When Marion Mainwaring decided to complete Edith Wharton’s unfinished novel “The Buccaneers,” the critical response was harsh upon publication in 1993. Much venom was aimed at a decision to not tell readers where Wharton’s draft ended and Dr. Mainwaring’s work began.
In The New Yorker, John Updike complained that “we have a text that in no typographical way discriminates between her words and Wharton’s, and that asks us to accept this bastardization as a single smooth reading unit.” In The New Republic, Andrew Delbanco likened Dr. Mainwaring’s efforts to an act of “literary necrophilia.”
Speaking with the Globe a few months later in her North End apartment, Dr. Mainwaring shrugged off their barbs. “What they are really questioning is the effrontery of doing such a thing, aren’t they? That’s the basic question,” she said in 1994.
A little-known novelist and translator before “The Buccaneers,” she had only one significant publication after that literary dustup: “Mysteries of Paris,” a 2001 book about Wharton’s lover Morton Fullerton. Dr. Mainwaring died Dec. 12 in Framingham Union Hospital of complications from a stroke she suffered in her apartment. She was 93 and lived in Framingham.
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