Wharton in the News: Edith Wharton, Ruth Draper, and Henry James

john-singer-sargent-portrait-of-ruth-draperFrom The New Yorker, on the well-known performer and monologuist Ruth Draper. 

Over lunch, a little later, Mulcahy took out her phone and played one of her favorite discoveries so far: a brief interview with Draper on a BBC program about Henry James, whom she had known. (James’s father was a friend of Draper’s grandfather, and James once wrote a stilted, highly Jamesian monologue for her, which she never performed.) Draper recounts a walk she took with James at a house party, also attended by Edith Wharton, shortly before he died. She describes his “rather ponderous manner of speaking” and various odd motions he made with his right hand as he spoke—exactly the sort of close observations, Mulcahy said, that underlay all her performances. Draper, in the interview, then says that she had once asked James whether he thought she ought to pursue a career as a conventional actress, perhaps by attending drama school. “He took a long while to answer,” she recalls. Then she lowers her voice: “ ‘No—my dear child. You—you have woven—you have woven your own—you have woven your own beautiful—beautiful little—Persian carpet. Stand on it.’ ” 

Does this remind you of James’s advice to Wharton to “Do New York”?

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