The Edith Wharton Review invites submissions for three upcoming Special Issues.
Edith Wharton and Religion
We invite papers exploring any aspect of religion, spirituality, and the sacred in Wharton’s work. Essays should be 4,000-6,000 words in length, but longer essays of no more than 8,000 words will also be considered. Submissions should be made online to The Edith Wharton Review with a note that the piece is for the “Wharton and Religion” Special Issue. Inquiries: contact Sharon Kim, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deadline: August 15, 2017
Edith Wharton and the Periodical Market
Essays should be 4,000-6,000 words in length, but longer essays of no more than 8,000 words will also be considered. Submissions should be made online to The Edith Wharton Review with a note that the piece is for the “Wharton and the Periodical Market” Special Issue. Inquiries: contact Paul Ohler, email@example.com
Unpublished Edith Wharton Play Discovered by Scholars
LENOX, Mass. — Two scholars have made a new archival discovery: a previously unknown, original, full-length play by Edith Wharton called “The Shadow of a Doubt.”
The location of the discovery at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin was unexpected. Wharton scholars have been traveling to the Ransom Center for more than three decades to research Wharton’s papers. The source of their interest, however, was the author’s correspondence to her lover, Morton Fullerton. What scholars missed was hidden, in plain sight, in the center’s Playscripts and Promptbooks Collection (Performing Arts): two typescript copies of “The Shadow of a Doubt” by Edith Wharton.
The Edith Wharton Review, published by Penn State University Press, have published this finding, by Laura Rattray, a reader in American literature at the University of Glasgow, and Mary Chinery, a professor of English at Georgian Court University in New Jersey, in a journal article titled “The Shadow of a Doubt: A Play in Three Acts by Edith Wharton.” The article includes the play in its entirety.
The play, set in England, includes Wharton’s signature social realism and use of dramatic irony and wit to satirize social privilege and affluence. The play does take a decidedly dark and controversial turn into a world of extortion, mistrust, deception, and the revelation of an act claimed alternately as euthanasia and as murder.
Rattray and Chinery have been able to establish that “The Shadow of a Doubt” was not only completed, but in production by early 1901 with theatrical impresario Charles Frohman, and with Elsie de Wolfe in the leading role. For reasons not yet known, the production was abandoned.
In 2009, a cache of letters from the young Edith Wharton to her governess caused a stir when they turned up at auction. Now, an archive in Texas has yielded another startling Wharton discovery: an entirely unknown play.
“The Shadow of a Doubt,” Wharton’s only known finished play and the first full work by her to surface in 25 years, was set to be staged in New York in early 1901, before the production was abandoned for unknown reasons and forgotten. It survived in two typescripts held at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, where it was discovered by Laura Rattray of the University of Glasgow and Mary Chinery of Georgian Court University in New Jersey. Ms. Rattray and Ms. Chinery unveiled their discovery in the recent issue of The Edith Wharton Review.
The three-act play, about a nurse who marries a wealthy man, went unmentioned in Wharton’s 1934 memoir, “A Backward Glance,” as well as in the major biographies of her. The two researchers tracked it down after noticing a cryptic reference to its title in a 1901 letter.
“Well before the publication of her first novel, we can now ascertain that Wharton was establishing herself as a playwright, deeply engaged in both the creative and business aspects of the theater,” Ms. Rattray said in a news release.
Before Edith Wharton was a novelist, she tried her hand at playwriting. But whatever happened to her little-known play, “The Shadow of a Doubt”? It almost disappeared without leaving a shadow at all—the play spent over a century hiding in plain sight. Now, The New Yorker’s Rebecca Mead reports, it’s finally been published thanks to two Wharton scholars.
“The Shadow of a Doubt” has a sad history. The play, which was produced in 1901 (before Wharton had even published her first novel), was never given a theatrical run.
Perhaps understandably, Wharton didn’t even mention it in her own autobiography. But she didn’t toss the play, either—it remained in her personal papers, Mead reports. After her death, those documents ended up at multiple research libraries around the United States. One of those libraries is the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin—which saved two typescripts of the play in a larger collection of scripts and promptbooks of authors like Lillian Hellman and Jean Cocteau.
Now, the first typescript has been published by Laura Rattray and Mary Chinery in the Edith Wharton Review. The scholars tracked it down after finding an obscure reference the play in a newspaper. The play, write Rattray and Chinery, is the only original, full-length Wharton play that exists.
The story follows a nurse named Kate Derwent whose marriage runs into trouble when her husband learns that she helped his injured first wife die. The consequences of Derwent’s actions not only threaten her social standing—they threaten a once loving relationship when her husband refused to believe that she acted out of pity instead of malice. The play’s dramatic ending is pure Wharton, whose heroine chooses defiant loneliness rather than the love of an unworthy man.
Wharton wrote about euthanasia again in her 1907 novelThe Fruit of the Tree, in which a similar ethical dilemma serves as a major plot point. As Mead notes, the play shows that Wharton grappled with questions of assisted suicide and romantic autonomy long before her first novels were written.
Thursday 1 June 2017 13.42 EDTLast modified on Friday 2 June 2017 11.21 EDT
Long before achieving literary fame with The Age of Innocence, the novelist Edith Wharton wrote a number of plays that never made it to the stage.
Two scholars have discovered one of them, a previously unknown work dating back to 1901, among a bunch of papers in an archive in Austin, Texas.
About 80 years after Wharton’s death, researchers have found a play titled The Shadow of a Doubt in the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas. Dr Laura Rattray and Prof Mary Chinery, from Glasgow University and Georgian Court University respectively, found two typescript copies of the play and have also established that it was in production by early 1901 with theatre producer Charles Frohman and Elsie de Wolfe in the leading role.
“The archives in the United States and Europe with huge holdings on this most transatlantic of authors have been extensively researched,” Rattray said. “After all this time, nobody thought there were long, full scale, completed, original, professional works by Wharton still out there that we didn’t know about. But evidently there are. In 2017, Edith Wharton continues to surprise.”
Set in England, The Shadow of a Doubt centres on the character Kate Derwent, a former nurse married to a gentleman.
Opening on a scene of social privilege and affluence studded with sharp one-liners, the play takes a dark and controversial turn into a world of extortion, mistrust, deception and assisted dying.
Glasgow University said the discovery had generated excitement among scholars. Before Chinery came across an old news item about the 1901 production and its eventual postponement, Wharton scholars past and present had no knowledge of the play.
It is not referenced in major Wharton biographies, and other plays are all unfinished manuscripts and typescripts held in the archives at Yale University.
Rattray said: “The late 19th and early years of the 20th century cover a pivotal, formative period of Wharton’s career, about which scholars still have less information than they would like.
“Well before the publication of her first novel, we can now ascertain that Wharton was establishing herself as a playwright, deeply engaged in both the creative and business aspects of the theatre – playwriting more important to her at this time than establishing herself as a novelist.
“Yet the discovery of The Shadow of a Doubt also develops new thinking and proves of profound influence on our understanding of Wharton’s work as a novelist.”