Unpublished Edith Wharton Play Discovered by Scholars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.