On February 14, 2018, the Times Literary Supplement published a newly discovered lecture by Edith Wharton, “France and Its Allies at War: The Witnesses Speak,” translated by Virginia Ricard (University of Bordeaux). Professor Ricard is co-editor of volume 29, Translations and Adaptations, of the Complete Works of Edith Wharton, a 30-volume series under contract at Oxford University Press.
The entire lecture is online at https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/public/america-at-war-wharton/ (Image courtesy of this site.)
Read the rest of this interview at the Complete Works of Edith Wharton site, https://whartoncompleteworks.org
- How did you happen to discover this piece?
In France we have an extraordinary tool, Gallica, a digital library created by the Bibliothèque nationale. Like the Internet Archive, it constantly expands the amount of material it makes available and improves accessibility. Over the years, I have downloaded anything and everything concerning Wharton or by Wharton that I found on Gallica. “L’Amérique en guerre” was published in the Revue hébdomadaire on 2 March 1918, and the review was uploaded by Gallica in December 2013. I read the lecture, among other things, soon afterwards. But it was in Washington, in July 2016, as I listened to Alan Price’s paper that I realized just how interesting it was. So the credit really goes to Alan. When I began looking at the translation work required for the Complete Works of Edith Wharton, I realized that “L’Amérique en guerre” had never been published in English and so I set to work on it. As I did so, I thought 2018 seemed the right moment to publish it—just a hundred years after Wharton gave her lecture and a little over a hundred years after the United States entered the war—still an important event in Europe although I think all but forgotten in the United-States.
- What can you tell us about this lecture? Do we know how it was received by those who heard it?
“L’Amérique en guerre” was part of a series organized in 1918 by the Société des conferences, that is, a lecture society that worked closely with the Revue hébdomadaire in which the lectures were regularly published. This particular lecture was one of ten called Paroles de témoins—The Witnesses Speak. The nine other speakers were politicians, members of the Church, and writers, all closely involved in the conflict for various reasons. I think is is pretty clear why the organisers asked Wharton to take part. She had influenced American opinion, which the French saw as an essential factor in the American decision to enter the war, and she had contributed to the war effort in France. So she was, in that sense, “a witness.”