation and its consequences, Summer is a bold adaptation of a classic novel and is being published by Playdead Press to coincide with the production.

You’ll find reviews attached and you can also…
Check out for more info.
Email to be added to our ‘Summer 2 for 1’ list (subject to availability).
Go to  for venue info.
Katerina Stearman
Grey Swan

Irene Goldman-Price, ed. My Dear Governess


‘My Dear Governess’ edited by Irene Goldman-Price

Irene Goldman-Price’s wide knowledge of Edith Wharton’s life is evident in her book “My Dear Governess.”
Irene Goldman-Price’s wide knowledge of Edith Wharton’s life is evident in her book “My Dear Governess.”
In 2009 the personal papers of Anna Catherine Bahlmann came up for auction. Included in those were 135 letters from Edith Wharton to Bahlmann, who was 13 years older than Wharton and her governess, chaperone, companion, and secretary for 40 years. Yet until now Bahlmann has never been given public credit for her crucial role in Wharton’s life. In fact, Wharton mentioned Bahlmann only four times in her memoir, “A Backward Glance,” referring to her once as “My Dear Governess,” the title of this collection of letters, edited and annotated, superbly, by Irene Goldman-Price.
Though privileged, Wharton had a hard emotional life: Her father died when she was 18, she was a disappointment to her mother, she was jilted by her first fiance, and her marriage to Teddy Wharton grew — with his increasing mental illness — into a prison. Yet we know she had one passionate love affair, and although it did not end well, it is proof that she was more than the cool persona she showed to the world.
Much has been made of Edith’s youthful awkwardness, but the early letters addressed to Tonni (a play on the German Tante) have a wonderful freshness, as we see an eager, confident Edith revealing an abundance of literary and personal details. Here she is at 15: “I feel really beatific tonight [. . .] practiced violently one of Beethoven’s waltzes [. . .] made two rosettes for a new pair of slippers and generally behaved myself — a sensation still having the charm of novelty [. . .] As for me, I must [. . .] ask you if you have yet read Daniel Deronda [. . .] The story is nothing, & I do not care for the style, but the thoughts with which it overflows are wonderfully clever.”
The range of Edith’s reading is amazing, thanks to Bahlmann, who was a rigorous teacher. Together they read German literature and mythology in the original, and also in translation, Norse, Greek, and Roman mythology, and Arthurian legend, as well as English and American literature. Indeed, Edith’s intellectual curiosity, the very thing that made her such an outsider in the aristocratic world into which she was born, was largely fostered by Bahlmann.