Edith Wharton kept restlessly editing her best sellers even through numerous print runs. In 1921, she finished fine tuning “The Age of Innocence” upon its sixth printing and tucked one edition onto the shelves at her chateau in Southeastern France.
That copy, with her signature and bookplate, has resurfaced in time for the centennial of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. It has been donated to the library at another of her palatial homes, the Mount, a museum in Lenox, Mass.
This is the only known English-language version of “The Age of Innocence” that belonged to Wharton, said Susan Wissler, executive director of the museum. (Examples of the writer’s copies of many of her works are already at the Mount; gaps include her collected teenage poems.) Ms. Wissler added that the museum’s book collection, as it grows, powerfully evokes Wharton’s interests and presence: “The library very much provides us with her soul.”
Photo courtesy Wikimedia.
“She was bad . . . always. They used to meet at the Fifth Avenue Hotel.”
–Edith Wharton, New Year’s Day, 1924
As of today, January 1, 2020, Wharton’s quartet of novellas Old New York is in the public domain. To celebrate this, here’s New Year’s Day (the Seventies), courtesy of Project Gutenberg Australia.
Here are PG Australia’s texts of the novellas:
The Spark, False Dawn, New Year’s Day, The Old Maid
Links to the other novels and novellas available online are being updated today and are available here: https://edithwhartonsociety.wordpress.com/works/novels-and-novellas/
NEW YEAR’S DAY
“She was BAD…always. They used to meet at the Fifth Avenue
Hotel,” said my mother, as if the scene of the offence added to the
guilt of the couple whose past she was revealing. Her spectacles
slanted on her knitting, she dropped the words in a hiss that might
have singed the snowy baby-blanket which engaged her indefatigable
fingers. (It was typical of my mother to be always employed in
benevolent actions while she uttered uncharitable words.)
[read the rest at the link]
Dear EWS members,
Although we usually don’t post items for sale at the EWS site or on this listserv, it’s not every day that a piece of Edith Wharton’s original childhood home comes on the market. The information is below, if you’re interested.
Name: Joanne Morlan
Comment: Hi Donna, my husband and I live in Newport RI and are selling our condo. Our condo is located at Pen Craig — the childhood home of Edith Wharton. The Gatehouse (where the condo is located) is the last remaining element of the original Wharton estate. RI Monthly magazine just issued the attached article on our condo (see website reference above) which includes quite a bit Edith Wharton background information. I thought your members might be interested in this, and of course we would love to sell Pen Craig to an Edith Wharton admirer! I hope you will consider posting this link! Please let me know if I can provide more information to you on this! Thank you!
From The New Yorker:
The first time I read Edith Wharton’s novel “The Custom of the Country,” which was published in 1913, I felt at once that I had always known its protagonist and also that I had never before met anyone like her. The values of Undine Spragg—who, in the course of the novel, makes a circuitous and sinister journey from Midwestern rube to ruby-drenched new-money empress—are repulsive, and her attempts to manipulate public attention are mesmerizing. For my money, no literary antiheroine can best Undine—a dazzling monster with rose-gold hair, creamy skin, and a gaping spiritual maw that could swallow New York City. People like her have been abundant in American culture for some time, but I never feel invested in their success; more often, I idly hope for their failure. With Undine, however—thanks to the alchemical mix of sympathy and disdain that animates Wharton’s language in the novel and allows her to match Undine’s savagery with plenty of her own—I find myself wanting her to get everything she desires.
From First Things, https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2019/07/what-she-asks-she-obtains
Though Adams was anxious about the reckless acceleration of history, his friend Edith Wharton mashed her foot down on the accelerator in her Motor Flight Through France. Dogmatically confident in her own taste, she shunned the popular artworks starred in guide books. She stopped in Rouen and stumbled upon Gerhard David’s Virgin Among The Virgins. She named it “The Virgin of the Grapes” for the “heavenly translucence of that bunch of grapes plucked from the vine of Paradise” held by the Infant Jesus on the Virgin’s lap. “It is part of its very charm to leave unsettled, to keep among the mysteries whereby it draws one back,” she wrote. Wharton drove on to the next town, but the Virgin stayed with her. Father John LaFarge, S.J., remembers being quietly interrogated about his religious beliefs by Wharton “as if she were looking for something desperately needed, but only vaguely knowing her own needs.”
Via Anna Girling. Note: it’s behind a paywall, so I have no idea what’s beyond this excerpt.
Who was Edith Wharton’s father?
As research assistant to R. W. B. Lewis, the prize-winning biographer of Edith Wharton, Marion Mainwaring – assigned in 1969 to investigate Wharton’s “Parisian phase” – found herself knocking on forbidding doors in unpredictable arrondissements of Paris, in far-flung hôtels de ville and at a remote psychiatric hospital in the French countryside as she doggedly pursued every shred of information she could find about a wily, elusive American expatriate named William Morton Fullerton. Fullerton (1865–1952), a Harvard graduate and a correspondent for The Times in Paris, was a roué and conman, a cosmopolitan libertine with a proclivity for the upper crust and satyr-like propensities for bisexual romantic entanglements (a wistful Henry James opined that he was “dazzling” but “not kind”), and chronically in debt because he was being blackmailed by a former mistress. He was also briefly, but pivotally and inexplicably, Wharton’s lover.
Phoebe Fox, Francesca Annis and Paul Ready star in the world premiere of a newly discovered play by Edith Wharton from 1901. Former nurse Kate Derwent carries a terrible secret.
Introduced by Dr. Laura Rattray.
Listen to more Wharton information here:
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Wharton’s novels, which explore the world of the privileged in America’s Gilded Age, in which she lived, written in hindsight and with little mercy.