From Sarah Whitehead, whose publication of a previously unpublished Edith Wharton story in The Atlantic was noted earlier this week.
Sarah Whitehead in the Times Literary Supplement: “A joy glimpsed”
Introducing an unpublished story by Edith Wharton
Raised as an Episcopalian and later influenced by Calvinist thinking, Edith Wharton was drawn towards Roman Catholicism in the final years of her life. While she never converted, biographers have noted her growing attraction to the Catholic faith at this time; in the 1930s she attended masses on her two visits to Rome, and, at home in France, supported the work of the local curé as well as setting up an appeal in aid of the Abbé Comptour’s work in the Parisian suburb of Lutèce. In her fiction, the Catholic church, and Catholic priests in particular, make regular appearances, but these are often uncomfortable ones.
“The Children’s Hour”, which has remained unpublished until now, charts an afternoon in the life of a Catholic priest. It is a noteworthy exception to these generally negative, or at least suspicious renderings of the Catholic church and its clergy. Indeed, while there is a touch of the customary unrewarded sacrifice and a sense of missed opportunities found in Wharton’s fiction, this story celebrates the comfort found in the faith and a joyous glimpse of the afterlife on offer to the poverty-stricken Catholic immigrants of New York and their Irish priest.